IN the last few months a debate has been brewing concerning expansion of the United Nations Security Council.
A number of countries have expressed interest in obtaining permanent seats on the council, including Germany, Japan, Brazil, India, and Nigeria. Supporters of expanding the number of permanent seats contend that, in the newly evolving global arena, the Security Council no longer adequately reflects the international structure.
To justify the inclusion of Japan and Germany, arguments have been put forth that economic influence should now be considered in addition to political and military power. Those promoting permanent seats for nations such as Brazil, India, and Nigeria stress that developing countries must be given a greater role in deliberations that affect them.
Broadening the Security Council's constituency would certainly make it more democratic and more reflective of today's realities. In determining who should be granted permanent seats, the focus tends to be on whether a country is capable of carrying out the responsibilities of a Security Council member. The council's primary function is to maintain international peace and security and to guard against chemical, biological, and nuclear proliferation issues.
A nation's stance on the issue of nuclear nonproliferation would be a key factor.
Currently, the five permanent members - France, Britain, China, Russia, and the United States - represent the only overt nuclear-weapons states in the international system that have made it clear they plan to maintain their weapons status. With the exception of the US, all became permanent members before they were nuclear-weapons states. With the US, they are the only states in which possession of nuclear weapons is deemed acceptable by virtue of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).