Authors: Abhishek Sudke, Prarthana Puthran, Rishika, Shivangi Kanaujia


The reformation of a body to keep pace with the ever-evolving nature of demography and geopolitical dynamics is a sine qua non for relevant decision making and the efficient functioning, the Security Council of the United Nations is no exception to this norm. The Council has been entrusted with the principal task of maintaining international peace and  security through peace-keeping missions, working groups, mediation and other diplomatic measures with the use of collective defense as the last resort. Despite being a premier body of the United Nations, there exists monumental evidence pointing at the failure of the Council in performing the aforementioned functions. This calls for a revamp of its existing structure and the roles assigned in a manner that is reflective of the emerging changes in nation states and patterns of conflict. India’s integral involvement in the UNSC ever since its inception has laid ground for its role as the frontline proponent of the reforms be it demanding expansion in membership or veto power, dating back to before independence. Contemporarily, India’s critical role in fighting the COVID crisis will further its agenda to land a permanent seat in the Council. The world awaits a post pandemic power shift in the UNSC and India has much to gain from how it moulds for the better.


“Unless the Security Council is restored to its pre-eminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy.” – Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006.

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization responsible for maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieve cooperation and being a center for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was formulated after World War II with the aim of preventing future wars, after The League of Nations failed to do  so. Today, UN stands as the world’s largest, most familiar and has the most representation of countries from across the world.

The United Nations Security Council is one of the six principal organs of United Nations and has a very important role in maintaining world peace and security. Over the course of time not only has its composition changed to some extent and its role has expanded and its functions have evolved but also faced a lot of criticisms for its functioning, the unchecked power that it wields, its non – inclusive nature which is not changing in the face of emerging countries and lack of representation. While some critics call this organisation as a “talking shop where nothing gets done”, others suggest that the Council has become too powerful that overregulates the  global system. Nonetheless, these reforms have often been advanced in the technocratic manner so as to enhance its productivity and relevance through reorganization and reengineering.


  • Maintenance of International Peace and Security
  • Recommend the admission of new Members
  • Exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”
  • Recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General, and together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice

Chapter VI

This chapter is aimed at promoting and implementing recommendations and methods or procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes within the framework of Articles 33-38 of Chapter VI and Articles 11 and 99 of the Charter of the United Nations. Overall, Chapter VI of the Charter contains various provisions according to which the Security Council may make recommendations to the parties to a dispute or situation.

Chapter VII

Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations provides the framework within which the Security Council may take enforcement action. It allows the Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to make recommendations or to resort to non-military and military action to “maintain or restore international peace and security”.

Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations provides the constitutional basis for the involvement of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security for which the Security Council is primarily responsible.

Article 52 provides for the involvement of regional arrangements or agencies in the peaceful settlement of disputes; Article 53 allows and creates mechanisms for such arrangements to take enforcement action, but only with explicit authorization by the Security Council. Article 54 stipulates that regional arrangements or agencies shall inform the Council of their activities for the maintenance of international peace and security at all times. UNSC can establish subsidiary bodies under Article 29 for the performance of its functions.

 Sanctions and other Committees

Sanctions, are one of the most commonly utilized measures under Chapter VII, which are generally supported by a Committee, as well as Panels/Groups of  Experts or other mechanisms to monitor implementation of the sanctions. UNSC may establish committees for implementation of their resolutions as well.

  • Committee to oversee non-proliferation of WMDs by Resolution 1540
  • Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) and Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1373, and resolution 1535.
  • Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999),1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities

International Tribunals 

These organs have included international tribunals which have tried people responsible for serious crimes under international humanitarian law or in cases where the Government has requested the assistance of the Council in investigating and prosecuting cases.

  • International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
  • Missions of the Security Council and the Secretary-General

These include both Missions that are made up of members of the Security Council itself, as well as those in which the Secretary-General was requested to undertake a mission on behalf of the Security Council.

Peacekeeping Missions

Multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security, but also to facilitate political processes, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support constitutional processes and the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law and extending legitimate state authority. Peacekeeping operations receive mandates from the Security Council which range from traditional methods of resolving disputes peacefully under Chapter VI, such as promoting reconciliation, assisting with the implementation of a peace agreement, or performing mediation and good offices, and more forceful action as authorized under Chapter VII which can authorize a range of measures including the use of force under Article 42 of the Charter. There are 14 UN peacekeeping operations currently deployed and there have been a total of 71 deployed since 1948. In 2019, the Secretary-General launched the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P) to renew mutual political commitment to peacekeeping operations.

Political Missions and Offices

The Security Council has established a wide variety of organs to support its political work, including through supporting peace processes or conflict prevention efforts. The most common expression of preventive diplomacy is found in the work of UN Secretary General’s good offices and envoys dispatched to crisis areas to encourage dialogue, compromise and the peaceful resolution of tensions. Preventive diplomacy can also encompass the involvement of the Security

Council, the Secretary-General and other actors to discourage the use of violence at critical moments. The Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) is the principal support structure for those efforts, providing conflict analysis, planning and support to the work of peace envoys and overseeing more than a dozen field-based political missions that serve as key platforms for preventive diplomacy.

Representatives, Mediators, Coordinators, and Good Offices

The Secretary-General’s good offices and mediation efforts are carried out at the request of parties to disputes, on the Secretary General’s initiative, or in response to a request from the Security Council or the General Assembly through numerous stages of armed conflict such as: before they escalate into armed conflict, after the outbreak of violence, and during implementation of peace agreements. Successful conflict mediation requires an adequate support system to provide envoys with the proper staff assistance and advice, and ensure that talks have the needed logistical and financial resources.

Standing and Ad hoc Committees

The Security Council regularly establishes Committees, which consist of representatives from each of the countries on the Council and generally meet at headquarters, to assist it in its work. Standing Committees are open-ended and generally were established to address certain procedural questions, such as the admission of new members. Ad hoc committees are established for a limited time and to address a specific issue. The Council also often creates committees to monitor sanctions and other mandatory measures.

Working Groups

The Security Council has created working groups that consist of representatives of the members of the Security Council to discuss a range of issues related to the general work of the Council such as procedural questions, peacekeeping operations and protections of civilians.

Commissions and Investigative Bodies

The Security Council has established a wide-variety of Commissions to handle a variety of tasks related to the maintenance of international peace and security. Commissions have been created with different structures and a wide variety of mandates including investigation, mediation, or administering compensation.

Peacebuilding Commission

The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was jointly established by the General Assembly and the Security Council as a new intergovernmental advisory body of the United Nations that supported peace efforts in countries emerging from conflict. Its aim is to propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery, bring together all of the relevant actors and marshal resources. The Security Council has also established a number of peacebuilding offices. The UN peacebuilding architecture comprises the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office.

Review, Extensions & Amendment 

The Council monitors the work of its subsidiary bodies on an ongoing basis, including through periodic reports from the Secretary-General and by holding dedicated Security Council sessions. Under Article 25 of the Charter, all the UN members agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.


Structural Failures of the Security Council

 1. Membership and Veto Power

There are growing calls of democratization of the Council by expanding membership capacity for both permanent and non-permanent members. However, there are governments like Canadian government under Paul Martin who are demanding for the complete abolition of permanency on the grounds of unchecked power wielded by P5 and the lack of regional representation. This argument is further extended in the fact that all P5 nations are nuclear powers and that it leads to the non-participatory nature of council for non-nuclear nations. It has also led to accusations of UNSC working for strategic interests and political motives of P5 countries, especially in humanitarian interventions: for example, protecting the oil-rich Kuwaitis in 1991 but poorly protecting resource-poor Rwandans in 1997. (Rajan)

Another major criticism crops up from the much-debated issue of veto power of P5 countries which according to many governments is anachronistic and unjust, given that the United Nations is meant to equitably represent all its member states geographically. It is also, often seen as a major obstacle in Council’s response to crisis and suggests the priority to individual political motive of P5 over international responsibility.

  1. Lack of self-financing structure and prevalence of state self interests

As per the mandate, funds for the working of the UN and especially are contributed by member nations of the UN based on individual capacity. However, this system of financing has made

UNSC much dependent and prone to consequences of conflicting decisions which mainly affects peacekeeping operations carried out by the council.

Another criticism involves the indirect practice of corruption by the P5  nations, especially the US which involves the increase in foreign aid for the countries which hold a rotating seat at UNSC for that particular year. A study published by Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker argues that this practice mainly involves the pursuit of personal interest through the UN. (Kuziemko and Werker)

  1. Limits of State sovereignty

The UN’s deepening involvement in civil wars led to an increasing tension with the traditional cornerstones of UN collective security: sovereignty and noninterference. They have also remained highly controversial issues in the Security Council, often inducing paralysis rather than action vis-à-vis armed conflicts and humanitarian crises. Issues relating to state sovereignty and legitimation of the use of force resurfaced over conflicting objectives and approaches among the P5 to the situation in Kosovo. This further became complicated when NATO’s bombing campaign against Serbia in the absence of a Security Council authorization proved hugely controversial not only among a number of UN member states but also among some international lawyers and humanitarian experts. (Chesterman)

  1. Miscellaneous

Some other loopholes of UNSC involve the lack of coordination among various activities, underwhelming leadership and less productivity of the burdened UN bureaucracy. Dedicated and talented individuals are often overlooked by the bloated administration which leads to the lack of perspectives in various issues like climate change, terrorism etc. (Weiss)

Thus, by keeping these shortcomings as the context, in his inaugural speech at the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in August 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the United Nations Security Council as having an “illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism” and called for a complete reform of the body.

UNSC Authorization for Collective Self Defence

  1. The Interpretation of Article 51

Article 51 of the U.N. Charter provides: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.

During the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the interpretation of ‘until’ became very important  in the context of the gulf crisis. When is a state legally eligible to take an action in self defence? Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, adopted a number of resolutions which called on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, imposed sanctions on Iraq that proved to be fruitless. The United States and other states indicated they might use force to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Some commentators took the position that once the Security Council was seized of the matter, the use of force in self-defense was barred under Article 51 unless authorized by the Security Council. Both the U.S. and the U.K. took the position that no authorization was required. This episode highlighted the power game in the UNSC and the lack of alignment between laws and actions. (Halberstam)

  1. Humanitarian Intervention and Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

The question of legitimate use of force as distinct from strict legality remains contentious.

In 1991, Somalia’s long-time dictator, Said Barre, was overthrown in a coup; there was a power struggle among the various warlords fighting for control of the government. Moreover, a severe drought threatened mass starvation. The UNSC declared it “a threat to international peace and security.”However, since the P5 nations—the United States, France, Britain, China, and Russia—were reluctant to authorize UN intervention, fearing they would violate the state’s sovereignty. The UN was severely criticized by the Secretary General, African governments, and aid agencies for its double standards—“assisting the Bosnian Muslims, which were far less dangerous at the time, but not helping the people of Somalia”. Within months of its deployment, UNOSOM II engaged in several violent clashes with General Aidid’s forces. Condemning the attack, the SC expanded the authority of UNOSOM II to include pursuit and capture of the attackers. This turned public opinion against the American troops and did impinge on sovereignty of the nation that they initially set out to preserve!

Rwanda, 1994- in one hundred days, Hutu extremists massacred over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus—an unprecedented number in Rwanda’s post-independence history. The Security Council failed to strongly condemn the genocide, let alone acknowledge that it had been committed. It also had a hard time convincing member states to contribute their troops for an expanded operation due to the chaotic environment that developed under its constant review of the situation.

NATO’s seventy-eight-day-long air war in Kosovo is the most-cited case in arguing for the legitimacy of humanitarian interventions that lack Security Council authorization. The bombing campaign was undertaken to protect Kosovar Albanians from ethnic cleansing by Serbs. An independent commission of scholars later deemed the intervention “illegal but legitimate (Richmond).

US invasion of Iraq, March 2003- Undertaken on grounds of suspecting nuclear weapons but unearthing none, it is one of the most criticised moves of the US. “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal”, said Kofi Annan. The fact that US came out of it clean despite it being deemed an illegal move speaks volumes about inefficiency of the UN in maintaining international peace and keeping a check on the ‘hegemon’.

On 17 March 2011, Libya, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved Resolution 1973.Within 48 hours, armed forces from the United States, France, Britain, Canada and a handful of others launched aerial bombing raids against military and intelligence operations in Libya. After this eight-month long attack, Muammar Gaddafi collapsed. However, the country was left unstable with no plan enforce to get normalcy back on track. Successive

U.S. administrations have argued that humanitarian intervention can legitimately be undertaken with the backing of regional organizations or coalitions of the willing. But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rejected this position, saying, “The responsibility to protect does not alter, indeed  it reinforces, the legal obligations of Member States to refrain from the use of force except in conformity with the Charter.” This debate was revived in the run-up to the 2011 NATO-led Libya intervention and continues with the ongoing Syrian civil war. (Golebiewski)

Peacekeeping Missions

Irrespective of the promises of radical transformation in the feild of international peace and security, as reflected in the visions and aims of the UN, , the Security Council has been often criticized for failure in resolving many conflicts, including Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Syria, Kosovo and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, reflecting the wider short-comings of the council and the body of UN as a whole.Every peacekeeping operation established by the Security Council is governed on the basis of the mission’s mandate adopted the council resolution. However, several reports, such as the Brahimi Report (Durand) and the Capstone Doctrine (United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines), have criticised the content of peace operation mandates based on the following issues-

  • Lack of country and context specificity
  • Underestimation of mission’s requirements
  • Mission priorities are either blurred or lack clear guidance
  • Mandates focus on the existing conflict with negligible stress on conflict prevention.
  • Lack unequivocal Security Council support for the political resolution of the conflict.
  • Failure to efficiently include the resources of host nation and other regional actors.
  • Absence of exchange of ideas between SC and UN Secretariat in the preparatory phase(Rave and Siebenga)
  1. UN’s triple peacekeeping disasters in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda

As Mats Berdal has pointed out, the large increase in the deployment of peacekeeping missions meant they soon “dominated the day-to-day business of the Council in a manner unprecedented in the Cold War years . . . and created severe strains on the organization’s limited capacity for mounting, managing, and sustaining operations.” (Berdal) These strains along with the lack of resources and unwillingness to accept reality led to, as paraphrased by Sebastian von Einsiedel and others, UN’s triple peacekeeping disasters in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda during 1993– 1995, which brought series of questions and doubts on council’s efficiency and a “sudden end to the first boom period of peacekeeping in the post–Cold War era.” (Einsiedel, Malone and Ugarte)

The Rwanda genocide breakout highlights the infrastructural shortcomings of the UN and Council’s cost-consciousness in terms of deploying an underequipped peacekeeping mission which eventually costed lives of thousands of Rwandans. However, later on UN Secretariat shouldered much of the blame by accepting its failure in communicating sufficient information with the Council regarding the possible breakout of genocide but it again reflects the lack of coordination and willingness among various organs of the UN.

The similar case happened in Bosnia as well when Council’s mission UNPROFOR proved incapable of protecting hundreds of civilians in Srebrenica from getting slaughtered, mainly because of the lack of military equipments and sufficient political support to fulfill mission’s aim. The “Black Hawk Down” episode of Somalia symbolises the foundational breakdown of peacekeeping missions whose core principle is impartiality and minimum use of force. British historian, Paul Kennedy concludes that “glaring failures had not only accompanied the UN’s many achievements, they overshadowed them”, identifying the lack of will to prevent ethnic massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda as particular failures.

Kennedy attributes the failures to the UN’s lack of reliable military resources, writing that “above all, one can conclude that the practice of announcing (through a Security Council resolution) a new peacekeeping mission without ensuring that sufficient armed forces will be available has usually proven to be a recipe for humiliation and disaster.” The Security Council’s effectiveness and relevance is questioned by many since in few cases, there are no consequences for violating a Security Council resolution. During the Darfur crisis, Janjaweed militias, allowed by elements of the Sudanese government, committed violence against an indigenous population, killing thousands of civilians.

  1. Failure of UNSC in the Syrian Civil War

UNSC, in accordance with the International Law, is the final decision-making organ in cases of global conflicts but many incidents account the lack of consensus among veto nations in reaching a particular decision. The Syrian Crisis which began in 2011 has witnessed the death of several million while the parties involved in conflict have continued the use of illegal and unlawful weapons such as internationally banned cluster munitions and chemical weapons. The crisis has highlighted the vicious power play of personal interests of nations in UNSC which has stagnated peacekeeping and conflict resolution operations in this region. At the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key heavily criticized the UN’s inaction on Syria, more than two years after the Syrian civil war began.

  1. Question on accountability and Sexual abuses by Peacekeepers

A self-evaluation program in 2000, commissioned by Kofi Annan and led veteran envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, notes that the United Nations had “repeatedly failed,” in humanitarian peacekeeping missions and will continue to do so unless a “significant institutional change and increased financial support” is initiated in the system. In 2016, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) revealed a series of sexual assaults in the Central African Republic, where at least twenty-five minors were abused by forty-one peacekeeping soldiers from Burundi and Gabon.

Another, biggest challenge that UN peacekeeping forces are facing today is the difference of opinion between the countries of the Global North and South with regards to the scope and mandates of peacekeeping operations.

Peacebuilding Commission

Since its inception as an advisory body, PBC has been questioned by members of SC for not adding much value to the efforts of SC in revival of conflict affected areas. Reviews in 2010 and 2015 of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture found that the PBC had not fulfilled the expectations envisioned when it was created to fill what then Secretary-General Kofi Annan called a “gaping hole” at the UN in its support to post-conflict countries. (The Peacebuilding Commission and the Security Council: From Cynicism to Synergy?)

  1. Lack of political attention and sustained funding

The major loophole in peacebuilding efforts stems from the lack of sustained political attention to post-conflict countries: after peace agreements are signed, or after a peacekeeping mission draws down and then countries cease to attract the attention of the UN Security Council and donor governments. The main reason for this is the lack of sustained financing for peacebuilding activities, which often occupy a grey area between peacekeeping and development. In particular, there are gaps in funding for those activities that are generally considered too sensitive to be involved in, by the donor governments, such as political reform or security architecture of the affected country as in the case of Syrian Civil War.

  1. Lack of coordination and overlapping roles

Another set of problems emerges due to the lack of coordination of the international community and regional actors in dealing with post-conflict environments. The UN system is itself difficult to coordinate, and lacks agreed goals to which the entire system can work. Many critics are of  the belief that the structure and role of PBC in itself is an impediment for peacebuilding because the resolutions establishing the PBC are imprecise as to what the body will do and how it will function. Translating this mandate into concrete activity is complicated by the intergovernmental nature of the PBC and by its status as an advisory body. This supposed co-existence of the

commission with multiple existing arrangements often lead to the overlapping of its roles with other UN organs.

Preventive Diplomacy

The UN is challenged by its inherent problems such as its structures, inability to instill political will and responsibility, and its lack of early warning systems and finances along with minimal reliance on fact-finding missions. Challenges arising from the principle of state sovereignty also limit the UN in preventing internal problems, especially at the pre-conflict stages.

  1. Early detection of possible conflict situations and paucity of Fact-finding missions

In practicing PD, the UN seeks to identify, at the earliest possible stage, situations that could lead to conflict, and thereafter tries through diplomacy to remove the sources of danger before the outbreak of violence (Opiyo). Fact-finding missions can play a huge role in providing early warnings by investigating situations which are a potential threat to international peace and security. They can be initiated either by the Secretary-General, or by the Security Council or the General Assembly. Fact-finding missions conducted by the DPPA need to be strengthened and practised in the form of an increased resort (Djibom). Persian Gulf War was one of the primary instances of this failure, where the United Nations failed to predict the Iraqi invasion in spite of the signals by Saddam Hussein (Rakisits).

  1. Lack of political will amongst the members of the Security Council

The Security Council, the most powerful organ of the United Nations, fails to acknowledge the situations which are a threat to peace and security and by extension do not grant endorsement or support to the envoys sent by the Secretary General or the General Assembly. This is primarily due to the large number of vetoes cast by the permanent members in regions with their interests.

Sanctions are an effective tool for preventive diplomacy, but the bureaucracy of the UNSC prevents its complete utilization, sanctions often result in massive losses to the nations, which is very harmful to nations with severe economic problems.

  1. Underfunding and understaffing of the Department of Peace and Political Affairs

Currently, the DPPA faces a chronic underfunding and understaffing problem, this is also due to the neglect that preventive diplomacy has faced for the decades (Muggah). DPPA, which manages the peacekeeping activities globally, needs to be funded appropriately and sufficiently for it to exercise its functions. Unlike the peacekeeping operations, DPPA is funded from the UN regular Budget which leaves massive gaps in the funding in times of situations where continued and prolonged preventive diplomacy needs to be practiced to prevent an outbreak.

Mediation through Representatives, Coordinators, and Good Offices

  1. Lack of Flexibility and Pre-emptive measures

There’s no one hardline solution to every problem, neither is every problem a typical one. Underscoring the need to select mediators who are acceptable to all parties, Egypt’s delegate have said “We need to be flexible,” with respect to geography of conflict. The representative of the Russian Federation has also cited knowledge of historic and cultural specificities as particularly useful and advocated using both objective criteria and geographic balance when selecting mediators (Osler).

In South Sudan, it waited years amid a bloody conflict before imposing sanctions and an arms embargo. For Libya, its years-long internal dispute is due to political differences, said that country’s delegate, while he (the delegate) welcomed any United Nations mediation effort, the peace process must be Libyan-owned, as foreign intervention will only obstruct success.

  1. The Gender Divide

Women’s involvement in mediation was a theme that reverberated throughout the open debate, which heard some 70 delegates take the floor. Several — notably from the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Netherlands and Brazil — called on the United Nations to ensure that women are involved meaningfully and equally, as leaders and decision-makers, from national to local levels. Their participation is not “a box that can be ticked” by adding one or two women to negotiating teams, said Sweden’s delegate.

“Women should be involved before, during and especially following negotiations,” said Colombia’s delegate, who was one of several describing her country’s success in ending conflict. Ireland’s delegate, noting that women comprised just 2 per cent of mediators in major peace processes between 1990 and 2017, recognized the critical work of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition in achieving the Good Friday Agreement.

  1. Barriers to entry

Third parties, including the UN, which seek a peaceful resolution to a dispute, may not be able to gain entry when faced with “denial” by a relatively powerful state, as illustrated by-

Indo-Pakistani conflict over Jammu-Kashmir the division of Kashmir into Indian and Pakistan-held sectors has witnessed repeated outbreaks of violent armed conflict between the two countries, both nuclear powers. The only instance of outside mediation in the conflict took place in 1966 when the Soviet Union tried unsuccessfully to broker a settlement between the two countries for largely self-interested reasons. Since that ill-fated attempt, India has actively resisted any kind of external mediated intervention, fearing that any sort of third-party intervention would lend legitimacy to Pakistani claims to Kashmir.

Conflict torn regions also look for support from allies and superpowers to help mediate between countries at war, which reduces the role that the UN can play in such matters. For many years, the United States has stationed its troops in South Korea because deterrence is seen as the best conflict management strategy for the Korean peninsula. The point is that third parties, especially powerful ones, have strategic options and wide-ranging interests that generates incentives that the UN lacks.

Sri Lankan Civil War-One of the reasons why Norway was an acceptable mediator to the Singhalese-dominated government and to the northern Tamil “Tiger” insurgency movement was because it was one of the country’s major development assistance donors and had a strong reputation for competence and impartiality.

Other examples may include Cuba’s role in Southern Africa until the late 1980s, and the roles that Vietnam and China played in Cambodia until the early 1990s and extends to Russia’s role in the Caucasus conflicts. This puts a big question on UNSC’s credibility in resolving or preventing conflicts.

Commissions and Investigative Bodies

The Commissions and Investigative bodies have reduced to report manufacturing bodies as no substantive output is visible. The Commissions have displayed administrative inefficiencies and the lack of power to convert reports into action plans.

The Truce Commission for Palestine was started in 1948 to bring about truce measures in the area. The Commission ceased to report after 1949 but the Commission was never formally terminated. It shows administrative inefficiency and failure to convert into action.

Commission of Experts to Review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste was set up in 2005 to study the Human Rights violations committed in 1999 and

assess the prosecution of serious crimes. The United Nations took a long time to set up the Commission.

Sanctions and Other Committees

UN sanctions and other committees face a variety of challenges in meeting their responsibilities ranging from transparency and accountability to inadequate implementation and monitoring of the UNSC Resolutions. The Standing and Ad Hoc Committees such as the Sanctions Committee and 1540 Committee have become a medium of expressing vested interests. The importance of sanctions to the efforts of the UN to preserve international peace and security, finding solutions to these challenges is both warranted and urgently necessary to ensure the effective use of sanctions in international policy (Brewer).

  1. Lack of Transparency and Accountability

Without the availability of any working methods for subsidiary bodies, the various sanctions committees conduct their business behind closed doors and do not publish records of their meetings (Farrall). For example, the minutes of meetings of the Iraq Sanctions Committee were only kept in the form of summary, not verbatim, records (Conlon 1995). Committees that administer targeted sanctions, against individuals and specific groups exhibit a lack of transparency. While the deliberations on individual cases could be kept confidential, even general information about the basis for including individuals and groups on the respective sanctions lists (or removing them from these lists) is generally not publicly available. Between 1999 and 2005, the former Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, held five times as many informal, unrecorded consultations as formal meetings (Hovell). In spite of UNSCR 1904 of 2009, which directed the Committee to make accessible on its website ‘narrative summaries of reasons for listing’ the respective individuals and entities on its sanctions list, the Committee is still not obliged to publish fully reasoned decisions, that specifies the supporting evidence.

Lack of travaux préparatoires of a resolution, which include working papers, drafts of the resolution, and records of the discussions leading up to the resolution, are seldom maintained and this acts as a roadblock in maintaining accountability of the decisions of the Committee. India criticised the opaque functioning of the UN Sanctions Committee after India’s bid to declare Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar failed and no explanations were given.

  1. Inadequate implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of UNSC Sanctions Resolutions: Compliance to UNSC Resolutions is ensured by Article 25 of the UNC, the sanctions resolutions often affect third-party in a negative manner and impose disproportionately high costs on third party states which are economic partners of the target states. Though the General Assembly has asked the International community to bear the brunt of sanctions on third-party states, this almost never happens. Thus causing noncompliance with the sanctions regime amongst these states. Lack of enforcement is due to the level of resources allocated to monitoring and assessing the sanctions is a function of the degree to which perceived interests of major powers are engaged. For example, UN sanctions directed against Rwanda, Liberia, and Somalia, where the major states hold little to no interest has been atrophic due to minimal effort generated (Mack).

Requirement to undertake decisions by “consensus”; this means that a decision is adopted if no objection has been raised against it. This requirement effectively gives a veto to all 15 members of the committee, and not just the permanent members (P5) alone. This is a higher threshold for decision making as compared to regular meetings of the UNSC itself, where a vote of 9 is required for procedural matters and a vote of 9 (inclusive of P5) for all other matters. It places the onerous condition of obtaining the concurrence of all 15 members of the committee to enable a decision to go through.

Ability of a committee member to place a “hold” on the decision should they require more time and information to consider the matter at hand. As per the guidelines, a hold can last for as long as 6 months at a time, but can be extended further under “extraordinary circumstances”. Apart from this vague condition, there is no restriction on repeatedly invoking a hold for a member country.

  1. Challenges to implementation of UNSCR 1540:

1540 Committee created for the implementation of the particular resolution faces the central issue of inability of the states to fulfil the central provisions which require enacting domestic legislation and enforcement measures. Even if a state supports the aim of preventing WMD proliferation to non-state actors, it must still be able to muster a certain degree of technical and legal expertise, as well as financial and human resources, to establish the specific mechanisms outlined in the resolution (Crail), questioning the feasibility of the resolution itself. The lack of capacity in certain states prevents them from submitting their national reports for assessment. The absence of assessment of the state status, irrespective of the fact that the state is a primary origin country or a transit poses a great risk to the maintenance of international peace and security.

International Tribunals

International Tribunals have failed to fulfil the purpose of dispensing justice to the aggrieved. International Tribunals have become a way of making up for the lackadaisical attitude and indecisiveness of the United Nations Security Council.

In comparison to the gravity of the crimes committed, the International Tribunal Court of former Yugoslavia meted out comparatively milder sentences which enraged the affected. Veselin Šljivančanin’s sentence was cut down to 10 years from 17 years (Judge who freed villains of Vukovar).

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had a mandate to prosecute the former Tutsi rebels but failed to do so (Tribunal that failed Rwandan People). Justice proved to be a costly affair as the International Tribunal for Rwanda was not located in Rwanda. It increased the travel expenses of the victims.


The way in which the Council wields its instruments is key to its effectiveness in maintaining international peace and security. Clearly, more concerted efforts designed to address the Council’s sometimes-deficient use of the instruments of sanctions and peacekeeping might yield a greater level of performance than a mere ‘updating’ of the Council’s membership.

 Structural Reforms

1. Budget and Finance

Over the time, may reformers have suggested that the Council should chalk out the plan for an independent and self-financing structure, if not completely then at least the larger portion of overall budget, in order to decrease its dependence on member states and to prevent ‘behind the curtain’ system of pursuing individual diplomatic interests, through alternative financing schemes such as global taxes. This includes proposals like a tax on carbon emissions which could help slow global climate change or a tax on currency trading which could dampen dangerous instability in the foreign exchange markets. All in all, the aim behind the global tax is

to address serious global issues while raising revenues for development. While, the global tax proposal has met with fierce opposition from the U.S. government, many politicians and scholars support this idea owing to their dual role as policy shaping instruments in case of global concerns as mentioned above.(Baumart)

Secondly, the present financial management at UN is highly cumbersome, manual and fragmented having not enough authority delegated for the purpose. In order to resolve this knot, the Report of the Secretary-General on March 7, 2006 suggests for a shortened and re-engineered process of reviewing and adopting the budget. In case of peacekeeping and peacebuilding mandates, the funding should be predictable, streamlined and consolidated with the inclusion of more rigorous monitoring framework.

  1. Redefining State Sovereignty

The concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) argues that when governmental authorities fail to protect human rights of their citizens then the responsibility shifts upwards to international community laying down the foundation of the redefined concept of state sovereignty as “a contingent upon the modicum of respect for human rights rather than as absolute.”(Weiss) Promotion of “good international citizenship”( the expression coined by Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign minister and one-time President of International Crisis Group) and chipping off the proposition wherein sovereignty can limit the implementation of missions of global good, is the way forward.

  1. Membership and Veto Power

The enlargement of membership of Security Council (both permanent and non-permanent) and questions of the veto power of P5 nations have been most reiterated and frequented demands in the field of Security Council reforms. The P5 and other Council members have been very reluctant to intervene in conflicts that do not pose a direct threat to their national interests, or that involve countries with which bilateral relations might be compromised. The High-Level Panel also concluded, in part, that in order to more effectively fulfill its global mandate, the Council must become more representative and more willing and able to take action when needed.

Many scholars, diplomats, governments and experts have raised their voices on the same so that this pivotal UN body is adequately aligned to the needs of present times and not that of the era of its establishment. Replacing the current system with a system of regional representation could prove beneficial to the Council’s effectiveness in maintaining international peace and security, including the prevention of gross human rights violations. Direct regional representation could prove beneficial by: (1) making the Council a more representative and thus more globally legitimate institution; (2) easing the Council’s global burden to maintain peace and security; (3) mitigating the effects of inherent nation-state constraints on decision making and implementation; (4) enabling the Council to more effectively overcome collective action problems; and (5) facilitating the use of indirect methods of human rights enforcement.

The demand of the permanent seat in Security Council can be traced back to 1992 when Japan and Germany claimed their permanent stature owing to their second and third largest financial contributions in the UN.(Muller) Later on, India and Brazil too joined their lot by claiming their inclusion as permanent members based on their large regional and strategic role in the landscape of international politics. This group, at present, is popularly known as G4 and plays a very active in pushing for the expansion of permanent seats in Security Council, however, they are ready to give up veto right for fifteen years or even more than that if necessary.

On the hand, the regional rivals of these four nations constantly criticize their claims, often motivated by their personal regional and extra-regional interests. They favour the extension of non-permanent seats on the basis of regional representation and ask for the abolition of veto or at least its restricted use. In this regard, Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt have formed a group known as ‘Coffee Club’, later ‘Uniting for Consensus’ with inclusion of Spain, Colombia, Argentina, South Korea and others. Along the similar lines, African Countries have demanded for two permanent seats in a rotating fashion and five non-permanent seats. This group preferably wants the abolition of veto but insists on the equal possession of veto among all permanent nations, if it exists.

The fourth group in this race is called L69 which consists of approx 40 developing nations from all over the world, including India and Brazil. It seeks six new permanent seats and six new non-permanent seats balanced across UN regions. Its stance on the veto is similar to that of the African group; either the veto is abolished or it is extended to all permanent members. Fifth is an Arab Group consisting of 22 nations asking for one permanent seat and criticises veto power. The final significant player is the ACT (Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency Group) which consists of 21 smaller member states, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Peru, Uruguay and Liechtenstein. It focuses solely on improving the working methods – accountability, coherence, and transparency – of the Security Council so that all UN member states, not just the Council members, can take part in the decision-making process.

However, P5 nations are quite reluctant to carry out any such reforms. Amongst them, France and Britain have openly stated their positive stance on the same. The other three nations have accepted reform in principle form but have not been able to come up with a consensus on how to process with any of the proposals.

  1. Relationship of the Security Council with the General Assembly

The GA 72nd session, the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform (IGN) (Lajčák) laid down the basis of the relation between security Council and General Assembly to be mutually reinforcing and complementary. In the regard, the following reforms are suggested-

  • Ensuring the increased coordination and unbiased information exchange among the Presidents of the Security Council and of the General Assembly and also with the Secretariat of the United Nations, in particular the Secretary-General, so as to ensure the appropriate foundations of missions and programmes of the UN.
  • The participation and access to the work of Security Council should be extended to all members of the General Assemble to ensure Council’s accountability to all the members and increase the transparency of its work. This can be achieved, in particularly, by holding open debates and informal interactive sessions. Especially in the case of peacekeeping operations, this coordination should be given even more importance by enhancing the interaction between Security Council and the military contributing nations of the General Assembly.

Reforms to the UNSC Authorization for Collective Self Defence

 1. The Interpretation of Article 51

Article 51’s foundation is in ‘a defensive strategy,’ states that deploy military troops across borders under the cover of self-defense must notify the UN Security Council immediately and must justify their actions. The distinction between armed attack and armed defense is the most important element defining the legality of a state’s conduct. However, the Article 51 provides inherent right of self-defense arises solely to protect against ‘armed attacks,’ and under international law, an ‘armed attack’ alone triggers the right of self-defense. This raises the question as to whether a terrorist attack undertaken by a NGO qualifies as an armed attack. The reform of article 51 should answer these questions with clarity, amendments in the article in the face of evolving nature of attacks that nation countries face and endorse is a must. It is when international laws are well defined and laid down that the scope of such attacks being prevented increases. For example- The UN Security Council resolutions of September 2001should provide support to the US claim of anticipatory self-defense, even if it does not invoke the notions of war, armed attack, or military measures, and refer only to ‘terrorist attack,’ a term that is not a defined and internationally accepted term of war. (Ørebech)

  1. Humanitarian Intervention and Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

The debate around ‘humanitarian intervention’ undertaken by the UNSC has unfolded into formation of two independent expert commissions- International Commission on intervention and state sovereignty appointed by the Canadian government and The High-Level Panel appointed by the secretary general.

a.  International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

“Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.”

This is seen by many as a violation of UN documents but a necessary one. It adopts a midway between collective action authorized by the UN and those that do not get authorized. This is undertaken by an ad-hoc collective of individual states.

The proposed reform has met with the following criticism

  1. It doesn’t seem to create any substantial difference between actions authorized by the UNSC and those that are collectively taken by states through suo moto recognition. This is just a way out in those cases where a state demands action against another but is denied by the UNSC, such an alternative would soften the role that UN plays in international peace and security. For example- why should an intervention by NATO be judged differently from an equally unilateral intervention by a group of NATO countries.
  1. All humanitarian organization criticize the reforms that seek for collective action under ‘humanitarian’ intervention. This leads to militarization of the term ‘humanitarian’ and weakens the institutions of non-violence. It is also feared to create a leeway for states- sponsored attacks against one another under the pretense of – duty to protect.
  2. In 2003, two years after the ICISS Report was released, foreign policy action taken by the United States government against Iraq reflected the Report’s theme of “just cause” for preemptive humanitarian intervention.

b.    The High-Level Panel

 “The task is not to find an alternative to the security council as a source of authority but to  make it work better than it has”.

This part of the reform proposal by the HLP Report was intensely discussed in public. As is known, it was proposed to reform both the composition of the Security Council whereby this body should be enlarged according to different models, as well as the way of its decision taking, providing for more transparency and accountability. None of these proposals was accepted afterwards by the state community. (Hipold)

On a whole, it can therefore be said that the duty to protect in the HLP Report remains a purely political slogan and there are no instruments in sight which would offer a realistic perspective to render this concept operational.

Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit refined the scope of the Responsibility to Protect to the four crimes, namely genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, which are commonly referred to as ‘atrocity crimes’ or ‘mass atrocity crimes’ and unanimously adopted R2P.

Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Reforms

  1. Reforming Security Council Mandates

The report of the High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations (HIPPO) (Uniting Our Strengths for Peace- Politics, Partnership and People), released in June 2015 suggests for a focused Security Council Reforms so as to bridge the growing gap between expectations from a peace mission and the glaring realities. Since, mandates act as the starting point for peace operations, it is highly important for them to be tailored in a mission-phase specific and should be in alignment with the SC’s infrastructural capacities. The protection of civilians must be given priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources within the mission.

On 28 March 2018, Secretary-General António Guterres initiated “Action for Peacekeeping” (A4P) which aims to put an end to ‘Christmas Tree Mandates’ or in simple terms, the practice of mandates being the trailing streams of template components and calls for sequenced and prioritized mandates. For instance, UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) aims to implement its 209 mandated tasks side by side which leads to the increasing chance of dilution of mission’s impact while attempting too much at a time.(Is Christmas Really Over? Improving the Mandating of Peace Operations)

Adding to this, The Secretariat should provide integrated, mission-phase specific assessments on which mandates can be based. The achievability of the (limited and prioritised) goals in the mandate needs to be checked and rechecked by a mix of stakeholders before final adoption by the Security Council.(Rave and Siebenga)

  1. Collective Security

Since in recent times, the nature of threats has changed, leaving state boundaries irrelevant and leading to a interconnected mesh of security, economic development and human freedom. Thus, the concept of international peace and security needs to be broadened to a more comprehensive sense of collective security and the institutions must overcome their narrow preoccupations and learn to work in a concerted manner. (Muller)

  1. Integrated Operations and Regional capacity building

Although military forces form the integral part of peacekeeping operations, the 2015 High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) report argues that “lasting peace is not achieved nor sustained by military and technical engagements, but through political solutions.”(Uniting Our Strengths for Peace- Politics, Partnership and People) These political objectives are largely purposed in terms of providing the required link between political,  security, developmental and humanitarian strategies and building the required capacity. It, therefore, calls for an integrated approach, stretching from peacekeeping to post-conflict reconstruction, involving integrated UN operations and coordination with regional and extra- regional stakeholders.

  1. Management Reforms

Adjustments to management structure and framework aims to infuse vitality and innovation in the Councils missions. In order to effectively respond to the scope and increased challenges of peacekeeping mandates, the Council’s centralized and cumbersome management structure needs to be replaced with a decentralizing authority bringing decision-making closer to the point of delivery. This will require the simplification of rules and procedures and the resolution of overlapping roles of several UN bodies.

Moreover, a general need of more field-focused framework is needed to better support mandate delivery in case of peace operations. The timely recruitment of the qualified staff and mission managers needs to be encouraged wherein the focus should not be on geographical equitable representation but on the leadership, skills coupled with mission specific experience. In order to cope up with human resource failings, a little pre-deployment training or mentoring in the field of peacekeeping should be included in the mandate.

The hierarchal, bureaucratic and “check-the-box” mentality of the UN management culture needs to be replaced. A revised set of organizational expectations with focus on leadership and management competencies should be initiated that promotes growth in key managerial and leadership behaviours.(Shifting the management paradigm in the United Nations)

  1. Reporting and Monitoring reforms for increased accountability and transparency

The complex reporting processes of the UN should be streamlined into a single window, independent and unbiased system so as to ensure the timely reporting and action in case of violations of any type. Partnerships with local and international civil society institutions needs to be strengthened to promote systematic monitoring and tackling underreporting.

Improving the trauma-sensitivity of investigations and responses to issues like sexual abuse and other human rights violation by including thorough specialized training, rapid deployment of investigators and resourcing of local support groups and services is also needed.(Whalan) The broader implementation of Resolution 2272 must be supported which was initiated in 2017 outlining an ambitious new approach to resolving and preventing cases of sexual abuse across the UN system.

Reforms for the enhancement of Preventive Diplomacy

Security Council should aim to improve its preventive diplomacy practices by bringing reforms to: (i) Early warning gatherings and preventive, rather than reactive consultations on potential crises; (ii) Streamlining of Security Council missions and experimenting with other inter- governmental diplomatic mechanisms for crisis response and peace implementation; (iii) Security Council actions being adjunct to measures led by the Secretary-General, UN secretariat and other actors; (iv) Formulating innovative solutions to the political situations; (v) Enhancing the funding for Department of Peace and Political Affairs (DPPA); and (vi) Improving the effectiveness of Fact-finding missions and increase their utilization (Gowan)

  1. Early warning gathering and prevention

In the terms of early warnings and consultations, the Council should build on existing progress such as the introduction of situational awareness briefings, a form of early warning mechanism enabling the UN Secretariat to provide Security Council members with quality and coherent information from across the UN system about emerging conflicts and operational risks, rather than attempting to revivify formats that have proved politically unsustainable such as horizon scanning. Its goal should nonetheless be to move beyond current crisis-driven consultations and interactions with the Secretary-General and Secretariat to allow for longer-term preventive discussions, while recognizing crisis management will always eat time.

  1. Diplomatic actions for Peace implementation

In order to enhance diplomatic actions for prevention and peace implementation, the Council could:

Streamline Council missions, rather than the present approach of having all Council members participate in most Council visits, the Council should use more small-scale missions (of three to five ambassadors) to engage in crisis diplomacy, as in the East Timor model. Participants in smaller-scale special missions would, of course, need to be selected to reflect the views of the Council as a whole, but should be selected based on their personal skills and contacts in crisis spots to increase their chances of impact.

Bring back Good Offices committees and Council commissions. In cases where deeper engagement is required to sustain peace, the Council should go back to precedents from its past to appoint UN commissions and/or Good Offices committees to support peace processes and investigate crisis situations. Such bodies could involve representatives of both Council members and, if the Council wishes, other relevant member states with influence over the parties in a specific crisis.

Mix and match UN officials and Council representatives. Echoing precedents from the 1940s, Council members can consider potential mechanisms for providing functional support to UN officials managing preventive efforts or engaging in crisis diplomacy. For example, they can explicitly instruct national embassies in countries in crisis to provide practical and political support to UN envoys in peace talks.

  1. Formulating Innovative solutions

For effective brainstorming, formulation and implementation of innovative solutions the Security Council could:

  • Create a new Working Group on Conflict Prevention. The Council could expand the existing ad hoc working group on conflict prevention in Africa to have a more global focus, acting simultaneously as a space for diplomatic brainstorming on individual conflicts and liaising with the UN system on potential crises.
  • Find ways to involve the Military Staff Committee and military advisers in conflict prevention. While the MSC is expanding its scope for dealing with peace operations, it is not designed to play a formal preventive role. But the Council members’ military advisers (including P5 officials and those of elected members) should explore ways in which they could contribute to preventive diplomacy and crisis management by, for example, informally coordinating on messages to militaries in countries in crisis.
  • Encourage states outside the Council to revitalize country-specific Groups of Friends.

Council members should look to partner with select coalitions of other UN member states to revivify the practice of Groups of Friends as allies in crisis management, especially in engaging with diplomacy in the field. Steps such as these could help address the flaws in the Council’s current approaches to prevention, but they could also create some concerns about Council overreach. For this reason, the Council should place special emphasis on including representatives of relevant non-members in future diplomatic missions, and should also encourage states to engage more in friends groups working in parallel with the Council.

  1. Funding for Department of Peace and Political Affairs (DPPA)

DPPA, which coordinates and manages the peacekeeping operations around the world is funded from the regular budget of the United Nations while the Peacekeeping missions have a separate budget. This causes the problem of understaffing and prevents the DPPA from acquiring a highly qualified staff. This causes the DPPA from undertaking massive preventive diplomacy measures such as the ones which were required in Iraq and Kuwait before the outbreak of war in the respective countries. This issue can be solved with the United Nations members contributing separately to a special budget for the DPPA on the lines of the one for peacekeeping operations.

  1. Improving the effectiveness of Fact-finding missions

Increasing the scope of Fact-finding missions by furnishing the Secretary-General with tools for autonomous and efficient information and data gathering will go a long way in ensuring the success of early warning gathering and notifying to the Security Council, the presence of such a threat. Further, the fact-finding missions need to be provided with a strong indigenous foothold by employing experts from the same country or one with similar cultural values and language. Ensuring quick notification to the Security Council from the fact-finding missions should also be improved by employing envoys and ambassadors who could quickly bridge the gap. (Dorn, 1995)

Mediation through Representatives, Coordinators, and Good Offices

  1. Reforming Mediation by the UNSC

There’s a heavy demand for Council’s need to support the greater use of mediation. Kuwait’s delegate lamented that the United Nations spent billions on managing conflicts when it could more wisely prioritize peaceful dispute settlement. He pressed the Council to give more responsibility to regional and sub regional organizations.

Underscoring the need to select mediators who are acceptable to all parties, Egypt’s delegate pressed the Council to consider the specific circumstances of each conflict.

Timeline of mediation has been highlighted as an important factor in controlling escalation. Mediation must be attempted “when the time is right for settlement”. The Council is well positioned to influence and deliver the necessary conditions given that actions are timed and acceptable.

The Indian delegate’s take on the Council’s mediation role points that there is more room for reforms and delegation of roles as per competencies- Inevitably, said India’s delegate, the “torturous” decision-making within the United Nations, imbued with political trade-offs, saps the Organization of the dynamism and flexibility needed to pursue mediation. In every  circumstance, mediation is a task the United Nations is not geared to fulfil. Rather than saddle it with activities, it is ill-suited to perform, and he advised exploring alternatives which use its competencies more judiciously.

  1. Overcoming the Gender Divide

Several delegates from the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Netherlands and Brazil — called on the United Nations to ensure that women are involved meaningfully and equally, as leaders and decision-makers, from national to local levels. Their participation is not “a box that can be ticked” by adding one or two women to negotiating teams, said Sweden’s delegate.

In such work, said Mossarat Qadeem, Executive Director of PAIMAN Alumni Trust, women have been excluded, stressing that, despite the rhetoric of support, “We as women remain largely outside the door”. There is a misconception about the role of mediator, wherein it is largely seen as a masculine task. However, Miss. Qadeem herself has an experience of negotiating with the Taliban in Pakistan. “How much longer can the world really afford to exclude those of us who are making peace at the front lines?” questioned the director. The newly established Commonwealth Network of Women Mediators will provide patronage and structural support for women to serve as mediation mentors and advisers.

Commission and Investigative bodies

The Commissions and investigative bodies become report manufacturing entities as they are not bestowed with powers to act upon them. These bodies seem to be neglected by the Security Council as defunct bodies still continue to be a part of the organization (Commissions and Investigative Bodies).

  1. Terminate non-functional Commissions and Investigative bodies

The UNSC needs to have a look at all the commissions and investigative bodies and review its working. The bodies that have stopped reported to UNSC or have stopped functioning altogether need to be terminated with immediate effect. The Truce Committee for Palestine ceased to report way back in January 1949 and it is still not officially terminated.

  1. Set up Commissions/Investigative bodies within one year of the action committed

The UNSC needs to ensure that the investigative bodies need to be established within one year of the committed actions that is set for review. It took 6 years for the UNSC to form a Commission to review human rights violations in Timor-Leste region. Such a time gap hampers the scope of investigation and the purpose is not served.

  1. Publish report with feasible action plans

The Commissions and Investigative bodies investigate and come up with detailed reports that do not convert into action. Considering the mechanism and functioning of the United Nations and the country in concern, feasible action plan can be chalked out.

Sanctions and Other Committees of the Security Council

  1. Inclusion of non-permanent members to the committee

Ian Johnstone has suggested that including non-Council members in Sanctions Committees might not only reduce the deliberative deficit, and thereby enhance the effectiveness of the Council, but also improve the implementation of sanctions regimes (Nadin). The subsidiary body format could be radically overhauled using a model adopted by the Peace Building Commission (PBC) known as country-specific configurations. For instance, the 1533 Sanctions Committee concerning the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for instance, might include the DRC itself, as well as neighbouring countries Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Angola and the Central African Republic, among others.

The inclusion of potentially belligerent or unhelpful member-states on committees might be a necessity in certain cases. Allowing such members access to the committee, but limiting their ability to subvert committee processes would be critical.

  1. Change in the working methods

A change in the voting rules of sanctions committees, which currently work on the basis of unanimity, is imperative for expanding the composition of the sanctions committee to include countries which would be helpful to the sanctions process. For this reason, the system based on unanimity and consensus needs to be replaced with the one which takes a substantive or simple majority. The strength of positive members should always significantly outweigh the potency of the negative. In the end, the committee may be required to confront these members. Including rather than excluding certain member-states on this basis could lend legitimacy to the process.

Sanctions committees should adopt the maintenance of a list of travaux repertoires of its decisions as a common practice. Travaux repertoires should include substantive and detailed

briefings by the Chairpersons, summary records, working papers, drafts of the resolution, and records of the discussions leading up to the resolution. These documents should be made available on the Internet. This would be beneficial in improving the accountability of the sanctions committee while expanding their membership and composition for each session.

The sanctions committees should establish appropriate arrangements and channels of communication with organs, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, as well as other intergovernmental and regional organizations, neighboring countries and other countries and parties concerned, in order to improve the monitoring of the implementation of sanctions regimes and the assessment of their humanitarian consequences on the population of the target State and their economic consequences on neighboring and other States.

  1. Inhibiting the negative effect of sanctions on third-party states

Periodic meetings of the sanctions committees should be held for discussions on the humanitarian and economic impact of sanctions. The sanctions committees should monitor, throughout the sanctions regime, the humanitarian impact of sanctions on vulnerable groups, including children, and make required adjustments of the exemption mechanisms to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The indicators for assessment developed by the Secretariat could be used by the committees. The sanctions committees should consider and monitor the possible impact of sanctions on the diplomatic efforts towards implementing Security Council resolutions and make required adjustments on the exemption mechanisms as appropriate.

  1. Consult the country in focus

The Security Council seems to be fascinated with the African continent as nearly 75% of its work is focused on this region. When a draft resolution for issuing sanctions against Robert Mugabe was prepared, the African Union opposed it. They did not have any say over the draft or

over the result. The South African delegate put it across in a succinct manner, “How can we have a situation in which other people are discussing what is happening on our continent without our participation?”. The country in focus should be given a chance to present its views before the Committees.

  1. Reforms of the 1540 Committee

States and organizations providing assistance are also in a position to coordinate their efforts to ensure that their resources are being put to the most effective possible use. International organizations, such as the IAEA and OPCW, are particularly suited to approach 1540 implementation from a broader perspective, since they can engage a wider array of states without facing the political limitations that states themselves, or multilateral bodies such as the NSG, may encounter in offering help. Using their technical expertise to develop objective criteria for determining priorities for assistance, such as the IAEA’s list of states with significant nuclear activities, these agencies may be able to highlight states with particular responsibilities under the resolution, a task that the more politically conscious Security Council is likely to avoid (Crail).

Regional bodies, such as the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Caribbean Community, and the African Union, are appropriate mechanisms to pool resources for the implementation of the resolution to address both proliferation threats and common related security concerns, such as border controls within the region and illicit financial networks. As such groups are more sensitive to the character of institutions and laws in the region, they are apt to develop more effective and contextually driven ways to fulfill the obligations of 1540 rather than simply transplant laws and organizations from states with a very different legal and organizational culture.

The 1540 Committee should involve and endorse the International and Regional Organizations for better implementation of the 1540 resolution by developing the capabilities of the countries. (Crail).

Working groups

The working groups consist of members of the Security Council to discuss the general issues of the Council. Their main task entails in submitting recommendations to the Security Council.

  1. Publication of deliberations

The deliberations that take place within a working group is not published and brought in the public domain. Only the resolution that mandates the creation of such a working group is made available. It does not reflect transparency of the organization. The working groups have  to submit recommendations about the given issue to the Security Council. Without the recommendations being publicly available, we cannot ensure accountability.

  1. Collaboration with Think Tanks

As the working group submits the recommendations to the Security Council, the report becomes a substantial asset. Collaboration with think tanks who are working on a similar issue will enhance the output of the report and help in bridging the academia-policy divide.

International Tribunals

  1. Geographical Proximity

If an international tribunal is specially set up to deal with a specific crisis in hand, care must be taken that it is geographically closer to the region. As the International Tribunal for Rwanda was not located near the region, the victims had to spend more money to travel and seek justice.

  1. Appointment of Judges

The member nations have to nominate their citizens for being judge at International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunal. The General Assembly elects the judges from the list of candidates submitted by the Security Council. The mechanism for shortlisting candidates has not been specified which leaves a scope for bias. The General Assembly can directly elect the  judges that have been nominated by the member states. (International Tribunals Security Council)


The UN Security Council being a pivotal body in ensuring international peace and security has always been of significance for India since its foundation. Jawaharlal Nehru defines India’s approach to UN as that of “whole-hearted cooperation” through full participation “in its councils to which her geographical position and contribution towards peaceful progress entitle her.”(Murthy) This intricate involvement with the Security Council can be traced back to 1945 San Francisco conference where India showed keen interest in the composition of the council with special focus on the election of non-permanent members based on a number of “factors such as population, industrial potential, willingness and ability to contribute to international peace and security, and equitable geographical representation.” (Dabhade)

Till now India has been elected for seven terms for a two-year non-permanent member seat, the last being in 2011-12. Being the fourth most elected nation for non-permanent squad of the Council, India’s 2011-12 term is often perceived as the “rehearsal for permanent membership” wherein India gained maximum votes at the General Assembly for the seat.

India’s typical stand at UNSC has always been that of presenting a picture of “democratic majority contributing to the adoption of broadly acceptable resolutions and decisions.”(Dabhade) It is worth to note that more than a dozen times did India stand aside without joining the concurrent majority, and has not voted against any resolution, and resorted to abstentions only to express its reservations.

Historically speaking, India’s claim to permanent seat at UNSC traces back to UN’s foundation when Mahatma Gandhi felt that India (then including Pakistan and Bangladesh) should become be assigned veto power but later on, the claims suffered a setback due to India’s independence followed by the partition of the nation. However, not much later, India was again offered to join the council by the US and the then Soviet Union in 1950 and in 1955 respectively but owing to the then emerging cold war calculus, Mr. Nehru refused to join at the expense of China.(Harder) This integral involvement of India with UNSC and its present day demands for the structural reform in the Council stem from three main factors: India’s historic involvement with the UN system and its contribution in several of the UN’s missions, India’s strategically important value in contemporary global politics and its vision as the key player in Asia and beyond.

India has shown exemplary dedication to the UN by being an active participant in various discussions on the Agenda for Peace and the Agenda for Development, the Millennium Development Goals, and various UN summits, including most importantly on climate change.

India also contributed by being instrumental in (i) establishing the G77 of developing states at the UN (ii) supporting the establishment of various bodies such as the UNICEF on a permanent basis, the UNDP, the UNEP (iii) restructuring of the economic and social fields of the UN and the UN Development Fund. Adding to this, India has contributed significantly in the fields of human resource (in the form of military support) and financial contribution. Former Secretary

General Kofi Annan has further presented as a ‘moralistic force’ of the so called Third World, the developing states and has strengthened India’s case by attributing it as the most significant votaries of shaping the UN agenda on behalf of the developing world. India’s Ministry of External Affairs has clearly articulated India’s “legitimate” candidature to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council on the basis of “population, territorial size, GDP, economic potential, civilizational legacy, cultural diversity, political system and past and ongoing contributions to the activities of the UN”. It further claims that “India has affirmed its willingness and capacity to shoulder the responsibilities of permanent membership.”

India’s perspectives on Council reforms

India’s debut attempt at reforming the council dates back to 1979 when India’s ambassador to the UN, Brajesh Mishra along with other NAM countries called for an increase in the non- permanent membership from 10 to 14 because of the increase in UN membership since its inception and submitted a draft resolution to the General Assembly on the same. In September 1992, India joined a number of countries in adopting General Assembly Resolution A/RES/47/62 and supported the inclusion of this item in the agenda for the first time.

Further, the 69th UN General Assembly decision of September 2014 proved “truly historic and path-breaking on several counts”, as Asoke Mukerji, India’s then Permanent Representative to the UN attributes it, that puts the Inter- Governmental Process in the direction of Security Council Reforms formally on an “irreversible text-based negotiations path”. The decision proved to be quite significant against the backdrop of India’s call in April 2013 for a conclusion of the IGN process on UNSC reforms by the 70th anniversary of the UN. In order to move this process of text-based negotiations forward, India has clearly and seriously resolved its stand on Sc reforms that primarily focus on “purposeful, result-oriented negotiations and parity for the unrepresented and the underrepresented.”(Dabhade)

  1. On categories of membership
  • Two largest groups, including Africa with 54 members and L-69 with 42 members and CARICOM (The Caribbean Community and Common Market), G4 (that includes India) and another 233-Member States including two permanent members, France and UK have supported expansion in both categories of membership.
  • Criticizing the proposed “so called” intermediate models wherein a longer term and immediate re-election are suggested as alternative to permanent membership, India calls for a “balanced enlargement in both categories”. India, citing the deliberations held in 1945, pointed out that these models were rejected by an overwhelming majority.
  • India supports the contestations of smaller states and highlights the need of African representation in both categories so as to give an expansion to voices of developing nations in the council.(Joint G4 statement delivered by Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin )
  1. On question of Veto
  • India fully supports G4, L-69 and Africa who have called for the abolition of veto or if it exists, it needs to be extended for all members of the permanent category of the Security Council having all the existing privileges such as right to veto.
  • India is open to the full curtailment of veto power or restricted use because of its position of responsibility and qualitative principle.
  1. On regional representation
  • India argues for the equitable geographical representation and eradication of non- representation/under-representation in both the categories based on multiple grounds such as “historical injustice, entire regions not equitably represented or even unrepresented in a key category, and hope of moving beyond the nation state as the primary actor on international affairs.”(Malone and Mukherjee)
  • India points out the inability of UN system to represent the contemporary geo-political and economic realities as per its present structure wherein three of the five permanent members from one region alone while the regions of Africa, Latin America, three-fourths of Asia including the Arab states, the entire Central and Eastern Europe, the Caribbean states and the Small Island developing states remain excluded from the functioning of the Security Council.
  • India favours the practice of each regional group choosing their candidates which will be followed by an election in the General Assembly.
  • As per the Joint G4 Statement by Brazil, Germany, India and Japan in April 2017, India opposes the approach of regions like Africa that have asked as a collective to be treated as a unique case because of the non-universality of such cases in regions like Asia.
  1. On size and working methods of the council
  • Owing to the fact that since its inception in 1945, UN membership has almost trebled from 51 to 193, India calls for the considerable increase in UNSC membership too so as to infuse larger responsibility and efficiency in the system.
  1. On the relationship between the council and the General Assembly
  • As per the G4 Joint statement 2014, India calls for the relationship between these two most important organs of the UN system to be “one of synergy and complementarity.”
  • India also argues for the process of election to be conducted via secret ballot in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly rules.


Brazil and Germany have taken the approach of “balance of power” for indicating that the Security Council requires reform to bring a renewed balance to the most powerful organ of the United Nations. India aims to achieve the reform through whole hearted cooperation and utilization of “revisionist integration” strategy. Japan has adopted an approach to utilize its financial, and political position to be a favorable candidate for permanent membership to the UNSC. For implementation of UNSC Reforms, the particular resolution requires a 2/3rd majority in the UNGA and the support of all permanent members in the UNSC.

Prime Minister Modi reiterated in 2016 that the UNSC “must include the world’s largest democracies, major locomotives of the global economy, and voices from all major continents” to carry “greater credibility and legitimacy.”, while making a case for all the G4 countries which aim to bring reforms to the Security Council. The G4 countries made a joint statement in 2016, pledging to support “Africa’s representation in both the permanent and non-permanent membership in the Security Council,” and highlighted the significance of “adequate and continuing representation of small and medium sized Member States, including the Small Island Developing States, in an expanded and reformed Council.” (Full Text of G4 Joint Statement). This move garnered the much-needed support for the G4 nations from African nations and the L- 69 group. India’s increased international role during the COVID crisis will help it garner more support from the NAM nations and the permanent members alike, thereby increasing its chances of a UNSC permanent membership along with the rest of G4 members.

India’s efforts for permanent membership

India cast an affirmative vote on 89% of the Security Council Resolutions, while never voting against a resolution and only resorting to an abstention in order to make its reservations known. This clearly points to India’s systematic effort to display a constructive, rule of law abiding and a democratic majority building  state  in  a  global,  multilateral  setting  like  the  Security  Council. India’s continued and steadfast leadership of the Global South forums such as G-77 and Non-Aligned Movement would garner much needed numbers in the United Nations General Assembly. India’s strong defense of the principle of sovereignty coupled with the consistent voluble criticism of the “Responsibility to Protect” help its strategy of “revisionist integration”. This strategy includes maximizing support in the UNGA and reducing resistance in the UNSC. Instances of India’s growing strategic partnerships with the permanent members, include the historic nuclear deal with the US in 2005, reiteration of its historic ties with Russia, and most importantly, seeking a rapprochement with China. (Stuenkel) Explicit public declarations supporting India’s candidature as a permanent member in the Council are now also embodied in bilateral Joint Statements/Declarations in the last few years by most of the P5, including China.

Germany’s efforts for permanent membership

Germany’s financial contributions to the United Nations, amount to 6,4 percent of the 2018/2019 UN budget, which amounts to a total of 5.4 billion US dollars, while the U.S. contributes 22 percent, Japan a 9.7 percent, and China a 7.9 percent. In this sense and as an –unexpressed– quasi legitimizing analogy, Germany also addresses the need for UNSC reform in its 2018 statement “in order to give this key body in preserving world peace additional legitimacy and authoritybecause “today’s multipolar world and the main contributors to the United Nations no longer sufficiently reflected by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (USA, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France), as was the case when the United Nations was founded in 1945.” (Foreign Ministry of Germany). Germany’s global governance strategy is firmly focused on UN-based multilateralism. “The United Nations is the cornerstone of the rules- based international order,” said Germany Foreign Minister Maas. “Preservation and building of this order are central German interests.” (Statement by Foreign Minister)

Japan’s efforts for permanent membership

Japan is the world’s largest donor of official development assistance. With this commitment to the United Nations, backed by its national strength, Japan has the capacity to assume ever greater global responsibility through the efforts of the United Nations and particularly the Security Council. Since the enactment of the International Peace Cooperation Law, Japan has dispatched its Self-Defense Force contingents, cease-fire observers, civilian police officers and other election observers to six UN peacekeeping operations, two humanitarian relief operations, and two international election monitoring activities. Japanese personnel are also actively engaged as political affairs officers, and in their roles, in the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Japanese contributions account for 20.6 percent of the United Nations budget, it is second only to the United States in terms of financial support to the Organization. Japan played an active role in the success of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, and has been taking the initiative in facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It has provided substantial financial assistance for the disarmament of conventional weapons, and in 2000 established the Small Arms Fund within the United Nations.(An Argument for Japan’s Becoming Permanent Member)

Brazil’s efforts for permanent membership

Brazil has always argued along the lines which stress that its inclusion would increase the Council’s legitimacy. As President Lula argued in 2008 at the UN General Assembly session, “Today’s structure has been frozen for six decades and does not relate to the challenges of today’s world. Its distorted form of representation stands between us and the multilateral world to which we aspire.” (Silva 2008) Brazil’s efforts are largely motivated by the belief that it deserves a more prominent role as the South American representative in the United Nations and the belief that international institutions are more legitimate and effective if the developing countries are adequately represented in them (Gregory). Brazil’s approach to the Security Council reform has been a complex mix of multilateral engagement by positioning itself as a “responsible stakeholder”, one of global outreach by diversifying its strategic partnerships, by assuming the regional leadership, and by strengthening South-South partnerships and assuming the role of a Southern sphere leader. (Stuenkel)


The post COVID-19 world would witness changes in the geopolitical scenario of the world. The crisis has raised serious questions about the future of multilateral organizations like the United Nations. The time is appropriate to rethink about the conventional and unchallenged establishments and rebuild it to suit the requirements of the changing times.

The functioning of the UNSC is the heart of United Nations. Therefore, reforming  UNSC will initiate a process of other required reforms of the United Nations. In the 21st century, the Second World War victors turned permanent members system seems outdated. With the rise of multipolarity, the demand for equal representation stands valid now more than ever.

Being home to 1/5th population of the world, India is making its presence felt on the world map. India has been championing the cause of democratization of United Nations Security Council for a substantial period. With calculated risks and diplomacy, India can achieve this long-cherished dream of a permanent seat in UNSC.


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