LEGAL IMPLICATION OF DRAFT ON SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM COULD DAMAGE CHARTER, GERMANY TELLS ASSEMBLY DEBATE FOCUSING ON ENLARGING COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP
LEGAL IMPLICATION OF DRAFT ON SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM COULD DAMAGE CHARTER, GERMANY TELLS ASSEMBLY DEBATE FOCUSING ON ENLARGING COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP
LEGAL IMPLICATION OF DRAFT ON SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM COULD DAMAGE CHARTER, GERMANY TELLS ASSEMBLY DEBATE FOCUSING ON ENLARGING COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP19981120 Belgium Tables Amendments to Text Said to Clarify Legal Ambiguities and Protect Charter of United Nations
The legal implications of the proposed draft resolution on Security Council reform went beyond reform of that body and could be used to create obstacles for the advancement of other important causes, the representative of Germany told the General Assembly this morning as it continued debate on question of Council reform, including increase in its membership.
The Assembly was considering a text that, if adopted, would have it emphasise that any resolution with Charter amendment implication -- among which would be a decision to change the Security Council membership -- must be adopted by the two-thirds majority of United Nations membership, as referred to in Article 108 of the Charter. The Assembly would also note the heads of State of the Non-Aligned Movement determination that any resolution with Charter amendment implication must be adopted by the two-thirds majority referred to in Article 108.
[Article 108 of the Charter states that for an amendment to the present Charter to enter into force -- in addition to being adopted by a vote of two thirds of the General Assembly -- the amendment must be ratified by two thirds of the Organization's membership, including all permanent Council members, in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.]
Continuing this morning, the representative of Germany voiced concerned that damage might be done to the Charter and he appealed to the Assembly President to see to it that it was protected. Referring to deliberations of the Assembly Open-Ended Working Group on Council reform, he asked whether its five years of consideration of the issue were not enough. Suggesting the Assembly move forward to make the politically necessary decisions, he said: "If we do not act now, the Open-Ended Working Group risks becoming the never-ending Working Group".
The representative of Belgium this morning introduced a series of amendments to the draft which, he said, were intended to clarify legal
General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
ambiguities and make clear the meaning of "general agreement", as specified by the Assembly when it charged the Working Group with charting Council reform. While respecting the decision of the Non-Aligned Movement to apply the terms of Article 108 to Council reform resolutions as a political act, he questioned its literal transposition into a resolution of the Assembly. Calling for an impartial solution which would have a beneficial effect on other issues of Council reform, he said the amendments were not intended to favour some countries over others, but to protect the Charter of the United Nations.
The representative of Canada -- among sponsors of the draft resolution -- said the text was intended to settle the destabilizing question of the majority required to change the Council's composition. It was not intended to prejudge the outcome of any substantive question relating to that body's reform, nor was it to run contrary to the aspirations of regions or Member States. All members, especially those aspiring to permanent membership, would benefit from the adoption of the text since that could only enhance the legitimacy of a reformed Council as it faced the emerging challenges of the next century.
The representative of India said crucial to understanding the draft resolution was the fact that the decisions of the Non-Aligned Movement on Council reform were a package. The decision on Article 108 was one element in that package, with no special emphasis placed on it. To base a decision only on one element plucked from the package distorted the element. Additionally, the Non-Aligned Movement had not called for a decision this Assembly session on the application of Article 108 in isolation from, or before, agreement had been reached on the other issues before the Working Group.
The representative of Botswana said that the present composition of the Council's membership, especially its permanent member category, was predominantly Euro-centred. If some of the proposals before the Working Group were to find their way into the reformed Council, the European dominance of the Council would become even more pronounced. It was imperative to have a Council that was guided by the broader interests of the international community than narrow national interests of the powerful Member States in the Council.
In other action this morning, the Assembly appropriated $22 million gross for the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) for the period from 13 July 1998 to 30 June 1999. It took that action as it adopted a resolution on the financing of UNOMSIL recommended by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
Also this morning, the Assembly commemorated the ninth Africa Industrialization Day. Addressing the Assembly, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said that ultimately, only Africa's own initiative and imagination would make the difference between poverty and prosperity. The
General Assembly Plenary - 1b - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
continued fall of commodity prices could have a severe impact on Africa and the least developed countries. The United Nations would continue alerting the international community to the dangers of the present financial crisis and further engaging the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and major donors in efforts to contain it.
The President of the Assembly, Didier Opertti (Uruguay), also made a statement to the Assembly marking Industrialization Day.
Statements were made by the representatives of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, China, Malta, Indonesia, Fiji, Spain, New Zealand, Kuwait, Malaysia, Colombia, Viet Nam, and Ireland. Following the introduction of the amendments to the draft, Egypt and the United Kingdom also made brief statements. The Assembly meets at 3 p.m. today to continue its debate on Security Council Reform.
Assembly Work Programme
The Assembly met this morning to continue its debate on Security Council reform -- including equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Council -- and to discuss a related draft resolution and amendments to that draft. It was also expected to act on a draft approved by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the financing of United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).
Security Council Reform
By the terms of the draft resolution on Security Council reform (document A/53/L.16), the Assembly would note that while a convergence of views on a number of matters relating to enlargement and reform of the Council had emerged, important differences still existed on many others; and that the Assembly Open-ended Working Group reviewing reform had not yet reached the general agreement called for by the Assembly when it began efforts to chart Council reform, by adopting resolution 48/26 during its forty-eighth session.
By the draft, the Assembly would note that the heads of State or government of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in South Africa in September, in discussing Council reform, had reaffirmed the determination that any resolution with Charter amendment implications must be adopted by the two-thirds majority of United Nations Members as referred to in Article 108 of the Charter.
(Article 108 states that: amendments to the present Charter shall come into force when adopted by a two-thirds majority of General Assembly members and ratified, in accordance with their respective constitutional process, by two thirds of United Nations Members, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.)
The Assembly, if adopting the draft text now before it, would emphasize that any resolutions with Charter amendment implications must be adopted by the two-thirds majority of the United Nations Members referred to in Article 108 of the Charter. Stressing that the matter of Council reform, deserved urgent attention, the Assembly would also stress that reform was of such fundamental importance that it could not be subjected to any imposed time-frame, and therefore it would recognize the need to allow Member States adequate time to further reflect on the question.
Also, the Assembly would reiterate that the Open-ended Working Group would continue its work in 1999 in order to examine all proposals and submit a report to the General Assembly before the end of its fifty-third session.
Co-sponsoring the draft are: Afghanistan; Argentina; Canada; Colombia; Egypt; Equatorial Guinea; Fiji; Gambia; Indonesia; Italy; Lebanon; Malta; Mexico; New Zealand; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Qatar; Republic of Korea; San
General Assembly Plenary - 3 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
Marino; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Spain; Swaziland; Syria; Turkey; and Zimbabwe.
Also before the Assembly are amendments to the draft (document A/53/L.42). The proposed amendments are as follows: in the fourth preambular paragraph, the words "matters relating to" would be deleted; in the fifth preambular paragraph, the words "which reaffirmed the determination" would be replaced by the words "which, inter alia, reaffirmed their determination"; and the sixth preambular paragraph would also be deleted.
By other proposed amendments, operative paragraph 1 would be reworded to read as follows: "Stresses that the matter of Security Council reform deserves urgent attention, while recognizing the need to allow Member States adequate time to further reflect on the question with a view to identifying solutions on which general agreement can be reached"; and, operative paragraph 2 would be replaced by the phrase: "Considers that the notion of general agreement referred to in its resolution 48/26 implied the consent of no less than two thirds of the States Members of the United Nations".
Co-sponsoring the amendment are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States and Uzbekistan.
Fifth Committee Report
Before the Assembly was the report of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) (document A/53/680) containing a draft resolution on financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL). By the terms of the draft, the General Assembly would decide to appropriate $22 million gross (about $21.3 million net) for the establishment and operation of UNOMSIL from 13 July 1998 to 30 June 1999, which would include deployment costs of $783,700 gross for 17 April to 12 July 1998 and some $10.6 million gross ($10.4 million net) previously authorized by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for 13 July to 13 November 1998.
It would also decide to apportion some $12.9 million among Member States for 13 July 1998 to 13 January 1999 and to apportion about $9.1 million for 14 January to 30 June 1999 at a monthly rate of some $1.6 million.
Africa Industrialization Day
DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), President of the Assembly, said that today marked the ninth anniversary of Africa Industrialization Day, held to raise awareness and harness international support for the continent's industrial development. He commended the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), as well as the Economic Commission for Africa for
General Assembly Plenary - 4 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
organizing today's events. As this was the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997 to 2006), the Assembly called for decisive national action and international cooperation to further that end. He reminded the international community that nearly half of Africa's population lived on less than a dollar a day, with 34 of the 48 least developed countries on the African continent.
Poverty eradication was about giving the poor access to services and opportunities, which meant helping the poor to help themselves, he said. Industrialization would be the driving force of dynamic and competitive economies. The past two hundred years had shown that industrialization was closely linked to rapid progress in poverty eradication, as it created and expanded employment. It also raised incomes, added value to agricultural products and stimulated technological advances, as well as generated revenues for governments to alleviate poverty.
He went on to say that recent economic revival in many African countries had sparked renewed optimism in the economic future of the region. Africa, as a whole, had grown by more than 4 per cent annually during the past three years, which was the highest rate experienced on the continent in 20 years. Challenges to that growth resulting from the global economic crisis would be difficult to overcome and required concerted efforts on both the national and international levels. Falling commodity prices and increasing competition from low-price imports from other regions were reducing demand for Africa's exports. At the national level, African countries needed to maintain sound macro-economic policies and press ahead with economic reforms. That included creating conditions conducive to investment, to reduce the independence on a few commodity prices, and diversify and modernize their private sector.
At the international level, the international community must do more to support Africa's efforts, he added, by providing immediate debt relief particularly to the highly-indebted least developed countries. Additional efforts must be undertaken to improve Africa's access to foreign markets, encourage foreign investments and increase official development assistance (ODA). The United Nations family must work more closely to mobilize resources and expertise in support of Africa's development.
LOUISE FRECHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Secretary-General recently reporting on the causes of African conflicts and means to support peace and stability on the continent had emphasized the need to combine efforts aimed at securing peace with steps towards ending Africa's poverty. Poverty eradication would require promotion of investment and economic growth, ensuring adequate international aid; reducing debt burdens; and opening international markets to Africa's products. An occasional good harvest and rising commodity prices were not sufficient to sustain economic recovery and growth. The development of the manufacturing sector as the principal engine of economic growth and employment generation was pivotal to ensuring stability, peace and prosperity of nations.
General Assembly Plenary - 5 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
Today's commemoration took place at a critical juncture in the development of the global economy, she said. The continued fall of commodity prices could have a severe impact on Africa and the least developed countries. The United Nations would continue alerting the international community to that danger and further engaging the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and major donors in efforts to contain the crisis.
Four elements critical to competitiveness -- infrastructure, governance, skills and technology -- depended on the State working in partnership with the private sector, she said. African nations must take the lead in promoting private sector-led industrial transformation. The international community would continue to play its catalytic role, but ultimately, only Africa's own initiative and imagination would make the difference between poverty and prosperity. Only Africa's own determination to end the conflicts that plagued many of its peoples could make the difference between lasting stability and endless suffering.
Fifth Committee Report
The Assembly then decided to adopt, without a vote, the text financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).
Reform of Security Council
KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that it was with regret that there had been no consensus or general agreement on the Council's reform. During the whole process of discussions, Member States showed no room for any concession or compromise, but had only repeated their previous individual positions. In particular, the expansion of the Council's permanent membership remained a source of acute confrontation among individual countries and groups. The crux of the matter concerned the expansion of permanent membership. Furthermore, the discussions up to now had shown that it would be very difficult to resolve conflicting views held by countries, in the near future.
Frankly speaking, he said discussions on permanent category expansion caused serious conflict of interests among countries because it would allow for privileged positions within the United Nations. That inevitability was the reason the discussions had borne no results in five years. His delegation had suggested, on several occasions, putting the issue of permanent membership expansion on the back burner, while proceeding with easily agreeable expansion of non-permanent category. That appeared to be the only realistic way to democratize the Council.
He said that his Government opposed predetermining Japan as a permanent member, for that would be tantamount to tolerating Japan's past crimes and would have a negative affect on the situation in North-East Asia. Furthermore, its membership would bring about a concentration of permanent
General Assembly Plenary - 6 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
members in that region of the world, creating a detriment to the goal of equitable geographical representation. No time-frame should be imposed on the reform efforts and any resolution with Charter amendment implications should be adopted by the two-thirds majority referred to in Article 108 of the Charter.
GEORGE SALIBA (Malta) said the procedures for enhancing consultations between the Council and the General Assembly were of immense value. Improved methods introduced in recent years, while nurturing the symbiotic relationship that should bond the Council and the Assembly, proved that conferring did not hinder the Council's ability to intervene with the required swiftness.
In seeking solutions, even on the type of expansion of the Council, the need for general agreement must be underscored, he said. There had been much debate and controversy over what constituted a general agreement. "This should not be seen in quantitative terms, but rather it should be viewed as a guarantee that solutions have the political support to come to fruition." If agreement was to be reached on such a sensitive issue, it must be comprehensive to stand the test of time. Quick-fix solutions and staged approaches could undermine the credibility of the reform effort.
He said the importance of agreement on Council expansion could neither be undermined nor underestimated. That was an achievement that required further elucidation as to its nature, scope, and type. One of the important objectives of any enlargement of the Council's membership must be an effort to ensure balance and equity in its composition, in terms of the present increased United Nations membership. Regional and geographical considerations must be taken into account, as well as the need to provide reasonable opportunities for all Members to serve. Consensus on the question of the categories of an expanded Council continued to be evasive and discussion on the issue of permanent membership had raised questions. How could one determine permanence based on criteria that were themselves non-permanent and changed over time? he asked.
LEGWAILA J.M.J. LEGWAILA (Botswana) said that the present composition of the Council's membership, especially its permanent member category, was predominantly Euro-centered. Also, if some of the proposals before the Working Group found their way into the reformed Council, the European dominance of the Council would become even more pronounced.
The Council had shown serious deficiencies recently in addressing internal conflicts, he said. Therefore, it was imperative to have a Council that was guided by the broader interests of the international community, rather than narrow national interests of the powerful Member States in the Council.
Security Council reform would not be complete without the improvement of the Council's working methods and decision-making processes, he said. The
General Assembly Plenary - 7 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
Council had to resort, more than ever before, to using general debates on all issues of international concern. The utility of informal consultations was not doubtful.
However, he said, informal consultations should not replace formal meetings in which all Member States could participate and their point of view taken into consideration when the Council made its final decisions. The more meetings were open to the rest of the Organization's membership, the more Member States would feel they had the collective ownership of and the collective responsibility for the decisions and actions taken by the Council. Otherwise, they would only have had themselves to blame if they did not make their views known.
MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said if the sacrosanct principle of majority will was to prevail, it was only logical that any resolution with Charter amendment implications must necessarily be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the United Nations membership, as stipulated in Article 108. The Non-Aligned Movement resoundingly reaffirmed that principle two months ago at its twelfth summit in Durban, South Africa.
It was, therefore, imperative that the deliberations in the Open-Ended Working Group be continued, he said. The draft resolution, which reflected the basic position of the Non-Aligned Movement, rightly stressed that Security Council reform should not be subjected to any imposed time frame, as it would have a negative impact and could widen the schism that already existed among the Member States. The resolution portrayed a realistic and balanced view of the developments that had taken place in the protracted deliberations of the Working Group. Further, the draft resolution was of a procedural and not substantive nature.
POSECI W. BUNE (Fiji) reiterated his country's concern over the inequitable and undemocratic geographic representation in the membership of the Security Council and said that his delegation had proposed that permanent membership be increased from five to 10 members. The additional five seats should be allocated as follows; one to Japan, one to Germany, one to Asia, one to Latin America and the Caribbean, and one to Africa. His delegation was mindful, however, of the vast amount of considerations expressed over similar proposals and was also conscious of the issue of unanimity in various regional groups. In view of the complexity of the issue, his delegation believed that it was necessary to prioritize the approach to the reform and give immediate priority to the increase of the non-permanent membership of the Council, where it was possible to find consensus. Fiji continued to recommend that non-permanent membership be increased from 10 to 17.
The issue of fairness, justice and democracy could be adequately addressed by a system of rotation in order to ensure that each country enjoyed the democratic right to serve on the Council, he said. He supported the retention of the ban on immediate re-election, and called on other regional
General Assembly Plenary - 8 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
groups to emulate the fine example of Africa where the principle of rotation had worked very well for a number of years. All permanent members should have similar powers, including the veto power. However, the veto power was anachronistic and should be eliminated. If it were to be retained at all, then its scope and use must apply only to the issues covered by Chapter VII of the Charter. His country was pleased with the increase of frequency of briefings provided by the Council to Member States. Fiji advocated a new and constructive relationship between the Council and the General Assembly, with the Assembly playing a complementary role in the work and decision-making capacity of the Council.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said that the item had been tremendously politicized. To his surprise, the co-sponsors of the draft had been accused of being obstructionists, creating unnecessary controversies and bringing about schisms in the Organization. What the draft pursued, however, was that any reform of the Council should be adopted by the largest majority provided for in the Charter, the majority of Article 108. That was based on historical, legal, political and sheer common sense reasons. Any reform carried out by a different and lesser majority would be unreasonable, if not a fraud.
The text was transparent, straightforward and of a purely procedural nature, he said. Spain was in favour of reform, which it deemed necessary, urgent and undeferrable. Council reform had to be carried out in a legitimate manner and be adopted by the widest majority legally established in the Charter to avoid creating a confrontational and divisive atmosphere. Who was afraid of Article 108 and for what reasons? he asked.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said that general agreement on a comprehensive reform package was unlikely to be achieved without an understanding on the future scope and application of the veto. There was an overwhelming agreement that any resolution with Charter amendment implications must be adopted by two thirds of the United Nations membership, as referred to in Article 108 of the Charter. A decision to enlarge the membership of the Council, including increasing the number of permanent members, was of a quite different order to the kinds of decisions covered by the procedures included in Article 18, which required only a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Small countries, including his own, had a strong interest in ensuring that any decision taken by the General Assembly on reform of the Security Council was made in accordance with the largest possible required majority.
It was difficult to understand how equitable representation could be addressed without a review of the present regional groupings, he said. So far, such a review had not been undertaken. The present system locked in grave disparities in representation. Members of the African and Asian groups, in particular, had fewer opportunities to take part in the work of the Organization than members of smaller groups. In other words, the current
General Assembly Plenary - 9 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
regional groups were not only an anachronism, they clearly produced inequitable representation on the Security Council and elsewhere.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said that changes in the Council's size had to be driven by the increased membership of the Organization, and by the spirit and words of Article 23 of the Charter, on composition of the Council. The logic behind reform decisions had to be rooted in the fact that the Council represented all Member States, and that the Charter had very clearly defined the qualities that ought to inform the process of selection for Council membership.
Canada would oppose any proposals which did not put the needs of the Organization and its Member States first, he said. Also, it would oppose the aspirations of a few Member States to permanent membership, exclusively on the basis that such a decision would stand against so much of what the Organization had come to stand for: democracy; openness; accountability; and responsibility. It would continue to pursue all solutions aimed at enhancing the representativeness, credibility, accountability and effectiveness of a reformed Council.
The draft did not presume to address the many fundamental disagreements on the future shape and workings of the Council, he said. Its intention was exclusively to settle the persistently destabilizing question of the majority required to change the Council's composition. It was also not intended to prejudge the outcome of any substantive question relating to the Council's reform, nor was it to be considered to be contrary to the aspirations of any region or Member State. Canada strongly believed that all United Nations Members, especially those aspiring to permanent Council membership, would benefit from the adoption of the text before the Assembly. Its adoption could only enhance the legitimacy of a reformed Council as it faced the emerging challenges of the next century.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH.A.AL-OTAIBI (Kuwait) said that despite the agreement among Member States on the principle of reform, general agreement had not been reached on the particular changes. However, there was an agreement regarding a number of procedures of the Council. An increase in the membership of the Security Council was necessary, but it should not be substantial. Such an increase should be in harmony with the principles of equality and sovereignty of countries, as well as the principle of equitable geographical representation. He supported proposals aimed at further transparency, and the easy flow of information to and from the Council.
The measures already taken by the Council to improve its working methods and the solutions agreed upon in the Working Group should be codified without waiting for an agreement on the composition of the Council, he said. Further, his country also supported maintaining the mechanism to elect the
General Assembly Plenary - 10 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
non-permanent members of the Council in accordance with Article 23 of the Charter, which would allow small States to take part in the work of that body. Also, limits should be put on the scope and application of the veto power.
DIETER KASTRUP (Germany) said certain questions must be raised, including: was five years not sufficient for consideration of the issue; was there really need for another year to consider Security Council reform; had there not been enough reports of the Working Group; and, should the Assembly not leave the field of discussions and move forward to make the politically necessary decisions. "If we do not act now, the Open-Ended Working Group risks becoming the never-ending Working Group."
The report of the Working Group was more of a reason for concern and disappointment, he said. It was a technical paper that did not reflect the importance of the reform issue, let alone its political dimension. The report also lacked analysis, assessment, outlook and vision: thus, it lacked progress. Above all, the only substantial part of information was more or less hidden in the annexes. Sometimes it seemed that the Working Group was preventing Council reform, rather than making it happen. It seemed that procedural considerations, like when and how the Assembly should take a decision on Council reform, had become more and more important. It seemed such matters had been discussed almost more frequently than substance.
Addressing the issue of the draft before the Assembly, he said his delegation was still not ready to table a resolution on Security Council reform. He questioned why the co-sponsors of the text always want to preclude serious discussion, with something which did not yet exist. Were they afraid to present their own concrete reform project? Germany, like a large number of other countries, had serious doubts about the legality of the draft. "We are concerned that damage might be done to the Charter", he said. The legal implications of the proposed draft went beyond Security Council reform and could be used to create obstacles for the advancement of other important causes. He appealed to the President of the Assembly to see to it that Charter was protected. Further consultations were necessary once all delegations had spoken on the item. The President's support and guidance in the matter would be helpful. Despite the slow progress on the item so far, Germany still believed that there was still a chance for reform of the Council, he added.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that what was lacking was not ideas and proposals, but the necessary political will on the part of Member States, without which the entire undertaking would become an exercise in futility. He encouraged the President of the Assembly, who was also current Chairman of the Working Group, to use his skills to help break the present impasse and actively steer the process forward. The challenge ahead was to determine whether further examination of different aspects of Council reform could expedite the process of putting together that final, acceptable package.
General Assembly Plenary - 11 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
He said the upcoming discussions in the Group had to propel the process forward by putting together the necessary outline of a reform package, one that could be developed and refined to meet the requirement of general agreement. Due to strongly held national positions on a few vitally important issues, the Group had not been able to make any breakthroughs. It was not even in a position to submit any agreed recommendations on the substance of its work, except for the continuation of the Group's work at the Assembly's current session.
It was understandable that, given the complexity and diversity of the issue, Member States required adequate time to reflect on the previous discussions in the Working Group, he said. It was Malaysia's hope that when the Group reconvened, it would be able to consolidate various positions and offer agreed recommendations to the Assembly. Any form of recommendations, either substantive or procedural, had to be agreed on by the Working Group in accordance with the established practice in that body. Such recommendations had to encompass not only procedural questions, but, more importantly, the substantive issues that formed an integrated package of the reform exercise.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said two thirds of humanity was denied permanent representation in the Security Council of an Organization which was supposed to represent the "the peoples of the United Nations". In a flexible interpretation of the discharge of its mandate to preserve peace and security, the Council had begun to address economic, social, human rights, environmental and other issues, since it considered them relevant to the questions peace and security. In such a situation, it was all the more imperative that developing countries had an effective say in the decisions of the Council, since the vast majority of those problems existed in their part of the world.
He said any increase in permanent membership should be governed by objective, not subjective and selective, criteria. "India believed that on any objective grounds, it would be considered as qualified for participation in the expanded membership of the Council", he said. Permanent members were to assume global, not regional, responsibilities. The rotational model might be acceptable to some. However, such alternatives could not be applied universally and were not a model, as the African Group had itself underscored.
Addressing the draft before the Assembly, he said that elements in it had not drawn on the language of decisions adopted by the Non-Aligned Summit in Durban, South Africa in September. However, two points were crucial and needed to be made. Firstly, the decisions of the Non-Aligned Movement on Council reform and expansion were a package. The decision on Article 108 was one element in that package, with no special emphasis or priority placed on it. To base a decision only on one element plucked out of a package would have the effect of distorting it. Secondly, the heads of State of Non-Aligned Movement had not decided that a decision should be taken at the fifty-third session of the Assembly on a part of Article 108, in isolation from, or before agreement had been reached on the other issues before the Working Group. He
General Assembly Plenary - 12 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
hoped that those who had made the proposals would reflect on leaving them on the table, without pressing them to a vote. That would serve a harmonious end.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the reform process should simultaneously address the enlargement of the Security Council, its working methods and the question of the veto. Any attempt to isolate those issues would worsen existing differences. The representation of developing countries in the Council was genuinely inadequate. That should be corrected through an enlargement of the Council, in a way that would adequately reflect its universal nature and increase its credibility. From that perspective, the Council should be expanded by 11 more members, for a total number of no fewer than 26. The exclusion of developing countries, as well as discrimination between developing and developed countries, was not acceptable.
The reform exercise should not be subjected to a timetable, and no decision should be reached until general agreement had been achieved, he said. His country maintained its opposition to the veto, as it was undemocratic and contrary to the principle of the sovereign equality of States. The United Nations Charter should be amended, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the veto, which was a legacy of the cold war. It was vital to improve the working methods of the Council, so as to enhance transparency in its activities. He endorsed the position of the Non-Aligned Movement that any resolution on the reform exercise, with Charter amendment implications, must be adopted by the two-third majority referred to in Article 108 of the Charter.
PHAM QUANG VINH (Viet Nam) said that mechanisms had to be devised and institutionalized to enhance the Council's accountability. Those efforts must include more frequent and meaningful consultations between the Council and the Assembly when substantive decisions were to be made by the Council. Viet Nam supported an increase in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. Regarding new permanent members, developing countries needed adequate representation. Viet Nam also supported the allocation of new permanent membership to countries that had the capacity to undertake greater responsibilities. With regard to proposals for forms of rotational arrangements, Viet Nam was flexible and could render support if a general agreement was reached. Also, it was convinced that a reformed Council of about 24 or 26 members, as proposed by Non-Aligned Movement, would ensure efficiency, broader representation and democratization.
Any reform formula would fail to be satisfactory if the issue of the veto was not dealt with, he said. Viet Nam believed that the veto should be curtailed only to issues under Chapter VII of the Charter, with a view to its final elimination. Pending its total elimination, new permanent members of the Council should be rendered that right.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said that the report of the Open-Ended Working Group was one of the more detailed and substantive to be produced, which was
General Assembly Plenary - 13 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
as it should be after five years of intensive work. Regrettably, the report did not offer any indication that the international community had moved closer to the general agreement called for, in the original resolution. His country believed that the Working Group may have reached a stage in its work where it was timely to ask some fundamental questions about how to proceed.
He said an elected bureau of any committee or working group must be allowed from time to time to take the pulse of the membership of the group and make recommendations on how best to move the group towards its goal. When the Open-Ended Working Group reconvened next year, its newly elected bureau should be fully enabled to consult delegations, put forward ideas, papers, and non-papers, with a view to narrowing differences on certain issues. The international community must move into serious negotiations on a package of Charter amendments and the new bureau must be empowered to provide direction. Finally, he had reservations about any formula that would take the veto question out of negotiations. Such a proposal could only be seriously countenanced in the context of an overall satisfactory agreement on other important elements of the package.
ANDRE ADAM (Belgium) introduced the text containing proposed amendments to draft resolution on Council reform. He said that the Federated States of Micronesia, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Georgia and Kazakhstan had joined as co-sponsors of the amendments. The position of his country on reform, which it shared with by nine other countries, could be summed in the following points: both categories of membership of the Security Council should be increased; an enlargement should not exceeding 25 members; new permanent members should be elected by the General Assembly; those should be credible limitation of the scope of application of the right of veto; and mechanism of periodic review should be established.
The Working Group should use the coming year to transmit to the General Assembly a comprehensive proposal, which could form a basis for general agreement, he said. He favoured an approach which envisioned, first, adopting a framework resolution of a political nature and, then, forming an opinion on possible changes of the Charter. That approach would encompass the aspects of reform that required amendments, as well as those that did not.
Delays in the reform of the Council undermined its credibility, he said. As several speakers had said, the authority of the Council had been thwarted, for it often dealt with the effects, but not the causes of crises that threatened peace and security. The use of the veto should be limited on a voluntary basis with respect for the prerogatives of the General Assembly and of the Security Council. It was unlikely that a general agreement could be achieved without curtailing the power of the veto.
In respect to improving the methods of work of the Council, a pragmatic approach was preferable to the institutionalization of the progress already achieved, he said. Turning to draft resolution on reform of the Council, he
General Assembly Plenary - 14 - Press Release GA/9509 64th Meeting (AM) 20 November 1998
said that it was based on legally questionable arguments, distorting the Article of the Charter. His delegation had serious doubts about the objectivity of the reasoning aimed at changing the nature of an Article of the Charter by using a subjective notion of "a resolution with Charter amendment implications". For the General Assembly to take a decision on the reform of the Council, as broad agreement as possible would be politically necessary.
The purpose of the amendments he presented was to clarify the legal ambiguities and establish clearly about what the term "general agreement" meant, he said. The amendments also acknowledged the need for Member States to have time to reflect on an acceptable solution to the question of the reform. The decision adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement in Durban was a major political act that his country sincerely respected. However, its literal transposition into a resolution of the General Assembly would imply modification of the Charter, which had been already ratified by all Member States. Actually, Article 108 envisioned a specific procedure of approving amendments to the Charter, but it did not contain any provisions concerning the majority necessary for the vote on the resolution by the Assembly. The extension of the scope of two-thirds majority to other matters than the reform of the Security Council was not acceptable. Submitting the amendments was not intended to favour some countries over others, but was action taken to protect
the Charter of the United Nations. An impartial solution on that matter would have a beneficial effect on other issues in relation to the reform of the Security Council.
NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) said he wanted to make a small amendment to clarify the text. In the second line operative paragraph 2 of draft text, after the word "United Nations membership", a comma followed by "as" should be added. A list of all the co-sponsors of the text would be presented this afternoon.
Mr. ADAM (Belgium) said he wanted a clarification on that last statement, as to whether it was a revision or an amendment.
Mr. ELARABY (Egypt) said, since it was only of a technical nature, it was not a revision.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said he wanted to be clear about the point raised by Belgium. He would be happy to treat the change as a revision, without the issuance of a formal revision.
* *** *