20 March 1997

Press Release


19970320 Razali Ismail (Malaysia) Says No Veto Power for Incoming 5 New Permanent Members; 'They Are Elected'; Powers Not Inherited as Result of 1945

Following are excerpts from the statement by General Assembly President Razali Ismail (Malaysia), in his capacity as Chairman of the open-ended working group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council, as he introduced his paper on Security Council reform to the working group this morning:

When I convened the first substantive meeting of this working group 10 days ago on 10 March, I stated that in light of all the hard work we have already put into this process, it was my conviction that we should begin another phase in our deliberations, with the aim of reaching a conclusion to our work, and that as Chairman of the Group, it was my duty to provide a complete picture for the full membership to examine and pronounce on. This morning I intend to provide the complete picture. I do so firmly believing that no country or group should deny the full membership of this working group from having a complete picture to look at.

Before I present this picture, I would like to use this opportunity to say that the five working groups of the General Assembly looking at United Nations reform should conclude their work and each coming to closure as single entities, with a minimal of linkages being made between the working groups as possible. There are of course linkages and overlapping areas in our examination of some issues, but I would counsel all Member States to resist making negative linkages and risk bringing the whole reform process of the United Nations to an impasse. If there are ideas out there that there is some sort of "overall comprehensive package" waiting in the wings, I would like to dispel that myth right now.

The paper that I present this morning is in the form of a draft resolution which outlines the fundamental principles and reform elements that constitute an attempt at producing a "complete picture". The draft resolution contains 12 preambular and 10 operative paragraphs; the words chosen reflect United Nations Charter language or accepted language as much as possible. The

proposals in this paper address all aspects of Security Council reform, including the issue of expansion, decision-making including the veto and working methods of the Security Council.

This proposal is drawn from the many diverse and comprehensive views that have been expressed by delegations for over three years now, as well as from statements made in the General Assembly, and from the various papers presented to this working group. This paper contains elements for careful examination and discussion by the whole membership, and while any Member State can maintain and should still argue for their viewpoint, I nevertheless believe that the full membership of this working group must be allowed to consider a complete picture and pronounce on what is offered. While "general agreement" in this working group must be reached on Security Council reform as a whole, the ambiguity of the expression "general agreement" withstanding, concrete proposals for reform must ultimately command a huge majority in the General Assembly.

The underpinnings of this proposal are based on the need to enhance the representativeness, the credibility, the legitimacy and authority of the Security Council. I believe that the objective of our exercise is to take steps that will manifest a qualitative change in all aspects of the Security Council, so that the Council becomes more effective in exercising its primary role to maintain international peace and security on behalf of all Member States of the United Nations. As Chairman of the working group and President of the General Assembly I believe the proposals that are outlined in this paper represent a fair and balanced view so that members can determine the elements in the composition and working methods of a new Security Council that will better underline the Council's ability to deal with the issues of peace and security.

I have proposed an increase of membership in the Security Council from 15 to 24 by adding 5 permanent and 4 non-permanent members. No names are mentioned in my proposal. The five new permanent and four non-permanent members will be elected according to the pattern that I have described in operative paragraph 1:

-- Five permanent members: one each from the developing States of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, and two from the industrialized States; and

-- Four non-permanent members: one each from African States, Asian States, Eastern Europe States and Latin American and Caribbean States.

In my proposal, all aspirants are expected to declare their readiness to assume the responsibilities of permanent membership to the General Assembly. No one State will become a new permanent member unless another four in the

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pattern I have described also obtain the required majority of at least two thirds of votes in the General Assembly. The fate of any one is therefore inextricably linked to the fate of the others; thus preventing a so-called quick fix. This, in my view, is the most democratic means of expansion in the permanent category.

Some Member States have expressed concern at the size of expansion of the Security Council, claiming that once a certain threshold number has been reached, the Council's ability to work efficiently or expeditiously ceases to exist. It is my view that the work of the Security Council can only be enhanced with an increase in both categories, not only because fresh perspectives are brought to Council deliberations and broader alliances created in decision-making, but also because such an expansion will strengthen the effectiveness and authority of the Council in maintaining peace and security in a rapidly changing and increasingly unstable world.

Of equal importance is the consideration that an expansion of nine will also increase the chances of the smaller developing countries to participate as members in the Security Council. It is also necessary to point out that out of an expansion of nine, six will come from the developing world, three of which will be permanent members.

My proposal decides to urge the original permanent members to limit use of the veto to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and not to extend provision of the veto to new permanent members.

I believe that such a linkage would be a first concrete step towards making the application of veto on matters outside of the maintenance of international peace and security by the original permanent members, progressively and politically untenable. This proposal also bears in mind the harsh reality that members of the General Assembly cannot restrict the use of the veto by the permanent members, as this would require Charter amendments, which in themselves are subject to the concurring votes of permanent members of the Council.

Some will of course say that I am proposing a sub-category of permanent membership with discrimination between the original and the new permanent members. So be it. However, as sustained and virtually universal condemnation has been expressed against the veto, I find it inconsistent and unacceptable both logically and morally to extend such a power to new permanent members of the Security Council. To do so would be to compound an inequity. The incoming five new permanent members are different: they are elected and have not inherited their powers or their membership as a result of 1945.

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It is my belief that concepts of the functions and responsibilities of permanent membership of the Security Council must begin to evolve so that it is de-coupled from or no longer equated with the possession of the veto power.

My paper proposes a series of steps to be taken within a suggested time- frame. I would like to point out that I have asked:

Step 1: A framework decision voted on in the working group or the General Assembly between June and September.

Step 2: By end of February 1998, countries who are interested in becoming permanent members, five or more, will come to the General Assembly for endorsement by two-thirds majority. It is necessary to underline that all five must be elected at the same time -- fates inextricably linked.

Step 3: Amendments to the United Nations Charter will be adopted by a General Assembly resolution a week later. Ratification and entry into force of amendments are only possible with two-thirds majority, including the five permanent members' ratification.

I have proposed that 10 years after the entry into force, a review conference will be held to review the situation created by the entry into force of the amendments to the Charter.

On working methods, the paper elaborates measures the Assembly would urge the Security Council to undertake to enhance transparency and to strengthen the support and understanding of Security Council decisions by the whole membership of the Organization. These include:

-- Institutionalize regular monthly consultations between the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council, together with the Chairs of the Main Committees of the General Assembly and members of the Security Council;

-- Encourage consultations between members of the Security Council and the countries most affected by a decision of the Council;

-- Institutionalize a system of consultations during the decision-making process on the establishment, conduct and termination of peace-keeping operations in order to strengthen the measures outlined in the presidential statement of the Security Council dated 28 March 1996;

-- Institutionalize the practice of giving opportunity to concerned States and organizations to present their views during closed meetings of the

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Sanctions Committees on issues arising from implementation of sanctions regimes imposed by the Security Council;

-- Clarify what constitutes a procedural matter as reflected in Article 27(2) of the Charter;

-- Make greater use of the International Court of Justice by seeking its advisory opinion consistent with Article 96(1) of the Charter.

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For information media. Not an official record.