The UN Security Council’s (the ‘Council’) primary responsibility is to maintain international peace and security. With its remit having expanded well beyond anything originally imaged to include matters such as terrorist threats, climate change and threats to public health like the recent Ebola crisis in Western Africa, it effectively has the power to legislate what constitutes a ‘trigger event’ for its involvement. The Council is also an exclusive club with unchanged and seemingly unchangeable central actors and limited temporary membership. This power therefore rests in the hands of a few, leaving many non-members dissatisfied and with a sense of exclusion, not only with regard to items under review but also in terms of having their concerns raised and their voices heard and counted.
Bearing in mind that threats to peace and security tend to have the most devastating effect on small States which already have little to no prospect of either becoming a non-permanent member or successfully lobbying an existing member to have their concerns added to the Council’s agenda, it needs to be asked (1) in how far items not on a Council member’s radar can nonetheless make it onto the Council’s agenda, and (2) how access to the Council can be improved to ensure an equitable approach to the world’s impending challenges. Both points will for the purposes of this article be embedded in the context of the wider discussion on Council reform.
While it has to be acknowledged that reform of such magnitude can only be achieved as part of an incremental improvement process it also has to be recognised that matters of global concern do not wait and are becoming ever more critical, requiring immediate (re-)action. It is thus appropriate to ask how and in what way small States can influence decisions in the Council, illustrated by drawing on the examples of climate change and Ebola, and how his might affect future prospects of reform.