Mon, 31 Oct 1994

Bold new face for UN?

One formula to reform the UN, though not the ideal one, is to expand the Permanent Five to a Permanent Seven, with Germany and Japan taking places alongside the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France. The problem with this is that it gives Europe four seats, which is hard to justify, and locks out the developing world, whose clamor for a seat at the main table will be difficult to ignore with the growth revolution going on in Asia and Latin America.

Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil and Argentina can all make a case for inclusion. A seat for the developing world to be rotated among Asia, Africa and Latin America would be viable if France and Britain would make way for the European Union to be represented by rotation. That would make it the Permanent Six -- U.S., China, Russia, Japan, EU and the developing world.

A bloc approach can cause unseemly squabbling for two reasons: deciding which countries go into the rotation cycle will be a test of diplomacy as none would admit to being unqualified, and a number of developing countries (Singapore, South Korea or Mexico, say) will not remain so for long.

A compromise, then would be to create a Permanent Seven and increase the non-permanent seats to as many as 15 to 17 to accommodate the emerging nations. It would not be unwieldy. Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali's view that Security Council membership should not go beyond 17 or 18 from the present 15 is a timid one. Change of this order will have to endure for several decades to be useful. Restricting numbers is not the way. It would perpetuate the fiction of tired, faded nations being in charge.

-- The Straits Times, Singapore