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Transforming International Institutions as Key to Global Security

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By Adeoye O. Akinola

A system that was designed in 1944 has run its course. It is time for holistic transformation to render the UN and its organs and agencies democratic. Not only should, “one country, one vote” be adhered to, but the votes must be equal.

While the permanent and non-permanent membership structure has some merits, permanent membership must be expanded to accommodate countries from all continents with other factors, such as population size taken into account.

In response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the complexity of the United Nations (UN) conflict resolution mechanism, the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, called for the “transformation of institutions of global governance” during the plenary session of the South Africa-Botswana Bi-National Commission. On April 28, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres joined the international community in condemning the UN Security Council (UNSC) for failing to prevent or stop the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Describing the 15-member UNSC as “paralysed”, he made it clear that the UN was set to take over and end the war. What does the UN chief have in mind?


It is exceedingly difficult to compel obedience without military capacity. When former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan was asked if he had power, he bluntly replied, “No, I don’t”. Like Anan, Guterres has no power, and no army. He has no authority over the UNSC and clearly, only the UNSC has the power to deploy military personnel. Therefore, any intervention he makes will have minimal effect if the Russian leader remains resolute. Will sanctions work?

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Experience has shown that they do not deter states from going to war, but may influence the duration of the conflict. In any case, by the time the sanctions begin to become unbearable, monumental damage would have been done, as the current Russia/Ukraine war has shown.

The inadequacy of the global peace architecture – adopted in 1945 by 51 of the 193 current UN members – to ensure order in the contemporary world, is as glaring as the obstructive tendencies of the veto power enjoyed by the Council’s permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – the P5).

The operational framework of one of the most important institutions within the UN system, the UNSC, is antithetical to global peace and security. Indeed, reforming the UN should be a matter of urgency and it ought to be declared a “global emergency”.
The Russia/Ukraine war has exposed the incapacity of global institutions to act decisively in averting large-scale destruction of lives and property, partly due to the multiple interests of member states and different factions within the UNSC, which have impeded any attempt to stop the monumental damages to global resources – both human and material.

The membership of states in other international organisations or interest blocs has the tendency of influencing their voting on issues of global concern. For instance, none of the BRICS member states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) voted against Russia at the UN.
Africa, South America, and Australia have no representation in the P5. Apart from its minimal role at the UN, Africa has been relegated to the background of global governance. It has no say in decisions in institutions like the IMF and World Bank. Nine votes are required to pass a resolution at the UN and the P5 only need the support of four other countries among the Elected 10…Furthermore, global institutions such as the UNSC, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank are undemocratic and operate in an environment that negates the principles of the liberal democracy that they are aggressively marketing across the world.

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The P5 control the UNSC, with the ten non-permanent members of the Council (the Elected 10) having minimal power. Their strategic influence also means that they dictate to the world. The P5’s veto power has derailed every attempt to transform the global institution and dismantle the permanent seats. Indeed, Russia has used its veto to prevent the UN and UNSC from taking effective action during the Russia/Ukraine conflict. This reflects the undemocratic environment in which global institutions operate.


Africa, South America, and Australia have no representation in the P5. Apart from its minimal role at the UN, Africa has been relegated to the background of global governance. It has no say in decisions in institutions like the IMF and World Bank. Nine votes are required to pass a resolution at the UN and the P5 only need the support of four other countries among the Elected 10, which include the three African representatives at the UNSC (A3). If the A3 were to vote in opposition, as has sometimes happened, the UNSC would still have the required vote to pass a resolution.


With 54 African countries as members of the UN, the continent makes up 25 per cent of the body’s membership, yet it is excluded from the P5. Asia’s 48 members have China as a permanent member of the UNSC, while the 50-member Europe has three. This is despite the fact that around 75 per cent of the Council’s resolutions relate to Africa.

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A system that was designed in 1944 has run its course. It is time for holistic transformation to render the UN and its organs and agencies democratic. Not only should, “one country, one vote” be adhered to, but the votes must be equal. While the permanent and non-permanent membership structure has some merits, permanent membership must be expanded to accommodate countries from all continents with other factors, such as population size taken into account. The permanent members’ veto should be reconsidered, as it has caused more havoc than good.


Adeoye O. Akinola is a Head of Research and Teaching at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation, South Africa.

Foreign News

Husband of Slain Kenyan Runner Tirop Seeks Plea Bargain

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The husband of slain Kenyan distance runner Agnes Tirop is seeking a plea bargain after initially denying a charge of murder, his lawyer said yesterday.

Tirop, a rising star in the world of athletics, was killed last October in her home in Iten, a high-altitude training hub in western Kenya for top runners.

Emmanuel Ibrahim Rotich was arrested after a dramatic late-night chase the day after Tirop’s body was found with stab wounds, and has been in custody ever since.

The 41-year-old denied a charge of murder at a November court appearance.

But in the latest twist in the legal saga, his lawyer Ngigi Mbugua told the Eldoret High Court that Rotich was willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of attracting a more lenient sentence.

The prosecution said it was not against the idea of a plea bargain but wanted Tirop’s family to be involved in the process.

A hearing on Rotich’s request will take place on 22 September.

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US Beach Returned to Black Owners after 98 Years

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A prime beachfront resort seized from its black owners nearly 100 years ago has been returned to their descendants by officials in Los Angeles.

Bruce’s Beach was purchased in 1912 to create a beach resort for black people at a time of racial segregation in southern California.

Located in the desirable city of Manhattan Beach, it was forcibly taken by the local council in 1924.

But on Tuesday, Los Angeles officials voted to return the land to the family.

Willa and Charles Bruce bought the two lots of land for $1,225 in 1912. The beach is now worth an estimated $20m (£16.45m).

Willa told a reporter at the time: “Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort, we have been refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it.”

Over the next decade, Bruce’s Beach became a “citadel for African Americans coming there for leisure from all over the rest of southern California,” family spokesman Chief Duane “Yellow Feather” Shepard told the BBC last year.

But the local police department put up signs limiting parking to 10 minutes, and another local landowner put up no trespassing signs, forcing people to walk half a mile to reach the water, he said.

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When those measures failed to deter visitors, the local authorities seized the land under eminent domain laws – designed to let the government forcibly buy land needed for roads and other public buildings.

Officials claimed they planned to build a park. That did not happen until many decades later, and the area remained vacant in the interim.

On Tuesday, the motion to return the land acknowledged, “it is well documented that this move was a racially motivated attempt to drive out the successful black business and its patrons”.

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NATO to Agree on Biggest Defence Policy Changes since End of Cold War

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NATO leaders are expected to sign off on a major reinforcement of the alliance’s Eastern European members on Wednesday when they meet in Madrid to project a united stance amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The decision is a fundamental shift of deterrence and defence in the alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said as the three-day summit began on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg was echoing previous comments ahead of the summit that described the move as “the biggest overhaul of (NATO’s) collective deterrence and defence since the Cold War.

The war in Ukraine has breathed new purpose into the Western alliance after years of internal discord as tensions grew between Europe and the U.S. under former U.S president Donald Trump.

French President Emmanuel Macron even remarked in 2019 that NATO was experiencing brain death as doubts grew about the alliance’s direction over trans-Atlantic tensions.

The chaotic end to the U.S. and NATO’s 20-year intervention in Afghanistan helped little until the Ukraine war underlined the alliance’s central aim: collective defence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made even clearer how important NATO is for the future, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said at the start of the summit.

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As well as new confidence, NATO is also attracting new members with Sweden and Finland deciding to abandon neutrality and pursue membership in view of the Russian invasion.

In an early boost to proceedings, Turkey agreed on Tuesday to drop its veto of Sweden and Finland’s entry to the alliance after significant pledges from both countries to combat terrorism.

Ankara had opposed both countries’ entry for weeks, charging both nations with supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the YPG.

A Kurdish militia based in Syria, both of which Ankara classified as terrorist groups. Sweden and Finland refuted this.

On Wednesday the trans-Atlantic alliance is set to agree to position more equipment near Russia, including heavy weaponry; to boost troop numbers in multinational NATO battlegroups in Eastern Europe.

It will also expand rapid reaction forces from 40,000 to 300,000 soldiers.

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is usually under national command but can be requested for deployment to another ally by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

NATO allies are still finalising details of the exact composition of the expanded battle groups in Eastern Europe, with some alliance members seeking to avoid costly permanent bases.

The Baltics, especially Estonia, have pushed NATO hard to shift tactics in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and move to the fully-fledged defence of alliance territory in Eastern Europe.

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This would replace a model to relinquish and later recapture lost ground.

The 30-strong Western defensive alliance was to also agree on a new strategic concept outlining NATO’s security tasks and missions, the first update since 2010.

The alliance’s security blueprint for the next 10 years is expected to categorise Russia as the most direct threat to NATO as well as address China for the first time.

NATO partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea were also taking part, a sign that the war in Ukraine has not completely occupied the alliance’s attention.

NATO members also planned to commit to providing Ukraine with long-term support including more equipment, supplies, training and help to transition away from Soviet-era military equipment.

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