Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, September 27, 2004

SA's bid for the UN
Following on from Wednesday's critique of the UN, Friday was the perfect day to announce South Africa's bid for one of the proposed additional permanent UN security council seats. The mandate for the UN is that it has to offer a more representative forum than the prevailing group of nations (US, UK, France, China and Russia) which have been in place since World War 2. These five permanent nations have often hamstrung the UN's peace-keeping abilities with a collusioniary viewpoint that is often not in the best interests of the global population.

Under the premise that many of these decisions involve Africa, it seems that the UN should not deny an African voice on the security council, but morality does not often win over political clout. With the current system of five permanent seats and 10 revolving seats, one would think that the UN would only add three or four permanent seats and this is where it gets interesting. Europe is represented in the UK and France, so Germany getting a seat is, in my view, unlikely. India would seem a good choice, but with their relations with the pivotal Pakistan, their veto may be a dangerous tool. Middle East representation would seemingly be necessary, but would significant risks. With the fractitious relations in the region, as well as the 'tinder-box' situation along many of the borders, a Middle East seat may simply be too dangerous to select. An option would be to add both India and Pakistan, but this may further paralyse the council's activities. Asia requires a bulwark to the ever developing China, and Australia and Japan would be contestants, but I feel Japan should get the nod there. Then there's South American interests, which should naturally be given to Brazil.

That brings us to an African seat, which realistically lies between South Africa and Nigeria. South Africa's more international approach to foreign affairs would give us hope, but Mbeki's handling of Zimbabwe may detract heavily from our chances. However, when one considers Nigeria's troublesome human rights abuse record, perhaps South Africa should be a shoe-in. One also has to consider the value of Nigeria as an oil resource, as well as the country's ability to be sympathetic to Islamic needs. It's a tight race, but I think that South Africa's proactive and balanced approach to foreign affairs, as well as the penchant for always keeping dialogue open (think the recent Likud talks) will rub the UN the right way.

In summary then, I think that the UN should opt for safety rather than representation, and add Japan, Brazil and South Africa as permanent members. This group balances the First World power on the council and adds developing nation concerns to the decision-making process. Comments welcome...


I've thought about this a bit more, and I suppose Egypt would be a great challenger for the 'African' seat, should there be one, due to its links with the Muslim world. Egypt is a more moderate Islamic nation and thus more palatable and stable for many of the world's major powers. It is economically strong and close enough to Europe to be well positioned to speak for the African continent. The problem however, is that a credible representative for the continent would surely have to be drawn from Sub-Saharan Africa, given that the majority of the issues in Africa - poverty, genocide, and other major ethnic conflict - occur in this region. I'll keep my vote (patriotically) with SA, but will tip Egypt as a real challenger.