Reform of Global Institutions
(Remarks by Mr. T.P.Sreenivasan, former Ambassador of India at the Lunch Session of the India-UK Roundtable on February 19, 2011)
Global institutions, by their very nature, have to remain dynamic and ready for change. The mere change of membership, the entry and exit of member states, brings in changes in priorities, agenda and nature of functioning, as the sovereignty of member states continues to be the guiding principle in international relations. Changes in the global power structure, sometimes gradual and quiet and sometimes sudden and dramatic, also do force changes in global institutions. Continuous reform, therefore, is essential for global institutions to remain relevant, effective and efficient. History has shown that only resilient global bodies have survived and gained acceptance of their members.
Reforms are cyclical in nature for all global institutions and the process can never be completed once and for all. The challenges of the time impose reform to meet immediate needs and it gets formalized only subsequently to bring the practice in line with the statutes of the organizations.
The most significant restructuring of global institutions in recent years is the emergence of G-20 in the wake of the global economic crisis. The speed and efficiency with which this was accomplished should be a model for other global institutions. Even the financial institutions, which were considered extremely conservative, have begun to see changes sweeping through them, as a result of the transformation of the world economy.
The Commonwealth underwent a fundamental change when India decided to remain within it as a Republic and its agenda has also been flexible and responsive to the demands of the time.
The United Nations itself is the classic example of an international organization, which has changed beyond recognition without any change in its Charter. The agenda of the UN and its priorities today were not dreamt of by the authors of the Charter. From peacekeeping to human rights, from terrorism to climate change, the UN has taken on tasks and responsibilities not envisaged in the Charter. They are subsumed in the general concept of maintenance of international peace and security. Fight against apartheid and the concept of humanitarian intervention have amended the basic tenet of non-interference in internal affairs of states. The existence in the Charter of outdated words and phrases, which make a mockery of the present state of the world, has not inhibited the functioning of the UN.
The adoption of the ‘Agenda for Peace and the ‘Agenda for Development’ and the massive array of declarations, treaties and resolutions have made the UN richer and relevant. The recent changes in the working methods of the Security Council and the General Assembly are far reaching enough to meet the aspirations of the members for change to a great extent.
The history of the UN has shown that one thing that cannot be changed without a formal amendment to the Charter is the composition of the Security Council. The UN went through the difficult process of amendment to the Charter in 1965 to raise the number of non-permanent members from 6 to 10. We have now reached a stage when a change in the Charter is necessary to reflect the realities, not only of the enhanced membership of the UN, but also of the power structure in the world, which is dramatically different from the days after the end of the Second World War.
This is one forum where I do not need to dwell upon the need for increase in the permanent and non-permanent categories in the Security Council as I shall be preaching to the converted. The UK and India are of one mind on this issue and what we can do is to compare notes on the situation today and work out a common strategy.
India is of the view that time for concrete action has come after 30 years of discussions on this matter. On a personal note, I was at the UN as a young diplomat when India introduced the relevant agenda item in the General Assembly in 1979. Every aspect of the issue has been considered and there is now a consensus that expansion is necessary in both categories of Security Council membership. Today, we have reached text based negotiations with different formulas and numbers. What is required is political will to act here and now.
In his report ‘In Larger Freedom’, Secretary General Kofi Annan had brought down the options to two and in our view, Plan A is clearly preferable for the simple reason that creating a new category of members, as outlined in Plan B, will be clearly invidious. Plan A, which envisages the addition of 6 new permanent members and three new non-permanent members should resolve the problems of size, balance and equity.
In discussing strategy, the one thing that we have to remember is that support to one country or another, however strongly worded, will not lead to a decision. Members, preferably the permanent members, should promote a formula, like Kofi Annan’s Plan A, which has the potential of securing a two thirds majority in the General Assembly. The UK is in a position to take the lead in this regard.
The G-4 countries, Japan, Germany, Brazil and India have taken certain initiatives to speed up the process of reform forward. The group has recently decided to make an effort to establish a time frame of a year to bring about change. It would be helpful to know whether the UK and the other permanent members will go along with this time frame. If not, what is the timeframe that you have in mind? Would delaying a decision in the best interests of the UN, as China seems to suggest.
As for the identity of the new permanent members, India has held the view that criteria should be established for them. An agreement on expansion with regard to categories and members and the criteria can be established this year, it would be a major accomplishment. The difficult question of veto can, perhaps, be tackled at a later stage. The India-UK Roundtable appears to be an ideal venue for reaching an understanding on this important issue.