Structure of United Nations out of date, says Sir John Major

The structure of the United Nations is out of date and its core members should be shaken up to include India and South Africa, Sir John Major has said.

The former prime minister called for the removal of the veto power available to the five permanent members – the UK, China, France, US and Russia – and claimed they “no longer represent the five most powerful nations in the world”.

Sir John Major
Sir John Major speaking at the One Young World summit in The Hague (One Young World/PA)

Describing the UN’s sustainable development goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, as “absolutely crucial” to peace and security in the world, he accused permanent members Russia and China of stifling some of the aims of the organisation.

Speaking at the One Young World summit in The Hague, he said: “Those sustainable goals can only be met if the world gets its act together and one of the problems, it has always seemed to me, is that the UN was formed immediately after the last war 70 years ago and its structure is out of date.

“The five permanent members no longer represent the five most powerful nations in the world. And the permanent structure, the permanent members of the United Nations, need to change. It needs not to be the permanent five we’ve got now.”

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Name-checking India and South Africa as would-be permanent members, he added: “Once you do that, and once you remove the single nation veto that Russia for example and sometimes China uses so rigorously, you will be in a position to unshackle the good that the United Nations was intended to be able to do but often cannot do.”

Sir John spoke on the first of this year’s three-day gathering of more than 1,900 young leaders from 196 countries, at a summit which will consider issues ranging from climate change to conflict resolution and human rights.