The United Nations General Assembly has begun debating major changes to the organisation, plans that have been much talked about in the past 12 years but are only now being brought to a vote.
The changes relate to the membership rules of the UN’s most select and powerful club, the Security Council, and veto powers.
Japan’s UN ambassador is not alone in criticising the UN for being out of date, and too representative of a post-World War II balance of power that is no longer reality. Tokyo wants a Security Council seat, but existing members like France, while recognising the need for change, do not want to see their powers reduced.
Newer nations like Brazil now pack as much economic clout as France or Britain, and wartime defeated nations like Germany are now valued partners.
One proposal to emerge from the recent conference of African nations insists on two security council memberships with veto powers. Another idea is to give the four-way alliance of Germany, Japan, India and Brazil similar status.
It is unlikely the Americans and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will want to extend veto powers, so the proposals may not get far.