(Routledge: London and New York, 2005), pp. xii, 134, incl. index. ISBN 0-415-30845-3.
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Dimitris Bourantonis, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Athens University of Economics and Business and a well-published writer on the UN over many years, has provided a very valuable service for students of the world body by writing this short book. It surveys the history of efforts to reform the Security Council (mainly its membership but procedure as well) from the very beginning of the Cold War right through until the year 2000. Thus it provides the essential background to a full understanding of the current debate on the same issues, recently revived. The book has no selected bibliography as such, though the first endnotes to the Introduction in effect provide a good one.
The theme of Bourantonis’s work is that, except for the expansion of the non-permanent membership in 1965, reform has been perennially blocked by a clever rearguard by the Permanent Five and the inability of the wider members to agree among themselves on what should be done. Nevertheless, he maintains, if the Council is not modified to take account of changing international realities, it will before long be doomed, and the UN in general along with it. There can be little argument with any of this. As to particular points, I think the author is especially illuminating on the political significance of the 1965 enlargement, the manner of and motives for the swift coup that gave Russia the permanent seat of the former USSR in 1992, and the reasons for the collapse of the Razali proposal at the end of the 1990s. This is a politically sophisticated book, showing how the interests of the different states and different groups of states have influenced their attitudes towards reform. In style it is lucid, and brisk without being careless. Rare among books on the UN, it is also mercifully sparing in its reliance on acronyms. On the downside, I would like to have seen rather more on the origins and internal dynamics of the ‘Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council Reform’, which pops up unheralded on p. 54. I think also that the Conclusion might have been better judged had it concentrated on the main general points to emerge rather than providing only a fairly lengthy summary of the narrative. Nevertheless, these are only minor quibbles. I welcome this book very warmly and shall be immediately adding it to the recommended reading for my students.