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Diplomatic Fallout: The Fading Dream of U.N. Security Council Reform

Monday, March 4, 2013

Diplomats are rarely dreamers or gamblers. The experience of grinding negotiations means that most ambassadors and their advisers dislike big ideas and unnecessary risks. But sometimes they have to take a gamble in pursuit of national goals. Two years ago, officials from Brazil, Germany, India and Japan -- working collectively as the “Group of 4” or G4 -- gambled on a drive to win permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, despite the failure of several similar initiatives over the past decade. This time, too, they were unable to secure a U.N. General Assembly resolution endorsing their hopes. The long-term consequences of the G4’s most recent defeat could prove corrosive for the U.N.

Foreign policy experts do not typically take Security Council reform very seriously. The technical obstacles to updating the council are almost insurmountable. Even if governments agreed on a reform package today, it could take years to be ratified. Analysts also question whether non-Western powers really take the council seriously. Brazil and India may want permanent seats for prestige reasons, but they do not want the U.N. to have a major role in their neighborhoods. ...

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