Press Conference on Security Council Reform Negotiations

13 February 2009

Press Conference on Security Council Reform Negotiations

13 February 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



With intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform set to begin in an informal plenary of the General Assembly next week, the days when Security Council reform could be dismissed as a cocktail party past-time for ambassadors were definitely over, Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan said in a briefing at Headquarters this afternoon.

“Yesterday’s multilateral institutions must be adapted to today’s multi-polar world,” said Mr. Tanin, who will chair the intergovernmental negotiations on the question of equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council when they begin on 19 February.

The current process for Security Council reform is outlined in General Assembly decision 62/557, which was unanimously adopted on 15 September 2008 and called for negotiations to begin no later than March 2009.

Describing that decision as a “breakthrough” in the decade and a half of debate since the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council reform was first established in 1994, Mr. Tanin stressed that implementing decision 62/557 was the centrepiece of the current General Assembly Presidency.  To that end, the Working Group had held six meetings since the decision’s adoption in preparation for the intergovernmental negotiations, which are intended to mid-wife the reform process.

He said a work plan would be circulated among Member States before the negotiations opened and would be formally presented at their kick-off on Thursday.  Providing details on the “rules of the game”, it will outline how and when to negotiate the five key pillars of reform, including categories of membership, the question of the veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council and working methods of the Security Council, and the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.  All negotiations will be based on the Charter, United Nations practices and legal advice, he noted.

Asked whether the negotiations were gravitating towards any position, particularly on the question of increasing non-permanent or permanent seats, Mr. Tanin said that different groups continued to hold different positions and it remained to be seen how the Member States would cooperate.  “We are at an early stage of this cooperation,” he stressed.

Nevertheless, he said the facilitators had no doubt after the Working Group’s half-dozen meetings that the overwhelming majority of Member States were eager for the “early reform” and “swift action” called for in the 2005 World Summit Outcome document.

“There is more willingness than before to move in the right direction,” he said.  “People understand that we need a Security Council that is workable.”

Responding to a question on whether decisions would be taken on a consensual basis or by vote during the intergovernmental negotiations, he said the work plan presented next week would provide more information on how the negotiations would unfold.  But, while voting had not been an option during the work of the Open-Ended Working Group, he suggested there was a difference between that body’s procedures and those of the informal plenary.

Asked if there was a need for increased public attention and debate around the reform process through greater openness, he said the intergovernmental negotiations, like the meetings of the Open-Ended Working Group, would be closed to the public.  Briefings such as today’s would, however, continue to be held to keep the press as informed as possible.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.