Mention the United Nations and the first reaction is likely to be the ongoing oil-for-food scandal and what it will mean for Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s ability to lead the organization for the remaining year and a half of his tenure.
But there is much more going on at the UN than investigations. Reform is in the air – in part because of the scandal, but also because of the UN’s inability to deal effectively with challenges ranging from Rwanda and Kosovo to Iraq and, most recently, Sudan. Even the UN’s most ardent supporters now recognize that change is called for if the organization is to make a significant contribution to international peace and security.
Some of the reform talk concerns the UN Security Council’s composition. The Security Council represents what the World War II Allies believed the post-war world would look like and how it should be run. This helps to explain why a much-weakened France was made a permanent member of the Council – and why Germany and Japan (and a not-yet independent India) were not.
Defending the Security Council’s current make-up is impossible; the need for change is beyond debate. But coming up with an approach that gains broad international support will prove extremely difficult.