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Editorial: Japan should take the lead in coordinating U.N. reforms

  • April 20, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 3:36 p.m.
  • English Press

The United Nations has come under louder calls for reforms over the Security Council’s inaction against the Russian invasion of Ukraine that was in blatant violation of the U.N. Charter.


Since a Security Council resolution can be killed by any of its permanent members exercising its veto power, we naturally believe in seeking to change this rule to counter the “tyranny of superpowers.”


Russia is the culprit this time, but the United States, China, Britain and France have all used its veto power in the past.


In the first place, the Security Council structure was established by World War II victor nations. As such, it no longer mirrors today’s multipolar world.


The U.N. General Assembly is currently discussing reform plans that would require the Security Council’s permanent member nations to explain to the assembly their reasons for exercising the veto power whenever they use it.


We support these plans as a means to sternly remind the world’s major nations of their responsibilities.


However, reforming the Security Council structure itself will be anything but easy.


Not only are the major nations hardly likely to agree to part with their privileges, but the interests of individual member nations are also complexly intertwined.


At one time, Japan partnered with Germany, India and Brazil in an attempt to increase the number of permanent as well as nonpermanent members of the Security Council, but nothing has happened since.


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is reportedly committed to reforming the United Nations.


Despite upholding its “U.N.-centric policy” for years in the past, Japan in reality has continued to prioritize its alliance with the United States.


But if Japan is now looking at the future of the global order and is ready to reassess the value of the United Nations, this is a truly welcome development.


The first step must be to discuss the situation realistically and sensibly. While continuing to aim for Security Council reforms, attention should be paid to the diverse functions of this global organ.


The United Nations is essentially a “vessel” for sovereign nations to work together toward creating a world order.


Its widely varied functions include establishing treaties and determining sanctions, providing venues for dialogues, and engaging in on-site economic development projects and peace monitoring activities.


Although the Security Council is unable to pass a sanctioning resolution against Russia, it has at least become able to discuss pertinent issues.


The crisis in Ukraine showed that if the Security Council cannot function, the General Assembly can play a useful role to a certain extent.


In the most recent General Assembly session, a resolution was passed demanding Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine, with 141 nations in support. This has given legitimacy to anti-Russia sanctions imposed voluntarily by individual nations.


The United Nations is rivaled by none in its ability to form international public opinion.


It also plays a significant part in determining the rules and actions for the entire world to take in jointly seeking solutions to shared problems, such as fighting climate change and infectious diseases and pursuing sustainable development goals.


The U.N.’s uniqueness lies in the fact that even minor nations can exert power when they stand together.


Even though the Japanese government continues to ignore the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, this pact was brought into being by the joint efforts of non-nuclear nations that saw the need to advance nuclear disarmament–a cause the world’s major powers choose to ignore.


Japan, neither a major nor a minor nation, is a “middle power” that has served as a nonpermanent member in more Security Councils than any other country.


As such, Japan should fully utilize its ample experiences in making peaceful contributions and aim to play the role of an unbiased coordinator forging a global consensus to honor the U.N. Charter.


And in that process, improving the substance of multinational dialogue will bring the United Nations one step closer to the reforms that it needs.

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