Securing a More Secure World

Committee reports are usually deadly dull, and UN committee reports are among the dullest. But the recent report of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change broke that rule. Sixteen political leaders and former diplomats combined principle with political realism to produce the most comprehensive proposals for change since the UN was created in 1945.

Secretary General Kofi Annan is to present the report in March. Then it will be up to governments to act.

Many early comments focus on the Panel’s recommendations for enlarging the UN Security Council from 15 to 24 members. The report proposes two alternatives. One would add six new permanent members – such as India, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, and Germany – as well as three two-year members. The other alternative would create eight semi-permanent members with renewable four-year terms and one additional member chosen for a two-year term.

Either proposal would entail amending the UN Charter, which requires marshaling the support of a two-thirds majority of the 191 member states, including the five veto-wielding members of the current Security Council. Skeptics doubt that this is feasible.