Concluding Debate on Security Council Reform, Speakers in General Assembly Urge More Representation for Developing Countries, Ending of Permanent Members’ Veto Power
As the General Assembly today concluded its discussion on Security Council reform, Member States once again broadly agreed on the need to modernize the 15-member body to maintain the relevance of the United Nations in the twenty-first century but diverged over the appropriate use of the Council’s veto authority, especially in instances of mass atrocities.
The Assembly began its discussions on the need to reshape the Council, its sole body, with the authority to make decisions with legal force, in a way that enables it to better address current global challenges, on 17 November. (For more information, see Press Release GA/12472.)
Georgia's representative said that unfolding events have made it clear that the Council is failing to live up to its raison d’être - the maintenance of international peace and security, with veto power reform particularly urgent. The failed attempts to pass Council resolutions to stop the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine are a clear attestation to this, he said, cautioning against the use of the veto by a member who is involved in that conflict and hence is unable to exercise the power impartially.
The representative of Ukraine said that his country’s experience speaks volumes, stressing that it is inappropriate that a country in the permanent seat has a privilege to exercise veto during consideration of a conflict it instigated. Member States should focus on this issue during the next intergovernmental negotiations cycle of Council reform.
The veto is not a right, but rather a privilege unfairly granted to some Member States in violation of the United Nations Charter, the representative of Iran emphasized. He also noted that the majority of the Council's members are Western nations.
The veto power must go as it is anachronistic and counterproductive to the goal of maintaining international peace and security, said the delegate of Ghana. But if it exists, it must be constrained by rules. Given the entrenched interests made possible by permanent membership, some Council members may find it challenging to answer the question of what reform will look like. “But the question that we should address is whether we want to keep a limited privilege over a dysfunctional system or to strive for a permanent influence over an effective instrument of world peace,” she said.
However, the speaker for the Russian Federation opposed curtailing the veto power enjoyed by his delegation and other permanent Council members, especially since the prerogative incentivizes members to seek balanced solutions. He agreed that Council reform is long overdue, but with a solution still lacking and the approaches of the main players still vastly divergent, if not at times diametrically opposed, there is no alternative to continuing to proceed patiently.
Several Member States supported expanding both the permanent and non-permanent member categories when it came to the Council's membership. Additionally, many speakers endorsed adding more seats for Africa.
The representative of Zimbabwe said that Africa’s quest for two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats on the Council is a matter of right and wrong. “The fact that Africa, a major geographic region, remains underrepresented and unrepresented in the permanent category of the Security Council is unjustified,” she stressed.
Venezuela’s delegate said that Africa constitutes more than a quarter of the Organization’s Member States and over the years has been the subject of at least 70 per cent of the Council’s work. Supporting Africa’s common position will lead to a correction of the persistent historical imbalances inherited from colonialism.
The representative of France, a permanent member of the organ, supported the candidacies of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan for permanent membership as well as a stronger representation of African nations. The Council's legitimacy must be strengthened, and measures must be taken to increase the Council's capacity to adequately carry out its duties in maintaining international peace and security, she said.
Also speaking today were representatives from Poland, Syria, Saint Lucia, Philippines, Côte d’Ivoire, Mongolia, Guatemala, Belarus, Ireland, Senegal, Latvia, Cambodia, Barbados, Burundi, Congo, Zambia, Indonesia, Morocco, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Nigeria.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 21 November, to continue to discuss cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), stressing that the Russian Federation’s abuse of veto power points to an overwhelming need for a Council that is inclusive and effective, welcomed the adoption of the veto initiative resolution and noted that his country is a member of the core group that prepared that document. Acknowledging that the normative character of the decisions taken by the Assembly make them different from those of the Council, he said that, nevertheless, allowing the general membership to weigh in on matters pertaining to international peace and security after they become hostage to a veto cast in the Council is a step in the right direction. Further, his country is open for discussion on the number as well as the distribution of seats in the enlarged Council. Underscoring the importance of interactive member-driven discussion to make progress in the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, he called for work towards the development of a single consolidated text as a final document of those discussions.
WISSAM AJEEB (Syria), recalling that his delegation was among the first to endorse the Council reform process, endorsed the efforts of the working group and the intergovernmental negotiation process so as to create a more democratic and effective organ. The five pillars of reform are interlinked, and meticulous negotiations are needed to maintain a balance among them, he said, emphasizing that one pillar cannot be ignored at the expense of another. Member States must refrain from unrealistic deadlines and abstain from negotiations on detailed texts when conditions are not yet ripe, as this could widen the gap among delegations. At the same time, delegates should not change the working methods or use the process to meddle in the domestic affairs of States. Negotiations must be genuine, comprehensive, transparent and balanced, he said, calling for equitable representation on the Council.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) stated that reforming the Council is essential to strengthen its authority and representativeness while preserving its executive and decision-making nature. In order to preserve its executive and operational nature, an enlarged Council could have up to 25 members. France supports the candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan as permanent members, as well as a stronger presence for African countries. The issue of the veto is highly sensitive, she said, stressing that it is up to the States requesting a permanent seat to decide on the matter. She further explained that the objective must remain twofold: to consolidate the Council’s legitimacy and to strengthen its capacity to fully assume its responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security. It is in this spirit that France proposed that the five permanent Council members voluntarily and collectively suspend the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities. With regard to the Council’s working methods, she reaffirmed the organ's competence to define them and to emphasize the commitment of the Council’s members to greater transparency, openness and efficiency.
ASBINA MARIN SEVILLA (Venezuela), underscoring the importance of inclusiveness, transparency and the legal equality of States in intergovernmental negotiations, called for the Council to expand its membership and advance equitable representation. The Elements Paper, she said, is a personal summary that should in no way be considered as the basis for initiating future negotiations. As there is still no general consensus among Member States, forcing a course of action towards negotiations based on a text or artificial deadlines could be counterproductive, she cautioned. She then voiced her country’s support for Africa’s fair and adequate representation on the Council. Africa comprises more than a quarter of the Organization’s Member States and over the years has been the subject of at least 70 per cent of the Council’s work. Member States must redouble their efforts to translate the broad support they have shown for the African common position into a correction of the persistent historical imbalances inherited from colonialism.
DAVID BAKRADZE (Georgia) noted that unfolding events have made it clear that the Council is failing to live up to its raison d’être - the maintenance of international peace and security, with reform particularly urgent when it comes to the use of veto power. The failed attempts to pass Council resolutions to stop the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine are a clear attestation to this. Calling for the veto right to be restricted when the decision of the Council aims to prevent crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, he expressed support for the “Political statement on the suspension of the veto in case of mass atrocities” presented by France and Mexico during the Assembly’s seventieth session and the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes” by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group. The veto should not be abused by a Member State which is involved in the conflict under consideration and, therefore, cannot exercise its rights impartially. Citing a shared agreement that the Council needs to be enlarged in order to be more representative and reflective of the realities of the contemporary world, with priority on allocation of additional seats to the Eastern European Group, he further supported additional seats for the African Group in line with the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration.
KIMBERLY K. LOUIS (Saint Lucia), associating herself with the Caribbean Community and the L.69 Group, called for the broadening of the membership of the Security Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, with the inclusion of representation from small island developing States. “In order for us to meet the demands of our times we must move beyond the status quo,” she added, calling for the Chairman’s text to be tabled to serve as a basis for further negotiations, consistent with the standard practices of negotiations in all other intergovernmental processes. Member States are charged with adapting the United Nations to contemporary world realities, and ensuring the integrity of multilateral structures, to deliver on the purposes, principles and promises of the Charter of the United Nations. “We will not succeed in this end, in the absence of urgent and comprehensive reform of the Security Council,” she warned, affirming Saint Lucia’s commitment to participate diligently to advance a reenergized intergovernmental negotiations process.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), supporting equitable representation as well as more non-permanent Council members, said the intergovernmental negotiations framework has mainly been a forum for groups of States to reiterate well-known positions year after year. None of the documents it has produced over the last six years have led to actual progress towards Council reform, he said, emphasizing the need to move from generalities to specificities. He underscored the need to achieve greater transparency and predictability in the Council’s working methods as well as improve non-members’ access to its decision-making processes. The Council must respond to today’s dynamic world in a manner that represents the concerns of the Organization’s wider membership, he said.
HALLEY CHRISTINE YAPI NÉE BAH (Côte d'Ivoire) said that in the 14 years since the Assembly adopted decision 62/557, the expected dividends from intergovernmental negotiations on Council reform have fallen short of expectations. Stressing the need for an inclusive and credible Council, she said regional representation must be a priority, adding that it is unjust that, to this day, Africa remains the only continent with no permanent member. She echoed calls for two permanent seats for Africa, as well as two additional non-permanent seats, to give the continent representation on a level with its contribution to maintaining international peace and security.
ENKHBOLD VORSHILOV (Mongolia), associating with the L.69 Group, emphasized the vitality of multilateralism for small and developing countries. The realities of the world in the twenty-first century, particularly recent events, urge the Assembly to speed up Council reform. Noting that equitable representation has been on the Assembly’s agenda for 43 years, he said the process so far has been too long and too wasteful. Steps must be taken to promote results-oriented intergovernmental negotiations, guided by decision-making modalities and working methods laid out in the United Nations Charter and in line with the Assembly’s rules and procedures. Both the permanent and non-permanent categories should be expanded, with an emphasis on unrepresented and underrepresented groups, he added.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) said that the reform of the Council is past due. Recent developments in Ukraine, and other places in the world where the Council has been unable to resolve conflict, demonstrate urgency for reform. The nature of reform may be a difficult question for some because of the entrenched interest provided through the privilege of permanent membership. “But the question that we should ask is whether we want to retain a narrow privilege over a broken system or to aspire toward an enduring influence over an effective instrument of global peace,” she said. The veto power is anachronistic and counterproductive to the goal of maintaining international peace and security. The veto must go, but if it exists, it must be constrained by rules. Ghana reaffirms support for the expansion of the Council’s permanent and non-permanent membership, including Africa’s desire for two permanent and five non-permanent seats on the organ. An enlarged Council should include no fewer than 26 seats, she said.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala), noting that membership in the Security Council represents a high level of responsibility, said it is essential to make it a more representative body. Stressing the need to balance the criterion of representation with the need to act quickly, she also reaffirmed the importance of a greater connection between the work of the Security Council and that of the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission. The Security Council’s work must become more transparent, she said, voicing support for an increase in the number of members in that body, in both categories, and proposing 10 permanent and 15 elected members. Africa and Latin America must have permanent representation in the Security Council, she said, adding that the veto power must not be used to worsen international crises.
SIARHEI MAKAREVICH (Belarus), stressing the necessity for the Council to respond to the challenges of the day as a prerequisite for the Organization’s effective functioning, called for an inclusive member-owned and member-driven process which has a common understanding of the overall objective. Transparency, openness and non-discrimination must not be overlooked, he emphasized, adding that a majority formula in negotiations is unacceptable. Member States must prioritize broadening the Council’s membership, ensure greater representation of developing countries and provide smaller and medium-sized States with greater opportunities in that body. There should also be an additional seat for Eastern Europe, he advocated. Turning to intergovernmental negotiations, he rejected any phased or fragmented approaches as well as the unproductive proposals to take the dialogue outside of the only legitimate platform. It is premature to start discussing text-based negotiations, he stressed. As Council reform is fundamental for the planet, there must be incremental dialogue with due respect for all.
DONAL KENNEALLY (Ireland), emphasizing that the Council no longer reflects the make-up of the United Nations and the realities of the world, said Member States must act now to bring a fair and equitable African say into its decisions. The vulnerable must also be heard, with smaller nations, including small island developing States, having a role that reflects the seriousness and urgency of their situations. Stressing the need to instil new life into the reform process, he said progress will only occur through substantive text-based negotiations. Member States must consider how change can be achieved and focus on those areas where immediate progress can be made, including on accountability, transparency, working methods and interlinkages with the wider system. “Ireland’s experience as a Council member over the past two years has taught us that reform – big or small – is urgently needed, now more than ever,” he said.
Mr. GUEYE (Senegal), associating with the African Group, stressed that the Security Council cannot remain frozen in the past. Reform is a necessity for a more democratic and effective body capable of managing crises, he said, adding that the intergovernmental negotiations framework process is the ideal forum for achieving the common goal. Having Africa represented among the permanent and non-permanent seats would correct historic injustice, he asserted, underscoring the principles of equitable geographical distribution and regional representation. Calling for improved working methods of the Council, he noted that so long as the question of the veto exists, the new permanent members must benefit from all of the prerogatives of a permanent seat.
PAYMAN GHADIRKHOMI (Iran) said the current structure of the Security Council does not reflect the realities of the international community. The objective of reform must be to restructure the Council into a truly representative, effective and, above all, rules-based and accountable body serving common interests. Geographically, the Council is dominated mostly by Western countries. Moreover, the vast majority of United Nations Member States have criticized the veto power. The veto is not a right, rather a privilege guaranteed unfairly to certain Member States, which is inconsistent with the United Nations Charter. The intergovernmental negotiations process must remain open, transparent, inclusive and membership driven. Attempts to change the rules, format, or informal nature of the process seems unconstructive and must be avoided, he said.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine), stressing the urgency of Council reforms, said his country’s experience speaks volumes. One country misuses its presence in the seat of a permanent member of the Security Council, he said, adding that the seat is still assigned to the now-defunct Soviet Union. Stressing that it is inappropriate that the country in the permanent seat has a privilege to exercise veto during consideration of a conflict it instigated, he encouraged Member States to focus on this issue during the course of the next intergovernmental negotiations’ cycle. Instead of another cycle of repeating current positions, the international community can open new avenues for progress by agreeing on text-based negotiations, he said, adding that such a text should properly reflect the entire scope of positions and proposals as well as acknowledge unchallenged proposals. It is a matter of principle for his country that at least one additional seat must be allocated to the Eastern European Group in the category of elected members, he added.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), echoing calls for immediate text-based negotiations, said the Council’s inability to live up to its responsibilities is directly linked to the veto privileges of its permanent members. As such, France and Mexico’s opposition to the use of the veto in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes provides a necessary impulse for change in the Council’s working methods and output, he said, calling on all Member States to join this pledge. While the question of the veto is not an easy one, it is nevertheless an essential part of reform. The Council must also enhance its relations with the Organization’s membership and maximize its effectiveness, efficiency, transparency and accountability, he added, noting Latvia’s membership in the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group. In addition, the Council must have an equitable regional representation of African, Latin American and small island developing States and should allocate additional elected membership to the Eastern European Group. He then announced Latvia will run for a non-permanent seat in 2025.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia) said that it is imperative that the Council be capable enough to respond to current global challenges. The Council must be more representative, effective and accountable to deliver its mandate and maintain international peace and security. However, Member States’ positions in all clusters remain far apart, requiring more intensified efforts and negotiations towards bridging those gaps. “We should also be clear on fundamental principles and scopes of the reform upon which we will be able to ultimately achieve our objective,” he added. Forcing a text-based negotiation without a secured consensus will risk undermining the intergovernmental negotiations process. Cambodia supports the expansion of the Council’s permanent and non-permanent seats, including with the appointment of developing States and small States.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) stressed that Council reform is long overdue. With a solution still lacking and the approaches of the main players still vastly divergent if not at times diametrically opposed, he said he sees no alternative to continuing to proceed patiently, step by step, at the current Assembly session. The Council, he reiterated, must be more representative; include developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America; and right the historical wrong against Africa. While India and Brazil are also worthy candidates for permanent seats, he noted that this is on the condition of an agreed reform model where membership is increased in both categories. He went on to express his support for increasing the number of elected members only as well as for keeping membership compact so it does not exceed the low twenties. On the veto, he registered his opposition to its curtailment especially since the prerogative incentivizes members to seek balanced solutions. Turning to intergovernmental negotiations, he underscored that progress cannot be achieved through imposing negotiations, documents or initiatives that have not been agreed upon by all participants. As a platform for consistent and balanced discussions, it must not create nor deepen differences.
FRANÇOIS JACKMAN (Barbados), associating himself with CARICOM and the L.69 Group, said that another failure to address the juxtaposition of an antiquated but central mechanism with a much-changed and fragile contemporary international order would constitute a dereliction of duty. The process for reform must afford all countries and all delegations – large and small – a genuine opportunity for meaningful participation. Urging representatives to carry out their role on behalf of humanity, he called for transparency, text-based negotiations and a meaningful record-keeping mechanism including webcasting.
IRENE MUCHAITEI JURU (Zimbabwe), associating herself with the African Group, said that an organ of the United Nations that serves the collective interest of international peace and security should not reflect prejudices. “The fact that Africa, a major geographic region, remains underrepresented and unrepresented in the permanent category of the Security Council is unjustified.” The continent must be fairly represented in all the decision-making organs, including the Council, she said, emphasizing that its quest for two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats is a matter of justice. Zimbabwe reaffirms its strong commitment to Africa’s position on the Council and underlines that the reform should be based on consensus, she said, adding that on a broader level, Zimbabwe remains committed to a fair, just and effective United Nations anchored on multilateralism, inclusivity and transparency.
LANDRY SIBOMANA (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group, stated that the African Common Position is the only viable option to redress the historical injustice done to the African continent. Africa calls for the expansion of the Security Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, with African countries allocated no fewer than two permanent seats, with all the rights, prerogatives and privileges of the current members, and two additional non-permanent seats. Africa also calls for the abolition of the veto. However, so long as the veto exists, it should be extended with all its attributes to new permanent members. Additionally, he added that the five main components of the reform process are interlinked and cannot be discussed or negotiated in isolation. He also reiterated that General Assembly decision 62/557 dictated that the intergovernmental negotiation process is the only legitimate platform on which to discuss reform as it is member-driven and based on the positions and suggestions of all Member States. Finally, he stressed that the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit, held last February, wisely advised that "given the divergent views and positions of the respective interest groups, engaging in a text-based negotiation at this stage without agreeing on principles will not only be premature, but counterproductive”.
EMERY GABI (Congo) stated that the reform of the Security Council remains an ongoing concern for Member States, which want a body that meets the criteria of effectiveness, coherence, representativeness, justice and transparency. These objectives are far from being achieved, as long as the five points defined by decision 62/557 (2008) are not approved in intergovernmental negotiations. To have a representative Council, two African States should sit as permanent members, with privileges inherent to this status, and two others as non-permanent members. “This requirement is based on the need to provide reparation for the historical injustice done to Africa, which represents almost a third of the members of the Organization and should therefore occupy its rightful place in the Security Council, he said. The stumbling block to increasing the number of permanent members of the Council is the veto, he said, adding that its abolitions will be the solution if this instrument poses a problem.
CHOLA MILAMBO (Zambia), aligning himself with the African Group, encouraged all parties to show flexibility, understanding and forbearance for the global good. Noting the broad support for Africa’s common position as articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, he reiterated the continent’s demands for additional non-permanent seats and two permanent seats with all attached privileges. “How long can Africa wait? Why must we maintain a position of injustice when we are all in agreement there is an issue here?” he asked. As the endless debate on reform is now another form of injustice to Africa, Member States must overcome their differences, streamline discussions, formulate workable decisions and take action. A formal negotiation process should be guided by the decision-making modalities and working methods of the United Nations Charter and in line with the Assembly’s rules and procedures.
MARISKA DWIANTI DHANUTIRTO (Indonesia) emphasized that the intergovernmental negotiations framework remains an avenue for Member States towards an effective and representative Security Council. The only response to multidimensional crisis – food, health, energy and finance – is to strengthen cooperation, she asserted, adding that the voice of small and developing countries must be equally heard. Calling for an inclusive negotiation process that accommodates the interests of all, she said the voices of all regions in the Council needs to be amplified. She also underscored that the Council must adapt and be flexible in its working method.
IMANE BENZIANE (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group and Arab Group, said that Security Council reform is part of United Nations reform aimed at revitalizing the Organization. It is “unthinkable” that Africa is the only continent that is not represented among the permanent members. This is a historical injustice committed against Africa. “We must rectify the situation by bolstering Africa's representation on the reformed Security Council,” she stressed, adding that Africa continues to make a substantive and human contribution to the maintenance of peace and security. “We need adequate representation for Arab States in the non-permanent members category,” she said. Morocco is committed to reforming the Council in a comprehensive and genuine fashion in the spirit of constructive and transparent cooperation.
Ms. MWANGI (Kenya), aligning herself with the African Group and reaffirming her country’s commitment to Security Council reforms, said her continent’s goal is to be fully represented in United Nation’s decision-making, including that of the Council. That body must adapt to the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century, she said, stressing the importance of increasing its legitimacy, effectiveness and transparency. A just and inclusive world order cannot be spear-headed by an undemocratic Council, she said, calling on that institution to reflect on values it is entrusted with protecting. Also noting the need to improve the working methods of the Council to make it more accountable, she said reforms should include better access to its work and more transparency in decision-making. Intergovernmental negotiations documents must reflect the overwhelming support the common African position enjoys, she emphasized.
VILAYLUCK SENEDUANGDETH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) affirmed her delegation’s full support for Council reform through the intergovernmental negotiation process as the most appropriate manner to achieve the objective: a more representative, transparent and effective body to achieve international peace and security. A thorough process that includes the interests and concerns of all countries as well as geographical representation is necessary. Negotiations should be carried out in a comprehensive manner to enlarge the Council with an increase in permanent and non-permanent members, she said, expressing hope that current deliberations will produce more tangible progress.
Ms. DAKWAK (Nigeria), associating herself with the African Group and the L.69 Group, called for more to be done as outlined in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration. African States, she stressed, have offered a coherent, practical and persuasive blueprint for Council reform. There must be an expansion of the Council’s membership with not less than two permanent seats with all the prerogatives and privileges, including the right of the veto, as well as two non-permanent seats, she said. Equitable representation would enhance the Council’s transparency and accountability as well as its decision’s effectiveness and legitimacy. To address key areas of concern in an open, inclusive and transparent process, there must be an agreeable means which documents how far Member States have come. She then advocated for the full utilization of the calendar for meetings, a summary of discussions after each meeting and a single consolidated text with attributions.