Category: World Service
A BBC World Service poll that surveyed 23 countries, published today, suggests nearly universal support for dramatic reforms in the United Nations in parallel with a desire for increased UN power in the world.
Majorities throughout the world favour adding permanent new members to the UN Security Council, with most favouring adding Germany, India, Japan and Brazil.
Most favour giving the UN Security Council the power to override the veto power of the permanent members, including majorities in three of the permanent member states - the United States, Britain, and China. In France and Russia citizens are divided.
The poll of 23,518 people was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
The poll suggests that expanding the UN Security Council to include new permanent members is supported by a majority in 22 of the 23 countries.
These include majorities in four of the current permanent members, the US (70%), Britain (74%), France (67%) and China (54%).
Russia is the only country polled for which support is a plurality (44% in favour), though opposition is quite low (28%).
On average for all countries, 69% favour expanding the permanent membership.
Majorities in favour are especially robust in Italy (86%), Canada (84%), Germany and Australia (both 81%), and Spain (80%).
Besides Russia, support for expanding the permanent membership is relatively modest in Mexico (52%), Chile (55%) and South Korea (56%).
Of five countries that are widely discussed as candidates for permanent membership, Germany and Japan are especially popular.
Germany is favoured in 21 countries (14 majorities, 7 pluralities) with an average of 56% across all countries.
In the two remaining countries, China and South Korea, opposition is mostly to expanding council membership in general - not focused on Germany.
Japan is favoured by 20 countries (16 majorities, 4 pluralities).
However, Japan lacks support from three close neighbours, two of which are on the Security Council: Russia is divided, China has a majority opposing Japan, and in South Korea 32% were opposed to Japan and 40% to expansion in general.
On average 54% favour Japan's membership.
For both Germany and Japan, developed countries are a bit more enthusiastic than developing countries.
A majority of countries also favour India and Brazil but in each case the average is not a majority.
Sixteen countries favour adding India (9 majorities, 7 pluralities) with two countries divided and five opposed (three majorities: China, Germany, and South Korea, and two pluralities: the Philippines and Turkey).
On average 47% favoured India with 19% opposed, and another 17% opposed to any expansion of the Security Council.
Attitudes toward Brazil are remarkably similar, with 16 countries in favour (10 majorities, 6 pluralities) and 47% overall in favour (18% opposed to Brazil and 17% to all expansion).
Four countries are opposed: majorities in South Korea, and pluralities in China, Russia, and Turkey. Indonesia, France, and Germany were divided.
South Africa receives less support, with ten countries in favour (five majorities, five pluralities); seven countries divided and six countries with opposition by a plurality (China, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey) or a majority (South Korea).
On average, 43% favour South Africa and 21% are opposed (plus 17% opposed to all expansion).
In all countries but one, more people favour than oppose the idea of giving the UN Security Council the power to override the veto of a permanent member.
Respondents were asked about the right, held by each of the five permanent Security Council members, to block any resolution with a veto, and were told: "Some people have proposed that this should be changed so that if a decision was supported by all the other members, no one member could veto the decision."
Respondents in the US, Britain, France, Russia and China were reminded in the question that their own country would lose the veto: for instance, Americans heard that "if a decision was supported by all the other members, no one member, not even the United States, could veto the decision".
In the US, 57% favour giving up the absolute veto (34% opposed), Britain is similar at 56% (35% opposed) and in China a 48% plurality is in favour (36% opposed).
Overall, citizens in 21 countries favour ending the absolute veto (16 majorities, five pluralities), with an average of 58% in favour and just 24% opposed.
However, two permanent members are divided: France and Russia (France, 44% in favour, 43% opposed; Russia, 25% in favour, 29% opposed, with 46% not answering).
There is an extraordinary degree of consensus in favour of the UN becoming "significantly more powerful in world affairs".
This prospect is seen as "mainly positive" in every country (21 majorities, two pluralities) and by an average of 64%. A mere 19% on average sees this prospect as mainly negative.
Especially enthusiastic are Germany (87%), Spain (78%), Indonesia (77%) and the Philippines (77%).
Six in ten Americans (59%) favoured it, with only 37 percent opposed.
The only two countries to have just a plurality in favour are Turkey (40% to 24%) and Argentina (44% to 22%).
Steven Kull, Director of PIPA, comments: "Very large majorities all around the world are calling for the UN to become more powerful in world affairs.
"Consistent with this sentiment there is broad support for making the UN Security Council more representative by adding new members, and making it less unwieldy by giving the UN Security Council the power to override the veto of a permanent member.
"Most striking, even citizens in three of the five permanent member states are willing to give up their absolute veto power, and the other two are divided. The readiness for dramatic change is very palpable."
Doug Miller, President of GlobeScan, says: "Results suggest that the tight control of the United Nations by a few countries may soon be history.
"There is strong popular support for the democratisation of the UN system."
Notes to Editors
Polling was conducted from 15 November 2004 to 3 January 2005 with 23,518 people.
In eight of the countries the sample was limited to major metropolitan areas.