Reform of UN Security Council must look either to the EU or a ‘Weak Veto’

Researchers have analysed that the most equitable and efficient way to reform the troubled UN Security Council. Either the EU should represent all EU countries as a single member or for a ‘Weak Veto’ under which two of the Permanent Five (P5) countries would have to vote down a motion before a veto was constituted.

Researchers Matthew Gould (University of Westminster) and Matthew Rablen (University of Sheffield) analysed 11 reform proposals currently on the table in respect of how closely they achieve democratic equity (every world citizen gets an equal say) and efficiency (how easy it is for the UNSC to make affirmative decisions).

The two best performing proposals for democratic equity and efficiency would improve on the current status quo. The other nine proposals, however, do not decisively improve on it.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) is unique in that it alone has the legal right to authorise the use of armed force against a nation state. But, as the Syrian conflict demonstrates, the Council increasingly finds itself sidelined.

Part of the problem lies with the right of veto granted to the P5 (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US), which results in stalemate whenever (as of often the case) these countries disagree.

Another problem is that the composition of the Council still reflects the politics of the 1940s, despite significant geopolitical developments since that time.

Although there is broad agreement on the need for reform, nobody can agree on how. An open-ended working group on UNSC reform set up in 1993, now often dubbed the “never-ending working group on UNSC reform” has entered its 23rd consecutive year of deliberations.

Brexit has compromised the possibility of EU representation, while the P5 will resist any attempt to weaken their right of veto. In view of our research, those hoping for a step-change in the efficiency and equity of the UNSC in the current reform round are likely to be disappointed.

Further details can be found at:

Gould, M and Rablen, M. (2016) Reform of the United Nations Security Council: Equity and Efficiency. Department of Economics, University of Sheffield. SERPS 2016009

If you’re interested in contacting the authors of this research then please contact them using or +44 114 222 5151