GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT URGES MEMBER STATES NOT TO LET CURRENT MOMENTUM ON SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM BE UNDERMINED, AS DEBATE CONCLUDES
Sixty-second General Assembly
51st Meeting (AM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT URGES MEMBER STATES NOT TO LET CURRENT MOMENTUM
ON SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM BE UNDERMINED, AS DEBATE CONCLUDES
Says Frank Dialogue Has Paved Way for Developing Framework to Proceed;
Outlines ‘Pillars’ for Intergovernmental Negotiations, as Defined during Debate
Urging delegations to not let the current momentum to finally reshape the Security Council after a 14-year deadlock be undermined, the President of the General Assembly today called on Member States to approve a framework that would lead to a “comprehensive reform” of the Council, and ultimately, a significantly strengthened United Nations.
Wrapping up the world body’s annual debate on Security Council reform, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim praised the “frank and effective dialogue”, saying the discussion -- originally slated for one day, but which spilled into three due to high interest among member countries -- paved the way “towards developing a framework to identify and reach agreement on the various negotiable elements that will allow us to arrive at a point to begin intergovernmental negotiations”.
Mr. Kerim said that now, “a bridge needs to be constructed” between the results achieved during the Assembly’s sixty-first session and the way forward during the current year. The work of the sixty-first session culminated with the adoption in September of a decision to continue consideration of the question of Security Council reform, along with the relevant proposals put forward by Member States, regional groups and political coalitions, so that further concrete steps might be achieved this year, “including through intergovernmental negotiations”.
Laying out the “pillars of the edifice called ‘intergovernmental negotiations’”, based on the themes that emerged during the debate, he said that the Assembly must bear in mind that Security Council reform was an integral part of strengthening the Organization, and must, therefore, go hand in hand with the transformation of the wider United Nations system. “Prudent and principle-oriented guidance by the Assembly President was required, but the process must be based on a joint venture with Member States in good faith and mutual respect,” he added.
He said the way forward ought to be accomplished through an objective and transparent process to first identify the negotiables in order to move on to intergovernmental negotiations. Further, the Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group on the question of Security Council structural reform and expansion should carry out consultations on the framework and modalities for those negotiations.
“Further steps must contain components and notions that will allow the membership to reach a general agreement on all aspects of Security Council reform, in particular on both the composition of the Council and its working methods,” Mr. Kerim said, stressing that any agreed changes to the Council must accommodate the interests and concerns of all sides, “especially those who are currently underrepresented”. He also urged Member States to “refrain from steps that would serve to undermine the current momentum and consensus to continue the process, with the intention of achieving results-oriented solutions.”
Turning next to highlight some of the key concerns expressed during the debate, he said that Member States had clearly expressed that “we all have a shared responsibility to achieve results”. However, that would require combined efforts based on “pragmatism, political courage, mutual faith and respect, as well as flexibility and the political will to reach the broadest possible agreement”. He added that, while there had also been requests to step up the rhythm of the process, there was still the need to “avoid doing things too hastily”.
Finally, Mr. Kerim reminded delegations that all the achievements so far had been the result of “our collective actions”, and that “the speed at which we proceed should not be conditioned solely by the authority of leadership, but rather by the political will of Member States”. Reiterating his call on Member States to refrain from attempts to stall or derail the process, he said he would count on their support and cooperation in conducting the process during the coming year and would return to the 192-member body shortly with his outline of follow-up measures.
Speaking today were the representatives of Turkey, Slovenia, Nepal, Uganda, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Bolivia, Italy and Qatar.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 15 November, to elect and appoint members to a variety of United Nations entities and subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly.
The General Assembly met this morning to conclude its consideration of the Security Council’s annual report and its debate on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council.
BAKI İLKIN ( Turkey) said, despite being an accurate account of the Council’s work, the report before the Assembly could be more analytical. Overall, there was still much to be done to improve the working methods of the Security Council, to enhance its transparency, accountability and inclusiveness. The early reform of the Council would make it more representative, efficient, transparent and democratic, as well as enhancing its legitimacy and credibility. While focusing on Council reform, Member States should not overlook the revitalization of the Assembly, since the two were interrelated and should proceed simultaneously.
He said it was now time to build on the momentum generated in the sixty-first session of the Assembly and show greater understanding, flexibility and cooperation to seek the widest possible consensus on reform. The President of the Assembly should continue informal consultations with all interested parties, as his leadership, guidance and wisdom was necessary now more than ever. The main forum for preparing for an eventual intergovernmental negotiation should be the Open-ended Working Group, and its reports should guide future discussions and work. Finally, in underlining the need for flexibility, inclusiveness, transparency and constructiveness, he said the views and concerns of small States and island States should be taken into account since, without their consent, there could be no reform.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia) said the long list of speakers on the current agenda item was living proof of the high importance Member States attached to the issue of Security Council reform. The discussions of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, as well as the work of its facilitators and President, had created progress and generated momentum on reform. The proposed intermediary solution was a possible way forward towards a compromise. It was now time to negotiate a solution that would lead the Assembly towards the common goal of an efficient, effective and representative Security Council.
He reaffirmed his delegation’s belief that the Council should be enlarged in both the permanent and the non-permanent categories. Expansion should include a representative geographical distribution of seats, including an additional non-permanent seat for the Eastern European group. There was also a need to improve the Council’s working methods.
MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said that, without an effective Security Council, the objectives of the United Nations Charter could not be achieved. Its composition and working methods needed improvement, in keeping with changing global realities and the complexity of the issues confronting it. Council reform should strengthen its effectiveness and legitimacy and allow for more meaningful participation of the entire membership of the United Nations. He expressed support for the expansion of seats for both permanent and non-permanent members, saying that India, Brazil, Germany and Japan deserved a permanent place, while Africa also needed to be fairly represented.
In the non-permanent category, consideration should be given to smaller countries, especially those who regularly contributed to peacekeeping missions. He also proposed a rotation of membership for non-permanent seats so that all Member States could be represented on the Council and devote the time and energy spent to campaigning for seats to more meaningful work of the Organization. He noted that next year would be the fiftieth anniversary of Nepal’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations and that his country was the Organization’s fourth largest contributor to them. Troop-contributing countries, including non-members of the Council, should play a greater role in the Council’s work.
He also called for increasing transparency and accountability in the Council’s working methods, particularly with regard to the participation of Member States whose interests were affected by the issues under discussion. There also needed to be improvement in the Council’s relationship with the General Assembly, particularly in allowing the Assembly to assume its legislative role, rather than have the Council adopt resolutions of a legislative nature that applied to all Member States. Further, he urged the membership to move ahead on Council reform, noting that Nepal would welcome an interim arrangement.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda), aligning himself with Angola’s statement on behalf of the African Group, said various positions on Security Council reform had been put forward, and the two facilitators’ reports had been discussed at length. A resolution had been developed, which requested States to build on work done thus far, including through intergovernmental negotiations. However, in his reading of the resolution, States were not obligated to start those negotiations right away. Rather, they were “one of the elements” to be considered. The Assembly had not reached the stage for launching those talks; it must consider a “road map” and define the elements that would form the basis for talks. That process could best be conducted within the framework of the Open-ended Working Group.
He said the African position had not been considered in either of the facilitators’ reports, particularly with regard to the intermediary approach, and he had insisted that any talks take into account all groups’ positions. He was happy that that view was shared by the Assembly, as no one position should be singled out as the basis of talks. States must ensure that all positions, plus views of the facilitators, were considered as a whole.
The African position was well known: at least two permanent seats for the continent, with veto power. The rationale behind that position was that Africa remained the only continent without a permanent seat, and that historic wrong must be corrected. The position was well reasoned, and he believed it could form a basis for talks, along with others. Africa would determine who would occupy those seats, and had a right to recall its member. His delegation had insisted that a mechanism for recall be built into the position. Also, the criteria for joining the Council should not be based on the political or economic clout of any one country. He did not want to entrench the privileges of the permanent five.
The process of Security Council reform had not reached a stage at which intergovernmental negotiations could be launched, he said. On peacekeeping, he said if the United Nations maintained its traditional peacekeeping role, some conflicts would go unaddressed. For example, the situation in Somalia was bad. If the United Nations observed its traditional approach, it would not deploy its peacekeepers. “Would the Organization just stand by?” he asked, urging a generally robust peacekeeping role for the Organization. Uganda was involved in Somalia, giving its people reassurance that the international community cared about the situation. Uganda would not leave, despite being there alone, and he hoped other countries would join it, for the sake of peace.
IVAN T. PIPERKOV ( Bulgaria) urged the Council to prepare a report, in future, that would better meet the expectations of the membership, rather than one that enumerated its meetings and activities. He noted that United Nations reform would not be complete unless the Security Council came to reflect new economic and political realities. Reform should lead to a Council that was more representative, effective, legitimate and transparent. He expressed disappointment at the slow progress of reform, but noted that some progress had been made towards achieving greater transparency and openness in Council proceedings.
On Council enlargement, he said that both categories should be expanded. New permanent members should be drawn from those States whose increased economic and political potential gave them an acknowledged role in world affairs. Non-permanent seats should be expanded to represent the larger membership of the Organization, including a new seat for the Eastern European group. The balance between permanent and non-permanent members should be maintained, while there should be an equitable distribution of seats among regional groups. Further, he welcomed the decision calling for the sixty-second session of the General Assembly to undertake intergovernmental negotiations towards concrete results for reform. He was willing to support an interim solution, provided a mechanism was put in place subjecting it to review as the process advanced.
ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR ( Mongolia) said her country supported a just and equitable expansion of the Security Council in both its permanent and non-permanent categories of membership, ensuring due representation of both developing and developed countries. Regarding the permanent members, expansion should address the dichotomy of the Council’s composition and the geopolitical realities of the day, taking into consideration a country’s global outreach, as well as its economic and political weight. Therefore, the delegation backed the aspirations of Japan, Germany and India to serve as new permanent members. Moreover, Africa and Latin America required more adequate representation.
In that same vein, she said, Mongolia was in favour of the creation of additional non-permanent seats, but strongly opposed any proposal to amend Article 23 of the Charter. The provision that retiring members should not be eligible for immediate re-election had proved instrumental in ensuring rotation of Council members and the election of more countries to the Council than otherwise expected, with smaller states especially benefiting. Additionally, the creation of any third-tier membership would devalue the role and sideline the existing non-permanent members’ category.
Turning to working methods, she called for increased transparency, openness of the Council’s work, better access to all Member States and enhanced accountability to the United Nations. Finally, she said, all Member States shared the view that no reform effort of the United Nations was complete without Security Council reform -- the current status quo remained unacceptable. During the last session of the General Assembly, Member States adopted a resolution to consider the question of Security Council reform during the current session. This debate should mark the beginning of a process yielding concrete results.
E. HUGO SILES-ALVARADO ( Bolivia) said several factors should be taken into account in the Security Council reform process. Most States had recognized that now was the right moment for making changes in United Nations organs, however, nations continued to stand by the same non-convergent positions. As a result, little progress had been made in Council reform. The General Assembly was a central axis of the United Nations, and he urged the Council against dealing with issues not in its jurisdiction. It was extremely important that the Council have a more democratic membership; “equality for all” was a fundamental principle of democracy. However, a Security Council in which certain countries had privileges did not constitute a democracy. The body’s democratic composition could be improved, as all States should have the same powers and obligations. “That is democracy.”
In proposing a more democratic membership, he urged adopting a broader regional vision, through which the Council could become a true watchdog for international peace and security. The Council could not discuss peace when there were countries that threatened others with “reprisal wars”. The composition of the Security Council reflected the situation of the last century, when the “hegemonistic nature” of “the victors” was predominant. Today, States aspired to complementarity, self-determination of peoples and respect for human rights. It was only natural that that new reality be reflected in the United Nations.
As long as there were countries on the Council with the veto right, they would always take the important decisions. Council decisions were often made in isolation, without regard for the views of others, including the General Assembly. If it was necessary to expand the Council, Bolivia supported measures aimed at reaching consensus on the limitations and scope of the veto. When conditions improved, States could then discuss eliminating that tool.
To make progress towards serious United Nations reform, he said States must introduce amendments to the Charter that envisaged endowing the General Assembly with power to take binding decisions. The General Assembly must have the power to revise, when appropriate, decisions taken in the Security Council that had been based on a veto. That proposal should be examined in the Open-ended Working Group. He was not persuaded that now was the time to embark on intergovernmental negotiations.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said in two days a lot of common ground had been reached on Security Council reform, despite the differences between Member States. From their statements, it was easy to conclude that the United Nations needed to shake the tree and change the structure of the membership. A strategy for achieving that would be to bring in more members, even without veto power, in order to balance the excessive power of the permanent five. However, if the United Nations sincerely desired to shift the balance of power in the Council –- to make it more representative of geopolitical realities -– something completely different was necessary. In 1945, in San Francisco, such countries as Brazil, Columbia and Egypt floated and strongly supported the idea of regional seats. But, because regional seats posed a threat to the power of the permanent five, that idea failed. In the last 20 years, though, regional power and ownership had emerged and the Security Council needed to address it.
He continued, saying that the regional approach coincided with Africa’s vision of membership in the Security Council. Africa had not asked for permanent membership for one nation, but a permanent seat for a region. Instead of trying to split the African Union, Member States should consider how to apply regional membership to other areas and export the African vision to other stakeholders.
Additionally, he said, reform could not take place with the inclusion of all the Member States in negotiations and the best method to move forward was the Open-ended Working Group, which would succeed if supported by political will to make it effective. Finally, Member States should not turn away from an intermediary solution and deem it as less than ideal. It could possibly set the right ground for moving ahead, if it received wide political support.
HASSAN AL-KHATER ( Qatar) said that reform of the Security Council was essential to United Nations reform. That reform was long overdue. The Council’s composition could not remain as it was in 1945. All its members should be involved in decision-making, not just the five permanent members. The consultative mechanism must be enhanced so that countries impacted by Council decisions could have greater input. An expanded Council must reflect the international community as it was today, to improve its global credibility. No solution could satisfy everyone, but it was clear that all Member States should be included in the Council’s work. Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East should have greater representation and their contributions taken into account.
The Security Council must be capable of addressing the crises threatening world peace at the beginning of the twenty-first century, he said. The international community must view Council resolutions as binding and legitimate. Its composition must change, especially with regard to permanent membership. The emergence of developing countries on the international arena must also be recognized. An increase in permanent and non-permanent members should represent regional dynamics and reflect the realities of power, without supporting a double standard. The veto should be abolished, or failing that should not be expanded. Further, there must be a political way to move from discussion to reality. The Millennium Declaration called for intensification of efforts to reform the Council and should serve as a guide towards that end.
In its two years as a non-permanent member of the Council, he said, Qatar had learned the Council’s strengths and weaknesses. It could not retain its credibility and stature unless there were more members who fairly represented the larger membership and the new geopolitical realities, so that no one could question its legitimacy. Further, there needed to be consensus for reform. A premature draft resolution that had shortcomings should not be brought to a vote in the General Assembly.
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