The general opinion among the 191-member states of the United Nations is agreement with Secretary-General Kofi Annan that "2005 should be the year of reform." This call for reform comes at a time when the relevance, credibility and effectiveness of the UN are challenged. These challenges though are just a small part of the reason why reform of the UN -- and in particular, of the Security Council -- is necessary now.
Back in 1945, the 51 founding members established the UN security structures under the shadow of the Second World War. In its first 45 years, the Security Council was regularly blocked by opposing vetoes of the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Only after the end of the Cold War could the council fully play its role under Article 24 of the UN Charter: to assume "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security."
Since then, we've had to learn about new, unforeseen challenges to international peace: failing states, where no legitimate authority is in place; weapons of mass destruction in the hands of non-state actors; dictators violating the basic human rights of minorities in their own state and rejecting any intervention as interference in domestic affairs; large-scale terrorist activities beyond national borders, to name a few.
These new challenges brought an additional workload to the Security Council's agenda. Its members increasingly have to execute legislative power. After Sept. 11, 2001, the council established mandatory resolutions on counterterrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, setting rules binding all member states. Thus, the council no longer limits itself to addressing wrongdoers, but establishes international law without the consent of member states' governments and parliaments.
To achieve global acceptance of, and legitimacy to set such rules now, the council must become more representative. As the UN membership has grown from 51 in 1945, to 191 today -- mainly through accession of independent states in the South -- the integration of key states from the South would lead to a council whose composition reflects the geopolitical realities of the 21st century. We believe that India and Brazil, two eminently important players in their respective regions, as well as two large African countries, should be included in the permanent membership of the Security Council.
A modernized, representative council would also need members that provide large amounts of resources for the maintenance of peace and security. It is not enough to take a legitimate decision, it must also be implemented. Today, the UN is running 18 peacekeeping operations with 70,000 peacekeepers in the field, and the budget for peacekeeping is about to reach $5-billion (U.S.) a year. In order to maintain the responsibility to contribute to this growing demand for resources, it's imperative that major contributors such as Germany and Japan be integrated permanently into the council's decision-making processes.
Germany's position on reform of the Security Council is clear: To enhance both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the council, we favour expansion by both permanent and non-permanent members. Germany supports the proposal to establish six additional permanent seats: two for Africa, two for Asia, one for Latin America and one for the Western-European-and-others group, as well as four additional non-permanent seats -- one each for Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the group of Latin American and Caribbean states.
A decision could -- and should, as Mr. Annan pointed out -- be reached before the summit of world leaders in September. Consensus is desirable. But let's not fool ourselves: The UN's working group on reform has proven over one decade that consensus of all 191 members on this issue is not possible. A call for a unanimous adoption of any reform is, in fact,
a call to cement the status quo. We will have to take a decision by vote according to the Charter. This is neither divisive nor undemocratic; decision by vote is the daily practice of democratic parliaments the world over.
As the Security Council decides on questions of peace and war, of life and death, its decisions meet with great public interest. Failure to reform this most important and powerful organ of the UN would be perceived as a major failure of the entire reform effort and would impact negatively on the September summit. On the other hand, a solution would provide momentum for our common endeavour to strengthen the multilateral system and make the UN fit for the challenges of the 21st century.