The United States, China, Britain, France and Russia – deemed victors of World War II – are permanent veto-wielding members, while 10 other nations rotate for two-year terms.
Japan, whose leader Fumio Kishida made UN reform a key tenet of his speech to the world body this week, is among a handful of middle powers seeking a permanent presence on the council.
Some observers have suggested calls for Security Council reform will benefit from new blood this year given Western frustrations over Russia’s veto power: Moscow in effect blocked the council from holding it to account over its Ukraine invasion.
For the West’s critics, such hopes are as good an example of its hypocrisy – and self-delusion – as there can be. After all, the US proceeded with its invasion of Iraq in 2003 after deliberately sidelining the Security Council.
Nonetheless, it looks like Washington is indeed stepping up its lip service on expanding the council. In his speech on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said Washington backs increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent seats to make the UN “more inclusive, so we can better respond to the needs of today’s world”.
Richard Gowan, an expert on the UN at the International Crisis Group, suggested in recent remarks to Agence France-Presse that the “Americans don’t really have an end game” to efforts for reform. “They’re putting this out there to test the waters, to challenge the Chinese and the Russians. It could fizzle out.”
Well there. Like New York drivers, come General Assembly time it’s best to ignore gridlock – the political kind in this case – and make a big mental detour over discussions about the “urgent need” for UN reform.