Negotiations on Security Council Reform Must Remain Transparent, Member State-Driven, Delegates Tell General Assembly

GA/11970
8 November 2017
Seventy-second Session, 43rd Meeting (AM)

Negotiations on Security Council Reform Must Remain Transparent, Member State-Driven, Delegates Tell General Assembly

Negotiations aimed at improving the Security Council’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to emerging challenges must remain a transparent, Member State‑driven process free of politicization, delegates emphasized this morning, as the General Assembly concluded its annual debate on the 15‑member organ’s reform.

Kaha Imnadze (Georgia), Co‑Chair of Intergovernmental Negotiations on United Nations Security Council Reform, said that while reform efforts had come a long way, their complexity should not be underestimated.  As the process was first and foremost driven by Member States, the Co‑Chairs would engage with all countries and groups in a transparent and inclusive manner to ensure a credible process aimed at bridging gaps.  “We will all need to be forward‑looking, focused not only on the positions that have already been expressed and are well known, but also on how to move ahead in a meaningful way,” he said.

Belgium’s representative, agreeing that Security Council reform was critical for the credibility and proper operation of the United Nations, said such efforts should seek to make the Organization more representative, effective and transparent.  He emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of fair representation, including by giving African countries and small- and medium‑sized Member States greater opportunities to participate in the deliberations of an enlarged Council.  While progress had been made in recent years, efforts must continue moving forward, he stressed, adding that the reform process would be successful if Member States negotiated in good faith.

The representative of Chile was among the speakers voicing support for both an increase in the number of Council members as well as reforms to improve the body’s working methods.  The recent selection and appointment of Secretary‑General António Guterres, as well as the increase in the Council’s open meetings, had demonstrated that such progress was possible.  Stressing the need to increase both categories of the Council’s membership — thereby allowing it to become a more truly representative and reactive body — he said an increase in the number of permanent members should not mean an expansion of the use of the veto power under any circumstances.

Algeria’s representative said the reform process must be comprehensive, addressing all substantive issues relating to the questions of the Council’s membership and regional representation, as well as its agenda, working methods and decision‑making process, including the veto.  “To correct the current imbalance […] we must enlarge its size and take into account the prolonged historical injustice towards the African continent,” he stressed, reiterating the African Group’s continued demand for no fewer than two permanent seats for the region with all the prerogatives of permanent membership, and a total of five non‑permanent seats.

The representative of Venezuela, echoing calls to make the Council more representative, democratic and transparent, said the body must also incorporate different geographical and geopolitical realities and bear in mind the historical aspirations of peoples from different regions.  “Peace is an issue that affects the entire membership of the United Nations,” he emphasized, noting that the rigid opposition of some current Council members had kept many of its meetings closed.  He also voiced concern over abuses in the use of sanctions — which were too often resorted to hastily and on political grounds, even in cases where there existed no threat to international peace and security — noting that the United States had used the veto to defend Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and imposed unilateral sanctions on Venezuela in contravention of that country’s right to settle its own internal affairs.

The representative of the United States, meanwhile, voiced support for the intergovernmental negotiations process as well as her delegation’s openness to reasonable proposals for modest expansion in both categories of the Council’s membership.  However, consideration of any new permanent members must take into account candidates’ willingness and ability to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, and to exercise the heavy responsibilities that came with membership, she stressed, adding that the United States remained opposed to any expansion or alteration of the veto.

Also speaking were the representatives of Poland, Turkey, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Botswana and Kuwait.

The representative of Myanmar spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 9 November, to elect five members of the International Court of Justice.

Statements

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said an increase in the number of Security Council members, and related issues, was a critical matter to be considered carefully by the international community.  Any such reform should allow the Council to take up issues of peace and security promptly, while also improving its working methods.  The recent selection and appointment of the Secretary‑General, and the increase in the Council’s open meetings, demonstrated that such progress was possible.  Stressing the need to increase both categories of the Council’s membership — thereby allowing it to become a more truly representative and reactive body — he said an increase in the number of permanent members should not mean an expansion of the use of the veto under any circumstances.  Chile was a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group’s code of conduct, he said in that regard, adding that negotiations over recent sessions had provided guidance on how to move forward with text‑based talks.

Ms. FRENCH (United States), expressing support for another round of intergovernmental negotiations on the issue of Council reform, said working towards more common areas of agreement was a natural step forward in the process.  While many Member States believed that the intergovernmental negotiations process had too little to show for its work, and that it would only make real progress through text‑based talks, there remained diverging opinions on many matters.  The United States was open to all forms of negotiations.  Whatever path those talks followed, they must allow the Council to better address challenges to international peace and security.  The United States would support reasonable proposals for modest expansion in both categories of membership, she said, adding that consideration of any new permanent members must take into account candidates’ willingness and ability to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, and to exercise the heavy responsibilities that came with membership.  The United States also remained opposed to any expansion or alteration of the veto.

PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland) said all regional groups should be given a voice on an expanded Council, with one seat for the Eastern European Group.  On the issue of veto power, he said its politicization should be stopped.  More broadly, transparency and greater access to information about the Council’s decision‑making process was a prerequisite for restoring trust in international law, and promoting engagement in peaceful conflict resolution.  He reiterated Poland’s support for the intergovernmental negotiations process as a vital element in continuing the dialogue among Member States on Council reform.

RAMIS ŞEN (Turkey), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said Security Council reform was a matter of global importance that directly impacted the lives of current and future generations.  He advocated for meaningful and principled reform that would engender a more democratic, representative, transparent, and importantly, accountable Council.  Specifically, permanent membership and veto power were issues that needed to be addressed.  Calling for an end to the veto, he said there was no justification as to why certain Member States should have that right over others.  At the same time, his delegation supported initiatives to limit the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.  Furthermore, a more equitable representation of regional groups and a fair system of rotation was a must in a reformed Council.  On the other hand, the Council’s working methods and relationship with the General Assembly were no less important, he said, as they defined the daily dynamics of the system.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said that Council reform should be approached seriously and responsibly, as it was a real opportunity to make the Organization more representative so it could more effectively respond to threats to international peace and security.  Now was the time to agree on reform that would adjust the Council to current geopolitical realities, in a way that would highlight the principles of democracy and inclusivity, which were keystones of the United Nations.  Efforts should be undertaken that would provide the African Group and small island developing States more opportunities to participate.  The question of the veto could not be ignored, as its use had undermined the Council’s credibility and hindered its ability to protect the most vulnerable.  Costa Rica supported proposals to prevent the use of the veto in certain circumstances and believed the veto power should not be extended to any new members of the Council.  He urged Member States to take intermediate positions in order to move discussions ahead based on the commonalities that had been identified.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said the previous session’s discussions on Council reform had produced an important outcome reflected in the document on elements of commonality and issues for further consideration.  He expressed hope that that progress would contribute toward achieving the much‑needed reform.  Expanding the Council’s membership could enhance its authority and ensure its greater legitimacy, provided that the expansion gave equitable geographical distribution and representation of developing and under‑represented regions and groups.  In that regard, he supported increased membership for African countries.  Reform should also go hand in hand with improvements to the Council’s working methods and decision‑making.  In that regard, he commended the Council for the adoption of a presidential note on 30 August 2017 and encouraged similar efforts to enhance the Council’s efficiency and transparency, while supporting interaction and dialogue with non‑Council members.  Apart from open debates, he called for the promotion of informal interactive meetings to facilitate dialogue with non‑members.  On the implementation of the Council’s decisions, he said it was “intolerable that armed aggressions against sovereign States and the resulting military occupation of their territories continued notwithstanding the Security Council resolutions”.  Similarly, it would be essential to uphold a balanced and complementary relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.

FRANCISCO ANTÓNIO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) emphasized that the reform process should be inclusive, transparent and comprehensive, resulting from a wide consensus and not just the two‑thirds majority required by the Charter.  Due consideration should be given to proposals to extend the number of permanent and non‑permanent members, although those new members should not be provided the right to use the veto.  Portugal was opposed to the creation of any additional category other than the existing permanent and non‑permanent, as doing so would not contribute to the effectiveness of the Council’s decision‑making process.  Any reform of the Council should also include the continuous improvement of its working methods and must reflect current global realities, he stressed, adding that his country believed that the African continent should be adequately represented.  In implementing the rotation principle, small- and medium‑sized countries must be afforded more opportunities to serve.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to the Common African Position on Security Council reforms, which called for the continent’s full representation in the Council, including the allocation of no less than two permanent and five non‑permanent seats.  Comprehensive reform would make the Council more inclusive, democratic and representative of all regions, thereby correcting a historical injustice.  Because of the complexities involving categories of membership, intergovernmental negotiations had been protracted.  However, he was pleased that there had been a convergence of views on some positions and proposals in recent years.  For example, there was broad consensus that Council reform should reflect prevailing geopolitical realities, and it was widely affirmed that such reforms would enhance the accountability, transparency, legitimacy and effectiveness of the Council.  To move negotiations forward, he called on Member States to build on the outcome documents produced during the three previous General Assembly sessions.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, called for a Council reform process that was comprehensive, addressing all substantive issues relating to the questions of membership, regional representation, the Council’s agenda, its working methods and decision‑making process, including the veto.  The process should garner the widest possible acceptance by Member States, he added, noting that talks about enlarging the Council could not take place without examining the categories of its membership, as its enlarged size would affect the cluster on equitable regional representation.  “To correct the current imbalance […] we must enlarge its size and take into account the prolonged historical injustice towards the African continent,” he stressed, reiterating the Group’s continued demand for no fewer than two permanent seats for Africa with all the prerogatives of permanent membership, and a total of five non‑permanent seats.  Calling for improvements in the Council’s working methods, including its relationship with the General Assembly, he said both bodies must uphold their respective mandates.  Voicing regret that the paper from the previous session on elements of commonalities and issues for further consideration did not fully reflect the Common African Position on Security Council reforms, he said the continent should be allocated seats in both the permanent and non‑permanent categories of membership.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said today’s complex global challenges required a stronger United Nations, and that the Organization’s integrated reform — including that of the Security Council — would be critical in that regard.  Indeed, the latter must become more representative, democratic and transparent, and negotiations on its reform over the last two decades had unfortunately remained stalled, undermining their credibility and casting doubts about the willingness of some States to cooperate.  Calling for greater political will in that context, he expressed support for moving forward into text‑based negotiations, adding that developing countries must be represented on the Council.  The body should incorporate different geographical and geopolitical realities while also bearing in mind the historical aspirations of peoples from different regions, he stressed, voicing support for amendments to the Council’s membership structure, the manner in which members were elected and the Council’s working methods and decision‑making process.  “Peace is an issue that affects the entire membership of the United Nations,” he emphasized, noting that the rigid opposition of some current Council members had kept many of its meetings closed.

Expressing additional concern over abuses in the use of sanctions — which were too often resorted to hastily and on political grounds, even in cases where there existed no threat to international peace and security — he said sanctions must always be time‑limited and periodically reviewed, while including clear lifting criteria.  While some permanent members of the Council had used the veto responsibly, that power had sometimes become an obstacle to solving long‑standing conflicts, such as in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, where the United States had used the veto to defend the occupying Power.  Such actions not only abused the veto power but distorted the Council’s very raison d’être.  Even when the United States was unable to get support in the Council, it had resorted to unilateral measures, such as during its 2003 invasion of Iraq.  The United States had also imposed unilateral measures against Venezuela, he said, stressing that other countries were well aware that Venezuela posed no threat.  “We will settle our own matters ourselves,” he said, demanding an end to the United States’ intervention in his country’s domestic affairs in an effort to destabilize the region.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that Security Council reform was an important subject for the Organization’s credibility and proper functioning and was required to make it more representative, effective and transparent.  He emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of fair representation, including by giving African countries and small- and medium‑sized Member States greater opportunities to participate in the deliberations of an enlarged Council.  Given the increasing importance of regional organizations, more must be done to take into account that aspect of reform.  Progress had been made in recent years, but efforts must continue moving forward, he stressed, adding that if Member States negotiated in good faith, the reform effort could be successful.

HASAN SH J Y A ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said there were still some obstacles to the reform process, including the lack of political will necessary to move forward, particularly with regard to the current permanent members of the Council.  There were more and more international challenges, which should provide impetus to move the negotiating process forward, he underscored, adding that his country’s position on the reform issue had not changed.  First, any Security Council reform effort must be part of a United Nations‑wide reform vision.  The role of the Security Council should not be expanded, while it must also become more representative and reflect the current international realities.  Further, it was necessary to improve the Council’s working methods, and any enlargement of Council seats must offer greater opportunities to small countries, including Arab countries.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), Co‑Chair of Intergovernmental Negotiations on United Nations Security Council Reform, said the negotiations had come a long way, but its complexity should not be underestimated.  Over the years, certain elements of convergence had been identified, and all had agreed that discussions on reform were vital to a stronger and more efficient Organization.  “The reform of the Security Council is first and foremost a Member State‑driven process, therefore… we will engage with all Member States and groups in a transparent and inclusive manner to ensure we have a credible process aimed at bridging the gaps.  We will all need to be forward‑looking, focused not only on the positions that have already been expressed and are well known, but also on how to move ahead in a meaningful way.”

Right of Reply

The representative of Myanmar, responding to the statement delivered on Tuesday by the delegate of Liechtenstein, underlined the need to avoid politicization in negotiations aimed at reaching broad agreement on Council reform.  Serious and successful reform would require a “change in mindset” among delegations that sought to exploit that process for their own interests, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.