Japan and the United Nations

May 26, 2020

The reform of the United Nations Security Council is high on the agenda for global governance. Despite profound changes in global realities, the basic structure of the Security Council has not changed significantly from its original form of 1945. Therefore the present Security Council does not reflect today’s realities. Many States have strongly advocated the formation of a more legitimate, representative, effective and efficient Council, including an increase in both the permanent and non-permanent seats. Countries with the capacity and willingness to take on major responsibilities with regard to international peace and security should be included in the expansion of the Security Council.

Security Council reform is long overdue. If the discussion on reform continues any further without taking actions, the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Council would be put to question. Member States have engaged in the IGN (Intergovernmental Negotiations) since 2009, but have not achieved much progress. It is essential to act now towards achieving concrete results on reform, including an early launch of text-based negotiations. It is up to the Member States to realize Security Council reform.

The Need to Ensure the Effectiveness of the Security Council

As the roles of the Security Council become diversified, including non-proliferation and peacebuilding, it has become essential and urgent that the Council is transformed into a body which can ensure the universal implementation of its decisions.

Increase in the Number of Member States

  • When the UN was established in 1945, there were 51 Member States. Now, there are 193 Member States, nearly four times the original number.
  • In comparison, the size of the Security Council membership increased once in 1965, from 11 to 15 members, through an increase in the number of non-permanent seats.
Number of UN Member States
  1945 1965 2020
Permanent Members 5 5 5
Security Council Seats 11 15 15
UN Member States 51 118 193

Changes in the Regional Composition of United Nations Membership

  • The Asia-Pacific Group holds 54 Member States in the UN, with more than half of the world’s population. Despite its considerable growth, Asia is currently represented in the Council by a number equivalent to only one-fifth of the Member States (China and two non-permanent members).
  • Africa also accounts for more than one-fourth of the Member States. However, there is no permanent seat for Africa and only three non-permanent seats.
  • Thus, for a credible, effective and representative Security Council, an enhanced role of countries with the capacity and willingness to contribute to international peace and security and of developing countries is imperative.
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