No miracles in Ireland gesture on Security Council reform

17Dec 2017
Guardian On Sunday
No miracles in Ireland gesture on Security Council reform

INTEREST has been generated in African diplomatic circles on the possible effectiveness of a new foreign policy move by the Republic of Ireland, whose head of the country's diplomacy was recently on a tour of two African states.

News reports quoted Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney as making some pointed declarations as he prepared for a working trip to the eastern African states of Kenya and Ethiopia.

He said his country would push for reforms at the United Nations Security Council to increase the African presence.

The reports did not elaborate in what capacity the Republic of Ireland is going to pursue that effort, if it is only the two year temporary membership of the Security Council or it is chairing a key committee, presiding over the council itself or suchlike.

It was however taken as illustrating the rising profile of the rather small north European state in the comity of European nations, trying to raise an issue that has often burned the fingers of top African diplomats and committees at the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.

In that manner, chances of making new headway in that direction, let alone a breakthrough, are slim or scant.

Traditionally the point about reforming the United Nations Security Council in Africa's favor has usually implied creating one permanent seat, which means having veto power in tandem with the five permanent members.

Those holding the veto now are the United States, Russia (as successor to the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - USSR), China, the United Kingdom and France.

What puts them together is that they were on the Allied (winning) side of the Second World War, where the losing Axis powers were Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. The veto power reflected rivalries and tensions in the post war period.

As a matter of fact this architecture of the UN Security Council is something of a tabernacle, a sacred grove of the framework of international politics that is incapable of being reformed short of another huge war and a new world order.

 No one is praying for such a conflagration merely to change seat numbers and some veto presence, but even then, to be frank, will Africa really ever feature on the veto ranking?

Having veto power means a country speaks and others must obey, in fearing consequences, not merely by diplomatic etiquette.

So the current system is designed to succeed, that major powers must at least convince b0th sides of the rival military blocks in the world, one a formal block (the NATO alliance) and another informal, as Russia and China don't have cosy links were riven with rivalries in past decades.

The big powers must agree on language that enables a resolution to have the widest level of respect among the big powers, so that it stands a good chance of seeping in as international law. Africa can't conceivably hold the balance of power.

The only practical reforjm which diplomats have worked upon is number of non-permanent seats, if a seat can be added for Africa by substracting it from some other zone. But traditionally African interests are also carried by the European Union, hence by Britain and France, owing to the colonial background.

China has also madesystematic inroads not just into Africa but Asia and Europe as well, and purchases plenty of firms in the United States itself. This diminishes the urgency of Security Council reform, for Africa or anyone else.

Indeed, much of the reform issue was tied to the idea that being a nuclear power made a country merit a seat at the Security Council, an idea that is worn out with the fact that India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, but use that muscle as deterrence, building peace in South Asia.

Countries with openly belligerent aims on their neighbors as Iran is suspected by the US, Saudi Arabia and scores of others have plenty of problems seeking to be recognized as nuclear powers, as is also the case with the hermit state of North Korea.

Indeed, Africa ought to direct its diplomatic energy to enable solutions to regional conflicts and for industrialization, not toy with chimeric ideas of telling the US, Russia and others what to do. It is just impractical, absolutely.

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