The realities of the twenty-first century world urgently require a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council, particularly righting the historical injustice of Africa’s exclusion from permanent seats, delegates told the General Assembly today.
Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), opening the day-long debate, said Security Council reform is “an unavoidable imperative, both challenging and essential”. He urged Member States to seek the broadest possible consensus, working to resolve their differences. “This process can and should be an opportunity to correct the problems of structure and functioning of the Council,” he said. “It should not create new privileges and new problems.”
A number of delegates called for reform to include expanding the 15‑member Council beyond the current five permanent seats, held by China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States, and its non-permanent membership. Italy’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Uniting for Consensus Group, advanced a proposal envisioning a 26‑seat Council, with 9 long-term permanent seats distributed among regional groups. The remaining seats would be held for two-year terms, with the opportunity for incumbents to seek re-election. Such a model would greatly enhance regional representation and increase the Council’s legitimacy while also creating more opportunities for all Member States to participate.
Sierra Leone’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said current geopolitical realities and the global health crisis make a compelling argument for African representation. Reiterating Africa’s call for two permanent seats and two non-permanent seats on the Council, he said it is a matter of common justice, a view that enjoys broad support from Member States, as acknowledged by the co-chairs of the intergovernmental negotiations process.
A number of delegates agreed. The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the L.69 group of developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, said the reform process must build on the overwhelming support shown for the common African position outlined in the 2005 Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.
The representative of China echoed the historical injustice endured by African countries, further pointing to the lack of representation between nations of the North and South. Reform must focus on equality between big and small States, strong and weak, rich and poor, he added, pointing out that more than 60 countries have never held a Council seat.
With entire regions still excluded from permanent membership, Barbados’ delegate, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Council has not kept pace with the evolution of United Nations membership, raising concerns about its representativeness. The perpetuation of that status quo means the Council lacks the benefit of important perspectives and experiences in its work, she said, calling for a guaranteed presence for small island developing States and for that organ to adapt to new political realities.
Other delegates opposed expansion. As the five permanent members cannot currently agree on disputes, Pakistan’s representative said adding new ones will increase the possibility of paralysis. “We cannot throw oil on the fire,” he said. Rejecting the idea of extending privileges to new Council members, Colombia’s delegate said it would not increase transparency. Instead, the Uniting for Consensus proposal would open the door for developing countries to contribute to the Council’s work on an equal footing.
Several permanent Council members, including those from the Russian Federation and United Kingdom, supported the idea of expanding the organ to about 20 members. Echoing that position, France’s delegate also expressed support for a stronger presence for African States and the permanent membership of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan. The United States representative said his delegation is open to a modest expansion in permanent and non-permanent categories as long as it does not diminish the Council’s effectiveness or impact veto power.
The legitimacy of the veto was a common theme heard through the day, with Kuwait’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, noting it has often been arbitrarily used, undermining the Council’s credibility and making it incapable of discharging its duties. Over the past three decades, the veto has often addressed States in his region, he said, which represents 350 million people and 22 nations, and many of the issues on the Council’s agenda relate to the Arab Group’s members, requiring equitable representation to guarantee the credibility and legitimacy of relevant Council’s resolutions.
Turkey’s representative said veto power has only served the national interests of those who hold it and that increasing the number of States with that power will only make the Council more dysfunctional. Mexico’s delegate added that while eliminating the veto is a legitimate aspiration, limiting its use with immediate effect is a more realistic goal. In this regard, a proposal by Mexico and France to restrict veto use in cases of mass atrocities has already drawn 105 signatories. Indeed, he said, the right of veto is not an award or a privilege that whets an appetite for increasing the number of permanent seats.
In broader procedural terms, several delegates lamented the interruption of the intergovernmental negotiations process due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, but saw the current session as an opportunity to sustain momentum. Brazil’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Four (Germany, India, Japan and his own country), said the General Assembly should be prepared to meet under any circumstances. Meanwhile, Algeria’s delegate said in-person meetings remain the ideal format for intergovernmental negotiations. The representative of India said the pandemic should not be an excuse to stall forthcoming intergovernmental negotiations by insisting on in-person meetings only.
Also speaking were representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Australia, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Morocco, Libya, Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, South Africa, Liechtenstein, Equatorial Guinea, Maldives, Ecuador, Slovenia, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Estonia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Georgia, Bhutan, Zimbabwe, Germany, Cambodia, Syria, Nigeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Croatia, Ireland, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
The representative of Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 November, to conclude the debate.
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, emphasizing the need for reform in the United Nations, said that the Security Council has, on many occasions, failed to carry out its responsibility to maintain international peace and security. Competing interests among its members and frequent use of the veto have limited the Council’s effectiveness, he said, adding that even in the most urgent humanitarian crises, it failed to provide a timely and adequate response. “While the United Nations needs much deeper reforms, it is evident that reform of the Security Council is an unavoidable imperative, both challenging and essential,” he said, adding that any Council reform that is not driven by Member States is unlikely to make the United Nations more effective or capable of delivering expected results. True reform requires the widest possible political acceptance among Member States, “if not unanimity or near unanimity”, he said. Noting convergence among Member States on certain issues since the Assembly adopted decision 62/557 on Council reform, he said that meaningful progress can be made through active engagement and a pragmatic approach. He urged delegations to seek the broadest possible consensus and to keep working to resolve their main differences. “This process can and should be an opportunity to correct the problems of structure and functioning of the Council,” he said. “It should not create new privileges and new problems.” Thanking the representatives of Poland and Qatar for assuming the responsibility of co-chairing the next round of intergovernmental negotiations, he said their early appointment will allow consultations to begin in a timely manner.
MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the United for Consensus Group, said that while the COVID‑19 pandemic severely affected the 2020 session of the intergovernmental negotiations, talks resulted in progress on such issues as increased representation for developing countries, African Member States and small island developing States. Moreover, the political declaration world leaders issued in September to mark the Organization’s seventy-fifth anniversary instilled new life into the reform process. “We all know what the obstacles are, so let’s discuss them,” she said, urging all Member States to show good faith and flexibility. Recalling that the United for Consensus Group is not acting for its individual members, nor are those members aspiring to become permanent members, she said it is acting for the common good with a proposal to ensures that every Member State gets better access to the Council. Summarizing that proposal, which has been adjusted over the years, she said it envisions a 26‑seat Council, with nine long-term permanent seats distributed among regional groups. The remaining seats would be held for two-year terms, with the opportunity for Member States holding those seats to seek re-election. Such a model would greatly enhance regional representative and increase the Council’s legitimacy while also creating more opportunities for all Member States to participate. The aim is a Council that would be more transparent, accountable, inclusive and democratic. The next round of intergovernmental negotiations must focus on substantial issues, not procedural ones, she said, emphasizing that all Member States are equal, but an approach to reform that appeals to only a few countries cannot succeed.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Group of Four (Germany, India, Japan and his own country), said the General Assembly should be prepared to meet under any given circumstances. Noting the question of equitable Security Council representation was included on the General Assembly agenda in 1979, more than 40 years ago, he said it is regrettable that intergovernmental work on the issue has yielded few results, with the 15-member organ still not reflecting the geopolitical landscape. More than 60 Heads of State and Government have agreed on the importance of reform, and the longer it is stalled, the greater the deficit in representativeness, an inescapable precondition for its legitimacy. As a result, the Council is slowly losing its credibility and authority. The last meeting of the intergovernmental negotiations framework was held in March, when the Group of Four expressed unequivocal support for the common African position, contained in the 2005 Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, and when various Member States voiced concern over the its lack of transparency. Having consistently asked for a single consolidated text and improved working methods, he stated the process may be informal, but “this does not mean we should operate in the shadows”, calling for the expansion of Council seats in both categories of membership and enhanced regional representation.
JULIETTE ROSITA RILEY (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said every session that fails to achieve Council reform goals provides a “stark reminder” of the organ’s continued imbalances. Entire regions continue to be excluded, notably Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, from the permanent membership category. As such, the Council has not kept pace with the evolution of United Nations membership, raising concerns about its representativeness. This status quo means that the Council lacks the benefit of important perspectives and experiences in its work, she said, calling for a guaranteed presence for small island developing States and for the organ to adapt to new political realities. Urging Member States to base future work on this issue on existing commonalities, she emphasized that everyone can contribute meaningfully to this process, with maximum participation enhancing its legitimacy. She also expressed hope that, though States have spent many years elaborating their positions, a concrete outcome can be achieved this year.
MARTIN HERMANN BILLE (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the upcoming intergovernmental negotiations come at an important time with the world addressing the pandemic, testing multilateral institutions’ ability to act rapidly and collectively. “The crisis has underscored the importance of an effective Security Council that is better positioned to address current and future global challenges,” he said, spotlighting the security implications of COVID‑19 and warning that they may exacerbate existing conflicts, divisions and inequalities worldwide. To adequately respond to these challenges and future ones, he advocated for a more transparent, effective, accountable and representative Council that reflects today’s global realities. He called for advancing negotiations to a more substantive, text-based phase resulting in more concrete progress, while underlining the need for a balanced expansion of the Council from all regions. That would require increased representation for developing countries and improved opportunity for small States to serve as elected members. Africa must take its rightful place on the Council through an expansion of permanent and non-permanent seats, and the veto power should come with greater accountability and transparency. In particular, the use of the veto in situations of mass atrocities is not in line with the spirit of the United Nations Charter, and all Member States should join the Code of Conduct regarding Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
HALIMAH DESHONG (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the L.69 group of developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, said Member States must work to improve the Council reform process and refrain from eroding confidence in the United Nations. With intergovernmental negotiations scheduled in 2021, she welcomed the additional time allotted for deliberations and said the process must build on the overwhelming support shown for the common African position outlined in the 2005 Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration. The application of the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure will allow intergovernmental negotiations to make genuine progress and not be reduced to little more than a discussion forum. As a means to improve the process’ credibility, there must be agreement on a single text to serve as the basis for negotiations. “We must chart a new course of progressive action that rejects the status quo,” she said, adding that only then will Member States achieve the better future they want.
BADER A. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said current global challenges make the comprehensive, inclusive reform of multilateralism essential, with a more representative Council making the organ more capable to address issues on its agenda with transparency and effectiveness. The intergovernmental negotiations framework is the only forum to reach agreement, he said, reiterating the request for increased Arab representation in permanent and non‑permanent categories. Among the most important challenges is the question of the veto, which has been arbitrarily used, undermining the Council’s credibility and making it incapable of discharging its duties. Veto use in the last three decades has often concerned States in his region, which represents 350 million people and 22 nations, and many issues on the Council’s agenda relate to the Arab Group’s members. It is thus necessary for equitable Arab representation to guarantee the credibility and legitimacy of the Council’s resolutions. He also called for improved working methods, increased transparency, the adoption of permanent rules of procedure and more open meetings.
ALIE KABBA (Sierra Leone), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the current geopolitical realities and global health crisis are compelling reasons for comprehensive reform to make way for representation of the continent’s 54 nations in the permanent and non‑permanent categories. Africa’s call for two permanent and two non‑permanent seats on the Council is a matter of common justice, he said, reiterating board support from Member States, as acknowledged by the co‑chairs of the intergovernmental negotiations. He requested a discussion during this session on the Council’s working methods and a dedicated meeting to discuss the status of the various documents of the intergovernmental negotiations. The African Group will continue to work in a transparent, inclusive, membership‑driven manner to realize a more broadly representative Council in order to enhance the legitimacy of its decisions, he said.
ANDRÉS JOSÉ RUGELES (Colombia), associating himself with the United for Consensus Group, said the intergovernmental negotiations should make headway on substantive issues before tackling superficial procedural matters. His delegation cannot accept any proposals to change the format of the negotiations. Consensus is the only possible path, he said, adding that Member States must persevere towards achieving the goal of a Council that is democratic, transparent and effective, with a clear accountability mechanism. Voicing support for the proposal to create more non‑permanent seats, he said extending the number of permanent seats would hamper reform prospects and contradict the principles of democracy, equity and the ability of all Member States to participate in the Council’s work. He rejected the idea of extending privileges to new Council members, saying that it would not increase transparency. Rather, the United for Consensus proposal would open the door for developing countries to contribute to the Council’s work on an equal footing. The Council cannot be a relic of the past. Instead, it should be the epicentre for cooperation, consistent with today’s challenges to international peace and security.
ZHANG JUN (China) said the Security Council has performed its “sacred responsibilities” under the Charter of the United Nations for 75 years, but the world is at a new point in history. As such, the organ must reflect the times to better serve the interests of all States. The key to reform is maintaining the correct direction, especially acknowledging the collective rise of developing countries. Pointing to the lack of representation between nations in the North and South, he highlighted the special importance of addressing the historical injustice endured by African countries. Reform must focus on equality between big and small States, strong and weak, rich and poor, as more than 60 countries have never held a Council seat. Reform must be based on consensus, the only way to yield results that stand test of time and history, making the Council’s work more democratic, transparent and efficient. Considering the complexity and sensitivity of reform, he expressed support for in‑person meetings of the intergovernmental negotiations framework.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) said the Council must evolve so that it can act swiftly and decisively in a rapidly changing security environment and better reflect current geopolitical realities, including more voices from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Further, the organs must be more accountable to Member States and should increase coordination with the General Assembly and the Organization’s entities to utilize information available across the entire United Nations system. He also called for the development of better standards for the veto power so that its use is more limited and transparent. Pointing out that many years of discussions have yielded incremental progress at best, he urged the intergovernmental negotiations to move to text‑based discussions to build the necessary momentum to effect change.
SOFIANE MIMOUNI (Algeria) said meaningful reform will make the Council more relevant and better able to respond to global challenges, with the intergovernmental negotiations framework being the only forum to advance efforts towards that end while addressing the five clusters and considering their interconnectedness. The continued underrepresentation of Africa is an injustice that must be rectified by granting the continent two seats in both permanent and non-permanent categories. Despite the interruption of the intergovernmental negotiations process due to the pandemic, the current session should be an opportunity to sustain momentum, he said, encouraging the co-chairs to clearly reflect the view of Member States in all of its outputs to increase collective trust. Additionally, in-person meetings remain the ideal format for its meetings.
MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain), associating herself with the United for Consensus Group, said strengthening multilateralism and the international rules-based order means strengthening the United Nations. That, in turn, requires reforming the Council through consensus. Progress so far has been slow, but that is to be expected in a process that aims for consensus. Warning against half-baked reforms that lack consensus, she said slow progress cannot hide the fact that some progress has been made on some parts of the five negotiating clusters. Member States must review their starting positions, show flexibility and listen to others. Looking ahead to the next round of intergovernmental negotiations, she asked the co-chairs to draft a full timetable of meetings and a clear indication of issues to be discussed, thus ensuring a fruitful debate.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said the multilateral system including the United Nations is at an inflection point in history. The Council has accumulated all the power of other organs, but tensions between its members engender a virtual paralysis on international peace and security. The balance between Council and other organs, including the Economic and Social Council, must further be restored. The Uniting for Consensus proposal respects the sovereignty of States and does not discriminate. It is crucial to increase opportunity for all States. However, his delegation did not endorse the bid of some countries to become permanent members. The current five permanent members cannot currently agree on disputes, he said, adding that new ones will increase the possibility of paralysis. “We cannot throw oil on the fire,” he said. Emphasizing that one country in his region has been most insistent on membership, despite having waged 20 wars since its independence and fomented terrorism, he said that State has also deployed 900,000 troops to crush the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmir people. However, the Uniting for Consensus Group sees the African position on membership differently, as it is an attempt to correct a historical injustice against the continent.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said the Council’s power to fully discharge its mandate requires reform and expansion of its membership. As a member of the Uniting for Consensus Group, Canada is committed to a reform-based process that emphasizes transparency and inclusivity. The legitimate aspirations and expectations of many Member States are at the very heart of Council reform, as are the principles of democracy, accountability, efficiency and transparency. This reform is not just about the Council’s size and form, but also concerns its methods, the veto power and longer terms for non-permanent members.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina), associating herself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said comprehensive reform must be a priority for all Member States, not just those who aspire to be permanent members. Calling for viable and realistic measures reflecting equality among States and an adequate membership rotation, she said a common denominator must be found to bring positions together and make tangible headway. Focusing on procedural issues or deviating outside of the mandate will only prevent consensus, she pointed out, calling for a compromised solution based on an increase of new non-permanent seats with the possibility for immediate re-election. Expressing support for the Uniting for Consensus Group’s proposal to correct the underrepresentation of Africa, she said the issue of the veto must also be discussed.
FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said the Security Council has on several occasions failed to carry out its mandate and respond to crises in an adequate manner, and the growing gap between its responsibilities and performance diminishes its legitimacy. Citing the broad implications of Council reform, he said the outcome of intergovernmental negotiations must be comprehensive, inclusive and based on consensus. Raising several concerns, he said the veto power has only served the national interests of those who hold it and increasing the number of States that hold the power will only make the Council more dysfunctional.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said genuine reform goes beyond increasing the number of permanent members. Reform must benefit the collective, he said, emphasizing that upholding international peace and security cannot be subject to national interests or the perpetual privileges of a few. While eliminating the veto is a legitimate aspiration, limiting its use immediately is a more realistic goal. A French‑Mexican proposal to restrict its use in cases of mass atrocities has already drawn 105 signatories, he said, noting that the right of veto is not an award or a privilege that whets an appetite for increasing the number of permanent seats. Such a position goes against the democratization of the United Nations and the desire to strike a better balance among countries and regions. Member States must pursue dialogue with a spirit of compromise rather than confrontation, listening to proposals with an open mind and reviewing their own positions with self‑criticism, while updating them as necessary. Reform should not be viewed as an end in itself, but as a means towards a safe and peaceful world based on international law and cooperation.
PARK CHULL-JOO (Republic of Korea), aligning himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said veto power can undermine the Council’s work, questioning how adding new permanent members could make the organ more effective and responsive. Any reform must address, rather than aggravate, the problem at hand. Likening Council membership to air travel, with the privileged few permanent members in “first class”, he called for reform efforts that embrace the aspirations of the wider membership towards a more representative Council, rather than one that seeks to add more first‑class seats. The Uniting for Consensus Group’s proposal to add more non‑permanent members, democratically elected and representative based on equitable geography, is the most viable and democratic formula that should enjoy the widest possible support.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the twenty‑first century multipolar world and the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations present opportunities for reflection on multilateralism. While fragmentation on the international stage has made reform of the United Nations more difficult, she said the system needs evolution, not radical change. Council reform must be seen in terms of broader efforts to secure its relevance, as the organ has not kept pace with evolution of the global landscape. Noting that incremental progress has been made and can continue, she said a renewed process on enhancing the Council’s working methods does not require waiting for the organ to be reformed. While reform is often seen as a zero‑sum game, she advised cooling the temperature of the process with a pragmatic approach that works for all parties.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt), aligning himself with the African Group and Arab Group, urged States to reflect on whether or not the Security Council united them in addressing “an enemy that does not discriminate between elected and permanent members”. The international community lacks the collective political will to undertake the necessary measures to address the weakness in the global system. There must be comprehensive Council reform to correct the injustice suffered by Africa. No real reform is possible, however, without addressing the Council’s structural deficiencies, namely that five permanent members enjoy exclusive veto rights while the United Nations Charter enshrines the principle of equality among States, he said, adding that the common African position is fair and rational.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), associating himself with the Group of Four, underlined the urgency to enhance the role of developing countries to make the Council more legitimate. Expressing support for the common African position, he said new permanent seats should be allocated to States that have the capability to take on the maintenance of international peace and security. Since there were only two intergovernmental negotiations meetings in the previous session, he urged the co-chairs to convene a meeting immediately. If in-person meetings cannot be held, the process must adapt and find new ways to continue discussions during this session. Furthermore, the United Nations rules of procedure should be applied to the intergovernmental negotiations process so it can transform itself into a body for legitimate dialogue, with text-based negotiations beginning without delay.
TIRUMURTI TIRUNELVELLI SRINIVASAMURTI (India), associating himself with the L.69 Group and the Group of Four, said the Council is an impaired organ, unable to act with credibility due to its unrepresentative nature. Within the intergovernmental negotiations, there has been nothing for more than a decade besides passionate statements on the need for reform. Highlighting that the informal process has no rules of procedures, no records and no negotiating text, he said this situation is due to a handful of countries that are using it as a smokescreen to avoid being identified as paying lip service to reform. The rules of procedure of the General Assembly should apply to the intergovernmental negotiations, he said, also calling for the start of text-based negotiations and firm support for the common African position. Like most Member States, India favours expanding permanent and non-permanent categories. Noting that he would not waste time responding to Pakistan’s irrelevant and irresponsible remarks, he said the pandemic should not be an excuse to stall upcoming intergovernmental negotiations by insisting on in-person meetings only.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said her delegation stands against the creation of additional veto rights and supports a code of conduct for its use, particularly in cases involving mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. Given the divergent views, there is no obvious way to overcome the current impasse, she said, proposing the creation of a third category of non-permanent Council seats with terms long enough to build institutional knowledge while also avoiding ongoing election campaigns. Improving the work of the Council in its current configuration is even more urgent, she said, calling for the promotion of working methods that would strengthen the organ’s accountability to the Assembly.
IMANE BENZIANE (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group and Arab Group, said reform must be comprehensive, not incremental, addressing all five clusters of intergovernmental negotiations. While expanding the Council is a thorny issue, she said it is unacceptable and a historical injustice for Africa to be the sole continent without a permanent seat and underrepresented in the non-permanent category. Similarly, Arab States also deserve broader representation, with its own permanent seat with all due prerogatives. Although the veto issue must be debated, she said that as long as it exists, all permanent members must have that privilege.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), pointing to divergent approaches to Council reform, said negotiations must continue the painstaking, incremental work of bringing these positions closer together. The Council needs to be more representative by including developing States from Africa, Asia and Latin America, she said, calling for the preservation of the organ’s compact size, not exceeding a maximum membership in the low 20s. Turning to the veto power, she stressed its importance as a factor that stimulates Council members to seek balanced solutions, as its use or threat of use has prevented the United Nations from “being associated with dubious ventures” in the past. She called for future discussions on reform to take place in a calm, transparent and inclusive manner without arbitrary timelines.
TAHER M. T. ELSONNI (Libya), associating himself with the African Group and Arab Group, said a new negotiating phase cannot begin unless Member States try to understand each other’s concerns. Given the broad consensus on many aspects of Council reform, it is possible to reach a common denominator. All relevant stakeholders in the process must be able to contribute. Highlighting the importance of African representation, he said the continent makes up about one third of the United Nations membership and makes up many of the issues on the Council’s agenda. A timetable for reform must be considered, as it is an urgent matter that requires collective will. In this vein, he said the working methods of the intergovernmental negotiations process are not currently democratic. Among other important reform efforts under discussion, the link between the Council and the General Assembly must be addressed.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said that 2020 has been a lost year and a lost opportunity for the intergovernmental negotiations process, which must resume as soon as possible, in virtual format if necessary. If discussions come to a halt, it could trigger a breakdown in trust and confidence. What is important is the quality of discussions, not the number of meetings. The Council’s composition must reflect the current reality and the diversity of the Organization’s membership. Singapore supports an expansion of permanent and non‑permanent categories, with more opportunities for small States, especially small island developing States, to be represented. Without tangible progress on Council reform in 2020 and 2021, Member States will have to ask themselves whether intergovernmental negotiations are a vehicle to facilitate reform or an outdated mechanism that preserves the status quo. The five permanent Council members have a special responsibility to provide leadership on reform. Any reform that enhances the legitimacy of the Council will enhance the legitimacy of the status of the permanent members.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), noting that Council reform must address its working methods and membership expansion, urged Member States to demonstrate openness, flexibility and political will towards a mutually acceptable conclusion to the process. He called for the commencement of text‑based negotiations, cautioning that it had been 15 years since tangible progress was made. His delegation continues to call for the abolishment of the veto as the current mechanism is undemocratic, he said, adding that in its current format, it should only be used in cases of international crimes of the most serious nature.
ENKHBOLD VORSHILOV (Mongolia), associating himself with the L.69 group, said the Council must become inclusive and transparent to better reflect contemporary and geopolitical realities. Membership should be expanded in permanent and non‑permanent categories, and the veto power should be either abolished or restricted, particularly in the context of action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Further, he called for the adequate representation of all regions in membership categories based on equitable geographic distribution, particularly for such unrepresented or underrepresented regions as Africa and Asia.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica), associating herself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said Council reform would give the organ more capacity to address the challenges on its agenda. However, reform efforts cannot be used as a tool to favour certain States over others. The existence of long‑term seats will promote a more balanced rotation system, which, combined with increased regional representation, will allow innovative voices to be heard. Moreover, improved working methods will strengthen the relationship between the Council, General Assembly and Economic and Social Council. Moving forward, intergovernmental negotiations should exclusively reflect States’ points of view, and the five pillars of reform must be viewed as an inseparable package.
JULIA TZEROVA (Bulgaria) said greater legitimacy and representativeness of the Council could be achieved with the expansion of both existing categories of membership. When expanding the non‑permanent category, the need for an adequate and proportional representation of the current regional groups should be considered, she said, reiterating the need to allocate at least one additional non‑permanent seat in the Council to the Eastern European regional group, whose membership has more than doubled in the last 30 years.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group and L.69 group, expressed deep regret that 12 years of intergovernmental negotiations have produced no significant results. The Council does not reflect today’s world, he said, emphasizing that Africa cannot be excluded from the permanent category. Options to encourage progress must be explored, including text‑based negotiations and setting out a road map with timeframes for normalizing the reform process. The intergovernmental negotiations must also adopt the Assembly’s rules of procedure. South Africa advocates for a 26‑seat Council, with the expansion of permanent and non‑permanent categories and all five regions of Africa represented. Over the past 75 years, the Council’s work has become more complex and more pressing, but its failure to fulfil its mandate to maintain international peace and security is largely due to its current outdated configuration.
GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said it is unacceptable that regions like Africa remain underrepresented in the Council, and that his country continues to advocate for an “intermediate model” of reform with long‑term renewable seats and without additional veto rights. “Enlargement of the Council does not equal improved performance,” he assured Member States, noting that broadening membership must be accompanied by improved working methods. Pointing to the security implications of pandemics and climate change, he said the Council must incorporate broader security issues into its agenda and contribute to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said Africa is the only region not permanently represented on the Council, despite the fact that 75 per cent of the organ’s issues pertain to the continent. Expressing support for the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, he recalled certain instances in which the Council has acted despite opposition from all 54 African countries. Indeed, Africa has “experienced in its own skin” the negative effects of the Council’s current configuration, he said, calling for the repair of the historical injustice and calling on the intergovernmental negotiations to have real deliberations rather than simple dialogue.
IBRAHIM ZUHUREE (Maldives) said that, rather than taking a more multilateral approach to addressing the many security threats facing the world, the Council has increasingly left discussions of the most pressing issues to a small, unrepresentative group of Member States. “The result is a Council whose membership and processes do not align with the provisions set forth in the United Nations Charter,” he said. Drawing attention to the unique perspectives held by smaller States, he echoed calls for expanding permanent and non‑permanent seats and membership for small and developing nations. While it has become commonplace for States to spend heavily on election campaigns, to the disadvantage of countries with limited resources and personnel, costs should not be allowed to be a prohibitive barrier to membership. Discussions of Council reform should include matters of campaign transparency and spending limits. He went on to call for more routine discussions among the Council, General Assembly and other relevant bodies of such critical security issues as climate change.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador), observing that the pandemic further hampered already complicated intergovernmental negotiations, called for a more democratic, representative, efficient Council. Indeed, Council activities have become less participatory since the COVID‑19 crisis because States can now only contribute to debates in writing. Furthermore, the provisional rules of procedure pertaining to the intergovernmental negotiations are not adequate, he said, advocating for an end to the underrepresentation of developing countries. The reform efforts under consideration will end the Council’s polarization, especially in terms of veto power, he said, underscoring that the conflicts within the organ reflect a past era. Furthermore, reform must diminish inequalities, not increase them, and should not be implemented at the expense of global security and stability. He encouraged all parties to participate in the reform process with a spirit of flexibility and mutual respect, emphasizing that sufficient time should be set aside for intergovernmental negotiations.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia) said the reform process must be results‑oriented and based on a concrete negotiating text to ensure that the Council better reflects current realities. “The Security Council and General Assembly should work in a mutually reinforcing and complementary way,” she said, adding that African and small developing States have a strong case for demanding increased representation. While supporting the Council’s expansion, she acknowledged that such an effort may require amending the United Nations Charter.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran), noting that the Council is being seriously exploited by certain permanent members, said that reforming the organ is both critical and urgent. All five core issues before the intergovernmental negotiations must be discussed comprehensively, with none considered less important than the others. While developing countries must be more fairly represented, expansion can only be useful if it makes the Council more transparent, democratic and accountable. He strongly rejected the use of the organ as a tool for pursuing national political interests, adding that a reformed Council must be prevented from taking up situations that do not pose a threat to international peace and security or which deal with the internal affairs of States. Measures taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, including sanctions, must be taken only as a last resort. Sanctions are a blunt instrument that raise fundamental ethical questions. Regarding the intergovernmental negotiations, he said Iran opposes artificial deadlines and that text‑based discussions at this stage would be premature.
BRICE FODDA (France) said the intergovernmental negotiations should adopt several procedural measures to facilitate future work, including arranging for the continuity of discussions if United Nations Headquarters closed due to the COVID‑19 pandemic. More broadly, he supported expanding permanent and non‑permanent membership categories, a stronger presence for Africa and the permanent membership of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan. Acknowledging that the veto is a sensitive issue, he recalled French‑Mexican proposal that the five permanent Council members voluntarily suspend their use of this power in cases of mass atrocities. This proposal is supported by 105 countries, he added, calling on those States that have not done so to support this initiative.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh) said reforming the Council to be more inclusive and effective remains critical to the overall success of the United Nations. “It is time to come to grips with the difficult choices to be made,” he said, underlining the usefulness of building on the work of past sessions. While supporting the expansion of both Council membership categories, he said such changes should not interfere with or undermine the organ’s effectiveness. As for working methods, he suggested that the pandemic presents an opportunity for the Council to adjust to new practices. He went on to express support for calls for the judicious use of the veto and for rules to limit its use in certain cases.
SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya), associating herself with the African Group, said Council reform is critically important to its functioning and to the United Nations system as a whole. The pandemic’s global impact underlines the importance of multilateralism, as problems facing the international community transcend unilateralism by definition. Taking note of broad support for the common African position, she looked forward to a reformed Council that reflects the composition of today’s integrated global society and the interests of all Member States.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) expressed support for a modest expansion of the Council, including permanent seats for Brazil, Germany, India and Japan as well as permanent African representation, and an increase in the number of non‑permanent members, taking total membership to somewhere in the mid‑twenties. Disagreement over the veto should not prevent progress in other areas where reform is possible. The United Kingdom has not used its veto since 1989 and will never use it on any credible draft resolution to prevent or end a mass atrocity. Turning to forthcoming intergovernmental negotiations, he said the United Kingdom is open to all ideas for moving the valuable process forward, including a shift to text‑based negotiations and virtual meetings.
ARTSIOM TOZIK (Belarus), emphasizing that the Council must adapt to current realities, expressed support for broad dialogue on such issues as adding seats. This process belongs exclusively to Member States, he said, adding that intergovernmental negotiations represent the only legitimate instrument for effecting Council reform, and that attempts to move the dialogue outside of this forum will lead to an impasse. Pointing out that no single reform proposal has obtained significant support, he said differences cannot be resolved by increasing the number of rounds of negotiations. Instead, where views are polarized, incremental work is needed, he said, adding that given the incomplete negotiations, it is premature to discuss text‑based deliberations.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), recalling that a vast majority of Member States are in favour of Council reform, underscored the importance of flexibility in the intergovernmental negotiations, especially in light of the pandemic’s effects. While disagreements on key reform questions remain, they must not prevent progress on efforts that enjoy broad support. For instance, there is considerable support for the limitation of the veto vote in cases of genocide, the improvement of working methods and the need to increase Council membership, he said, adding that intergovernmental negotiations must begin early and have enough time to conclude discussions.
MERJE MÄGI (Estonia) expressed regret at the lack of progress in Council reform. The main goal should be a strengthened United Nations, increased ownership of the Council’s work and its accountability to Member States. Noting the sole enlargement of the Council dates back to 1963, she cited the clear need for increased membership based on equitable representation. She also called on permanent members to voluntarily and collectively commit to refrain from using the veto to block actions aimed at preventing or ending situations involving mass atrocity crimes. Furthermore, as a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, she said Estonia actively supports its Code of Conduct on how the Council addresses genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
DAOVY VONGXAY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), expressing support for the intergovernmental negotiations process, said talks on Council reform should be comprehensive, transparent and inclusive. His delegation favours expanding the Council, with the interests of both developing and developed States taken into account. Any proposals should be carefully considered, he said, adding that the upcoming session should make meaningful progress.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said his delegation supports an early start to intergovernmental negotiations, an increased number of meetings and text‑based negotiations. Expanding permanent and non‑permanent categories would increase the Council’s legitimacy, authority and credibility, he said, adding that more seats for the Eastern European Group is a priority. However, meaningful reform must address the veto, working methods, the Council’s decision‑making principles and its accountability before the Assembly. Veto use should be restricted when the Council is aiming to prevent crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, he said, adding that it must not be used by any Council member involved in a conflict under the organ’s consideration.
KARMA TSHOSAR (Bhutan), associating himself with the L.69 group, said Council reform and expansion are needed for its continued legitimacy, effective decision‑making and greater accountability to the general membership. Reiterating Bhutan’s support for equitable geographical representation, he said Council members should hail from both developing and developed countries, including from small island developing States and small countries. Pointing out that small States make up about 20 per cent of the United Nations membership, he said they bring important and unique perspectives. The call by many delegations to apply the Assembly’s rules of procedures to the intergovernmental negotiations process must be heeded, he said, advocating for the maintenance of records and live webcasts in order to enhance openness, inclusiveness and transparency.
FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe) said a more representative Security Council with more transparency and responsiveness is an imperative, and not an option. Describing the intergovernmental negotiations process as the most legitimate platform to pursue such a reform, he voiced support for the common African position, which calls for no fewer than two permanent seats with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent membership, including the right to veto, as well as five non‑permanent seats and no less than 26 seats total. Noting that the African position enjoys the broadest support among Member States, he said the overwhelming number of delegations also prefer a holistic approach to the reform process. Achieving consensus on all five key clusters would be a first step towards producing a text that considers the interests of all Member States. “Any attempt to undertake a piecemeal approach will further undermine the Council’s legitimacy,” he said, warning that artificial deadlines may be premature and counterproductive at this stage.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), aligning himself with the Group of Four, cited Grimms’ Fairy Tales to call on Member States to muster the courage to “cut through the rose bushes” of repetitive discussions to “kiss Sleeping Beauty” and instill new life in the Security Council through reform so it can face the challenges of today. To this end, he echoed the call for less conversation and more action, stressing the importance of a single, consolidated text to guide further discussions. Without enhanced representation of countries with the capacity and will to contribute to international peace and security, the Council is in danger of losing credibility. Supporting the common African position, he called for a representative organ to help to restore confidence in international cooperation and global governance in these trying times.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia) pointed to the COVID‑19 pandemic as one of the mounting crises that emphasizes the need to build an effective and responsive Security Council. To better reflect modern geopolitical realties, he called for the expansion of the Council’s permanent and non‑permanent membership, adding that intergovernmental negotiations represent the main mechanism for discussions on the matter. Indeed, consensus should be a fundamental principle upon which an agreement is to be made regarding Council reform.
NGOYI NGOYI (United States) said the intergovernmental negotiations process is the most appropriate forum to discuss any alterations to Council membership provided that the format allows for broad consensus. The United States is open to a modest expansion of the Council in permanent and non-permanent categories as long as it does not diminish the effectiveness of the Council or impact veto power. Furthermore, Member States’ capacities to shoulder the considerable responsibility of Council membership should be taken into account. While expanding the Council can help to modernize the organ, any alteration of the current structure must be made by consensus.
ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria), associating himself with China and the Russian Federation, noted the need for a just and equitable composition of the Council, properly applying the principles of multilateralism and respecting the sovereignty of States to make decisions without outside interference. The world is dominated by new methods of warfare and conflicts wherein political influence is used to impose unilateral measures upon States, with an increase in crises due to economic, political and military differences. Noting the intergovernmental negotiations framework remains the best platform for transparent discussions leading to consensus, he echoed calls for enlarging the Council’s membership.
SAMSON S. ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) called for tangible progress in the upcoming intergovernmental negotiations. Applauding Member States for their overwhelming support for the common African position, he called for more efforts to ensure this is properly reflected in the negotiations’ outcome. Meanwhile, the co-chairs should accurately reflect the views of all Member States, which will enhance the trust and credibility of the process and encourage more delegations to participate. Noting that no progress has been achieved four decades into the Assembly’s consideration of Security Council reform, he said the United Nations must strive for a more balanced, fair and well-articulated position on all matters. In this vein, he advocated for a single consolidated negotiating document, preferably with attribution, for the launch of text-based negotiations.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) emphasized that the Council must strictly adhere to the principles of international justice and impartiality. More than seven decades after the founding of the United Nations, the Council still suffers from the stigma of an undemocratic organ devoid of impartiality, as illegal armed invasions and air strikes against sovereign States continue result in civilian deaths. Meanwhile, righteous self-defence measures and even the exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes are labelled and condemned as threats to peace. Condemning the “arbitrariness and high-handedness” of certain countries that abuse the Council for political and military purposes, he said the organ should be reformed and ensure the full representation of Non-Aligned Movement nations and other developing countries. Even in the case where membership is expanded, countries such as Japan, which has committed war crimes, including the forcible drafting and abduction of 8.4 million people and the sexual slavery of 200,000 people, should never be allowed permanent membership.
ANDREJ DOGAN (Croatia) said the Council’s current structure and functioning fail to properly reflect geopolitical realities and the United Nations membership. Croatia supports the Council’s enlargement in permanent and non-permanent categories, he said, calling for an additional non-permanent seat for the Eastern European Group. Current discussions on the Council’s expansion have reached their limit and text-based negotiations should be used going forward. Turning to the issue of veto power, he voiced support for permanent Council members refraining from using it in cases where the commission of mass atrocities has been proven.
BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland), noting that the Council no longer adequately reflects the United Nations membership, said the longer the situation persists, the greater the threat to its legitimacy and authority. The historic underrepresentation of Africa is particularly egregious. The most vulnerable voices must be heard so they may play a role on the Council that reflects the seriousness and urgency of the situations they face. The repetition of the same statements in every session perpetuates the status quo and serves as an indictment of the collective failure to make progress. Engagement in substantive text-based negations is a tried and tested method to reach consensus. Sticking rigidly to positions for 20 years has not led to success, he observed, calling on all countries who support reform to consider how such change can be achieved.
HTIN LINN MAUNG (Myanmar) expressed support for reform that leads to fair and equitable representation in the Council, reflecting the realities of developing countries, especially those on the African continent. Efforts to improve working methods should be intensified to ensure greater transparency, he said, adding that the consensus approach is the best option. In depth consultations are required during intergovernmental negotiations, with the goal of narrowing prevailing gaps between Member States in upcoming meetings.
MULIE TAREKEGN EDLIE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group, endorsed the common African position, including an enlarged Council with no fewer than two countries with permanent membership reserved for the continent’s nations, including the veto use as long as this regime exists. Africa’s representation on the Council is a matter of necessity, he said, adding that growing support of the common African position is encouraging. He also underscored the need to build an environment of understanding that culminates in a consensus outcome.
Right of Reply
The representative of Japan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to a statement made by his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, expressing regret that a groundless statement referring to Tokyo was made.