NSD Public Forum April Topic Analysis: Part 1

The National Speech and Debate Association’s April PF topic is “Resolved: The United Nations should grant India permanent membership on the Security Council.” Currently, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has give permanent members (United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, France) who each have veto power over any of the UNSC’s substantive resolutions. There are also ten non-permanent members of the Security Council, who do not have a veto and are elected by the General Assembly on a rotating basis. Much more information about the UNSC is easily accessible online, and we strongly recommend you pursue further background research.

This article is divided into two parts. The first part (published today) raises important framing questions about what the resolution means and what the comparative looks like on this topic. The second part (to be published 4/5) considers the substance of the debate, arguing that debates will generally center on any of three main points of clash. This second part will also explore how each side should choose to approach these main issues.

1. Framing

The resolution asks debaters to consider whether India should become a permanent member of the UNSC. However, it is an open question what the counterfactual to this is. Myriad states have long advocated for expansion of UNSC permanent membership. Most common is the longstanding Group of Four (G4) proposal to expand permanent membership to include Japan, India, Brazil and Germany. An argument could be made that even if India is not granted permanent membership, membership expansion in some form is inevitable (see http://venturesafrica.com/why-the-reform-of-the-un-security-council-is-inevitable/). Moreover, even if India does not become a permanent member today, one could argue that they will inevitably become a permanent member at some point in the future. Many Indian politicians have said as much (see https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/upfront/2015/10/tharoor-india-inevitably-permanent-unsc-seat-151010145032383.html). It is also possible that if India is blocked from permanent membership, other reforms are implemented instead, such as an abolishment of permanent members’ veto power or an elimination of permanent members entirely. Any attempt at membership expansion or other structural reform would be difficult. Such changes to the UN Charter requires the approval of two-thirds of the General Assembly and can be vetoed by any of the current UNSC permanent members. However, if a team can prove alternative changes would happen in the “con world,” they would successfully reframe the debate, and could argue that any harms/benefits of India’s permanent membership are outweighed by any benefits/harms of what would happen in the counterfactual. For example, a pro team could argue that India will inevitably become a UNSC permanent member, but that it is preferable it happen now instead of later.

It is also “up for debate” what happens in the affirmative world. All of the current permanent members of the UNSC have veto power, but there is disagreement about whether potential new permanent members should have veto power as well (see https://www.globalpolicy.org/security-council/security-council-reform/membership-including-expansion-and-representation.html). In the past, India has suggested it would accept permanent membership even without veto power (see https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/03/08/india-offers-to-temporarily-forgo-veto-power-if-granted-permanen_a_21876304/), but debaters can still make plausible arguments for why India would likely have veto power – the issue is largely unclear. Additionally, a team could argue that expanding permanent membership to India would open the floodgates to previously mentioned UNSC reforms (see https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/japans-call-permanent-un-role-may-open-reform-floodgates). Similar to what was discussed above, this argument reframes the comparative, allowing a team to claim that the harms/benefits of India’s permanent memberships are outweighed by the benefits/harms of associated reforms, so it is important to consider.


Ben Kessler