High School Security Council (Module 05)

Challenges of the UN Security Council Reform

The 4-1-1

There are many reasons we have not yet seen reform in the Security Council. This is not a complete rundown, and is open for debate. Think about this critically, and challenge the notions below.

Challenges With the Process

Article 108 of the UN Charter states:

Amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.

What does this mean?

In order to pass any reform of how the UN organizes (like UN Security Council reform) it would require two things:

  1. A two-thirds vote in favor from the UN General Assembly.
  2. All P5 members to also vote yes. Any no vote from a P5 member would veto the amendment. 

From the perspective of the P5, they would be voting to diminish their own power.

While the P-5 nation states have no interest in SC reform that would weaken their own power, the other UN members cannot come up with one reform plan that they can all rally around. Stronger countries (such as the G4 countries of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan), hoping to becoming permanent SC members themselves, resist any reforms that would weaken their chances, while smaller countries simply hope for tweaks to the working methods of the Council and an occasional two-year stint on the Council. Competing reform proposals that go nowhere suits the P-5 just fine!


Guiding Questions

  • Think about what it is like to be a P5 member who has seen their soft power diminish. Why do you think they may want to hold on to the level of power in the SC they currently have?
  • What other world politics can you see playing a part in the resistance of some P5 members to reform? (Think about world alliances and who would be on the SC).

Security Council Modules

Prepared by:
Nicole Wilsey Starr & Nancy J. Dunlavy for The Workable World Trust