We truly live in the age of international organizations (IOs), as the study of IOs has become a major preoccupation of political scientists. There are numbers of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on from culture to aid, from conflict resolutions to human empowerment. There are, however, approximately 250 permanent inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and the most important one is the United Nations. Indeed, the UN is the core organization of the post-World War II international relations. Nonetheless, it was not designed or has never been intended neither to replace the state based global system nor become a world government. Simple and strait, it reflects the post World War II balance of power. The UN is based on the principle of equal status of states, yet some of the states are given more powers as envisaged at the onset of the organization in 1945. In this sense, the composition of the Security Council does not reflect today’s reality and the malpractice of withholding veto power does not just lock the UN regime but also undermines its legitimacy.
Yet, in today’s world, the UN should have played a more active role in dissolving international grievances by enhancing peaceful cooperation. To do that, it should have been gone through substantive transformation and reformation to adapt and reflect the changing world order. A larger membership and a change in voting and veto system can greatly enhance its effectiveness and help the UN play a greater role in doing the job envisaged by the UN Charter. Reform of the Security Council is unavoidable, as the UN in its current form neither has the legitimate leadership nor the resources to fulfill its own potential in sustaining peace and stability. In the next sections, I aim at reflecting on some of Turkish stated aspirations and views on the UN and the reform of the Security Council.
The World Bigger Than Five
Turkey’s geography is both a blessing and a curse. Due to its unique location between Europe and Asia, Turkey has always been a strategically important country. This unique location, however, easily turns into threats for internal and regional peace and stability as pouring crisis in the Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In this sense, Turkey has both “a position of weakness” and “a position of strength” stemming from geography. Therefore, it actively seeks for frameworks to ease tensions and bring solutions to conflicts around it. One of the frameworks is the UN. Currently, Turkey’s biggest threat comes from Syria, and Iraq and the UN has been seen as a tool to solve the deadlock in these conflicts. Syria, as the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of the World War II, in particular affects Turkish national security and cohesion. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council has neither been able to act on the Syrian issue as the conflict enters its fourth year, nor it provides resources to ease humanitarian crisis Turkey faces with increasing numbers of refugees. Believing the main reason for the UN to stay idle to these daunting conflicts is the current composition of the Security Council membership and voting system, Turkey has voiced out that “the world is bigger than 5”, referring to the unequal and illegitimate structure of this UN organ. In this sense, Turkey actively calls for reform of the UNSC as a tool to cope with, first and foremost, the crisis in Syria.
This rhetoric is not new in Turkish context; it was voiced out in the past during the Bosnian crisis during 1990s. What is new is the fact that Turkey eagerly pursues diplomatic initiatives for the sake of the UN reform. Indeed, Turkey has emerged as the leading mouthpiece for the reform since its five permanent members, especially Russia and China, failed to agree on UN resolutions to end the crisis in the Middle East, the Caucasus, and the Balkans. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated at the 67th Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York that “The working methods and structures of the UN are not commensurate with the current realities of the world.” On many occasions including in his address to the UN General Assembly, the President Erdogan reiterated the phrase “the world is bigger than five.”
One of the Turkish suggestions for better representation is that members including permanent seats should be changed periodically taking into account different ethnicities and religions. Turkish rhetoric especially points out that there is lack of representation for Muslim and African countries at the Council. In this sense, extending the SC members would make the UN more representative and functional. Turkey especially underlines as a fault line the fact that emerging powers such as Brazil, India, Indonesia and itself are not permanent members of the SC. In this sense, the G20 is a good example for how the UN reform could go. The creation of the G20 is one of the most significant steps in global governance to bring emerging market and developing states into the global decision-making process. From Turkey’s perceptive, the same could have been accomplished in the UN reform by bringing rising and middle powers to the table. It possesses a desire of elevating G20 into a common platform for the whole world where not just economic matters, but also political matters such as foreign policies and international security are discussed. For instance, Prime Minister Davutoglu said that “some G20 members prefer the summit to be more of a technical and financial forum, while members such as Turkey wanted it to serve as a platform to deal with political problems as well, if need be.” This idea is not isolated view, many of the middle powers in the G20 bloc either share this idea or support G20 type reform in the UNSC.
The UN For the 21st Century
The UN is important to the world, albeit it should adopt itself to a world in constant changes. The UN takes position that “the world is changing, and with it the demands on the United Nations.” When the UN was designed in the 1940s, the then President of the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt maintained that the UN must be rooted in realpolitik in order to serve international peace and security. At the time, he believed that only a world organization governed by hegemony of the four great powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China—the "Four Policeman of the world" could survive the challenges ahead. The very same real political logic requires a dramatic change in the composition of the UNSC in order to get the UN system that reflects the current international system and balance of power. This would mean a stronger world organization. Of course, there are many other areas the UN must adapt to, from climate change to maritime disputes, and the UN reform should cover a whole range of its other bodies and institutions. Yet, Turkey sees an opportunity in the current environment and calla for major reform of the Security Council, a move that would better serve its national interests.