The inauguration of the 66th UN General Assembly in September 2011 marked an important moment in Brazilian politics. The incumbent Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff opened the general debate - the first female to do so in the history of the organisation. Ms Rousseff articulated a vision of a global communityunited in its effort to combat the current global economic crisis. A key component of Rousseff’s address was UN Security Council reform, a subject which hase been debated for many years but which is now increasingly on the agenda as th Council's composition no longer adequately reflects the balance of power in the world.
At present the Security Council consists of five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US), an arrangement which has been in place since 1946. A further 10 non-permanent members hold seats on a rotating basis of two-year terms. The Brazilian President advocated a structural reform which would see both the permanent and non-permanent membership expanded. Aside from the international prestige, a permanent seat is also viewed as a much-needed way to ensure fairness and equality within the Council. Brazil, Germany, India and Japan have all shown an eagerness to be permanently included in the UN’s premier decision-making forum. Also known as the G4, these nations have embarked on a joint mission to enlarge the Security Council and to support each other’s bids for permanent representation. Brazil has played a vital role in this process and puts forward a convincing case. But is it strong enough?
Since the mid-1990s Brazil has demonstrated its willingness to engage in international affairs. Under President Lula, the country embarked upon a multilateral foreign policy, resulting in increased involvement with the UN and World Trade Organisation. This saw Brazil taking a leading role in a UN peacekeeping operation for the first time, the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (2004). A strong regional power, Brazil has also exerted diplomatic influence, as can be seen in its response to the 2009 Honduran coup.
Brazil’s value to the Security Council lies in its hybrid identity and ability to reflect the values of both Northern and Southern hemisphere countries, a characteristic that could prove valuable in ensuring that the Council functions in a more effective way. Brazil would serve to reduce the lack of representation of developing countries in the Council's permanent membership, and would not only be a representative for Latin America but also other areas of the developing world with which it has been building ties. The Council, with Brazil as a permanent member, would demonstrate the UN’s responsiveness to a changed world.
The Security Council is a vital and valuable organ of the UN, a body which is imperative in the current international climate. At a time of economic uncertainty and unrest in the Arab world, never has the body been more important. However, if it is to be truly representative of the realities of today’s global structure it must be expanded to reflect the changing world in which we live. Brazil presents itself as a worthy candidate and could prove to enrich the Security Council, providing fresh insight into global security issues.
Onika has recently finished her BSc in International Relations and History at the London School of Economics and is currently a Programme Development Intern at UNA-UK.