United Nations Role, Reforms- Future of the UN

The relevant topics should be taken into consideration while discussing the most crucial issue

The relevant topics should be taken into consideration while discussing the most crucial issue of the “United Nations Role, Reforms- Future of the UN”;

  • Envisaged role and actual record
  • Specialised UN agencies aims and functioning 
  • Need for the UN reform 
  • India and the UN system 
  • Role of India in the UN peacekeeping  
  • India’s Demand for a permanent seat in UN 
  • The relevance of the UN and the assessment of actual performance 
  • Reform of the UN 
  • UNSC reform with respect to India 
  • Role of ICJ

Objective and Relevance of the United Nations: 

According to the preamble of the UN charter; the format objective of the UN is to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war. UN is based on the belief of interdependence between peace, human rights. Also, the development of the UN charter commits the UN to provide a life of dignity to men and women. A status of equality to the small and big nations by strengthening international law and social progress. 

Whether today UN Objectives are Relevant or Not: 

The above objectives were more relevant then and have become more relevant now. In the context of growing interconnectivity, interdependence and inner vulnerabilities; former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon held that we need more effective UN than what it is today.

There is almost universal recognition that multilateralism is not a choice but necessary in present time. These objectives are relevant even now because it is said that more we change more we remain the same.

At present, the world is more vulnerable than it was in 1940-50s. The new global threats like climate change, transnational terrorism, organised crimes have acquired such a dimension that it is beyond the capacity of single superpower to handle on its own.

The only imperative for survival at present is through global cooperation. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role, Reforms -Future of the UN”. 

Does the UN has the capacity to fulfil the Objectives: 

According to Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia; “No other organisation imbody as many dreams and frustration as UN”. Security Council has become a prisoner to great power manoeuvring, General Assembly, as a platform of empty rhetoric. The economic and social council has become dysfunctional and secretarial is the host of inefficient individuals.  

Above assessment of the UN shows the disappointment with the UN and the need for reforming the UN. However, it is necessary to attempt a fair evaluation of the UN as an organisation.   

Envisaged Role and Actual Record:

Envisaged role and actual record can be assessed on the basis of proclaimed objectives of the UN and its achievements. 


  • Peace and saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war: 

UN has been accused of inaction or wrong action or failure to protect the generator from the scourge of war. Since the UN is in existence, though the world has avoided a third world war.

However, the credit is given to deterrence, rather than the UN world has witnessed a war between India and Pakistan, India and China, Iran and Iraq, Vietnam War, Afganistan War, Iraq-Kuwait War, genocide, the civil war in Africa, Sri Lanka, Former Yugoslavia and Somalia.

Throughout the cold war, the collective security system has been paralysed. Nothing has changed even after the end of cold war with the sole exception of the gulf war.

However, this does not mean that the UN’s record in preventions and interventions of conflict is ZERO. Since the UN provides a platform for negotiation to avoid wars. UN played many roles in peace through peacekeeping operations. It has become the most prominent UN activity towards its goal.  

Even UN record in protection of human rights is far from satisfactory. Though the UN has created many institutions, voluminous laws and conventions. But on the ground, the situation of human rights has become worse. Since the end of the cold war, the international community has seen the worst form of genocide in Ravana, former Yugoslavia and in Sri Lanka.

 The continuous human rights violation in Syria is a black spot on the conscience of humanity; violence on women is continuing on a day-to-day basis on both peace and war situation. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role Relevancy Reform and India’s Quest -Future Roadmap Of UN”. 

  • Development:

UN does have a good record in the context of development. UN agencies like UNDP, UNICEF, WHO do play a role in addressing some of the developmental concerns of 3rd world countries. UN achievement should be appreciated, considering the small budget with which the UN functions. For example, the budget of the UN was $ 45 Billion in 2013; which means capital budget of $ 6 per capita. 

Overall Assessment:  

Above discussion shows that UN record is not up to the mark. UN is underperformer in all of its core areas; which is also the cause behind frustration from the UN.

But also at the same time, we can say that the situation would have been worse if the UN has not existed. The situation could have been better if the international community in general and P-5 countries, in particular, have acted with stronger political will.  

As suggested by Shashi Tharoor, it is not the UN’s failure; it is our failure. We can quote the view of the US President Trump at the time of inauguration; when he says, “the UN is creation of its members, it is malleable to their wish. It can not be more successful than its member wish.” We must not forget that the UN was born out of am agony of war, the most terrible war in history.

Those who drow UN charter had less to do with the creation of the UN than millions of those who fought and died in the war. The organisation owes its origin to the blood and sacrifices of millions of men and women.

 Governments may feel fatter in their support to the UN, but ordinary people will never falter. The strongest force for the UN comes from the aspirations of ordinary men and women looking for order and justice. 

However, when we evaluate the UN, we should not forget the view of Former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammer Skjold; “UN was not created to take mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell”. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role, Reforms | Future of the UN”.

“Why What and How to Reform??”

Why Reform The United Nations:

In the age of interdependence. Interconnectivity and inner vulnerabilities, multilateralism is imperative. Thus. Even when we abolish the UN, we will require some institution; which is universal in nature and which can provide locally. The world is more divided today than it was in the 1940s. Hence, it will not be possible to create new institutions. So, we need to reform the UN. 

Reform of the UN is required to give the adequate capacity to the UN; so that the UN can reform its functions effectively. Reform is an essential process with the evolution of any institution. For any institution to remain relevant, it has to adjust two emerging power equations; and emerging power play in the international arena.

One of the UN delegates has given the following suggestion; the UN needs “little more bite and little less bank. Little less bite and little more spark, little less conversation and a little more action”. 

What To Reform The United Nations: 

  • Institutional Reform:  

All the institutions of the United Nations need to be reformed. 

  • UN Security Council
  • UN General Assembly: No major reform is required, yet there is a need for greater transparency in its functioning. There is a need for greater coordination between assembly and the security council. The powers of assembly can be enhanced to outside the veto of P-5 countries; in case it becomes urgent in the context of international peace.
  • Eco-Soc: The organisation has become unwieldy with multiple organisations and overlapping functions. There is a need to streamline ECOSOC.
  •  Trusteeship Council: Trusteeship Council has completed its task long ago. At present, it has no function to perform. Either it should be abolished, or it should be given a new mandate. E.g., It should be given the task of global commons (7 Oceans) or failed state.
  • ICJ: No major change is required yet the security council should use its power to enforce its decision; if necessary, in the interest of international peace. 
  • Secretariat Reform: Presently dominated by the bureaucracy of western countries; more equitable representation is required. The UN Secretariat needs to improve its working. It is suffering from RED TAPISM.  
  • UN Peacekeeping: Capacity building and greater coordination between troops contributing and arms contributing countries.
  • Financial Reform: 

The present funds are inadequate. Countries do not pay their dues in time. The most frequent defaulter is the United States of America. Since countries will not be increasing their contribution, some innovative methods have to be devised.

Eg., It has proposed that the UN should be given the power to empower the tax on international financial transactions. 

  • Governance reform: Some changes are required in the UN Charter. For example; it still mentions certain states as an enemy state. There is a need to amend article 2(7); which restricts the UN’s interventions in the domestic sphere.

How To Reform The United Nations:

Some reform requires amendment of the UN charter and some reforms can be done without amendments. Reforms which do not require amendments are governance, peacekeeping and financial reform. For other reforms, the UN Charter has to be amended. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role, Reforms -Future of the UN”.

Methods of Amendment:

Extremely Rigid Article 108 of the UN Charter

Two-Step Process Are:

  1. Any resolution for the reform has to be passed by 2/3rd majority in the UN General Assembly; which requires the consent of P-5.
  2. It is to be rectified by the 2/3rd majority of the member state in accordance with their domestic requirement. 

It seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Yet it is the aspiration of the international community that; to save humanity, great powers should leave their narrow national interest and work for collective interest. 

Above analyst show that the UN is not just a platform of goodness. It is a harsh reality; it has been created by the USA and agreed by other great power; for the protection of their interest. As the years are passing, we are able to get a clearer picture of the UN. At least we are able to see basic drawing behind the abstract painting of Picasso.  

Reforms So Far: 

So far, the only reform that has taken place is; Governance Reform. These are the reforms; which has been proposed by the Western Countries. They have reduced the size of UN bureaucracy and peacekeeping budgets. However, such reform does not strengthen the body.

At present US President has taken the initiative to reform the UN. However, his aim is to enforce accountability. Trump Administration has gone for a cut-off budget. Though India has supported Trump’s point of view, also, India has clarified that reforms have to be compassing, broad-based; not just limited to the secretariat.

We can not sidestep the issues related to the governance of the UN bodies. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role Relevancy Reform and India’s Quest | Future Roadmap Of UN”. 

UN Security Council Reforms: 

Introduction of UNSC:

UNSC is the result of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference of 1944. It is the core of UN system. It is the only body which has teeth to bite. The most important function of the UN is peace. The real powers to maintain international peace by any mean lies with UNSC.

It is a body authorised for collective security. Chapter (7) of the UN charter deals with the above power of UNSC. It provides for clear and logical progression for the use of force.

Security Council is authorised to declare any act of aggression as a threat of peace. Hence, it can even take proactive actions.

Article (40) – It can take provisional measures.

Article (41) – It can impose sanctions.

Article(42) – It can use force. 

Charter also provides for the establishment of military staff committee. However. It never come existence. The content is created to analyse the topic “United Nations Role, Reforms- Future of the UN”. 

What Reforms are Required In UNSC: 

  • Veto Reforms
  • Procedural Reforms
  • Membership Reforms: 

UNSC does not represent the present power equations. It also does not give adequate representation to all regions. 


In 1945, when the UN came into existence; the total strength was five permanent members and six non-permanent members. At that time, the strength of the general assembly was 51. 

In 1963, Charter was amended, and four non-permanent members have been added. At that time, the strength of the General Assembly was 113.

Since there is no expansion, despite the present strength is 193. 


Besides the lack of rationality in proportion; the strength of the security council and general assembly; there is no equitable representation of different religions. 

  • Europe is over-represented having three seats.
  • Asia is under-represented with only one seat.
  • Latin America and Africa are not represented at all. 

Problems in the absence of Inadequate Representation:

Since it lacks representative, hence its action lacks legitimacy. Most of the actions of UNSC are concentrated in the developing world; especially in Africa, which has no representation. Security Council remains paralysed between P-2 and P-3. Hence, some neutral countries like India have to be on the council to act as a bridge and moderator. 

Groups or Coalition Involved in Security Council Reforms:

  • G-4 Countries (India, Japan, Germany, Brazil) 

  • Coffee Club (Pakistan, Italy, Mexico, Argentina) 

They are against the expansion. Coffee Club has brought uniting for the consensus resolution. 

As per G-4 countries, reforms should be passed by the majority as required under UN Charter Article 108. Coffee club propose reform only by consensus.

  • Africa Group- Presently Negotiable 

C-10 is negotiating on behalf of Africa. It is led by Sierra Leone. African Union has proposed reform based on Ezuluimi Consensus. According to the African Union, there should be two African states as a permanent member.

G-4 countries have agreed that they will not ask for VETO for the next 15 years. African Union is not ready for reform without VETO. 

  • L-69 Group

It is a group of many developing countries, small Island, Small African Countries, Caribbean Countries (Caricom). India and Brazil are also a part of it. 

  • Arab League 

They want two seats (Non-Permanent) 

  • Attitude of P-5 

P-5 countries keep on changing their stand. Position of China is ambiguous. 

Importance of Being Permanent Members:

  • It is a matter of pride and prestige because it is a recognition of great power status.
  • Permanent members are represented or present in all the UN Bodies.
  • Permanent members enjoy VETO Power. VETO power is the ultimate weapon which can be used to stop the use of the platform against the interest of the permanent members.  

Steps Taken for Expansion of the Membership so Far:

  • Though India started its drive in 1979; yet the issue of permanent membership become serious in Government in the 1990s and after the end of the cold war. After the cold war, the USA supported the expansion to include Japan and Germany.  
  • By this time, they became the leading contributors to the UN funds. They played a prominent role in funding collective security operation in the Gulf War. USA has been looking for countries to share the burden; Japan and Germany are the US allies. 
  • India was quick to register its opposition to the US plan. India holds that “seat can not be a sale for the highest bidder.” It is necessary to formulate certain principles for the candidature. India’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping; the supreme sacrifices of Indians can not be ignored.  
  • Hence, in 1993 the UN has set up an “open-ended working group” on the question of equitable representation and increase in membership of the security council and other matters related to the security council. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role Relevancy Reform and India’s Quest | Future Roadmap Of UN”. 

UN Committee with the Longest Title:

  • Equitable representation in the guiding principle of UN reforms. Security Council should be democratised to represent different voices. That is why even small island countries are aspiring for permanent membership. 
  • In the year 2003, a high-level panel on threat challenges and changes were set up; which submitted its report in 2004. 
  • In 2005, the World Summit took place; where general assembly adopted the resolution for UN reforms.  
  • In 2005, the UN Secretary-General ‘Kofi Annan’ presented his own report titled; “In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights”. 
  • In 2015, a significant milestone was achieved, when the United Nations General Assembly agreed to start “Text-Based Negotiations”. 


 Up till now, the process was going in an informal manner. Now, text-based negotiations will formalise the process. There is a formal text which will be going to negotiate. 

Now the questions arise; what are the prospects of reforms of UNSC and why it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel?

Still, there is no consensus on the candidates and the procedure. Shifting stands of developed countries and extremely rigid process of amendment.  

India’s Quest for the Permanent Seat in UNSC:

  • The permanent seat is the recognition of great power status. India has long term ambitions to get its rightful place in the community of nations; which it deserves by virtue of its great ancient civilisation. The values governing the UN are very similar to India’s own civilisation; values based on humanity, cosmopolitanism and empathy. 
  • Indian constitution ideals are also having huge similarities with the UN Charter. Article 51of Indian constitution commits India for strengthening if international peace and law. India is constitutionally committed to preserving diversity, promote toleration and to protect human thinking.  
  • India becomes a member of the UN even before its independence. In 1948, at UNGA in Paris, Pt. Nehru delivered his first address; where he says that UN principles animate the spirit of India’s struggle for independence.  
  •  In 1950, G. Raj Gopalachari said that there is no hope for Asia if India does not support the United Nations. 

This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role, Reforms | Future of the UN”. 

Why should India Participate in UNSC?

India has been an active participant in the UN activities; regarded and recognised by all Secretary-General; made unparallel contributions to the UN peacekeeping. Hence, if India is in the UNSC, India will contribute towards the goals of UN in the best possible manner.

For India, membership is not just for the protection of its interest, but also to deliver public goods. India can do the bridge between P-2 and P-3. India is committable to take a principled stand. We can give the following reasons, credentials in support of India’s membership; 

  • Civilisation Value 
  • Constitutional Ideals 
  • It is the 7th largest country in terms of size. 
  • 2nd largest country in terms of population 
  • 7th largest economy in terms of nominal GDP and third largest in terms of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) 
  • Leading contribution to the UN peacekeeping. 
  • Advanced Technology 
  • Functioning Democracy 
  • Professional Bureaucracy- Indian diplomates, are well in global affairs and in intricacies understanding of working in big organisations. 
  • India has served as a non-permanent member in the security council seven times. Each time India got overwhelming support. India lost only once in 1996 by Japan by 100 votes.  

India’s Strategy:

India has adopted different strategies;

  • South-south cooperation
  • North-south cooperation
  • Strengthening bilateral relations with the western world
  • The normalisation of relations with China
  • India has continuously stood for non-permanent member seat and got overwhelming support each time except in 1996.
  • India left contesting for non-permanent seat as it considers itself eligible for a permanent seat.
  • After the gap of many years, India again contested for the seventh time for a non-permanent seat and served between 2011-12. The reason is that the USA has put condition; its support will be contingent. Now India takes positions on the global issues.  
  • India has gone for the strategy of going alone. However, India realised that going alone will not complete the task. So, India formed coalitions.
  • India formed a coalition with G-4 countries. G-4 adopted the approach of swimming and shrinking together. There is greater opposition to Japan from China. Germany’s case is extremely difficult as Europe is over-represented. 
  • India has also joined the coalition of developing countries known as the L-69 group; which include Brazil, Carribean countries, Pacific Island countries.
  • India agrees to join with VETO or without VETO. 

Prospects for India:

According to MEA, reform in UNSC remain a top priority. Chances of India are bright. China does not publically oppose, and India will definitely join with VETO power. 

Importance of the Goal for India:

According to Ram Chandra Guha, “India should stay away from the of superstardom and should focus on internal development. According to Shyam Saran, India should leave illusionary goals and focus on building real strength, both economic and military. 

According to C Rajamohan, the goal is not so important that India allows itself to be bargained by big powers.

India’s Story So Far: 

Kishore Manubhai compared India’s story on the quest for the permanent seat with tale of Sisyphus carrying a big boulder on his head to the top of the hill; just see it falling down. India should focus on internal development and revitalise the non-alignment movement.

According to professor Ramesh Thakur, India should not demand a permanent seat. India should start non-cooperation with the UN; let then realise the importance of India’s contribution. This blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role Relevancy Reform and India’s Quest | Future Roadmap Of UN. 

VETO Reform:

It is given at the time of the founding of the UN. However, VETO is introduced on the insistence of the USSR. The purpose of VETO is to stop the use of organisations against P-5 members. The UN can not have any action against them. VETO has been problematic because it has been the main reason behind the paralysis of the UN system. Hence there is a demand to end the VETO. At present, only P-5 countries possess VETO. 

VETO is used in the decision making. The business of the Security Council can be categorised into two types; 

  • Procedural Matters: To pass any procedural matter of affirmation votes are required.
  • Substantive Matter: Substantive matter also require the consent of 9 members. However, these nine should include P-5, or at least none of P-5 should use VETO. The differentiation is also decided by P-5. Hence P-5 have double VETO.

Closing Keynote:

  • VETO should be abolished.
  • No VETO to new members
  • Minimise the use of VETO country will use it only when non-use will result in a challenge to its core national interest.

Working Procedure and Procedural Reforms:

  • Transparency in the working
  • Greater coordination with UNGA
  • Consultation with troop-contributing countries  

Pedagogy for Expansion of Membership:

Kofi Annan gives two formulas to strength;

  1. No VETO to members. Expand the strength to make it 24. Which means nine new members (G-4 + 2 from African Union as permanent member + 3 non-permanent member) 

India Supports above formula.

  1. Nine new members

Council strength – 24 (8 Semi-Permanent, i.e., their term will be for four years) + 1 additional non-permanent members)

Pakistan Supports the second formula.  

The blogging content is curated to analyse the topic “United Nations Role, Reforms | Future of the UN”.

Also Read: Bloody Sluggish Judicial Process is the Consequence of Brutal Rapes