Rational Scheme for a Reformed UN Security Council

Review of Joseph Schwartzberg’s monograph, “Revitalizing the United Nations,” Institute for Global Policy, 2004, 80pp.

(A slightly briefer version was previously published in Mondial__, Journal of the World Federalist Movement — Canada, Oct. 2004)__

In Joe Schwartzberg’s excellent proposals for UN reform, each nation would be assigned a weighted vote (WV) equal to the average of its share of the total UN population (almost the whole world) plus its share of the contribution to the total UN budget (almost proportional to each nation’s gross national product) plus its share of the total UN membership (1/191; the only significant exceptions to UN universal membership are Taiwan, Palestine, Puerto Rico and Western Sahara). Thus each nation’s weighted vote would be based on its population, its wealth, and its existence as a sovereign nation.

Schwartzberg’s weighted voting formula would be applicable to a reformed UN Security Council and General Assembly, but one is not a precondition for the other. In this article I will focus on the Security Council.

Schwartzberg proposes that nations whose weighted vote would equal or exceed 4.0 would automatically have a seat, (but without a veto) on a reformed Security Council.

Nations that would qualify under this rule would be the U.S. (9.1), China (7.7), Japan (7.3) and India (6.0). Nations that don’t make it would be free to form blocs or coalitions whose combined weighted votes would add up to 4.0 or more. Blocs would be based on negotiations, political affiliations, existing regional associations, common culture or some combination thereof. One or more seats would be reserved for election by the General Assembly from among nations that do not join a bloc or individually qualify for a seat at the table.

Schwartzberg provides two illustrative schemes. The first has 16 seats — China, India, Japan, the U.S., and the following 12 hypothetical blocs, with the number of members, total weighted vote, the two leading members and other nations over 0.5 WV:

Arab League 20 members, 5.59 (Egypt 0.56, Saudi Arabia 0.48)
Central, Eastern and Southern Africa 23 members, 6.13 (South Africa 0.55, Ethiopia 0.54)
Central Europe 2 members, 4.365 (Austria 0.53, Germany 3.835)
Eastern Europe 17 members, 4.22 (Poland 0.51, Ukraine 0.45)
Meso-America 23 members, 5.43 (Mexico 1.08, Dominican Republic 0.30)
Non-Arab Islamic States
[of Central and Southwest Asia]
11 members, 4.21 (Pakistan 0.99, Turkey 0.70, Iran 0.62)
Northern Europe 7 members, 4.60 (United Kingdom 2.33, Sweden 0.56)
South America 10 members, 5.02 (Brazil 1.91, Argentina 0.69)
Southeast Asia 11 members, 5.29 (Indonesia 1.38, Philippines 0.64, Vietnam 0.61, Thailand 0.61)
Southern Europe 8 members, 4.88 (Italy 2.16, Spain 1.23)
Western Africa 21 members, 5.18 (Nigeria 0.90, Ghana 0.29)
Western Europe 5 members, 4.89 (France 2.62, Netherlands 0.84, Switzerland 0.63, Belgium 0.60)

Twenty-nine states are not part of any bloc in this scenario. Major omissions are Russia, Canada, Australia and Bangladesh. Schwartzberg’s second hypothetical formulation envisions a 15-year transitional phase during which Russia, France and the UK would not qualify as members in their own right but would retain their membership on the Council. During that period, the Russian economy might grow sufficiently to push it over the weighted vote threshold of 4.0.

Amendments (mine mainly): Russia would somehow have to be guaranteed a seat. It is the world’s second biggest nuclear weapons state (I hate to say that, but politics intrude), a big space power, and (more rationally) the world’s largest nation.

Additionally, we absolutely must not leave out Canada, many times already serving on the Security Council and active in UN peacekeeping. Canada could either join the Scandinavian bloc (Northern Europe, renamed Nordica). Or we might form ‘The Old Commonwealth’ (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) which would get rid of two more ‘orphans,’ Australia and New Zealand. These countries are connected by several strands: history, language, common membership in several treaties, presence of (mistreated) native peoples and general culture.

We should definitely not consider joining Canada to the U.S. which does not need this addition. As former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said, “who wants to get in bed with an elephant?”

The Schwartzberg scheme has some similarity with the proposal by Lucio Levi for a UN Security Council composed of regional associations, such as European Union, African Union, OAS, ASEAN and CIS (Russia plus its ‘near abroad,’ or former Soviet Union-although the latter would not quite reach 4.0). But the Lucio Levi scheme would leave even more unaffiliated ‘orphans,’ and also contain some overlaps (eg. North African states belonging to both African Union and Arab League).

There is also some similarity with Richard Hudson’s “Binding Triad,” in the three factors chosen and the making of GA votes biding. However, Hudson’s scheme requires simultaneous two-thirds majorities on population, GNP, and UN membership, a requirement that would be difficult for any resolution to achieve. The Schwartzberg scheme is more permissive.

My own scheme (in my book Design for a Better World, University Press of America, 1983) based on population and GNP (only two factors) is not as good as Schwartzberg’s for the General Assembly, a humble statement for an author to admit.