Gordon Brown has begun secret talks with other world leaders on far-reaching reform of the United Nations Security Council as part of a drive to create a “new world order” and “global society”.
The Prime Minister is drawing up plans to expand the number of permanent members in a move that will provoke fears that the veto enjoyed by Britain could be diluted eventually. The United States, France, Russia and China also have a veto but the number of members could be doubled to include India, Germany, Japan, Brazil and one or two African nations.
Mr Brown has discussed a shake-up of a structure created in 1945 to reflect the world’s new challenges and power bases during his four-day trip to China and India. Last night, British sources revealed “intense discussions” on UN reform were under way and Mr Brown raised it whenever he met another world leader.
The Prime Minister believes the UN is punching below its weight. In 2003, it failed to agree on a fresh resolution giving explicit approval for military action in Iraq. George Bush then acted unilaterally, winning the support of Tony Blair.
UN reform is highly sensitive and Britain will not yet publish formal proposals for fear of uniting opponents against them. Mr Brown is trying to build a consensus for change first.
His aides are adamant that the British veto will not be negotiated away. One option is for the nations who join not to have a veto, at least initially. In a speech in Delhi today, the Prime Minister will say: “I support India’s bid for a permanent place – with others – on an expanded UN Security Council.” However, he is not backing Pakistan’s demand for a seat if India wins one.
Mr Brown will unveil a proposal for the UN to spend £100m a year on setting up a “rapid reaction force” to stop “failed states” sliding back into chaos after a peace deal has been reached. Civilians such as police, administrators, judges and lawyers would work alongside military peace-keepers. “There is limited value in military action to end fighting if law and order does not follow,” he will say. “So we must do more to ensure rapid reconstruction on the ground once conflicts are over – and combine traditional humanitarian aid and peace-keeping with stabilisation, recovery and development.”
He will call for the World Bank to lead the fight against climate change as well as poverty in the developing world, and argue that the International Monetary Fund should prevent crises like the credit crunch rather than just resolve them.
Arriving in Delhi yesterday, Mr Brown said he wanted a “partnership of equals” between Britain and India as he called for closer trade links and co-operation against terrorism. He announced £825m of aid over the next three years – £500m of which will be spent on health and education.
Mr Brown is to bring back honorary knighthoods and other awards for cricketers from Commonwealth countries. He said: “Cricket is one of the great things that bind the Commonwealth together. It used to be that great cricketers from the Commonwealth would be recognised by the British nation I would like to see some of the great players in the modern era honoured.”
Read Andrew Grice atindependent.co.uk/todayinpolitics
The UN Security Council’s membership has remained virtually unchanged since it first met in 1946.
Great Britain, the United States, the then Soviet Union, China and France were designated permanent members of the UN’s most powerful body.
Initially, six other countries were elected to serve two-year spells on the council – in 1946 they were Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, the Netherlands and Poland.
The number of elected members, who are chosen to cover all parts of the globe, was increased to 10 in 1965. They are currently Belgium, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Panama, South Africa and Vietnam.
Decisions made by the council require nine “yes” votes out of 15. Each permanent member has a veto over resolutions.
The issue of UN reform has long been on the agenda. One suggestion is that permanent membership could be expanded to 10 with India, Japan, Germany, Brazil and South Africa taking places. Any reform requires 128 nations, two-thirds, to support it in the assembly.