|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
52nd Meeting (AM)
Security Council ‘Badly Out of Step’ with Evolution of Geopolitics, Speakers
Say as General Assembly Concludes Annual Debate on Council Reform
Delegations Acknowledge Divisions on Expanding Security Council;
Yet Some Say after 20 Years, Assembly Must ‘Stop Talking and Start Negotiating’
Calling for an end to the stalemate in intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, delegates in the General Assembly today urged action on the matter, as they concluded their annual debate on the subject.
Assembly members wanted the Council — which had not been reformed in half a century — to better reflect present day geopolitical realities and the rapidly evolving challenges that the United Nations faced in the twenty-first century. They called for a sense of urgency and compromise to re-make the Council so that it — and the wider Organization — could address current issues with greater efficacy and legitimacy.
“Many people around the world are yearning to live in peace and safety and to fight the poverty and ignorance that threaten their security”, said the representative of Libya, and as that was the case, all Member States shared the burden of making the Organization better. Reform of the Security Council was “one of the most important means of carrying out those aspirations”, he said. Unfortunately, the very diverse 193-member body had found it difficult to reconcile their different views on expansion of the Council’s membership and dealing with the divisive topic of veto rights in that body.
The representative of Australia said that the key to legitimacy for the Security Council in the future would be more balanced representation. “No country should have a monopoly on power”, he said, and added: “We really must accelerate our efforts to break through the current impasse [and] achieve a reform that really means something.” Australia was not a member of any established group on reform. Its overriding imperative was to find a way to move the debate “away from sterile discussion”, he said, welcoming any recommendations with a view to gathering momentum at the forthcoming round of intergovernmental negotiations.
African countries, who represented more than a quarter of the United Nations’ membership and occupied much of the Security Council’s agenda but which currently had no permanent representation on that 15-nation body, wanted to move ahead quickly with negotiations that have been under discussion for almost 20 years.
“How could a continent such as Africa, which represented 70 per cent of the Council’s work, not be included in its permanent membership?” asked the representative of Senegal. It could not be emphasized too many times: “that historical injustice must be corrected”, he added. Zambia’s delegate wanted to add two permanent seats and two non-permanent seats on the Council for African States. Zimbabwe’s speaker added that an expanded Council would enjoy fresh perspectives in its deliberations and broader alliances in its decision-making, “which are, after all, the purposes of our intent to make the Council more representative, legitimate and credible”.
Throughout the debate, speakers from other regions expressed the desire for greater representation in the Council, believing that it could better carry out its mandate — and enhance its legitimacy — if it was expanded to 20 members or more. The representative of the Solomon Islands called for a non-permanent seat to be set aside for small island States. The delegate from Iran urged credible participation for Muslim nations, while Kazakhstan’s speaker suggested regional non-permanent seats that would rotate among agreed States.
A reformed Council must give power to countries like India or Japan, said the representative of New Zealand. But just as it must recognize larger powers, it must also serve small States. After all, most countries were small, and it was crucial to United Nations universality that they could contribute at the Council table. Yet, there were real risks in the process, for example, emerging powers would be denied a role equal to their significance, and small States would be left out and the United Nations would suffer, he warned.
Yet the representative of the Russian Federation, one of the two permanent members of the Council to take the floor today, said that while his delegation favoured making the body representative, it would prefer to keep it compact — with not more than 20 members. He was convinced the issue of reform could not be solved arithmetically. Further, the Russian Federation could not accept some of view, for example, regarding veto power. Indeed, the veto was an important factor that moved the permanent members and others to seek balanced decisions.
The subject of veto rights for permanent members was a major topic of discussion, and while some called for its use to be drastically scaled back or inferred upon any new permanent Council members, most said the mechanism was “undemocratic”. Iran’s speaker noted that his delegation was not alone in believing there was a strong sense of injustice and discrimination between the haves and have-nots. In fact, the veto was a “non-democratic and non-constructive instrument” that undermined the possibility of action by the Council in many cases where action was needed.
Mexico’s representative urged the Assembly to move forward, together, with a sense of flexibility and urgency. “If we debate just to rehearse the positions that we have voiced over the past 17 years, we will get nowhere”, the representative stressed. Instead, Member States needed to show the political will to negotiate seriously and to seek a compromise solution acceptable to all.
At the same time, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea urged a more drastic overhaul of the Council by inferring oversight of its most serious actions to the General Assembly. He sought a mechanism whereby Council resolutions deciding to impose sanctions or the use of force in situations that were directly related to peace and security would become effective only following final approval by the General Assembly. “By doing so, we will be able to check the arbitrariness of some specific countries and fully represent the will of all 193 United Nations Member States,” said the representative.
Nevertheless, many speakers let the extent of their frustration with the process, including the six rounds of inconclusive intergovernmental negotiations, be known. “We reiterate our positions ad nauseum. Then we criticize each other’s positions ad nauseum,” said the representative of Zambia. “We shall walk in with our statements and walk out, not bothering to listen or to speak with each other,” he said. If that ended up being the case, then the Assembly’s discussions over the past two days would be another missed opportunity like all the others, he warned.
In other business, the Assembly decided to extend the work of the Sixth Committee (Legal) until 11 November 2011.
The Assembly also decided to include an additional agenda item entitled “Observer status for the West African Economic and Monetary Union in the General Assembly” in the agenda of the current session, and decided to allocate that item to the Sixth Committee (Legal).
The Assembly further decided to include on its agenda a sub-item entitled “Appointment of members of the International Civil Service Commission”.
The Assembly, this morning, also adopted the second report of the General Committee by consensus.
Also speaking today were representatives of Slovenia, Pakistan, San Marino, United Kingdom, Malta, Chile, Hungary, Philippines, Ukraine, Malaysia, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Belarus, Colombia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Sudan and Bhutan.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The General Assembly will next convene on Thursday 10 November at 10:00 a.m. to elect five members of the International Court of Justice.
The General Assembly convened this morning to consider the Organization of work, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items: second report of the General Committee (document A/66/250/Add.1) and to continue its debate on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters. For more information, please see Press Release GA/11168.
SIMONA LESKOVAR ( Slovenia) said that reform of the Security Council was long overdue, and progress made during the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session had been insufficient. Reform of the Council was a necessary structural change in the area of maintaining international peace and security, and needed to address enlargement of the membership and improvement of the body’s working methods. Increasing the Council’s membership was not only a matter of fairness but also a necessity, and a reformed Council needed to better reflect present geopolitical realities, be more representative, and have a strengthened legitimacy and authority.
She said that different proposals made with regard to the Security Council expansion by Member States were well-captured in the negotiating text compiled by Ambassador Zahir Tanin of Afghanistan. Slovenia’s position would aim to ensure the Council’s representative character and a size which would be sufficiently limited to allow it to carry out its work efficiently. There was a broad sense of agreement on a need to improve working methods, and she welcomed what improvements that had been made, while noting that there was still plenty of room to do more. Today’s world was an obviously different one from when the United Nations was first established more than sixty years ago, and many aspects of the Organization’s structure needed to be changed. Today’s United Nations was operational, and had developed a variety of practical activities which had changed the Organization considerably. The international community must not fail to take forward the process of negotiations on the question of equitable geographical representation on and increase of the membership of the Council.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said that the importance of the Council’s work had been demonstrated during the intensive past year. In that respect, there was a strong need to boost its representativeness and legitimacy with a view towards the future. “We really must accelerate our efforts to break through the current impasse” and achieve a reform “that really means something”, he stressed. Australia’s outlook on reform was founded on the premise that no country should have a monopoly on power. Moreover, the effectiveness of a rules-based order depended on buy-in from all Member States.
There was an obvious consensus that substantive reform of the Council was well overdue, he said, adding that the Council continued to be “badly out of step” with the evolution of geopolitics. Australia agreed with the African Group that the absence of permanent representation on the Council from the Group was a historical injustice. It was also an impediment to the Council’s operations. Two thirds of the Council’s agenda was focused on the African continent, he stressed, urging that Africa should “take its rightful permanent place” in those deliberations.
Australia was not a member of any established group on reform. Its overriding imperative was to find a way to move the debate “away from sterile discussion”. The delegation welcomed any recommendations with a view to gathering momentum at the forthcoming round of intergovernmental negotiations. Reiterating Australia’s position on the matter, he said that it supported the expansion of the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, while balancing the need for enhanced representation on the Council with the practical requirement of maintaining decision-making cohesion and effectiveness. While it was committed to advancing comprehensive reform in all five areas of negotiations, he noted that Australia agreed with the “Small Five” (S-5) Group that, without prejudice to the other aspects of he Council’s reform, concerted efforts should be made to realize immediate and tangible benefits in improving working methods. “We should try to make progress on this quickly”, he concluded.
ASIF DURRANI, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said reform of the Security Council could only be realized through consensus. Pakistan believed that a modest expansion of that body by adding new electable seats would make it more representative, efficient and transparent, as well as able to address present and future challenges alike. From various initiatives launched by individual Member States and groups over last 15 years, it was evident that no single reform model enjoyed the requisite support for a credible final outcome. It was therefore essential to seek a common middle ground with a view to achieving a “win-win compromise formula”.
Continuing, he said that Pakistan, along with other colleagues of the Uniting for Consensus Group had put forward “dynamic and flexible proposals”. The compromise paper — “Italy-Colombia Paper” — contained in document A/64/CRP.1, was a sincere effort to build bridges and avert deadlock. Pakistan drew satisfaction that Uniting for Consensus was the only group to have offered a compromise formula. That formula proposed a complex global political configuration, which consisted of a few large States; a number of medium-sized States; a majority of small States; and the emergence of regional organizations, which were playing important roles in international and regional peace and security.
He said the proposal reflected cross-sectional interests of the large majority of Member States, including a significant number of small States. It could also serve the dual purpose of a modest expansion of the Council, while also ensuring wider representation for regional, subregional and cross-regional groups, some of which, like the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), had important stakes in the Council. He reiterated support for the African Common Position, as stated in the Ezulwini Consensus.
DANIELE D. BODINI ( San Marino) said it was obvious that reform could only be achieved only through a compromise solution, and enlarging the Council from 15 to 25 members was not only necessary, but achievable. Some of those 10 new seats should be allocated to the existing two-year category and the remaining to a new, longer-term category, whose details needed to be agreed upon.
That, he continued, would give a better chance of representation to medium and small States and much larger Member States with relevant contributions to world peace through financial aid, peacekeeping forces and democratic leadership. Those countries rightfully deserved to be Council members for longer periods, but should be elected periodically by the Assembly on the basis of their aspirations, and, more importantly, their merits and performances. San Marino also believed a more equitable representation from different geographical areas needed to be adopted, especially for the African continent.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), associating his statement with those delivered yesterday respectively on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, recalled that, despite many recent efforts, the Council’s membership had “remained regrettable”. That status quo was made even more regrettable given the multiple crises that had shaken the world in the last two years. More than fifty years since the Council’s last reform, its membership seemed today to be “anachronistic”. How could a continent such as Africa, which represented 70 per cent of the Council’s work, not be included in its permanent membership? It could not be emphasized too many times: “that historical injustice must be corrected”.
The fact that no consensus had been reached on the way forward was also regrettable, but that fact should serve to push the dialogue in a new direction, on the basis of Assembly decisions 62/557, 63/565, 64/568, and 65/554. It was necessary to reach agreement on the principles that should guide the exercise, and to avoid allowing meetings on Council reform to become platforms where well-known positions were merely stated and restated. All Member States should cooperate, and the exercise should take into account the specific case of Africa. He hoped that the present session would represent a decisive stage in the Council’s reform process.
MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) said reforming the Security Council so that it was more representative of the modern world was an important task. While insufficient steps had been taken in recent months, it was vital that the Assembly showed support for Ambassador Tanin throughout the exercise, he said. “We must keep in mind the shared belief that reform was necessary to reflect twenty-first century realities.”
He noted that his Government’s position has been clear for some time; it continued to support permanent membership for Brazil, India, Germany, and Japan and permanent African presentation. At the same time, he said it was the United Kingdom’s firm view that reform must not reduce the Council’s ability to act decisively when called upon to address threats to international peace and security. Events this year had demonstrated beyond doubt that the Council must retain its capability in that regard.
He said it was certainly important that the Council worked in a manner that was as transparent as possible, and he welcomed a number of positive developments to that end over the past year. He strongly supported the introduction of forward-looking, “horizon scanning” briefings, which had become an established part of the Council’s work each month. Those were valuable sessions and had enhanced “our collective ability to anticipate and manage emerging crises”. Finally, he said his delegation would continue to promote reform of the Security Council. It encouraged all Member States to work constructively toward this collective goal.
CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA ( Zimbabwe) said that the Security Council was increasingly assuming a larger role in formulating relevant responses to developments in international relations. It was therefore evident that all Member States had a direct and vital interest in its work and decision-making. Member States had an equally crucial stake in the reform of the Council. Zimbabwe had constantly advocated for comprehensive change, and he added that the Council must be democratized, including through re-examining its composition and the way power was distributed and exercised.
The Council needed to reflect the current political realities with special emphasis on granting developing countries, in particular those from the African continent, their long overdue and deserved representation in both categories of the Council. His delegation was greatly encouraged by the growing acceptance on the need for expansion in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of the Council’s membership. An expanded Council would enjoy fresh perspectives in its deliberations and broader alliances in its decision-making, which were, after all, the purposes of our intent to make the Council more representative, legitimate and credible.
Expansion in both categories was essential to meet the needs and accommodate the views of the preponderant majority of Member States and maintain a balanced ratio between the two categories of the Council’s membership. In that regard, he reiterated his country’s support of Africa’s unwavering demand for two permanent seats with the same powers and prerogatives as the current members and five non-permanent seats in the expanded Council, and he was convinced those demands were reasonable. United Nations reform without Council reform was incomplete. Merely enhancing the Council’s working methods was not enough since structural reforms were therefore needed to complete the exercise. The key lesson from the past session was that no reform proposal designed to serve the interest of the few could expect to win support of the required majority of Member States.
SAVIOUR F. BORG ( Malta) said that in order for the Security Council to be more representative, efficient, effective and transparent, it was necessary to increase the representation on the Council. The current number serving on the Council was not representative of the majority of the United Nations Member States, especially of small- and medium-sized States. Though there was an agreement that there should be an increase in the non-permanent seat category, the proposed increase in the permanent category by six or seven seats would dilute the number of seats available in the non-permanent category, he said. It was also crucial that the Security Council responded more rapidly to emerging situation by accelerating the work of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.
Malta also believed, he added, that the Council must deal with issues of a long-standing nature in a fairer and balanced way, make lesser use of the veto, and consider the interests of the wider United Nations membership in decisions taken by the Council. All Member States should be given the possibility to know more about issues and receive prompt, relevant and current information on matters brought to the attention of the Security Council. There should be “less closed meetings and more open briefings”. Regarding short-term Security Council reform, he added, the Italy-Columbia proposal was “a possible breakthrough”.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) noted that, in 2008, the Assembly had adopted decision 62/557 agreeing to consider the reform of the Security Council in intergovernmental negotiations. Agreement was reached on five key questions. Chile firmly believed in a larger Security Council and he reiterated his delegation’s position that the Council must show equitable representation. Chile supported an increase in the number of both permanent and non-permanent members, with an emphasis on developing counties, but without granting the veto power to new members. It also supported the inclusion of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, the so-called “G-4” States, as permanent members.
Additionally, he said, the vast number of countries on the African continent — as well as the fact that the majority of the issues studied by the Security Council arose in that continent — meant that African countries required representation on the Council. Chile supported efforts to increase transparency, and therefore the legitimacy, of the Council, he said, adding that he hoped to see a “serious discussion” in that regard. Willingness to make headway in reform meant “abandoning entrenched hard-line positions”, he stressed, and urged instead focusing on achieving the broadest possible consensus.
CSABA KŐRÖSI ( Hungary) said that the convening of the present debate was an opportunity to re-launch meaningful discussion on Security Council reform. He regretted that, while the sixty-fifth session had kept the momentum going for intergovernmental negotiations, it had again failed to produce a breakthrough. “Unfortunately, our aggregated skills again proved efficient enough to prevent any reform consideration from being implemented,” he said. Noting that some had cautioned against setting deadlines, he asked how that had helped over the past two decades. Of those who argued against a step-by step approach he asked, “In the last twenty years, could we agree on a comprehensive solution?”
The composition and working methods of the Security Council should reflect the changes that had occurred in the international political and economic scene. Enlargement of the Council in both categories was necessary to reinforce its legitimacy and effectiveness, he continued. Welcoming the initiative of the “G-4”, he noted that it had garnered wide, cross-regional support and could be considered as the basis for starting real negotiations. Further, he said that the proposals of the “S-5” group contained important elements aimed at improving the Council’s working methods that should be pursued in further negotiations. He also said that a code of conduct to be adhered to during election campaigns should be considered and reiterated Hungary’s support for quick action on Security Council reform.
EDUARDO JOSE A. DE VEGA ( Philippines) said his delegation remained a staunch supporter of reform. The Philippines, as a founding Member State, was among the first to voice out the need for the Council to be more responsive in carrying out its mandate. At present, the Philippines was constructively engaged in ongoing intergovernmental negotiations, and had in fact been among those who had urged the Chair of those talks to streamline the diverse views so they could be compiled and the process moved forward.
He said that the Chair had heeded that call and had produced a text that reflected all proposals on key issues. Some preferred to call it a “compilation text”, while others called it a “negotiation text”. Whatever the preference, it was clear that there was a “working draft” in play which could serve as a basis for meaningful negotiations over the course of which amendments might be introduced. The Philippines was pleased its proposals on all key issues were reflected in that text. While he believed Council reform not a “quick fix” but a work in progress, he stressed that the intergovernmental negotiations “should just proceed with no end in sight”.
Yet it was imperative to reflect on all views and positions, but all should agree “when to stop talking and start negotiating”. After four years of negotiations, there had already been enough talking. In that regard, the Philippines had proposed to the Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on the reform of the Council to set a timeline for negotiations and the modalities by which common and opposing views will be reflected in a text for negotiations. “Let us be realistic, we don’t expect to have an agreement on all issues all at once,” he said. A general agreement on reform could only be achieved by incremental steps.
ANDRIY BESHTA ( Ukraine) said today’s world put before the United Nations new, complex and increasingly difficult tasks. In that respect, improving the effectiveness of the Organization’s work was not possible without a comprehensive reform of its principal organs, chiefly, modernizing the Security Council. Indeed, making the Council more representative and balanced, and ensuring that its work was more effective and transparent, especially with regard to the decision-making process, was vital for adapting the wider United Nations to the global realities of the twenty-first century.
He said that Ukraine considered both directions of reform a priority, including increasing the membership of the Council and improving its working methods. He believed that achieving progress in either of those spheres would bode well for the strengthening of the Security Council and the Organization as a whole. Ukraine supported increased representation in the Security Council of developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
He also strongly believed that the overall enhancement in the Security Council composition should be based on the existing regional approach. Taking into account the interests of all regional groups in that process was an absolute necessity. In this context, any increase in the membership should entail an enhanced representation for the Group of Eastern European States by allocating to it of one additional non-permanent seat.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), aligning with the statement delivered yesterday on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), said that developments this year on the question of membership of the Security Council showed that the international community was deeply split on the question. While acknowledging that the Council needed to be expanded, it had not been possible for member States to agree on how to move towards that end, as underlined in Assembly Resolution 47/62. They had failed to show flexibility, despite general recognition of the importance of Council reform. Indeed some groups had hardened their positions, so that there had been no progress since 1992. “We need to rise above our well known positions and… reach out to other groups and Member States to ensure the reform”, he said.
Malaysia supported expansion of membership in both categories and, more importantly, sought an end to the veto for any Council Members, calling it “undemocratic”. Until that time, he urged permanent members to avoid using that power unjustly and against the interest of the majority of United Nations Member States. In addition, he was open to the concept of regional representation in the absence of clear and undisputed candidates for future permanent seats. To determine the number of members of a reformed Council, he suggested comparing the relative number of Member States to Council members in 1963, when the Council was last enlarged, with current numbers to extrapolate a number that would reflect the Council’s ability to represent the interests of all Member States.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) said today, yet again, the Assembly had an opportunity to make progress in a process that began almost twenty years ago. “It has been difficult. It has been frustrating. As we have done so many times in the past”, he said, “we also have an opportunity to pretend that we are negotiating when we know we are not.” Delegations reiterated their positions ad nauseum. They criticized each other’s positions ad nauseum. “We shall walk in with our statements and walk out, not bothering to listen or to speak with each other,” he said. It would be another missed opportunity like so may before it. He asked: “Are we really ready this time to seriously discuss the reform of the Security Council? Or are we engaged in a war of attrition, to grind each other into the ground until we give up?”
He went on to say that Zambia would not be worn down by a war of attrition; it was much more resilient than that. “ Africa is much more resilient than that.” The struggles and experiences Africans had gone through as a continent and as a people had been much more difficult than those negotiations. “We have been a necessary but inconvenient presence [but] not anymore,” he said, adding that those that had always been at “the bottom of the pile” were now determined to demand their rightful place at the table.
It was not understandable why anyone could conclude that adding two permanent and two non-permanent African States could erode the Security Council’s effectiveness. There should be concerns about extending the undemocratic veto, especially by those who extol the virtues of democracy “but want only to retain it for themselves” and not extend it to new members. “We demand equal treatment because we are entitled to it, as a continent, as a people,” he said. While his delegation looked forward to the next round of negotiations, Zambia hoped they would be “real” and lead to real progress. “ Zambia is ready. Africa is ready,” he said.
ALEXIS AQUINO ( Peru) said that the equitable representation in and expanded membership of the Security Council was one of the most essential aspects of the reform of the United Nations. The important and substantive discussions that had been held on the issue so far showed how vital it was that the Organization be attuned to the current international context, he stressed. Peru believed the United Nations should take advantage of the current moment to help the Council become more transparent and representative, while ensuring that it remained efficient and effective. At the current stage, he said, Member States should move to the drafting of text setting out clear alternatives for reform, and should provide the necessary political commitment.
Peru repeated its belief that new members — both permanent and non-permanent — must be included in a more modernized Council, and should represent an equitable geographical distribution. A commitment should ne entered into to restrict the use of the veto as a first step towards its elimination. It was important to arrive at a consensus establishing specific limits on the veto and to do away with it in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and repeated flagrant violations of human rights. “We must walk the talk” on those issues, he stressed, adding that the Council should also make progress on self-assessment of its work in order to better understand the actions that must be taken to improve its legitimacy. A real reform of that body’s working methods needed to be taken, with greater transparency achieved through more open meetings, more updates for the members on items on the Council’s agenda, and other changes.
Furthermore, he said the Council should hold meetings with troop-contributing countries before they considered matters. A regular practice of self-assessment and review was needed. The practice of holding open consultations on reports before they were drafted was a positive step, he said. But work was needed in order for practices of the Council to have “added value”, and not just be formal in nature. Peru reaffirmed its total willingness to move forward on the matter of reform and equitable representation of the Security Council.
GUILLERMO E. RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) said that at its sixty-third session, the Assembly took an important decision to launch intergovernmental negotiations on a comprehensive reform of the Council. After several years, and in light of last year’s experience where there were several attempts to push forward, today was an opportune moment to reflect on what had been accomplished thus far. While the debate of the past year had shown that the membership remained fundamentally divided, he believed that convergence among Member States was not out of reach.
There was broad agreement on the need for an increase in the size of the Council, while keeping in mind the need to ensure that the Council remained effective. He said that recent actions by the Security Council regarding situations in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire had demonstrated the value of swift and decisive action. Those examples were in swift contrast to the lack of an effective response to the situation in Syria. In considering the reforms of the size and composition of the Council, he said that, “we must not lose sight of the need for unity of purpose among Council members and a willingness to act”.
Canada was encouraged by the number of informal meetings held around the world that allowed for informal, constructive discussions across groups or interests. But it was quite clear, he continued, that serious disagreements remained on a number of issues, such as categories of membership. The Security Council could not be effectively reformed by simply “extending the privileges of a few to a few more”, through the addition of permanent seats. Canada believed that in order to achieve a democratic and transparent reform, there needed to be an increase in elected non-permanent members.
It was for that reason that Canada wished to explore intermediate options, such as adding more elected seats, with the possibility or re-election or with slightly longer terms up to 3-5 years, which might satisfy the need to recognize the special contributions that some Member States made to the United Nations, while maintaining the necessary accountability to the broader membership. While there were still many specifics to be considered, further exploration of intermediate options currently under consideration offered the best chance of unlocking the current stalemate.
LUIS-ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico) said that continuing the reform process was necessary, and that to achieve that goal, a “constructive and flexible spirit” was needed. During the Assembly’s previous session, intergovernmental negotiations had been disrupted by attempts to institute partial reform, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of member States. Those actions had exacerbated divisions between Member States, and Mexico trusted that they would not be repeated. Instead, States should seek alternative positions to make it possible for the various groups to come closer together.
He went on to say that on 18 June, an international meeting had been held in Mexico to explore in greater detail an intermediate measure to break the current impasse. The reform of the Council required the broadest possible support of members. Mexico, together with the other members of the “Uniting for Consensus” Group, had made a specific proposal for an intermediate solution, and hoped others would show the same flexibility. Reform must not mean allowing more “anachronistic” privileges “for the few”. Thus Mexico did not support the establishment of new permanent members of the Council, as that would restrict access to the body’s work as well as its ability to attune itself to the changing world.
Moreover, he said, that category of membership ran counter to the basic principle of equality between States. The principle of immediate re-election of members, as well as of the extension of members, had been established. Those practices would attune the Council to new regional balances while allowing those who wished to play a more active role in the Council’s work to do so. Mexico was also in favour of other related proposals, including the elimination of the veto power used by the five current permanent members of the Council. “If we debate just to rehearse the positions that we have voiced over the past 17 years, we will get nowhere”, he stressed. Instead, Member States needed to show the political will to negotiate seriously and to seek a compromise solution acceptable to all.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said the Council needed reform, but as had been witnessed in Libya, it was an extraordinary tool to be used for international security. But with extraordinary power came extraordinary responsibility, which must be exercised on behalf of all countries, large and small. A reformed Council must give power to India or Japan, but just as it must recognize larger powers, it must also serve small States, after all, most countries were small, and it was crucial to the United Nations universality that they could contribute at the Council table.
There were real risks in the process, for example, he said emerging powers would be denied a role of their significance, and small States would be left out and the United Nations would suffer. The conclusions were not novel or surprising, and like the debate and the intergovernmental negotiations, they were unlikely to change the world, but they provided a foundation to see where the debate was going and what needed to happen.
Despite assertions and intense efforts, particularly those of the Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations Ambassador Tannin, the debate on reform had stagnated. Flexibility was required so as not to repeat the conversation again and again two years later, and so on. The basis for compromise was an intermediate model. The terms of it needed to be developed and kept general to express the willingness to work with each other, and not espouse details that might not be achievable. Above all, he said, in working with others, there would be genuine authority to negotiate. He looked forward to hearing views on the intermediate model.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that there was “a new reality today”, and as a result, there was greater awareness of the Council’s limitations and the geographical imbalance in its membership. Kazakhstan reiterated its commitment to reforming the Council on both those fronts. With a view to enhance regional representation, she reaffirmed her delegation’s position on increasing the Council’s membership from 15 to 25 by establishing six permanent and four non-permanent members, per the generally agreed principle of regional allocations.
She said that the proposal to increase the number of non-permanent seats was based on the principle of fair and equitable representation. For example, if there was one additional seat for the Asian group, each of its countries, through a system of rotation, would get the chance to serve as a non-permanent member on the Security Council once every 17-18 years.
Moving the negotiations forward demanded a new understanding to bridge the divergence of views between the vast majority of Member States, especially since most positively favoured an increase in the Council in both categories. Regional tensions needed to be overcome in the greater interests of the Council’s mandate to be effectively implemented and to bring the over two-decade-long process to a successful close. Furthermore, the proposals of the last intergovernmental negotiations should be carefully reviewed regarding the veto right, with all its implications, and a viable solution found. She added that improving the Council’s working methods was not an attempt to limit its power or subordinate it to the General Assembly, but rather to strengthen the Council.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said he wished to express his country’s appreciation for identifying the issue as a priority area of the General Assembly’s work. Turkey congratulated Ambassador Tanin for his leadership. It has been more than eight months since the seventh round of intergovernmental negotiations. He said delegations had also witnessed some initiatives from various groups of Member States. All those initiatives had failed to get the required support. As a result, he would like to emphasize once again the need for flexibility when approaching the issue of reform.
Continuing, he said that consensus and compromise were needed. If all Member States wished to see more accountability and transparency, they should be all prepared for reconsidering our positions to take things forward. The reforms could not be limited to a small group. They must be open to all States. Therefore, Turkey supported the intermediate solutions. Turkey also supported the five key areas of reform including categories of membership, the veto question, representation, and relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly. All of those issues should be addressed together, he said.
BUKUN-OLU ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said his delegation remained committed to an inclusive, comprehensive and holistic reform of the Security Council in size, scope and composition. He regretted the current impasse in intergovernmental negotiations, due to objections by certain delegations, noting that the need to consider all options presented by Member States should not be used to stall the commencement of real negotiations. The “vast majority” of Member States craved early reform of the Council in accordance with objectives set out by the 2005 World Summit Outcome and the 2000 Millennium Declaration, he said. In addition, any proposals that sought to jeopardize Africa’s legitimate demand for a permanent seat on the Council would not meet global expectations. He supported expansion of the Council in both membership categories.
Noting that the reform model seeking such expansion had significant support, he said that it should serve as the basis for further negotiations and that the “L69” group’s proposal for a draft resolution to that effect was most practicable. The objective of reform was to make the Council more democratic, representative and transparent, and to improve access to non-Council members. Therefore it should accomplish, among others, redress the historic injustice done to Africa, unrepresented in the permanent seat category and underrepresented in non-permanent seats, with special consideration of Africa’s demand for a permanent seat and additional non-permanent seats; address the under-representation of developing States in Asia and Latin America, including small island States; the addition of 11 new seats; and comprehensive improvement in working methods.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA ( Equatorial Guinea) hoped that the reform process would acquire a new impetus, and would move to a negotiating phase that would wrap up a process that had been ongoing for decades. In 1992, he recalled, during the forty-seventh session, the General Assembly had adopted resolution 47/62, and the Secretary-General had issued a subsequent report on reform. Today it would be appropriate for the Assembly to provide some “encouraging signs” towards the effective reform of the Council, to take place during 2012. It seemed “inconceivable” that within the United Nations, where the respect for human rights, good governance and other matters were promoted and carried out in development activities, bodies such as the Security Council should remain under reform for some three decades.
As the current Chair of the African Union, he endorsed the statements delivered by the representatives of Egypt and Sierra Leone on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, respectively. He reaffirmed the demands of the African continent to be “totally and fully represented” in all the decision-making organs of the United Nations. The demand for at least four seats on the Council, including both permanent and non-permanent, should be viewed as a fair demand and an inalienable rights in the context of today’s world, he stressed; the delegation therefore reasserted the position of the African Union that an agreement on those principles must be reached before any text was drafted.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation ) said the Security Council was one of the most important and complex items now on the Organization’s agenda. There had been seven rounds of intergovernmental negotiations but a broad-based solution had not been reviewed. To blame those running the negotiating process would not be correct; there was something deeper. Many States would try to entrench their positions. He was in favour making the Council representative, and compact — not more than 20 members. The Russian Federation could not accept some of the issues, for example, regarding veto power. In addition, the veto was an important factor that moved the permanent members and others to seek balanced decisions. He was convinced the issue of reform could not be solved arithmetically.
He went on to say that certain groups wanted to just expand their scope of initiatives. Achieving desired reforms meant that it was politically necessary to ensure the support of many more Member States than the two-thirds majority legally required of the General Assembly. At the same time, the level of progress did not allow for a universal formula for reform. The approaches of the Member States were quite divergent and there was no alternative but to work with patience to bring negotiating positions closer. He would support negotiating process, and said the reform effort should be transparent, inclusive, and fair without artificial time limits. In conclusion, the reform depended on political will to find a compromise solution.
NIKOLAI OVSYANKO ( Belarus) sought a more balanced, more equitable composition of the Security Council with due consideration given to all regional groups, and strongly advocated for an additional non-permanent seat for the group of Eastern European countries. Belarus stood for bridging the positions of Member States and seeking a comprehensive formula for reform in all main aspects of the Council’s activities, in keeping with present day realities. Belarus opposed any hasty attempts to push through reform before general agreement was reached, as that could have a negative impact on further reform.
Stressing the importance of improving the Council’s working methods, particularly regarding transparency in decision making, greater opportunity for the participation of the general membership in deliberations, including by States those deliberations would affect, and better access to information, he said that non-members of the Council should also have access to meetings of its subsidiary bodies. They should also participate in drafting resolutions and Presidential Statements, when appropriate, before decisions were taken on them. In addition, closer cooperation was needed between the Council and troop-contributing countries and the practice of holding open debates and briefings for non-members should be expanded. Enhancement of working methods should be an ongoing process. The Council’s agenda should not overstep issues within the purview of the Assembly, Economic and Social Council or the Human Rights Council.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said that, as a member of the “Uniting for Consensus” Group, his delegation’s position was well known; it supported the intergovernmental negotiation process and believed that any attempt to ignore consensus was “totally inappropriate”. Colombia was concerned that attempts were being made in an arbitrary fashion to place emphasis on some elements of reform, and not others, which were of no less importance. The majority of United Nations Member States desired transparency and reform. The Group had shown considerable flexibility and had made clear that it would accept compromise. Therefore, other States must also show willingness to engage in dialogue.
Reform must reflect the needs of States, in particular developing States, which had always been underrepresented in the Council. Colombia also felt that it was inappropriate to increase the number of permanent members of the Council, or to impose artificial deadlines. Furthermore, he stressed, the Council’s invocation of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter “should be the exception, and not the rule.” Other parts of the Charter should be referenced in matters that were not a “true” threat to international peace and security. Indeed, Chapter VII should only be used when all other options had been exhausted. The path leading to reform could only be attained through general agreement, he concluded, reiterating that Colombia was fully ready to play its part in that process.
MEHDI EL MEJERBI ( Libya) said the constantly changing variables of the international arena required changes in the modus operandi of the Council. Such changes were needed if that body was to maintain the speed and relevance necessary to address threats to international peace and security. The recent Arab revolutions had proven the need for a response from the United Nations for the maintenance of peace and the protection of thousands of civilians. Indeed, the “new Libya” looked forward to establishing a State free of dictatorship, and was well aware of the importance of democracy. It looked forward to the reform of the Council, which it supported through the position of the African Group and its Ezulwini Consensus.
It was critical to rectify the historic injustice which had befallen Africa, and to help end its marginalization, through representation in the permanent membership of the Security Council. He said that reform of that body should also include actual improvements to its working methods and procedures. Transparency should be increased and non-members should be included in discussions of issues that directly concerned them. Many people around the world yearend to live in peace and safety and to fight the poverty and ignorance that threatened their security, he said. All Member States shouldered the burden of reform, which was one of the most important means of carrying out those aspirations.
DIEGO LIMERES ( Argentina) said the multilateral system depended on clear rules and thus the Council played a central role in international peace and security. It was important that Council actions be based on law and legitimacy and they must be as democratic as possible. However, the best way of achieving a responsible Council was through increasing its elected members rather than enhancing the privileges of the five permanent members. Argentina fully supported the reform process but would like to see it carried out with the broadest level of consensus among the United Nations membership.
He said his delegation was prepared to continue working for viable reform, including through exploring an intermediary way of reaching consensus. Reforming the Council by agreeing that non-permanent Members could serve longer terms might meet with general agreement. Relevant meetings on the matter held in Italy and Mexico showed that there was broad consensus that Security Council reform was necessary. During the Mexico meeting it had become clear that reforming the Council’s working methods didn’t require changes to the Charter and thus, was viable. In conclusion, he said that no reform exercise would be successful if delegations were unwilling to shift from long-held positions, and he urged all Member States to be flexible and move forward in the spirit of compromise.
SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his delegation wished to take the opportunity to clarify once again its position regarding Japan’s “candidature” to permanent membership in the Security Council. Japan had militarily occupied Korea and many other Asian countries for several decades in the first half of the twentieth century and had committed “the most heinous crimes against humanity in the history of the humankind”. Notwithstanding that, Japan had not yet made sincere apology and compensation for those crimes. On the contrary, it had distorted history and even “beautified and justified its crimes”. That being the case, Japan had no political and moral qualifications to become a permanent member of the Security Council. He said that Japan should follow the example of Germany to clearly liquidate its past and win the trust of the international community before eyeing for a seat of the Security Council.
Interference in internal affairs of and use of force against sovereign States was becoming “undistinguished” under the pretext of protection of civilians and the Security Council had played a role in blurring the issue. International law and order were violated by the high-handedness and arbitrariness of certain countries, he said. That prevailing reality demanded that Member States reaffirm the principle of safeguarding peace and sovereign equality enshrined in the Charter. They must also speed up the overall reform process of, including revamping, the Security Council. For its part, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would hope that a mechanism could be established whereby Security Council resolutions deciding on sanctions and use of armed forces that are directly related to peace and security would become effective only following final approval by the General Assembly. “By doing so, we will be able to check the arbitrariness of some specific countries and fully represent the will of the all 193 United Nations Member States,” he said.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said that it was firmly in favour of the President’s commitment to the issue of Security Council reform, and its decision to reappoint Ambassador Tanin. Nicaragua joined with the permanent representative of Jamaica, who had spoken yesterday on behalf of the diverse “L69” Group. Nicaragua had, from the outset, supported its brothers in African, Arab, land-locked and other States, which needed to be represented in order to make the Council a truly representative and democratic body. She therefore called for the expansion of the Security Council in both categories of membership, bringing it to a total number of 25 or 26 countries that were geographically representative of the wider United Nations. Further, new permanent members must hold all the rights and privileges in line with that category, she stressed.
Another important aspect to consider was the vital relationship between the Council and the General Assembly, she continued. That relationship must be examined and changed in all its dimension. The working methods of the Council left much to be desired, she said, urging that those methods become tools to turn the Council into a fair and democratic body. Nicaragua trusted that intergovernmental negotiations would be resumed as quickly as possible, and that States would provide the necessary political will to democratize that body, as well as to ensure its efficacy and legitimacy.
ABUZIED MOHAMED ( Sudan) noted that the intergovernmental negotiations had not achieved results over the past year and the issue of equitable representation in the Security Council had not seen significant progress. Reforming the Council through that negotiating process was important and would be in line with Assembly decision 62/557. The exercise should be conducted in a transparent and democratic framework that reflected the realities that took place in international relations since World War II. Revamping the Council did not mean enlarging permanent categories alone; it should improve that body’s decision-making and working methods to render it more transparent and equitable. In that connection, decision-making processes should be bolstered with an eye towards multilateral cooperation to tackle current challenges that couldn’t be addressed in a narrow or limited manner.
He urged abolishing the veto power or limiting its use. On the enlargement of membership, he stressed that it was important for any enlargement to be based on the principle of equitable representation of the permanent and non-permanent category. He supported the position of the African Union that expanding the Council’s non-permanent alone was not acceptable as it would not remove the historic injustice of Africa. Moreover, he said, enlargement of membership alone would “deform rather than reform” the Security Council.
NIMA OME ( Bhutan) said that since the Assembly’s 2005 World Summit, the global leaders had continued to call for early reform of the Security Council, as an essential element of the overall reform of the United Nations. Even during the general debate of the current session, many leaders had reiterated the call for such early reform. She was of the view that in the last two years, substantial progress had been made in effort to move the intergovernmental negotiating process forward. Seven rounds of those talks had taken place, and member countries had spelled out respective positions on key issues. A number of proposals had been initiated, and the G4 initiative to launch a brief resolution calling for expansion of the Security Council received much support, reflecting the wish of the vast majority of Member States for expansion of the Council in both categories of membership.
On the issue of the right of veto, she believed majority support was for extension of it to all permanent members of the Security Council, whether newly created or current, as both had equal responsibility for maintenance of international peace and security and should be eligible to the same rights. On other key issues, she believed the differences were a minimum and consensus was achievable. She hoped the next round of intergovernmental negotiations would resume soon, would build on progress achieved and work towards bringing concrete reform.
HELEN BECK ( Solomon Islands), joining with the statement delivered yesterday on behalf of the “L69” Group, recalled that, in September, more than 100 countries had once again made the call for expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent seats in the Security Council. As the process moved into its third year of intergovernmental negotiations, Solomon islands was concerned about the need to have a more regular discussions to prevent those negotiations from becoming “circular”. The slow pace of the talks could also be increased, she said.
The world had changed, including its political and economic dynamics. More developing countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America should be on expanded permanent seats of the Council. Meanwhile, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States should be represented in the non-permanent membership category. Also of importance to the Solomon Islands was a set for small islands developing States, which should be included in the non-permanent category. While her delegation would have liked to see the veto totally eliminated, if it were retained, its full rights and privileges must be extended to all permanent members of the Council, with no exceptions.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said his delegation believed that the Security Council reform process should not be merely viewed as an opportunity to score maximum national gains. Rather, it should be seen as an indispensable responsibility for all; a responsibility and a necessity that was long overdue and that if taken in a way that could garner the widest possible political acceptance by member States, the United Nations and the wider international community would benefit. The size and the working methods of the Council were two of the most important aspects that should be considered when reforming that body. Iran concurred with the view that the Council’s composition did not reflect the realities of the international community today.
Whereas under Charter, the General Assembly, as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations, was primarily entrusted with the task of progressive development and codification of international law, “we have been witnessing an alarming trend in which the Security Council has been increasingly involved in law-making and norm-setting practices”. That was a disturbing trend that ran counter to the letter and spirit of the Charter and should be checked and reversed. He said that the “unnecessary and quick” resort to Chapter VII of the Charter, and the threat or use of sanctions in cases where no action had even been necessary, were other issues of concern for the general membership and which had hurt the credibility and legitimacy of the Council’s decisions.
Since the Organization’s very beginnings, the veto power had raised concerns and evoked criticism on various grounds by a significant majority of Member States. He said there was a strong sense of injustice and discrimination between the “haves and have-nots”. In fact, veto was a non-democratic and non-constructive instrument that undermined the possibility of action by the Council in many cases where action was needed and injected inactivity to this body. Therefore, elimination of veto power formed an ideal for most delegations. Iran believed that meaningful reform of the Council would be possible only through addressing the aforesaid shortcomings and also through dealing with the question of underrepresentation of developing and Muslim countries in its work in a serious and meaningful manner.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Japan said that his delegation regretted having to respond to allegations made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Japan had been making serious efforts to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, he stressed. It contributed to the Security Council’s work in a responsible and constructive manner. His delegation could not accept the references made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Since the end of World War II, Japan had been acting with consistency and had sought to demonstrate its respect for peace, democracy and human rights. It stood ready to continue to do so.
In response the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that, as he had previously stated, his delegation called on Japan to acknowledge its responsibility for all past crimes, including sexual slavery, the drafting of 8.4 million Koreans into war and other crimes against humanity. Japan had not yet made an apology or rendered compensation; it therefore had no political or moral qualifications to become a permanent member of the Security Council.
Taking the floor again, the representative of Japan, said that his delegation had explained its position on the issues raised by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It would not enter into a detailed response to that statement. Instead, suffice to say that Japan could not accept those comments. It was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would use the current venue, which was reserved to discuss the issue of Security Council reform, to voice such unfounded allegations.
* *** *For information media • not an official record