Year XL, 1998, Number 1 - Page 26
REGIONAL UNIFICATIONS AND REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
World Order and the Structure of the UN.
The United Nations charter was drawn up, by the Conference of San Francisco, on the basis of the hypothesis that peace would be assured by the collective strength of those states which, in coalition, defeated the Axis powers in the Second World War. Consequently, five states (the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France and the United Kingdom) were given a permanent seat on the Security Council, and assigned the power of veto.
The charter embraced, at the same time, the further principle that all nations must contribute to the maintenance of peace. Provision was therefore made for the inclusion of a second category of states (non permanent members of the Security Council) selected in rotation, according to a criterion of “equitable geographical distribution”, to sit on the Council for a period of two years.
When, in 1963, an amendment of the statute raised the number of non permanent members of the Security Council from six to ten, the General Assembly passed a resolution defining the geographical criteria according to which these states were to be chosen: five from the African and Asian states, one from Eastern Europe, two from the Latin American states, and two from Western Europe and “other states.”
The principles governing the distribution of seats on the Security Council substantially led to the definition of eight large geographical regions: the United States, the Soviet Union (replaced in 1992 by the Russian Federation) the Republic of China (replaced in 1971 by the People’s Republic of China), Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, to which was added the residual ninth category of “other states.”
The political principle according to which the decision-making power was placed substantially in the hands of the world’s most powerful states was, in part, corrected by the rule in force in the General Assembly that each state was entitled to one vote which, absurdly enough, saw a continental state like China afforded the same status as a city state like San Marino. As a result, a number of states representing less than 10%, of the world’s population can form a majority within the General Assembly. It must be stressed that this state of affairs cannot be considered democratic, even though there are some who erroneously apply this term when referring to the voting system adopted by the General Assembly. Democracy demands, rather, application of the “one person, one vote” principle.
Not only does the UN lack a democratic structure, it does not have any power of its own to wield at supranational level, surely an essential requisite of an organisation which aims to ensure the maintenance of peace. The UN has neither military forces, nor financial resources of its own. It is not, of course, a world government. It is, rather, a diplomatic machine. It is not an independent actor on the international political scene so much as the stage on which states (particularly the great powers) play their parts.
The history of the period following the Second World War has, of course, been shaped by bipolarism and by the Cold War, in other words, by the division of the world into two spheres of influence, American and Soviet, which non-aligned countries tried to eschew in the hope of forming a third grouping of states — the Third World between the two worlds struggling to dominate the planet. In this period, the UN was paralysed by the power of veto reciprocally exercised by the two superpowers.
The Unification of the World.
The collapse of the Communist regimes and the dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in the disappearance of one of these two worlds, which are now united by their mutual subscription to the principles of representative democracy and market economy. The Third World, whose very existence depends upon the existence of the other two, is no longer the vehicle of a design which might be seen as an alternative to these principles. The example of China bears this out: indeed, the hefty economic growth of this country has been made possible by the introduction of market economy elements which can, in turn, only really be allowed to bear fruit by the democratisation of the country’s political institutions. Neither, as shown by the emergence of an aggressive trade union movement in South Korea, and the growth of a movement for democratic reform in countries like South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan, can the authoritarian capitalist regimes of eastern Asia be considered a valid alternative. And the same can be said of Islamic fundamentalism, characterised by its opposition to the world market, to democracy and to religious freedom. The political change that is taking place in Iran provides confirmation of the fact that no state can isolate itself for any length of time, remaining on the fringe of the globalisation process. In more general terms, the defeat of the communist and fascist regimes of the 20th century supports the hypothesis that no closed form of society can resist the force of globalisation.
Therefore, these three worlds are now coming together to form one world, without any other qualification, as a system is established which will give rise to a new order whose features are, however, still ill-defined. The movement towards a world economy, which is sweeping aside all the obstacles placed in the way of the formation of a single world market, is the clearest possible demonstration of the fact that the world is moving irresistibly towards unity. For the first time in history, the market economy is assuming world dimensions, driven on by the revolution in production, communication and information techniques.
Globalisation is not only impelled by economic incentives, but also by an irresistible historical force, stronger than the will of any government or any party: the force unleashed by the evolution of the mode of production. In all areas of life, it is imposing much broader dimensions than those of the sovereign states, even the largest ones.
The Crisis of the Sovereign State and the Decline of Power Politics.
The expressions “crisis of the sovereign state” and “decline of power politics” describe a general trend emerging within the spheres of international organisation and the structuring of the state. This trend can be adequately comprehended in the light of the federalist theory whose interpretation of the events of contemporary history revolves, indeed, around the concept of the crisis of the sovereign state. The most important, but not the only, factor behind the crisis of the sovereign state is the contradiction between the national dimensions of the state and the internationalisation of the production process, itself the result of a turning point in the evolution of the mode of production: the scientific revolution. The world has become more and more closely interdependent as an increasing number of problems have acquired broader dimensions than those of the nations themselves. That the extent of this phenomenon is universal is demonstrated by the fact that the world’s most powerful state (the United States) seeks, through NAFTA, a means of acquiring the dimensions needed to compete with the large economic areas which are forming in the world.
There is, however, another problem which characterises the crisis of the sovereign state: the profound change in the way in which security is organised. The cost of the arms race has become intolerable for the United States and Russia. And it is not only the destructive nature, but also the very cost of arms which has generated a crisis in power politics. Indeed, power politics is so expensive that it ends up by turning against those who practise it. In other words, in this era of global interdependence and weapons of mass extermination, power is tending to become self-destructive.
As a result of this, the superpowers abandoned the Cold War thoroughly exhausted. Putting an end to military confrontation, collaboration was deemed the best means of survival. Therefore, nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction have brought about the decline of power politics and have opened the way, with the new Soviet strategy based on the principles of “mutual security” and “non offensive defence”, to the exhaustion of the raison d’état. All this shows that the new course of world politics is not only to be attributed to goodwill, but is, above all, born of necessity.
Finally, while the role of sovereign states is declining on the world’s political stage, new protagonists are starting to come to the fore: political groupings which embrace a number of states and nations, the prime example being the European Union. The significance of this trend lies in the fact that there no longer exist states which have the power and resources needed to achieve world supremacy. The superpowers, having sought to unite the world under their respective dominion, have given up their mutual political and ideological competition, realising that the arguments in favour of cooperation carry more weight. In other words, in the post-bipolar era, the world has come to realise that no state or alliance of states can hope to dominate the world and, with this awareness, all strive to gain maximum benefit from the globalisation of the markets.
The Formation of Regional Groupings of States.
In the fifty years following the end of the Second World War, the structure of the Security Council has remained substantially unaltered. Despite changes in the balance of world power, it still reflects the order established by the powers that won the war.
The end of bipolarism, the order which, until the fall of the Berlin wall, controlled the world, was accompanied by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a decline in the power of the United States, which now, more and more, depends on UN support to legitimise its international policing interventions. The crisis of the national state in Europe has coincided with the increase in the influence of the European Union within the world economic system; at the same time, Germany and Japan, precisely because they were compelled to give up the role of military powers following their defeat in the Second World War, and therefore not obliged to bleed themselves dry in the arms race, have become major economic powers with greater influence on the international scene. Finally, in the southern hemisphere, as well as the emergence of sub-regional powers in Africa (Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa), Asia (India, Pakistan and Indonesia) and Latin America (Brazil and Argentina), integration processes are under way which appear to be creating the political and economic conditions necessary for the independence and growth of these geopolitical areas.
The way in which the world states system is evolving has led to the formation of new regional groupings of states. China and Latin America are the only areas which have, in the period since the Second World War, maintained almost entirely unaltered their original geo-political features. However, the formation of Mercosur (embracing Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and showing, after the economic agreements reached with Chile and Bolivia, a tendency towards enlargement) has rendered Latin America a much more dynamic economic area and set in motion a process of regional integration. The United States, meanwhile, has been the driving force behind the creation of a North American economic area which embraces Canada and Mexico (NAFTA). The Soviet Union has been replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the collapse of the Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and in central and eastern Europe has made it possible to overcome the divide between the two Europes, opening up the way towards enlargement of the European Union as far as the borders with the Russian Federation (thus drawing in central and eastern European countries and the Baltic republics). Africa is divided into two geopolitical areas: sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world, which includes the Middle East. Asia, meanwhile, encompasses four regional areas: China, the states of southern Asia, grouped around India (Saarc), the states of South East Asia (Asean) and Japan. The latter which has, until now, remained in a relatively isolated position, is likely to be driven by the recent economic crisis in Asia, to seek greater integration with the surrounding area.
Finally, there is the South Pacific region which, following the establishment of the South Pacific Forum, is starting to emerge as an independent area.
The taking on of regional dimensions is proving to be the way to create the economic space required for the development of modem production techniques and to acquire the weight needed to obtain real independence from the great powers. If the European Union which, having nurtured a process of economic integration, is now moving towards political union and extending its powers to the area of foreign and security policy, can be seen as a pilot project, it is foreseeable that the other ten large regions which are taking shape in other parts of the world may, in the future, become the protagonists of the new world order of the post bipolar era.
The Trend towards Fragmentation.
The movement towards unification is contrasted (but not obstructed) by a trend towards the fragmentation of multinational states and international organisations. While its epicentre lies in the former Communist bloc, this trend has nevertheless taken on global proportions, involving both the United States, where a re-emergence of secessionist tendencies has materialised in the Southern states, and the European Union, where there is a growing number of separatist movements: in the Basque Provinces, Catalonia, Corsica, Padania, Scotland etc.
This is a trend which has its roots in two events. First, the collapse of the bipolar system together with the lack of a new world order — the antagonism between the blocs represented a uniting force among alliances and states which today is lacking — has left the way clear for the emergence of disintegrative forces which disseminate fierce tribal conflicts, sow hatred and violence everywhere and lead to the erection of new walls. At the same time, the universal ideologies of democracy and communism (which fought for world dominion during the Cold War, and are now perceived as the hegemonic expression of the superpowers) allowed the emergence of archaic forms of collective identity of an ethnic or religious nature. Micronationalism and tribalism now fill the gap created by the loss of legitimacy of communism and the exhaustion of the universal aspirations of democracy which, paradoxically, went hand in hand with the increasing diffusion of democratic regimes.
Second, the process of globalisation, which unifies the world, makes societies uniform and brings down barriers, induces in circumscribed territories a desire to return to one’s roots, a reaction which is the expression of a need for solidarity within local and regional communities. To this can be added the crisis of the national state which has accompanied the loss of impetus of the forces that formerly fostered centralisation and nationalism. All this creates space both for autonomist and separatist movements. Ethnic identities, and the sinister racist connotations which distinguish them, are presented as the formula which legitimises the new powers which are rising out of the ashes of the old order.
European and Partial World Government.
Europe is the decisive ground in the clash between the trend towards unification and the trend towards fragmentation. Indeed, in the building of peace among the member states, the European institutions have produced more substantial results than the UN, a fact which must be taken into account in the formulation of plans to reform the organisation.
The federal unification of Europe will represent the starting point of the overcoming of the political formula of the national state. The European federation will be a model of a multinational political order, the first form of international democracy, the first step towards world unification. Indeed, the transformation of the Union into a federation will show how the political formula of the national state can be overcome through the transfer of powers to higher and lower levels, and through the creation of a multinational state. States will have to learn to organise power on different levels of government, which are both independent and coordinated, in order to create among nations divided by secular hatred and discord the legal and political conditions allowing them to live together as equals, each one preserving its own identity. It is a model which will allow other regions of the world which aspire to unity, and indeed the whole world, to develop a formula that reconciles unity with diversity.
Furthermore, the European federation will be the first concrete example of international democracy, the first form of democratic government set up above the level of the historically established sovereign states. This is the direction which must be followed if control of international politics is to be taken away from the great powers and placed in the hands of the people.
The European parliament, the embryo and first manifestation of international democracy, will be more inclined than other international institutions to extend this experiment on a world scale. The sooner it obtains full legislative and control powers not only in the field of economic and monetary policy, but also in the field of foreign and security policy, the sooner its influence on world politics will grow. On this subject, it is important to underline that, in the field of international commerce, the European Union already behaves as a single state and, being the world’s strongest commercial power, it wields considerable influence. It is a vital interest of Europe to keep the world market open and to strengthen the international institutions which make it possible to pursue this end. This is why the European Community promoted the establishment of the World Trade Organisation.
So, within the G7, the European Commission sits alongside the big four member states of the European Union. The coming into force of economic and monetary union in 1999 will open the doors, to the European Commission, of the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements. The euro will become a world currency, thus creating the conditions needed for a reform of the current international monetary system which is based on the supremacy of the dollar.
On the contrary, in the area of foreign and security policy, still governed by the principle of unanimity, the European Union is not, however, in a position to act effectively.
In conclusion, the missing link, the factor which would allow the world to move decisively towards a peaceful order, is a Europe that is able to act as a single subject. While, in the context of bipolarism, European federation was an experiment of unification conducted within the confines of the Western bloc which aimed to create a third pole between the superpowers, in the post Cold War world, it becomes an independent centre of power which tends to act as a hinge between East and West and between North and South. Unlike the United States, it has a vital interest in developing positive relationships, based on cooperation, with the areas adjacent to it: the former communist world, the Mediterranean and Africa. Although the first task is to complete the process of European unification in the eastern and southern regions of the continent, there is also the need to strengthen the international institutions (OSCE, the Lomé Convention and the Mediterranean Forum) which bind Europe to its neighbouring continents.
It is a mistake to think that a Europe endowed with its own foreign and defence policies would represent a threat to Russia; on the contrary, this could only help to guarantee Russian security. Equally, with its own foreign and defence policies, Europe would have the power to condition United States policy, to move it to collaborate more closely with Russia and to strengthen the UN. In this way, the conditions would be created for close cooperation, on the basis of the shared principles of democracy and market economy, between the European Union, the United States, the Russian Federation, and Japan, and for the creation of a partial world government which would have the character of an invulnerable alliance, and would be able to steer the world in the direction of unification and to strengthen the powers of intervention of the UN.
The OSCE (despite the fact that it does not include Japan), the creation by NATO and the Russian Federation of a common institution, and the recent inclusion of Russia in the G7 are the first signs of the emergence of a new world order, one which sees all northern countries agreeing on common principles of defence and economic cooperation. And it is the pattern of international relations, now characterised by the reconciliation of Russia and America, which represents the distinctive new feature of these post bipolar era bodies. An order is emerging which is no longer antagonistic, no longer built to counteract the enemy but, one whose real task is, rather, to govern the process of world unification.
The Transformation of the Security Council into the Council of the Great World Regions.
As a result of the redistribution of power following the collapse of the bipolar system, the current composition of the Security Council is an anachronism. Hence the need to enlarge and transform the latter from a directorate of the five major powers into a more representative body. This problem can be tackled in two different ways. The traditional way is to admit to the Security Council the strongest states, which have risen to the top positions in the hierarchy of world power. This proposal itself has three variants. The first provides for the assignment of permanent seats to Germany and Japan; the second envisages the enlargement of the Security Council to embrace five new permanent members (Germany and Japan, plus three states representing, respectively, Africa, Asia and Latin America). These new permanent members would not, however, be allowed the power of veto and there would, furthermore, be an increase in the number of non permanent members. The third variant, put forward by Italy, proposes, in addition to the two existing categories of Security Council members, the formation of a third category comprising ten semi-permanent members, drawn from a list of thirty states representative of the great world regions. These members would rotate more frequently (one biennium in three).
What these three proposals have in common is the intention to enlarge the Security Council through the inclusion of the strongest states, entrusting them with the task of representing the interests of the smaller states belonging to the same region. Thus, Germany would represent the Benelux, Scandinavian and central and eastern European countries, Japan would represent the countries of the Far East, South East Asia and some of the Pacific region, and so on.
The states which have campaigned most actively to change the composition of the Security Council are those which were defeated in the Second World War. Precisely because they occupy second, third and fifth places among the main state-contributors to the UN budget, Japan, Germany and Italy want a status befitting their contribution. The two proposals which would modify the composition of the Council in favour of these states are proportional to the ambitions both of the two great economic powers (Germany and Japan) and of a medium size power like Italy which cannot aspire to a permanent seat.
The plan to assign permanent seats to Germany and Japan (aiming to find a rapid, or so-called quick fix solution to the problem of Security Council reform) formerly supported by the United States, has proved to be unrealistic and been abandoned. It would have strengthened the hegemony of the North over the South of the world and would also have assigned three seats to Western Europe, and therefore a totally disproportionate weight. The second plan, currently supported by the United States, has run into similar difficulties as the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa are not willing to be represented by the biggest states within their respective continents.
All these solutions (including the one based on the creation of a category of semi-permanent members) encounter the hostility of those excluded, especially of those countries which claim to be more entitled to belong to this body. They all reflect the principles of domination and inequality which shaped the current structure of the Security Council, but which are no longer adequate to meet the needs of the modern world, and are incompatible with the objectives of equality and justice now emerging in the sphere of international relations.
The best way to ensure a fair reform of the Security Council is through the formation of regional groupings of states. The reorganisation of the world order on this basis represents an alternative not only to the hierarchical organisation of power, determined by the disparity between states of different sizes, but also to the fragmentation of the world into a mass of small and tiny states which find themselves up against larger states.
The difference between the sizes of the member states is, indeed, the main reason why the UN is unable to work well. The constant increase in the number of member states of the UN (there are currently 185, more than three times as many as in 1945) is indicative of an alarming trend towards fragmentation and anarchy. What is needed, first of all, is to encourage regional groupings to emerge and strengthen their cohesion within the General Assembly, so that they can be represented within the Security Council.
The growing cohesion of the European Union within the UN is strictly related to the degree to which the process of unification leading to the launch of the single currency in 1999 has advanced. Recent research into the voting behaviour of EU members within the UN shows an 86 per cent rate of cohesion; in other words, the EU is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, already behaving as a single subject in the bosom of the UN. This means that the conditions are maturing for it to be given a permanent seat on the Security Council.
In September 1997, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian House of Deputies concluded a study on the United Nations, approving a document which calls for the EU to be assigned a permanent seat on the Security Council. Then, during a speech made to the General Assembly on September 25th, Dini, the Italian minister of foreign affairs, confirmed that this proposal had the support of the Italian government, thus paving the way for a different solution from the one favoured until that point.
The birth of the euro will strengthen considerably the powers of intervention of the EU on an international level, bringing ever closer a time when Europe will be able to speak with a single voice on a political level too. The current weakness of Europe’s international position is due to the fact that decisions on foreign and security policy must be taken unanimously. This is the gap that must be filled to make possible the inclusion of the EU on the Security Council. As well as constituting recognition of the rights of all the states of the Union to be represented on the Security Council, with no distinction made between permanent and non permanent members, EU membership of the Council would also resolve the problem of Germany’s demands for representation. It must be considered that the admission of Germany to the Security Council would encourage, in that country, the development of a foreign policy independent of that of the EU and thus provide a stimulus for the rebirth of German nationalism. The European Union, precisely because it is the most advanced of the processes of regional unification developing in the world, could become the focus of an initiative to reform the Security Council along regional lines. The significance of enlarging this organ to include the European Union, would be to offer mankind an example of a form of international organisation whose influence in the world is based on the power of attraction of its system of integration rather than on military strength, thus providing other world regions, which are still composed of separate sovereign states, with the impulse to move towards federal unification. In short, this solution offers three advantages: 1) all states (rather than only the most powerful ones, which is currently the case) would be represented on the Security Council through their respective regional organisations, 2) the hegemony of the superpowers and the inequality among states could gradually be overcome through the reorganisation of the UN on the basis of the formation of groupings of states of equivalent size and power; in particular, the developing countries in Africa, the Arab world, Latin America, southern Asia and South East Asia can find in political and economic unification the way to emerge from their current condition of dependence, 3) the unfair discrimination between permanent and non permanent members could finally be overcome by replacing the right of veto with a majority vote system.