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This work set out to investigate the struggle for Permanent Seats At The Security Council: A Critical Assessment of the Contestants in 2012. While observing that there exists a fundamental need to reform and enlarge both the membership and voting pattern in the Security Council in order to reflect geopolitical realities of the 21st Century by making both the organisation and the Security Council in particular to appear democratic while at the same time enhancing its efficiency and legitimacy around the world. It is noted that while all member states of the organisation accept this need and exigency, they however, differed on the modalities, nature and extent of the reform. Moreover, each of the major contestants though enjoys the support of one or the other of the members of the P5, but they at the same time faces opposition from major powers in their respective regions; thereby making the struggle a serious and arduous task.  We however, in this study vehemently believe that the structure and composition of the United Nations Security Council must definitely be reformed and reorganized to reflect the wide and varied membership of the organisation.




  • Background of the study

The The membership and structure of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have been among the most controversial and intractable issues considered by UN member-states since the establishment of the organization in the mid-1940s (Article 23 of the United Nations Charters). Tillema (1989) opined that the importance of the UNSC, particularly the council’s permanent seats, stems largely from the status and prestige associated with its decision-making authority on questions of global peace and security. In fact, permanent membership is equated with “great power” status in the international political system.

As a consequence, it is perhaps not surprising that a number of emerging global and regional powers throughout the world – including Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt have sought permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council during the past few decades. However, Malik notes that, despite a tremendous amount of discussion and debate, there has been little consensus on the matter of United Nations Security Council restructuring, including to what extent the council ought to be enlarged, how many new permanent and non-permanent members ought to be added, whether the new members ought to be extended the veto privilege and which specific countries ought to be added as permanent members (Malik, 2005: 19).

Although much has been written about United Nations Security Council restructuring during the past decade from an institutional perspective, (Russett et al., 1996; Daws, 1997; Schlichtmann, 1999; Afoaku and Ukaga, 2001; Berween, 2002; Weiss, 2003; Thakur, 2004; Blum, 2005; Malik, 2005; Price, 2005; Soussan, 2005), there has been relatively little focus on the politics of seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council from the perspective of an existing or emerging global or regional power.

Although the United Nations Security Council has been restructured only once in more than sixty years, there have been several attempts over the years to achieve this goal. As a result of several new UN member-states due to decolonization in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Spain and several Latin American countries proposed amendments to the UN Charter in 1956 to increase the number of non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council from six to eight (Bourantonis, 2005). He also notes that after several years of debate and disagreement, including the Soviet Union’s insistence on linking the issue of United Nations Security Council restructuring to the issue of mainland China’s membership in the UN, there was a “breakthrough” on the issue in the early 1960s. In December 1963, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) formally approved amendments increasing non-permanent seats from six to ten, and the amendments were ratified by the required number of member-states in 1965 (Afoaku and Ukaga, 2001; Weiss, 2003; Blum, 2005).

As a result of continued decolonization, overall membership in the UN continued to grow significantly from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s. At the same time, developing countries were increasingly dissatisfied with the abuse of the veto power by the permanent members and the lack of “equitable representation” for Asian and African countries on the various councils of the UN. Bourantonis (2005) noted that consequent upon this scenario, India and several developing countries proposed amendments to the UN Charter in 1979 to increase the number of non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from 11 to 14. “In 1980, several African, Asian, and Latin American countries proposed increasing the number of non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council from 10 to 16” (Blum, 2005: 637). But as noted by Archibugi (1993) unlike the previous effort to restructure the United Nations Security Council in the early 1960s, these subsequent efforts were unsuccessful largely because of heightened tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during this period.

With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, there was renewed interest in restructuring the United Nations Security Council to reflect the changes in the international political system (Russett, et al., 1996; Drifte, 2000; Miyashita, 2002). In December 1992, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a resolution sponsored by India calling upon the United Nations Secretary-General to invite member-states to submit proposals for United Nations Security Council reform, resulting in proposals from some 80 countries (Drifte, 2000). A year later, the United Nations General Assembly established an “Open-Ended Working Group” to consider the proposals for United Nations Security Council reform (Daws, 1997; Price, 2005; Schlichtmann, 1999; Bourantonis, 2005). Several options for United Nations Security Council restructuring were among the proposals submitted to the working group, including a proposal by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) calling for an increase in permanent seats from five to nine and non-permanent seats from ten to seventeen (Berween, 2002).

In 1995, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Declaration on the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, which stated the United Nations Security Council should be “expanded and its working methods continue to be reviewed in a way that will further strengthen its capacity and effectiveness, enhance its representative character, and improve its working efficiency and transparency” (Schlichtmann, 1999:510). Two years later, UN Ambassador Ismael Razali of Malaysia proposed adding five permanent seats (without veto power) and four non-permanent seats to the United Nations Security Council.

The Razali Plan, which permitted the United Nations General Assembly to choose the countries to be given permanent seats, was ultimately blocked by members of the NAM, as well as countries such as Italy, Egypt, Mexico, and Pakistan (Bourantonis, 2005).

After a decade of intense debate on UN reform, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan established a 16-member high-level panel in 2003 to evaluate and recommend specific options. In 2004, the panel proposed two different options for United Nations Security Council restructuring: (1) six new permanent seats without veto power and three additional non-permanent seats; and (2) eight four-year renewable seats and one additional non-permanent seat (Blum, 2005; Price, 2005). After debating these and other options for United Nations Security Council reform during much of 2005, the United Nations General Assembly was unable to come to a consensus on how to restructure the council. Such that Brazil’s UN Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg expressed frustration with the outcome of the debate by stating that a “few countries, seeking to avoid any decision on this matter, take refuge on claims for consensus and on allegations on the disruptive nature of the issue” and that the actions of these countries “only contribute to the perpetuation of current inequalities in the structure of the organization, and to the frustration of the aspirations of all members, for a more balanced distribution of power in the work of the Security Council.”

On this background therefore, this study seeks to investigate the prospect of the contestant for the United Nations Security Council’s permanent seat; with focus on Nigeria and other contestants such as Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, Egypt and South Africa etc.


There has been general agreement over time that the Security Council is an unrepresentative relic and that its composition is a throwback to the immediate Post-World War II global order. Several recommendations for expanding the Council have been proposed since the end of the Cold War. For instance, the Commission on Global Governance recommended establishing a new class of five…

standing members, the intent of which would be to reduce the status of permanent membership; increasing the number of “non-permanent” members from ten to thirteen; and eliminating the veto, except for very exceptional and overriding circumstances related to the national interests of the major powers (Knight, 2005:106).

According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, our minds find it taxing to hold two mutually inconsistent beliefs for a protracted period (Evanston and Row, 1957). The mind seeks to reconcile them over time, if necessary by substantially modifying one of them or by denying its validity altogether in order to relieve the dissonance. Politics, of course, holds innumerable examples of the phenomenon.

At the United Nations, there may be no starker case than that of the protracted and polarizing matter of Security Council reform. On one hand, judging by public statements, it is generally accepted that the Security Council is long overdue for a major overhaul. The calls for its radical reform have come with such frequency and from so many quarters, as to qualify as common wisdom.

In this connection Japan and Germany, the second- and third-biggest contributors to the UN budget, have been campaigning for permanent seat status on the Council. India, the world’s second most populous country, and Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country, also have designs on achieving permanent status on the Council. These four states have banded together to press their case before the UN membership, and they are joined in spirit by the Africans, who want two seats for their continent (perhaps Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa).

None of these proposals for UN Security Council expansion is likely to go far. However, China mistrusts Japan. Italy opposes a permanent seat for Germany and has instead proposed a single permanent seat for the European Union. This latter recommendation is opposed by Britain and France who would have to give up their permanent seats under that scenario. Under the current charter, regional bodies are not UN members and would therefore be ineligible for seats on the Council. Mexico and Argentina oppose Brazil’s quest for a permanent seat on the Council, and Pakistan opposes India’s bid.

The implications of the preceding analysis is that the United Nations Security Council, which is seen as the key organ of the United Nations charged with the responsibility of ensuring international peace and security are both technically and procedurally dominated by the winners of Second World War who shaped the Charter of the United Nations in their national interests, dividing the veto-power pertinent to the permanent seats amongst themselves; thereby giving the council the character of inequity, undemocratic, unrepresentative of the races of world, unaccountable et cetera to the larger world community that make up the organization.

It is in order to address this anomaly that scholars such as Chopra, (2001), Beigbeder, (1994), Rourke (2002), Canton, (1986), Barry (2003), Kegley (1985), Roskin (1993), Roberts (2000), Goodrich (1999), Sheever (1999), Roskin (1993), Huggins (1988), Sigler (2002), (Maya, 2005), Brocker (2000), Hopkinson (1998), Galtung (2000), Cede (1999), Bourantonis, (2005), Afoaku and Ukaga (2001), Weiss (2003), Blum ( 2005), (Archibugi, 1993) and Heinrich (2012) have argued and continue to argue that there is the dire need for the reorganization and reformation of the UN Security Council both in terms of composition and voting pattern to reflect the multilateral character of the organization.

However, while these group of scholars and existing literature on the issue of United Nations Security Council reform largely succeeded in  providing the descriptive analysis of the need to reform the United Nations Security Council and the on-going bid by some perceived “developing nations” in all the geo-political regions  of the universe for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council is very informative; it contains neither a thorough discussion of the potential strategies for obtaining a permanent seat nor a theoretical framework that might be used to further analyze the bids for these group of countries seeking permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.

Moreover, they fail to provide us with the yardstick with which we can use in ascertaining the method and criteria that can qualify a country to be (s)elected for such position of permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. On the account of this, the study therefore elicits the following research questions:

  1. Is the need to reform the United Nations Security Council implicated in the geopolitical realities of the 21st Century membership of the organisation?
  2. Is the quest to reform and enlarge the structure and voting pattern in the United Nations Security Council aimed at making it more democratic, efficient and legitimate?


The broad objective of this study is to interrogate the issues involved in the quest and struggle for Permanent Seat at the United Nation’s Security Council: A Critical Assessment of the Contestants in 2012”. However, the study will address the following specific objectives:

  1. To determine if the need to reform the United Nations Security Council is implicated in the geopolitical realities of the 21st Century membership of the organisation.
  2. To ascertain whether the quest to reform and enlarge the structure and voting pattern in the United Nations Security Council is to make it more democratic,  efficient and legitimate.


The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study will provide a comprehensive insight into the looming and cyclical issue of United Nations reforms, especially in to the United Nations Security Council reform by giving a detailed account of both the remote and immediate factors that necessitate the call for the reformation of the structure of the council and its voting pattern; it will also account for the reasons why the current veto wielding members (the so-called big five) have been giving the move a sort of lip service and lackadaisical attitude, rather than giving the issue the seriousness and attention that it deserved. It will also provide the reading public with a clear cut meaning and nature of the functions of the United Nations Security Council, its structure and the provision of the United Nations Charter as it regards the membership and power of the Security Council.  It shall equally add to the extant body of literature that borders on United Nations Reform and the Quest for permanent seat in the world especially as it concerns Africa, which Nigeria is part and is vehemently positioning itself as the beautiful bride to be crowned with one out of the two proposed slots (seats) that is to be allocated to Africa.

Practically, it shall be of immense benefit to diplomats, public policy formulators, politicians and high level representative at the international level especially policy makers that are saddled with the task of devising appropriate institutional mechanisms for the smooth and foreign policy thrust that will enable their home government to adequately lobby and canvass for the its allocation or (s)election. For the United Nations Security Council, It will also provide the basis to scholars for further research into the United Nations  Reform and the expansion of the composition of the security for both the permanent and non-permanent categories.


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