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Research Report

Setting a Progressive United Nations Peace and Security Agenda: Searching for New Narratives

Bibi van Ginkel
Rosa Dinnissen
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2014
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 39
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 7-8)

    There have been hundreds of events over the past decade focusing on reform of the United Nations (UN) and the UN Security Council (UNSC). The UN reform agenda typically focuses on an array of topics, ranging from system-wide coherence to the strengthening of political autonomy of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Secretariat. Meanwhile, debates on UNSC reform have concentrated on expanding permanent and non-permanent membership, the voting system and working methods. It is true that the UNSC has undertaken some structural reforms since its inception, but apart from China, the UNSC still represents the main powers of...

  2. (pp. 9-13)

    The UNSC currently consists of fifteen member states, of which five hold permanent seats and have a veto right with regard to all resolutions that the UNSC wishes to adopt. The current membership status of the UNSC was established in 1965, when the UNSC was enlarged from eleven to fifteen members. It is also relevant to note that the UNSC is the only body of the UN system where decisions are mandatory for all member states.

    Notwithstanding the obvious need for reform, the last twenty years have effectually not shown much progress in the debate on the UNSC’s reform. At...

  3. (pp. 14-15)

    During her keynote address, Marianne van Leeuwen outlined the modern history of the last century, starting with the outbreak of the First World War, and followed by the Second World War, which started only 21 years later. Few wars have seen such intensity of death and destruction within a relatively short period of time, both on the Western and Eastern Fronts in Europe, and elsewhere in the world. Professor van Leeuwen then continued with the history of the League of Nations and the relevance of its inheritance, in an attempt to draw lessons learned for the challenges that the UN...

  4. (pp. 16-17)

    In his introductory note, Wouter Werner of the Free University of Amsterdam argued that the UN system is based on universal values, such as sovereignty, equality and human rights. However, the world is divided into political communities that interpret these universal values differently. These political communities are also reflected in the design of the UN system, resulting in an ongoing tension between universalism and pluralism. This tension, Werner argued, influences developments within the UN, such as the evolvement of peacekeeping operations. The debate on UNSC reform should be viewed in the same light. Werner pointed to four other developments that...

  5. (pp. 18-19)

    During his introductory note, Jaap de Wilde argued that power politics are ‘played’ on different chessboards: the global; regional; state; and domestic level. All of the major powers are on the same page economically; they all adhere to a liberal capitalist ideology. Another similarity is that they are all deeply concerned with their territorial sovereignty, and almost all have conflicts about their territory.

    Non-traditional actors such as transnational corporations are gaining power. Their increasing power is not necessarily a dangerous prospect, as long as they are properly included in processes of international politics. Furthermore, Professor de Wilde’s hope for UNSC...

  6. (pp. 20-22)

    Professor Voorhoeve identified six important aspects for building international peace and security, which he discussed during the introductory note of the third panel session:

    The French proposal to introduce a code of conduct in which permanent members agree not to use their veto power in cases of mass atrocities.

    The rise of India: the state, which has the world’s second largest population, will have more power in world politics in the short term.

    After the UNSC approves a deviation from the prohibition of the use of force through issuing a resolution, faster military action should be pursued. Like-minded states should...

  7. (pp. 23-25)

    Lydia Swart discussed the problems facing UNSC reform and argued that cooperation and the convergence of positions between different groups are crucial to move the reform agenda forwards. However, the current situation remains characterized by differing opinions and interests.

    Efforts to reform the UNSC have been pursued for twenty years. Negotiations have been stuck for quite a while. There are considerable obstacles of a procedural nature and every grouping has internal differences that will make real compromise very hard to achieve.

    Some groupings – for example, the Group of 4 (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan) – argue that with the...

  8. (pp. 26-28)

    During Session V, Ambassador Carlos Antonio da Rocha Paranhos, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs at the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil, and Wim Geerts, Director-General of Political Affairs at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered speeches to the speakers and conference delegates. As both speeches were delivered under Chatham House Rules, these addresses from the Netherlands and Brazil will not be published. After the high-level addresses, the winning authors of the student essay competition, who were awarded on the occasion of this symposium, had the opportunity to ask questions to Ambassador Paranhos and Mr Geerts. During the session,...

  9. (pp. 29-32)

    To learn from the younger generation – that is, the politicians, lawyers and policy-makers of tomorrow – the Clingendael Institute and Instituto Igarapé took the initiative to find a group of students for a shadow seminar, which took place prior to the symposium. More information about the students’ shadow seminar, its organizers and their background can be found on the website.

    The outcomes of the group seminars are grouped into three final ideas:

    1. More Civil Representation and Transparency

    Non-state and local actors play an essential role in peace and security. These actors are often the first to observe a deterioration...

  10. (pp. 33-35)

    Change always starts somewhere. When discussing new narratives for UNSC reform, it is impossible to decide immediately what these new narratives should become. During the symposium, however, it became possible to explore new thoughts for improving the effectiveness, representativeness and the legitimacy of the UN on the peace and security agenda.

    These terms seem to be hard to reconcile, when taken as the main goals against which UNSC reform should be measured. However, when applied to the UN system as a whole, these terms set a goal, which is and should be attainable, simply by living up to its potential....