23 November 1998


23 November 1998

Press Release


19981123 Closing Two and Half Days of Debate on Council Reform, Assembly Adopts Presidential Draft, After Early Text and Amendments Withdrawn by Sponsors

The General Assembly this morning determined it would not adopt any resolution or decision on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters, without the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the Members of the General Assembly.

After two and a half days of debate on Council reform, the Assembly made that decision by adopting, without a vote, a resolution introduced this morning by Assembly President Didier Opertti (Uruguay) which, he said, was a result of broad consultations and reflected the shared intentions of all delegations to reach consensus on the sensitive issue. The President informed the Assembly that co-sponsors of a draft resolution on reform, introduced by Egypt on the first day of debate, and those that had sponsored amendments to the draft later introduced by Belgium, had decided to withdraw both texts.

Much of the discussion during the several days of review of Council reform had focused on the draft resolution introduced by Egypt, which had proposed that the Assembly emphasize that any resolution with Charter amendment implications -- 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. 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.

The representative of Belgium, introducing the amendments which were withdrawn today, said they had been meant to clarify legal ambiguities and make clear the meaning of "general agreement", as specified by the Assembly when it charged the Working Group with charting Council reform.

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During this morning's discussion of Council reform, the representative of Italy said that given the Council's crucial importance, whatever reform was approved it must enjoy the backing of the overwhelming majority of Member States. Although there was no definition of "general agreement" in the Charter or in the Assembly Rules of Procedure, it could not mean less than two thirds of all Member States. To accommodate the national interests of a few, he said a "constitutional absurdity" had been devised by which new permanent seats could be established and new permanent members selected with less, or even considerably less, than the 124 votes required for Charter amendments.

The representative of Bahrain warned against a "quick fix" solution without the required two-thirds majority. The original thinking on Council reform had been to increase its non-permanent members. However, a new trend, known as the "fall-back position", had led to a debate on an increase and lobbying for permanent seats, at the expense of the non-permanent category. Suggesting it might be advisable to reconsider that trend, he said the Open-ended Working Group must clarify its agenda on Council enlargement, perhaps through the original reform thinking on non-permanent membership.

Statements on Council reform were also made this morning by the representatives of Belarus, Cameroon, Uganda and the United States.

Also this morning, as the Assembly began to discuss United Nations support of new or restored democracies, the representative of Romania introduced a related draft text, saying that peace and human rights protection were vital for the strengthening of democracy. Urging the United Nations to formulate a system-wide agenda for democratization, she said the Millennium Assembly in the year 2000 could provide an opportunity for launching a project that would include a framework for inter-ethnic dialogue and cooperation.

During that discussion, statements were also made by the representatives of Austria, for the European Union; Mali; Mongolia; Liechtenstein; and Nicaragua, for Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its discussions on the promotion and consolidation of new or restored democracies and to take up United Nations reform: measures and proposals.

Assembly Work Programme

The General 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 an amendment to that draft. The Assembly was also scheduled to consider support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies, and a related draft resolution. It also planned to discuss the state of United Nations reform measures.

Security Council Reform

As part of its consideration of efforts to reform the Security Council, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution (document A/53/L.16/Rev.1) by which it would note that while a convergence of views on a number of matters relating to enlargement and reform of the Council has 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 Council when it began efforts to agree on Council reform, 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 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 would emphasize that any resolution 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. The Assembly, stressing that the matter of Council reform, while deserving urgent attention, would also stress that it is of such fundamental importance that it could not be subjected to any imposed time- frame, and therefore recognized 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.

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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 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.

Consolidation of New Democracies

As part of its review, the Assembly had before it the Secretary- General's report on United Nations efforts in support of new or restored democracies (document A/53/554 and Corr.1). The report reviews United Nations activities in the areas of democratization and governance, while giving an account of relevant recent events shaping the emerging framework for intergovernmental action in the field. The report refers to the need for the whole United Nations system to provide concrete assistance to countries that ask for help in various ways related to democracy, governance and development.

Reviewing the wide range of projects carried out by the Organization's funds, programmes and agencies, as well as by the Secretariat -- from local to global programmes; from conferences to field work; from assistance of governments to mobilization of civil society -- the Secretary-General highlights the importance of building a political culture through human rights observance and monitoring. Two linked objectives of international assistance are pivotal for new or restored democracies: prevention of conflict; and the creation of conditions for a lasting democratic process. Programmes devoted to the development of a human rights culture and establishing effective remedies against violations, could facilitate national reconciliation and

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assist in institution-building, law reform and empower people. Protecting such rights and the rule of law are indispensable for stopping the vicious cycle of violence and conflict, and thus for ensuring democratic development.

To further assist countries in transition to democracy, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights monitors human rights developments at national and local levels, and works to build national capacities to further that goal. During the year, some 45 technical cooperation projects were carried out by the High Commissioner in over 25 States. Other United Nations system-wide efforts include a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project to integrate human rights education into the training of military forces in Ecuador. The work of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also includes promoting decentralized planning and management, thus inviting broad participation from all sectors of society in the democratic process.

The report stresses that a vibrant civil society is key to democratization. Without such participation, true democracies cannot grow and prosper. The UNDP, for example, supports civil society organizations by encouraging partnerships between them and governments. The interaction of non-governmental and community-based organizations with governments provides powerful forums for project-development, such as the Asia-Pacific 2000 programme and the poverty reduction programme in sub-Saharan Africa. The various programmes aim to establish an institutional environment for dialogue between civil society organizations and national policy-makers.

The report continues that the development of civil society is being accelerated through a resource and training centre in Azerbaijan, which provides management and technical support to fledging non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Trade unions, as well, play an essential role in the transition to more democratic institutions, with the International Labour Organization (ILO) focusing many activities in Africa. It provides technical support to meetings organized by the trade union movement and attended by representatives of governments and financial institutions. The regional commissions have also extended their activities to involve civil society, such as the establishment of the African Centre for Civil Society, in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The report goes on to review United Nations involvement in electoral assistance, both in developing international standards and through assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories. It works at both the central and local levels in all aspects of the electoral process. Both the UNDP and the High Commissioner for Human Rights provide technical assistance in a number of ways including the organization and supervision of elections; legal analysis and legislative assistance with regard to electoral laws; analysis and recommendations concerning the prevailing human rights conditions; support for civic education; and training for public officials. Support for free and independent media have also formed an essential part of the Organization's work in the area of public information. An independent, unbiased free flow of

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information and objective reporting are necessary for a balanced public opinion in working towards democratization.

One of the most important challenges to new or restored democracies is establishing, or re-establishing, a fair, effective and efficient justice system. Restoring public confidence in institutions that have often been discarded by their subservience to power, corruption and violation of human rights, is a difficult challenge. The report notes that the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention has provided technical assistance to many new and restored democracies. The Centre has projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania and Lebanon. Peace operations also include institution- building in post-conflict situations in Haiti, while the biggest governance challenge to date is in Rwanda, where the system of government was all but destroyed during the 1994 war and genocide.

An issue with practical implications for the United Nations, the report further clarifies the link between democratization, development and peace. The fact that the peace-building and development, democratization and governance efforts of the Organization are distinct, but mutually reinforcing, underlines the importance for the United Nations system, as a whole, to improve its ability to cooperate and coordinate its actions. In reviewing the operational challenge of the United Nations system, it aims to translate global and national goals of democratization and governance into sustainable projects and adapt them to prevailing national and local requirements.

As the technical cooperation initiatives are complex and multi-faceted, their successful implementation require strong coordination and a coherent management framework, the report continues. To maintain the credibility of the initiatives, it is crucial that systems are put in place that make project management effective by guaranteeing accountability, transparency and efficient management of resources. Project managers need to facilitate bringing together diverse stakeholders and segments of society to work towards common goals. Those broad objectives guide the work of the Organization in the expanding area of governance and democratization in its various fields and programmes.

By the terms of the related draft resolution (document A/53/L.38), the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General, Member States, the relevant specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations system, and other intergovernmental and NGOs, to contribute actively to the follow-up process of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development. The Secretary-General would be asked to report to the next session of the Assembly on the implementation of the present resolution, and encouraged to improve the Organization's capacity to respond effectively to requests of Member States for assistance in the field of good governance and democratization.

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Welcoming the coordination measures taken within the organizations of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) in the field of democratization, the resolution would also encourage Member States to promote democratization by making additional efforts to identify possible steps to support government efforts in promoting and consolidating new or restored democracies. It would recognize that the Organization has an important role to play in providing timely, appropriate and coherent support to the efforts of governments to achieve democratization within the context of their development efforts.

Sponsors of the draft resolution are Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Zambia.

United Nations Reform

The Assembly had before it reports and notes of the Secretary-General on United Nations reform: measures and proposals. The report on environment and human settlements (document A/53/463) was prepared in response to action 12 of the Secretary-General's report entitled "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform" (document A/51/950). The Secretary-General, in consultation with governments, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), would develop new measures for strengthening and restructuring the two organizations and make recommendations to the Assembly. In preparing those recommendations, the Secretary-General established the Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements under the chairmanship of the Executive Director of UNEP. Its terms of reference included a review of current structures and arrangements through which the Organization carries out its environmental activities, to evaluate the efficacy of those arrangements, and make recommendations for the changes and improvements required to optimize the Organization's and UNEP's environmental work and their effectiveness.

According to the Secretary-General's report, the recommendations of the Task Force's report represent the completion of another important step in the overall reform of the Organization, and the beginning of a process designed to equip the United Nations to concretely address the pressing environmental and sustainable development problems currently facing the international community.

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During its four meetings, the Task Force examined the existing organizational arrangements within the Organization to determine how they might be changed to better meet international environmental and human settlements challenges, and how existing structures and arrangements could be optimally redesigned to deal with problems in the coming decade. The report of the Task Force is contained in the annex to the report.

The main findings of the Task Force are reflected in 24 recommendations contained in seven sections on: inter-agency linkages; linkages among and support to environmental and environment-related conventions; UNEP, Habitat and the United Nations Office at Nairobi; information, monitoring, assessment and early warning; intergovernmental forums; involvement of major groups; and future initiatives. The recommendations are designed to enhance coordinated action by the United Nations and begin the process of improving overall policy coherence, and represent measures which must be taken to revitalize the Organization's work in the environment and human settlements in the short term. Similar to the approach of the Secretary-General's initial proposals on reform, the recommendations require decisions and measures to be taken at different levels, including the Secretariat and intergovernmental levels. They are spelled out in detail, together with their underlying rationale, in the report of the Task Force, which is annexed to the present report.

The Assembly also had before it the report (document A/53/676) on the status of implementation of actions described in the report of the Secretary- General entitled "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform".

The report was prepared by the Secretary-General after considering the views and comments expressed by Member States in implementing the various reform initiatives. While actions on many areas have already produced positive results within the Secretariat and in its relations with the programmes and funds, the consideration of several other questions will continue to be dealt with by the Assembly at its current session.

The report describes the status of implementation of actions in the following areas: Senior Management Group; Strategic Planning Unit; Phasing out of gratis personnel; Special Representatives of the Secretary-General in the field; Post-conflict peace-building; Disarmament; Role of the Secretariat in economic and social affairs; Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention; United Nations Development Group; Country-level coordination; Financing of development and technical cooperation; environment and human settlements; humanitarian affairs; human rights secretariat; coordination with other United Nations programmes; civil society; human resources management reform; training and redeployment programme; advice on senior appointments; dividend for development; management reviews; delegation of authority; review of rules and administrative issuances; simplification of processes; common services; creation of an "electronic United Nations"; issue management system; and the United Nations University, research institutes and related bodies.

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By decisions taken during its fifty-second session, the Assembly deferred consideration of three proposals of the Secretary-General to the fifty-third session. Before the Assembly was the Secretary-General's note on a new concept of trusteeship (document A/52/849). In his report (document A/51/950), the Secretary-General proposed that the Trusteeship Council be reconstituted as the forum through which Member States exercise their collective trusteeship for the integrity of the global environment and common areas such as the oceans, atmosphere and outer space. He also proposed that the Council serve to link the Organization and civil society in addressing those areas of global concern, which require the active contribution of public, private and voluntary sectors.

The note states that while a number of intergovernmental bodies and legal instruments have been put in place, especially following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, to address sustainable development and various aspects of the global environment and common areas, there is no high-level deliberative forum that could take a comprehensive, strategic and long-term view of global trends and provide policy guidance in those areas. A new high-level council with a well-defined mandate, that does not create overlaps or conflicts with existing intergovernmental bodies, could serve this purpose. The Secretary-General's Task Force on environment and human settlements would elaborate further on his proposals for a new concept of trusteeship, as its terms of reference include, inter alia, the preparation of proposals on reforming and strengthening United Nations activities in the environment and human settlements area.

The Secretary-General's note on a Millennium Assembly, the United Nations System (Special Commission) and a Millennium Forum (document A/52/850) contains his elaborations concerning the General Assembly session in the year 2000. He recommends that the Assembly's fifty-fifth session be designated the Millennium Assembly, and that a high-level segment, called the Millennium Summit, be devoted to in-depth consideration of the theme "the United Nations in the twenty-first century". The integration of the Summit into the Assembly's regular session would facilitate the participation of heads of State and government while maximizing continuity in the Assembly's normal programme of work.

To facilitate focused discussions and concrete decisions at the Summit, the Secretary-General proposes to prepare a report on the Millennium Assembly's theme. His report would be submitted to Member States by midsummer 2000 and would draw on three main sources. First, would be a series of informal events, organized in close cooperation with Member States, which would hopefully serve as a source of innovative ideas regarding specific objectives the Organization should strive to achieve in the future in the five core areas of its work: peace and security; economic and social affairs; development cooperation; humanitarian affairs; and human rights. Secondly, the Assembly's fifty-fifth session will be preceded by numerous events of a more specialized nature in the United Nations. The Secretary-General's report

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would include a synthesis of the major substantive and institutional implications of the prior events for the Organization's work as a whole. Finally, his report would draw on the results of consultations that are taking place within the ACC concerning how to take maximum advantage of the many complementarities and synergies that exist within the United Nations system as a whole.

The Secretary-General also recommends that the Millennium Assembly be asked to assess, in light of the process within the ACC, the extent to which a clearer division of labour within the system is emerging through a sharpening of the mandates, competencies and comparative advantages of the component parts. This assessment should help to determine whether the present constitutional framework governing the agencies and their relationships with the Organization is sufficiently flexible to adapt and respond to the challenges ahead. If the need for and feasibility of establishing a special commission to examine this framework is determined to exist, the Millennium Assembly may wish to establish such a commission. Finally, the Secretary- General proposes that NGOs and other civil society actors organize a Millennium Forum in connection with the Millennium Assembly, perhaps immediately preceding it.

Also, before the Assembly, is the Secretary-General's note on time limits of new initiatives ("sunset provisions") (document A/52/851 and Add.1 and Corr.1). The idea of specific time limits, or "sunset provisions", is intended to provide a specific time horizon for mandates, whereupon their continuation would require explicit renewal by the Assembly. The purpose of sunset provisions is to strengthen the role and capacity of the Organization by focusing its efforts only on activities that have continuing relevance, usefulness and effectiveness. Its purpose is also to obtain the agreement of Member States at the outset by establishing, at the time of adoption by the relevant intergovernmental bodies of a mandate that involves new organizational structures and/or major commitments of funds, specific time limits for the implementation of that mandate. With such a provision, Member States and the Secretariat would be required to focus on the results to be achieved within a particular time-frame, after which the new initiative would terminate.

Therefore, it is recommended that the Assembly endorse the proposal that each initiative that involves new organizational structures and/or major commitments of funds be subjected to time limits, which would be reflected, at the outset, in the relevant resolutions and decisions establishing that mandate. The Assembly may also wish to reaffirm the programme planning and budgetary process by which it would determine the extent to which results have been achieved and whether or not mandated programmes and activities would be continued or terminated.

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The Addendum to the note provides the Assembly with additional information in response to questions and comments by delegations in the open- ended informal consultations of the plenary on this subject. It also contains a hypothetical illustration of how time limits would work.

Security Council Reform

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU (Belarus) said the question of the reform of the Security Council was one of the most heated issues before the General Assembly. The Security Council must reflect changes taking place in the world and become more transparent and accountable. Belarus attached utmost importance to the efforts to reform that body and was open to constructive cooperation in search of solutions. Steps to enforce rigid time frames for taking particular decisions were counter-productive in that context.

The reform of the Security Council must be a subject of broad consensus, reflecting existence of the political will of all Member States, including the permanent members of the Security Council, he said. There had emerged a set of elements of reform shared by a large number of countries. Belarus considered an increase in the membership of the Council as a starting point for its serious transformation. While it agreed with legitimate aspirations of the developing countries to play an equal role in the work of that body, Belarus, like other countries in transformation, was interested in opening adequate prospects for such participation on the part of Eastern European States. Any formula for the expansion of the Security Council, which would fail to allocate an additional non-permanent seat to the Eastern European Group of States, would contradict the spirit of the reform and the principle of equality of States.

Improvement in the consultative and informational functioning of the Security Council would enhance cooperation between the General Assembly and the Security Council and improve the report of the Council, he said. Frequent, open, general discussions on the level of Foreign Ministers on the most important questions considered by the Council and the introduction of a question-and-answer session between the acting President of the Council and the Assembly during consideration of the Security Council report would reform its working methods. Internet conferencing on the pertinent question would also enhance the exchange of information with Member States. Gradual limitation of the use and scope of the veto would democratize the work of the Council. Mutually acceptable solutions to the controversial questions should be worked out in the Open- ended Working Group.

JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said that increasing Council membership to reflect the Organization's increased membership would add legitimacy to Council resolutions. The Working Group's numerous difficulties in defining a reform agenda could not be ignored. He warned against a "quick fix" solution, without the required two-thirds majority, adding that a reconsideration of the reform approach could be a catalyst to keep the debate on track. If adequate

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time was allowed to reach consensus on the many important reform questions, that could be beneficial.

Bahrain supported a permanent Council seat for an Arab nation as more than 12 per cent of the Organization's population came from those countries, he said. He noted that support had been expressed in the Working Group giving one Arab, one Asian and an Arab-Asian State seats in an enlarged Council.

The original thinking on Council reform, he said, had been to increase its non-permanent members. However, the new trend, known as the "fall-back position", had led the debate to switch to an increase and lobbying for permanent Council seats, at the expense of the non-permanent category. It might be advisable to reconsider that trend. His delegation believed that the Working Group had to clarify its agenda on Council enlargement to get the discussions back on track, perhaps more appropriately through the original reform thinking on non-permanent membership. The steps to be taken in regards to Council reform fell to the entire Organization and should not be taken in isolation.

FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy) said his country had always believed that the best solution regarding the enlargement of the Council was to increase the number of non-permanent seats. Accordingly, it had presented a proposal in 1993 to add eight to 10 new non-permanent, "elective seats", to be rotated among the 24 to 30 countries that contributed most to the purposes of the Organization. Among the advantages of that solution was that it would allow more frequent participation in the Council by those who shouldered a larger burden and greater responsibility, not only in terms of financial resources, but also in terms of troops for peacekeeping operations and other activities. At the same time, it provided easier access to the Council for all other Member States, since the customary tough competition with larger countries within their respective regional groups would be drastically reduced.

Since only a few countries supported that proposal, he said, Italy had repeatedly indicated its willingness to agree to any other enlargement formula, provided it did not: prejudice a possible common European seat on the Council; distance Italy from the other main industrial countries; or increase the number of countries "more equal" than others. One formula that it was ready to support was the "fall-back position" of the Non-Aligned Movement, which proposed an increase, for the time being, only in elective seats, in the event that no agreement was reached on other categories of membership.

He said that given the Council's crucial importance, whatever reform was approved, it had to enjoy the backing of the overwhelming majority of Member States. Although there was no definition of "general agreement" in the Charter or in the Assembly Rules of Procedure, it could not mean less than two thirds of all Member States. To accommodate the national interests of a few, a "constitutional absurdity" was devised: new permanent seats could be

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established and new permanent members selected with less, or even considerably less, than the 124 votes required for Charter amendments. If the current text was adopted, the principle that any decision or resolution by the Assembly on Security Council reform had to be taken by a two-thirds majority of all Member States would be solemnly reaffirmed. Thus, the debate, rather than providing contentious and divisive, would instead have re-established a climate of mutual trust and inject new momentum into the reform process.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said that an increase in the number of Members of the United Nations called for an expansion of the Security Council. Qualitative changes in the international community demanded a reform of the Council more than ever. Such a reform should include its methods of work and the mechanism of decision-making. The Open-ended Working Group had been created to examine all aspects of the work of the Council, and its report reflected the seriousness of discussions and the priority attached to the complex question of the reform of the Security Council. His country endorsed the position adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Harare in 1997 which envisioned the increase of the Security Council to 26 members, with the number of permanent seats going up to 10 and non-permanent to 16. Africa, which represented the greatest number of Member States, should be given two of the five new permanent seats and three non-permanent additional seats.

The effectiveness of the work of the Security Council, which was often cited as an argument against expansion, was not merely a function of the speed of decision-making, he said. It was also related to the meeting of the objectives of Member States. Small States could make a remarkable contribution to the peacemaking and the maintenance of peace. The expansion of the membership did not seek to harm the effective functioning of the Council, which must preserve its capacity to adopt measures for peacekeeping and peacemaking. Its legitimacy and effectiveness should be assured. As for the right of veto, if it were maintained, it should be extended to new permanent members. It should be limited, however, to the actions under Chapter VII of the Charter. Further consultations in that respect were necessary.

SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda) said the reform of the Security Council was an integral part of the comprehensive reform of the United Nations system, to enable it to reflect the realities of today's world. Some serious discussions and useful proposals had been made in that respect, and his Government wanted to see concrete progress that would bring the endless debate to a tangible conclusion. The reform of the Council extended to questions of openness, accountability, voting power and procedures. The exercise must address expansion, in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. It must reflect the global changes of the past half century while achieving equitable geographical distribution.

He said regions such as Africa that had been underrepresented deserved to be adequately represented in a reformed Council. In that regard, last

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year's Harare Summit of the African heads of State and government had underlined Africa's claim to at least two seats. Africans themselves would allot those seats based on a system of rotation established by the OAU. The reform process should also bridge the gap between the five permanent members and the elected members of the Council, given that the elected members often complained about being presented with faits accomplis, which made them feel marginalized.

The reform, he added, must end the "perpetuation of exclusive, discriminatory privileges" that were obnoxious to the democratic spirit. Permanent membership and the use of the veto governed the operation of the Council. The new members must not be discriminated against in that regard. His country acknowledged that the issues involved were difficult and must be approached in a spirit of compromise.

RICHARD SKLAR (United States) said his country was pleased that the co-sponsors of the draft resolution and the amendments had reached agreement on language that would achieve a common objective, yet not compromise or challenge the Charter. Much of the debate had focused on technical aspects of the Charter amendment process, particularly the required voting majorities. That the matter had become an issue more than 50 years after the Charter entered into force was surprising. The drafters of the Charter had foreseen a time when adjustments might be needed and also set forth provisions governing Charter amendments. Those principles had been applied on the few occasions when changes had been made.

Pursuant to Article 108, only the adoption of an actual amendment required an affirmative vote of two thirds of the membership. Nonetheless, it should be remembered that any resolution concerning Charter amendment had to command the widest possible support from United Nations Members. As efforts resumed in the Working Group, achieving such backing for future amendments had to be the common goal. Proposals should not be pushed to a decision before they enjoyed sufficient support, nor should obstructionist tactics be employed to impede progress.

DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), President of the Assembly, said that the meeting was suspended for 10 minutes so the Secretariat could prepare documentation to continue the meeting.

The PRESIDENT, following the brief recess, then introduced a President's draft resolution on the question of Council reform (document A/53/L.46). He said that co-sponsors of draft resolution A/53/L.16/Rev.1 had agreed to withdraw it. Also, the co-sponsors of the amendments introduced to that draft (document A/53/L.42) had agreed to withdraw them. The President's draft was a result of broad consultations and reflected the shared intentions of all delegations to reach consensus on the sensitive issue. He appealed to the representatives for their understanding. He then read the text, as follows: "Mindful of Chapter XVIII of the Charter, and of the importance of reaching

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general agreement as referred to in resolution 48/26, determines not to adopt any resolution or decision on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters, without the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the Members of the General Assembly."

Action on President's Draft

The draft introduced by the President was then adopted, without a vote.

The PRESIDENT said that he intended to convene a meeting of the Open- ended Working Group on Council reform in order to appoint its two Vice- Chairmen. The Permanent Representatives of Sri Lanka and Sweden would be presented as candidates for those positions.

New or Restored Democracies

ELENA ZAMFIRESCU (Romania) introduced the draft resolution on United Nations support for new or restored democracies (document A/53/L.38), and said that Cape Verde, Iceland, Lithuania, Morocco and Turkmenistan had joined as additional co-sponsors. Continuing, she said strengthening democracy was a must for strengthening peace and human rights. That meant learning to master the subtle chemistry inherent to democratic governance, which was suggested in the remark, "in democracies, those who lead, follow; those who follow, lead".

Since the first gathering of new or restored democracies 10 years ago in Manila, and more decently in Bucharest, the international community had paid increased attention to the role that democratic values played in solving major national issues. The international conferences had endorsed the wisdom that a democratic system of government -- by nature, an open, learning process -- was the most solid foundation for ensuring lasting solutions to political, economic and social problems.

As no organization enjoyed the same scope and legitimacy of the United Nations, it was high time that a system-wide agenda for democratization be considered, she continued. The Millennium Assembly could provide an excellent opportunity for launching such a project. It would include a framework for inter-ethnic dialogue and cooperation. In acknowledging international assistance extended to Romania, she said that domestic endeavours to irreversibly entrench democratic governance had more chances to succeed when properly shouldered by the international community. She hoped that her country's experience, along with that of other new or restored democracies, would contribute to shaping a new political culture and setting useful guidelines for future United Nations programmes on democratization and good governance.

The draft resolution dealt with one of the most promising and challenging trends of the contemporary world and emphasized the need for an increased United Nations role in the consolidation of democracy, she said. She welcomed the

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Secretary-General's report and its attention to the follow-up and implementation of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies. She noted that the Fourth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies in Cotonou, Benin, in the year 2000 would ensure the continuity of the democratic movement.

ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria), on behalf of the European Union and the associated countries of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Iceland, said that today almost every government called itself democratic, but not all of them lived up to that high standard of governance. The number of electoral democracies was impressive, but some had warned of a rise of illiberal democracies. Most countries had adopted several features of a formal democracy, in particular the holding of elections, but many did not provide for a sufficiently fair political process that allowed the people to fully participate.

He said that, in some countries, successful multi-party elections had been followed by undemocratic rule and questionable second elections. Therefore, in addition to holding genuine and periodic elections, several ingredients were essential for sustainable democracy, including the accountability of the rulers, the rule of law, respect for human rights and political and civic pluralism.

The new and restored democracies had a key role to play in bringing about a common understanding of democracy and its minimum conditions and principles, he said. Democratization was a long-term process. Democracies were never perfect or complete and they needed constant renewal and adaptation to changing circumstances. A vibrant civil society played a crucial role in that regard. The Union believed that the consolidation of new and restored democracies was crucial. That consolidation process must make democracy so stable and legitimate that all significant political actors would fully embrace democratic procedures of governance.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said certain areas needed to be highlighted when considering United Nations activities in the field of democracy and good governance. First, special attention had to be given to elections in new or restored democracies. Post-electoral periods were becoming a danger for democracy. To avoid having situations slip out of control, the political players had to engage in a dynamic democratic compromise based on sharing, not exclusion. In that context, in the near future a national forum would be convened for reflection on issues relating to Mali's democracy. The forum's objective would be to improve the country's democratic system and give a greater role to consensus, sharing and pluralistic expression.

Second, he continued, consideration had to be given to the question of managing the socio-economic difficulties new or restored democracies confronted. The social costs were high and economic difficulties could

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undermine confidence in the new system. Efforts to alleviate poverty and economic difficulties required perseverance, sufficient resources and international support. Third, he added, the growing importance of good governance had to be considered and, in that context, Mali had offered to host the Third Forum on Governance in Africa, in Bamako in 1999. Finally, he said that the gravest threat to democracy was the proliferation of light arms. Questions relating to the security of States had to be incorporated into consideration of the item. His country had co-sponsored the draft, because it supported the political message contained in it. He hoped it would be adopted without a vote.

J. ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said his country was continuing to pursue its policy of political and economic reforms. Mongolia's commitment to the principles of democracy, liberalism and a market economy was irreversible, despite the current difficulties of the transition period. Major policy priorities in the future would continue to further strengthen democratic institutions, broaden the basis of political stability, further decentralization, accelerate privatization in the economic field and provide fuller social protection, especially to vulnerable groups.

Democracy was not a model to be copied or imposed, but rather a goal to be attained, he said. Thus, the pace at which democratization could proceed was dependent on a variety of political, economic, social and cultural factors. In that respect, the Secretary-General had rightly expressed that there was no democratic model and that every democracy, like each individual, had its own character, depending on specific political, social and economic circumstances.

He said his country fully supported the convening, at regular intervals, of international conferences on support by the United Nations system for new or restored democracies. They were a valuable forum for cooperation and the exchange of experience. He expressed Mongolia's readiness to host one of the forthcoming conferences in Ulan Bator.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that, since the inception of programmes to support democratization, the Organization had undertaken manifold activities and accumulated an impressive record in that respect. That record included work in the field of electoral assistance, programmes integrated in peacekeeping and post-conflict peace-building operations, as well as governance programmes. Both the UNDP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been active in that regard, mainly through technical cooperation projects.

He said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted five years ago, had affirmed that democracy, development and respect for human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Democratic systems were not only the best way of ensuring respect for all human rights and fundamental

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freedoms, but also of preventing conflicts and of creating prosperity and social progress.

While democratic systems could take on different forms according to the prevailing circumstances, he added, certain constituent key elements were common to all democratic systems, such as accountability, respect for human rights, the rule of law and genuine periodic elections. Democracy was not primarily the result of a policy decision, but the outcome of an evolving and self-sustaining process, which had to face and overcome new challenges every day. It was, thus, not only appropriate, but indeed necessary that the United Nations assist countries in coping with those challenges.

There was clearly a preventive dimension to the work of the United Nations system in supporting democratic systems, he said. That dimension encompassed both the prevention of armed conflicts and the massive and large- scale violations of human rights. The preventive aspects of United Nations work deserved full political and financial support. In the current era of democracy, the character of armed conflicts -- which were a threat to democracy, development and human rights -- had changed, with the vast majority taking place within States. There were no indications that that trend would reverse itself in the near future. In such a situation, the United Nations system found itself confronted with new challenges, including the question of non-State actors and, in keeping with the overall necessity to enhance the preventive capacities of the United Nations system, the question of the prevention of such internal armed conflicts.

It had become clear that tensions between communities and governments or among communities were very often the root causes for the outbreak of internal armed conflicts, he continued. It seemed indispensable that the United Nations system be ready to provide assistance to dissolve such tensions before they led to the outbreak of an actual armed conflict. A genuine and open dialogue between communities and central governments, based on a network elaborated within the United Nations and providing for a flexible system of self-administration and self-governance, could often be the solution to such problems -- and thus a major contribution to democracy, development and human rights.

MARIO CASTELLON DUARTE (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, said that the progress most emphasized by the Secretary-General in his report included the implementation of the recommendations of the Third International Conference on the New and Restored Democracies, which had taken place in Bucharest in September 1997. The website on democratization, the forum and self-assessment by the governments were among the achievements in the field of democratization.

Important steps had been taken by new democratic governments, but some sectors of the international community still resisted change, he said. It was

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necessary to work together to take the most appropriate action, so that the people deprived of the most basic human rights could join the democratic societies with multi-party systems and which respected human rights. Domestic legislation of Central American countries emphasized such actions, including efforts directed against corruption, money laundering, terrorism and drug- trafficking.

Democratization must be a global movement that spread to all corners of the world, he said. The countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic had realized the advantages of democracy for solving the problems that they were facing. After long years of conflict and dictatorship in the Central American region, negotiations sponsored by friendly countries and the international community had led the region towards participation in democratic life. The state of law had replaced despotism. Support from the United Nations was particularly important for new or restored democracies. His delegation supported the movement of new democracies and welcomed the fact that Benin had offered to host a fourth Conference on the New and Restored Democracies.

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For information media. Not an official record.