In the next few months,
the United Nations General Assembly is expected to consider
several proposals to expand the U.N. Security Council from the
current 15 members-five permanent members (China, France, Russia,
the United Kingdom, and the United States) and 10 non-permanent
members elected to two-year terms.  There are several plans
The most discussed proposal is
sponsored by Germany, Japan, India, and Brazil-the so-called Group
of Four (G-4) nations aspiring to permanent membership on the
Security Council. This plan would expand the Security Council from
15 to 25 members by adding six permanent members without veto
power (one for each of the G-4 nations and two for Africa) and four
non-permanent seats elected for two-year terms. 
The G-4 plan is supported by the U.K. and France, but strongly
opposed by China.
The second proposal is from the
53-nation African Union (AU) and calls for a 26-member
Security Council. As with the G-4 plan, the AU plan would add
six new permanent members, including two permanent seats for
Africa. It differs from the G-4 plan in that it calls for an
additional five non-permanent seats instead of four and insists
that new permanent members possess the veto.
A third proposal, advanced by the
Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group, calls for adding 10
non-permanent members to the Security Council, who can be
re-elected. Argentina, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, South
Korea, Spain, and Turkey are the most prominent supporters of this
As an amendment to the
U.N. Charter, a proposal to expand the Security Council must
clear two key hurdles. First, it must be supported by a two-thirds
majority of the General Assembly, or 128 nations. Second, it must
be ratified by two-thirds of the General Assembly and all five
current permanent members of the Security Council. Thus, the
Council cannot be expanded without U.S. approval.
The Bush Administration
has expressed its opposition to these proposals on two grounds.
First, while the Administration has stated that it is open to a
modest expansion of the Security Council, it does not support
an expansion of 10 or 11 new members. Instead, the United States
has formally backed Japan's bid for permanent membership
on the Security Council and has expressed a willingness to consider
"two or so new permanent members and two or three additional
nonpermanent seats, allocated by region, to expand the Council
to 19 or 20."
Second, the Administration
believes that any vote on expansion should follow implementation of
other, more urgent U.N. reforms. The U.S. has
argued that management failures, corruption, and lack of
transparency and accountability do far more to undermine the
effectiveness and reputation of the U.N. than the composition of
the Security Council and that these issues should be the
immediate focus of reform discussions.
While the Administration's
statement that it will vote against Council expansion unless
management issues are addressed is welcome, it should go
further and work with Congress to state clearly that the U.S.
opposes any expansion of the Security Council. The problems
of the United Nations are myriad, but few if any would be resolved
by expanding the Security Council. The Bush Administration has
stated that expansion should only be considered if it does not
impede the effectiveness of the Council. However, even a
modest expansion of the Council fails that test because it would
make the Council even more unwieldy, contribute to gridlock, dilute
U.S. influence in the Council, and likely result in a Council less
supportive of the United States on many key issues.
Assembly Voting Records of Key Security Council
The voting records of the
key Security Council contenders should be cause for concern to the
Bush Administration as it considers expansion of the Council.
Analysis of actual votes (not including consensus votes) in
the General Assembly over a six-year period (1999 to 2004) reveals
that five of the leading candidates voted against the United States
more than 70 percent of the time.
Only Germany (55 percent)
and Japan (50 percent) voted with the U.S. at least half of the
time. Brazil, the only contender from Latin America, voted with the
U.S. just 29 percent of the time, while India, often touted as a
major future ally of the United States, voted with the United
States just 20 percent of the time. The records of the three
leading African contenders for Security Council seats are equally
poor. Nigeria and South Africa voted with the U.S. just 25 percent
of the time, while Egypt-a huge beneficiary of American aid-sided
with the U.S. in only 18 percent of the votes.
Of 190 members of the
General Assembly (not including the U.S.), Germany had the best
record among Security Council candidates, ranking 12th in
voting coincidence with the United States. Japan ranks a
surprisingly low 41st, but is still ahead of any other major
country in Asia. Brazil ranks 80th, while Nigeria, South Africa,
and India rank 104th, 106th, and 149th, respectively. Egypt ranks
very near the bottom at 168th, behind Sudan and just ahead of rogue
regimes such as Libya, Burma, and Syria.
Significantly, support for
U.S. voting positions in the General Assembly has fallen since 1999
(dramatically in some cases) for all the countries
competing for Security Council seats. While Germany backed the
United States in 70 percent of votes in 1999, it voted with the
U.S. just 45 percent of the time in 2004. Similarly, Japanese
support for U.S. voting positions fell from 63 percent in 1999 to
43 percent in 2004. In 2004, Brazil and Nigeria voted with the U.S.
just 15 percent of the time, and South Africa voted with the U.S.
only 11 percent of the time. In 1999, these three countries voted
with the U.S. 39 percent, 35 percent, and 40 percent of the time,
respectively. Egypt's record was a pitifully low 8.5 percent in
2004 (down from 29 percent in 1999). India has consistently voted
against U.S. positions over the past five years, voting in
opposition to the U.S. 80 percent of the time in 2004 and 78
percent of the time in 1999.
Records on Key Issues
Every year the U.S.
Department of State identifies votes of fundamental national
interest in the U.N. General Assembly. Support for the U.S.
voting position on key issues over the past five years among
the key Security Council contenders has been low (Brazil, Nigeria,
South Africa, India, and Egypt) to middling (Japan and Germany).
South Africa and Nigeria voted against the U.S. position on key
votes an average of 80 percent of the time between 2000 and 2004.
India voted with the U.S. just 19 percent of the time, and Egypt
just 16 percent. The Brazilian record was slightly better, voting
with the U.S. 35 percent of the time. The U.S. did not receive a
single vote of support from Nigeria, South Africa, India, or Egypt
on any key vote in 2001. While the voting record of Germany and
Japan is considerably stronger (Germany voted with the U.S. 64
percent of the time and Japan 66 percent of the time), their
voting coincidence can hardly be considered
Worse than their actual
voting records is the fact that these countries' opposition to U.S.
priorities is increasing. Germany, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, and
Nigeria have sharply reduced their level of support for the
U.S. on key votes since 1999. In 2004, Brazil, Nigeria, India,
South Africa, and Egypt voted with the U.S. on just two key votes.
Germany's and Japan's records were slightly better, voting with the
U.S. on four votes.
Their records speak for
themselves. If these countries gain permanent seats on the Security
Council, support for U.S. priorities would be unlikely to
The effort to expand the
Security Council suffered a serious blow when negotiations between
the G-4 and the African Union to submit a joint proposal fell
apart. Although neither proposal
individually has the support of two-thirds of the General Assembly,
a joint proposal would be more likely to meet that
The Bush Administration
has gained a temporary reprieve due to the inability of the
G-4 and the African Union to agree to a unified proposal, but the
issue of Security Council expansion will continue to arise.
The U.S. is not served by an ambiguous policy toward Security
Council expansion, which leads other nations to believe that
America could be persuaded to accede to expansion over time. To
remedy this situation, the Administration and Congress should
clarify America's policy on Security Council by:
Unambiguously announcing through
public statements and a congressional resolution that the U.S.
opposes the G-4, AU, and UFC proposals to expand the Security
Passing a joint resolution of
Congress stating that any amendment to the U.N. Charter that alters
the structure of the Security Council must be submitted to the
Senate for advice and consent prior to ratification, as required by
the U.S. Constitution. Further, the resolution should explain why
expansion of the Council is not in the interest of the United
States and that attempts to reform the Council without the advice
and consent of the U.S. Senate risk damaging support for the
institution in Congress- particularly financial support.
Noting that, while inclusion of
Japan on the Council is desirable, proposals to reform the Security
Council should operate within its current size of
The Bush Administration has correctly set
increased effectiveness of the Security Council as the benchmark
for Council reform. As the war on terrorism continues to unfold
around the globe, as greater urgency is paid to limiting the spread
of weapons of mass destruction, and as the free world faces a
growing threat from rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea, the
U.N. Security Council can play an important and useful role. It is
in the U.S. national interest to have a lean and effective Security
Council that can help address these issues on the international
stage. Unfortunately, the most prominent proposals to expand the
Security Council will have the opposite effect.
Security Council expansion
will make it far more difficult for the United States to work
through the Council. With the exception of Germany and Japan, the
voting records of the main contenders for additional permanent
Security Council seats indicate that they will likely vote against
the U.S. on most key issues. In other words, a larger Security
Council with these nations as permanent members will likely be
less supportive of U.S. policy priorities. Moreover, any
enlargement of the Council would make it more unwieldy and
subject to conflicting interests contributing to gridlock that will
paralyze the Council and decrease the probability that it will
act quickly or effectively to address threats to international
peace and security.
The U.N. Security
Council's legitimacy depends far more on its actions than its
membership. The Security Council is by no means perfect as it
currently stands. It is subject to delay and
indecisiveness, as its failures in Iraq and Sudan clearly
demonstrate. However, a larger Council would not solve these
problems. On the contrary, it would further undermine the Council's
ability to act decisively as timely action would fall victim to
political impasse, conflicting interests, or debate among nations
that have little to contribute to the Council's ultimate
responsibility-enforcement of international peace and security.
However imperfect, the current composition of the Council is
infinitely preferable to ill-considered expansion that will surely
weaken its standing and ability to meet its mandate-ultimately
making the Security Council less relevant and increasing the
likelihood that crises will be addressed outside of the U.N.
Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security
Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, and Brett D. Schaefer
is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the
Center for International Trade and Economics at The
Heritage Foundation. Heritage Research Associate Anthony Kim
and Heritage Intern Sarah Liston contributed to research for
General Kofi Annan and advocates of Security Council expansion were
hopeful that the General Assembly would vote on a proposal by
September 2005, but the failure of any one proposal to elicit
support from the necessary two-thirds of the General Assembly has
made that goal unlikely. Annan has now announced that he hopes that
the issue will be resolved by December 2005. See Edith M. Lederer,
"Annan Extends Target for Council Expansion," The Washington
Post, August 10, 2005, at
(August 12, 2005).
six permanent slots would be taken by Germany, Japan, India,
Brazil, and two African countries. The leading African contenders
for permanent seats are Egypt, South Africa, and
Anne Patterson, remarks to a closed meeting of the U.N. General
Assembly, June 22, 2005, quoted in William M. Reilly, "U.S. Spells
Out U.N. Reforms Sought," United Press International, June 23,
U.S. position was made clear in a statement by acting U.N.
Ambassador Anne Patterson: "[The U.S. will] vote no on any
proposal...that would expand the council without management reform
and [establishing] the Human Rights Council." Quoted in Betsy
Pisik, "U.N. to Vote on Adding 11 to Security Council," The
Washington Times, July 28, 2005, at www. washingtontimes.com
20050727-100104-2537r.htm (August 10, 2005).
U.S. Department of State, "U.S. Priorities for a Stronger, More
Effective United Nations," June 17, 2005, at www.state.gov/
documents/organization/48439.pdf (August 10, 2005).
a more detailed discussion, see Brett D. Schaefer, "The United
States Should Oppose Expansion of the U.N. Security Council,"
Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1140, September 22,
(August 12, 2005).
Department of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs,
Voting Practices in the United Nations, 2004, at
state.gov/p/io/conrpt/vtgprac (August 10, 2005).
2004, the 10 key votes were: the U.S. Embargo of Cuba, Human Rights
in Sudan, Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian
People, Division for the Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat,
Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, Work of the Special Committee
to Investigate Israeli Practices, Elimination of all Forms of
Religious Intolerance, Enhancing the Role of Organizations to
Promote Democracy, Human Rights in Iran, and International Trade
July and early August 2005, the G-4 and the AU had engaged in
intense negotiations to forge a consensus proposal for Security
Council expansion. Such a compromise to merge the two competing
proposals was deemed necessary to gain support from two-thirds
of the General Assembly. A tentative compromise proposed increasing
the Council by six permanent seats without the veto, and five
non-permanent seats. However, the AU met and voted against
supporting the compromise on August 4, 2005, and decided to press
forward with its demand for the new permanent members to have the
veto. See Reuters, "Africa Turns Down Compromise on U.N.
Expansion," Independent Online, August 5, 2005, at
(August 10, 2005).
II, Section 2, Clause 2, of the U.S. Constitution states that the
President "shall have the power, by and with the Advice and Consent
of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the
Senators present concur." Articles 108 and 109 of the U.N. Charter
state that adopting member states of the United Nations shall
ratify any amendments to the Charter "in accordance with their
respective constitutional processes." Further, any change to the
existing structure of the Security Council will, by its nature,
require amending the U.N. Charter. Pursuant to the requirements of
the U.S. Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations, the
President is required to submit to the Senate for advice and
consent any agreement that alters the existing structure of the
United Nations Security Council, as occurred in 1965 when the
Senate approved expansion of the Security Council from 11 countries
to 15 by a vote of 71 to 0.