General Assembly critiques report of high-level panel on world challenges

1 February 2005 –

In a wide-ranging critique of a high-level panel's report on the challenges facing the United Nations, members of the General Assembly have questioned what they see as the panel's inadequate treatment of the role that economic development plays in safeguarding collective security, according to Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon.

Among the 97 speakers, mainly ambassadors, who took the floor in six informal sessions recently, many also expressed concern about the emphasis by the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change on limiting weapons proliferation at the expense of promoting disarmament, he said in his summary of the debate.

The Assembly talks were part of a series of discussions leading to a meeting of Heads of State and government at the 60th session of the General Assembly in September.

The High-level Panel was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi "to assess current threats to international peace and security; to evaluate how our existing policies and institutions have done in addressing those threats; and to make recommendations for strengthening the United Nations so that it can provide collective security for all in the twenty-first century."

At present, five of the 15 Security Council members – China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States – are permanent, their interests are protected by vetoes and they are expected to carry extra responsibilities for international security.

On the changing role of the Security Council since the UN was established at the end of World War II, the Panel says decisions can no longer be implemented by the members of the Security Council only, "but require extensive military, financial and political involvement by other States."

Mr. Ping's summary of the Assembly's discussion said reforms to make the Council more representative, efficient and transparent would mean not only adding more members, but also improving its methods of work and its decision-making mechanisms.

On another security consideration, many delegations said that while they recognized the threat that weapons of mass destruction posed for international peace and security, they disagreed that the emphasis should be on stopping proliferation at the expense of undertaking negotiations for disarmament, he said.

Similarly, they regretted that the Panel had failed to examine the dangers of the flood of small arms around the world, he added.

On the question of socio-economic development of the poorer Member States, many speakers "deplored the fact that the report, while recognizing the central place of development in the system of collective security did not examine this more extensively," Mr. Ping said.

"In addition, some speakers said they were concerned that the report tended to present the question of development only from a security angle that was too narrow."

The report says: "By the 1980s, many of (the) new States faced crises of State capacity and legitimacy, reflected in the rise of internal wars as the dominant form of warfare in the second half of the twentieth century."

Many delegates felt that consultations on the reform and restructuring of the United Nations should not be limited solely to the recommendations contained in the High-level Panel's report and its focus on the Security Council should not alter even further the role and authority of the General Assembly as the principal deliberative body of the United Nations, Mr. Ping said.

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