China roots for more Global South power in the UNSC

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022 02:34 | By
The United Nations Security Council meeting PHOTO/COURTESY

The perennial social, economic and political gulf between the developed and developing countries has proven hard to reconcile. But this thinking has now gone full circle, with rising demands that those vested with global power create an all-inclusive, multilateral system.

One of the latest voices is Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who recently appealed to the international community to increase the representation of developing countries in initiatives to reform the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The issue had also been articulated in November, 2020 by Zhang Jun; China’s permanent representative to the UN, during a plenary meeting on UNSC reform of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. Zhang cited the current chasm between the North and Global South in the UNSC as untenable. 

Zhang and lately Wang Yi also called for a correction of the historical injustices against Africa and an empowerment of developing countries to play a more decisive role in the body. Both of these top Chinese officials have managed to voice critical concerns that other developing countries lack a platform or clout to. This action was actually onerous on China as the largest developing country in the world. 

The UNSC comprises five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (U.S.). The 10-non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly

 Almost all members of the latter membership comprise developing countries, with only Ireland and Norway from the North. But these two Western countries have more clout within the UNSC than the other eight developing economies combined.

Inter alia, the UNSC’s mandate as stated in the UN Charter is to maintain international peace and security, investigate conflicts with global ramifications and recommend resolutions, initiate military action against an aggressor and advocate for economic sanctions instead of military action where appropriate.

However, the UNSC has not been as effective as envisaged, a fact evident from the escalating crises in the world. The UNSC has often acted as a fire brigade rather than a deterrence to embers before they turn into bonfires. The UNSC is also accused of being a toothless bulldog, with the body unable to have an impact in peacefully separating combatants.

For example, it failed to stop the escalation of the Russo-Ukraine conflict, with the two neighbors going into war at the height of the UNSC Emergency Meeting on Ukraine last Wednesday. This can only mean that one or both of the antagonists have lost confidence in the body’s impartiality due to the perception that, rightly or wrongly, it serves the interests of hegemonic parties.

In the classical definition of the socio-economic ladder, Russia and Ukraine are developing countries. With a larger representation of the Global South at the table of UNSC permanent membership, may be the current conflict would have been dealt with more empathetically, unlike the one-sidedness approach and high handedness with which the most powerful countries have dealt their hand against Russia.

Another consequence of powerlessness of developing countries in the UNSC is the lack of timely and concrete intervention in a time of crisis. For instance, analysts see UN failures in countries like Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti and Congo, collectively leading to the deaths of millions of innocent citizens as a result of both inept and inadequate peacekeeping.

Ultimately, the case for increasing the participation of developing countries in the reform of not just the UNSC but the UN as a whole cannot be contested.

The Global South is usually the first to face the blunt of global crises of whatever nature, but the last to enjoy the benefits of positive outcomes.

Therefore, they have a big stake in global developments and would be more sensitive and objective in the decision making process.

— The writer comments on international affairs

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