Global South and the Change in Global Governance

by Saidu Nasiru Sulaiman MNIM


First of all I will like to congratulate the global south for a change in the selection process of the UN Secretary General which I believe is a way forward for the entire UN reform. Because this has happened with proactive influence and pressures over year for the transformation of UN structures and laid down Charter. Early in 2016,  the Security Council and General Assembly took steps to make the selection process of Secretary General of the UN more transparent and open as the tenure of present UN Secretary General Banki Moon is ending in December 2016. General Assembly early this year sent letters to member states asking them to nominate candidates for the position and equally organized meeting from 12 to 14 April 2016 so as the candidates could showcase themselves and Assembly members has questioned candidates in various areas such as how the candidate could be able to tackle global poverty and terrorism if elected. This is new practice in the UN election process because, previous secretaries-general were chosen secretly behind closed doors by the Security Council and then had their names submitted to General Assembly for ratification only. No gathering was ever organised where candidates showcase themselves for questioning by member states about their manifestoes and various lingering problems facing mankind. As such, no candidate has ever been rejected by the General Assembly because a single candidate is usually presented by the Security Council for ratification. This time around about seven candidates were presented to UN General Assembly for election in the office of Secretary General.

The debate on reforming the UN Security Council is almost as old as the United Nation itself. This came due to the fact that from the very beginning in 1945 the domin­ance of the five permanent members (the so-called P5 countries: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States which have prerogative of the veto power) and in addition to the P5, the Council had also composed of six non-permanent members that were elected for a two-year term and did not have veto power. All these were enshrined in the UN Charter from the beginning. And due to pressure from the global south (especially G77) in 1965, the number of elected, non-permanent seats without veto power was extended from six to ten, bringing the Council up to its present configuration. This remains the only Security Council reform involving an amendment of the Charter that has ever been adopted. But up till today many member states are still advocating for expansion of the Security Council, arguing that adding new members will remedy the democratic and representative deficit from which the Council suffers. In 1992, agitations led to the establishment of the “Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Represent­ation on and Increase in the Membership of the Secur­ity Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council” but end up in deadlock. There are various groups in the general assembly who at various time initiated different fora agitating for the need of more permanent/regional representation in the Council to bring an end to the hegemony of northern industrialized nations in the powerful UN organ. For instance, there are groups such as Group of Four (G4) that comprised Brazil, Germany, India and Japan and equally Africa Group that comprised African countries, these two groups clearly sought for an increase in the number of permanent veto seats in the Council. And equally, there is another group called Uniting for Consensus group (UfC) that was formed by regional counterweights to the G4 (including, among others, Argentina, Italy, Pakistan, South Korea) and this group advocates only an extension of non-permanent seats which to me is uncalled for because what developing countries want are permanent veto representations to balance the regional powers for equality and justice. This disagreement of whether new members should be permanent or have veto power has become a major problem to Security Council reform. Because everything used to stalemate till 2008 when member states agreed to upgrade the issue and enter into in­tergovernmental negotiations under the auspices of the General Assembly. This also meant that decisions could be taken by a two-thirds majority vote. Led by the Afghan Ambassador to the UN, Zahir Tanin, eight rounds of negotiations on a text to reform the Council were conducted. But they were called off in May 2013 when the differences seemed too insurmountable to continue the debate. Tanin concluded that, for the time being, it would be better to put the negotiations on stra­tegic hold. Thus, up to now Brazil, India, Japan, Germany and some African countries, want permanent seat in the Council, and have even threatened to reduce their financial or military troop contributions to the UN if they are not rewarded with permanent member status.


Due to these pressures in December 2004, the Secretary General’s “High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change” proposed two models for enlargement, which both suggested for the expansion of the Council to 24 members. “Model A” proposes adding six new permanent seats, with no veto, and three new two-year term elected seats. “Model B” creates a new category of eight seats, renewable every four years, and one new two-year non-renewable seat. No member state expresses a preference for one of the two models. Finally the question is why the disunity among the global south (e.g. G4 and UfC tussle for permanent and non permanent). The countries in the global south should unite so as to transform the global governance of united nation for equality and fair-play because once five members have the power to veto the majority of the remaining 184 members that have no veto power. Any of these five has the right to unilaterally reject any proposal that comes before the council and stand. This indicates power imbalance in the global governance. For instance, I can suggest two permanent representations and four non from each region of the world. With regards to permanent representations, Europe has already has three seats (i.e. France, Russia and the United Kingdom) so they have exhausted their seats. Asia is having one (China) which for fair-play needs to have at lease one more like India as the second most populated nation in Asia after China and economically emerging. Africa has none, thus it needs to have at least two, Nigeria as the largest economy and most populated nation in Africa and possibly South Africa. American continent has one (USA) which needs to have at least one more which could be Brazil as the largest economy and most populated in South America. From Arab world there is none in which they need to have two like Saudi Arabia as the largest economy and possibly Iran. The four non-permanent seats from each region could be elected for two years tenure so as to be rotated among the remaining countries of the regions. As such, the total members of Security Council become thirty one, eleven permanent and twenty non permanent.

Saidu Nasiru Sulaiman MNIM

(Consultant, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, Habitat Centre, Lohdi Road, New Delhi, India) [email protected]