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Globalizing the Security Council

BRASILIA – The 1945 United Nations Charter represented a historic breakthrough in the pursuit of peace on a multilateral basis. At the end of a global war that claimed more than 50 million lives, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the world’s two major powers. The UN Charter, initially negotiated by the US, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom during World War II, established a Security Council containing five permanent members, including France and the Republic of China.

At its inception, the UN brought together 51 countries; it now has 193 member states. But, although the Security Council was enlarged in 1965 by increasing the number of non-permanent seats from six to ten, its permanent members have not changed since 1945.

The world has gone through extraordinary transformations since then. In addition to interstate conflict and the proliferation of weapons – particularly weapons of mass destruction – new challenges have emerged, such as terrorism and the involvement of non-state actors in internal conflicts. Meanwhile, the global distribution of economic and political power has undergone a radical reconfiguration, setting the stage for the emergence of a multipolar international order.

In this environment, the Security Council’s frozen composition is imposing significant limits on the international community’s capacity to address global challenges. Conflicts drag on without proper action from the body created to resolve them. Thousands of civilians die, are displaced, or are subjected to appalling human-rights abuses, while the Security Council proves unable or unwilling to act. Reform of the Council is thus urgent and indispensable.