Devnet – Japan Seeking for UN Reform

Fumiyasu Akegawa, Chair & CEO  DEVNET International/Japan

At the UN General Assembly on September 20, 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida called for “Now is the time to return to the vision and principles of the UN Charter and mobilize our strength and wisdom to ensure an international order based on the rule of law.  To achieve this, we must reform the United Nations and strengthen its functions.” He then stated that the credibility of the UN is at stake due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that “Frequently, debates about the dysfunctionality of the Security Council have been pointed out. We have debated about this issue for almost over thirty years. But what is truly needed now is not a discussion for the sake of discussion, but actions toward reform.” As a concrete measure, he suggested that “The time has come to start text-based negotiations” with a view to submitting a draft resolution that would lead to reform.

     What are the concrete measures and resolutions that will lead to reform? The resolution would increase the number of permanent members of the Security Council, which currently has only five (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China), and include Japan among them. The resolution also calls for “serious efforts not only to reform the Security Council, but also to further invigorate the General Assembly and to encourage the UN as a whole to play a greater role in maintaining peace and security.

     On April 26 of this year, at the suggestion of Liechtenstein, a landmark resolution was adopted demanding an explanation from the permanent members of the Council who had vetoed the resolution. The resolution, co-sponsored by 83 countries including Japan in addition to the U.S., U.K., and France, calls for the General Assembly to convene a meeting within 10 days of the veto and, although it is optional, requires the vetoing country to provide an explanation to the General Assembly.    

     Since the establishment of this system, the first resolution to be vetoed was a U.S.-led resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea’s missile tests, and at the June 8 UN General Assembly meeting, China and Russia justified their veto by saying that sanctions would not solve the problem. Japan and the U.S. countered with such arguments as “inadequate explanation. North Korea explained that its missile test was “an exercise of its right of self-defense under the UN Charter. Although these were reiterations of previous explanations, the debate, which had been limited to the 15 members of the Security Council and dominated by the five permanent members in particular, spread to the General Assembly, and the UN Ambassador from Liechtenstein, who led the creation of the new system, commented, “A new chapter in the history of the United Nations has begun.”

     I do not know whether increasing the number of permanent members and making Japan a permanent member of the Security Council will lead to reform of the Security Council or not, but when considering the necessity of Security Council reform, the current situation in which the Security Council seems to be the UN itself should be reformed first. Looking back at the UN interactions during the recent conflict in Ukraine, it is clear that what needs to be done is to strengthen the authority of the UN General Assembly. I hope that Prime Minister Kishida will advocate the Japanese government’s position and policy to the world. Strengthening the authority of the General Assembly, rather than the Security Council, whose five permanent members have extrajudicial authority, is what Japan should be appealing for.