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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Council Faces Reform

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations on Tuesday proposed the most sweeping reforms in its history, recommending the overhaul of its key decision-making organ, the Security Council, and holding out the possibility of granting legitimacy to some preventive military strikes. The wide-reaching reforms were outlined in a much-anticipated report commissioned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan a year ago, after bruising division over the Iraq war left the United Nations feeling ill-equipped to meet modern-day challenges represented by terrorism, failed states, nuclear proliferation, poverty and violence.

In its most attention-getting recommendation, the panel called for an expansion of the Security Council to 24 members. But the panel was unable to agree on one proposal and ended up suggesting two options. Both are designed to broaden the membership of the 15-nation council to reflect the world of today rather than the one that existed at the United Nations' beginning nearly 60 years ago.

The council now has five veto-bearing permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and 10 members elected to two-year terms.

One alternative would add six permanent members -- the likely candidates are Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Egypt and either Nigeria or South Africa -- as well as three new two-year-term members.

The other would create a tier of eight semi-permanent members chosen for renewable four-year terms and one additional two-year-term seat to the existing 10.

The right to cast vetoes, a power coveted by the nations seeking permanent status and one they would likely continue to press for, would continue to be limited to the five original permanent members.

The panel's 101 recommendations will inform a report in March from Annan, who is expected to refine them down to eight to 10 principal subjects to be taken up at a heads-of-state summit meeting at the United Nations in September before the opening of the General Assembly.

Many of the recommendations in the 95-page report can be put into effect by the secretary-general himself or the parts of the United Nations that would be affected. The new makeup of the Security Council, however, would require an amendment to the charter, which requires approval in the General Assembly by two-thirds of the 191 member states, including all five permanent members, and ratification by the legislatures of their governments.

While the report created new offices and positions, it cast a critical eye on the stultifying bureaucracy of the United Nations, calling for a one-time voluntary buyout offer for many staff members. "When the panel looked around," said a senior participant who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, "it saw a lot of deadwood in places where a new generation of people in their 30s and 40s with lots of field experience and original ideas feel very frustrated and unable to advance."

The panel was very critical of the Human Rights Commission, a body that has often brought the United Nations into disrepute by incorporating some of the worst rights violators like Cuba, Libya and Sudan into its membership. The Geneva-based commission "suffers from a credibility deficit that casts doubt on the overall reputation of the United Nations," the report said. The official who briefed reporters added that too often the chief motivation for countries to join was to deflect attention from deplorable rights conditions at home.

The panel was headed by Anand Panyarachun, a former prime minister of Thailand, and included Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush; Yevgeny Primakov, former prime minister of Russia; Qian Qichen, former foreign minister of China; and Amre Moussa of Egypt, secretary-general of the League of Arab States.