Lack of Political Will among ‘Elite Few’ Threatens Security Council Reform Efforts, Delegates Tell General Assembly

Lack of political will on the part of an “elite few” continued to threaten efforts to reform the Security Council, the General Assembly heard today, as delegates warned that the resulting inertia risked jeopardizing the 15 member organ’s credibility and that of the entire United Nations system.
“More and more, we are hearing calls for the United Nations to change and evolve at a faster pace,” said General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) in opening remarks. Noting that the Council’s work could mean the difference between life and death — and was viewed as one of the main indicators of the United Nations role in the world — he underscored that the Assembly itself held the key to such reform efforts. Calling for real dialogue and interaction to reach that objective, he warned that without them, the reform process would remain a mere exercise in repeating the static positions of Member States.
Throughout the subsequent debate, representatives of more than 60 delegations outlined their various proposals on five core elements of reform: membership categories, the question of the veto held by the Council’s five permanent members (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States), regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council and the body’s working methods. Many welcomed that, a decade into a formal intergovernmental negotiation process, the gap between States’ positions was now narrowing, with broad agreement emerging on the notion of expanding the Council’s non permanent membership in favour of countries belonging to underrepresented regions.
Colombia’s delegate, mirroring a concern voiced by many delegations, said it was “high time” to expand the representation of such regions as Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, she warned against any reform initiatives that would expand the use of the veto or perpetuate such privileges among an “elite few”. Calling on the Council to “lead by example”, she said regular elections would be critical to ensuring that the body became more inclusive and democratic.
Similarly, Zambia’s representative responded to delegations calling for limits on extending the veto to new permanent Council members by emphasizing that Africa was not prepared to accept second-class status. As such, it would continue to demand that any permanent member, new or old, possess the veto. “Africa cannot and will not accept that its fate will be discussed without its full participation,” he said, underlining that it also would “not accept to be treated as a child that cannot be trusted to exercise the veto responsibly”.
Kuwait’s delegate, speaking for the Arab Group, said the arbitrary use of the veto by the five permanent members had, in fact, already harmed the Council’s credibility, pointing out that the veto had frequently been used to shield Israel from accountability for its practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Concerning the question of reining in veto power, Liechtenstein’s representative said his delegation had led efforts by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group to create a code of conduct prohibiting its use in cases where the Security Council sought to take action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. “Subscribing to the code of conduct is the minimum commitment we should be able to expect from any Council member,” he stressed, noting that 114 Member States had already adhered to the code and pledged not to support any future Council candidates that had failed to do the same.
The United Kingdom’s representative, noting that his country had signed the code of conduct, said his delegation had not used its veto in a generation. “Sadly, we have seen others wielding their veto through narrow self-interest” to the detriment of the Council’s reputation, he said, noting that the use of the veto had prevented action in Syria against a despicable regime that had murdered its own people with chemical weapons. In addition, his delegation supported a modest expansion in membership, with permanent seats for Brazil, Germany, India and Japan alongside African representation.
France’s delegate also supported a strengthened presence for African countries as permanent and non permanent members. Further, to advance progress on reform efforts, he emphasized the need for a negotiation text, which was crucial to better reflect the realities of today’s world and bolster the Council’s ability to shoulder full responsibility for international peace and security.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s representative expressed concern that lack of will on the part of a few States remained the most persistent stumbling block in the way of a more representative, transparent and accountable Security Council. Certain delegations continued to blame others for the slow pace of that process, asking them for more flexibility, even as they remained firmly wedded to their own positions. Attempts to sidestep consensus through quick fixes and procedural manoeuvres had undermined mutual trust, she said, warning that introducing a negotiating text into that “chasm” would only widen differences.
Japan’s delegate, speaking for the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan) was among those urging the Assembly to move the intergovernmental process towards a text-based negotiation on particular reform elements. Such talks would hinge on the various positions and proposals of Member States, he said, calling for a concise and operational negotiation text as a logical next step. Reform was needed to make the Council more legitimate, effective and representative, he stressed, as well as to reflect the realities of the twenty first century.
Likewise, Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking for the African Group, emphasized the need to expand both the Council’s permanent and non permanent membership categories, while also pointing to considerable support among Member States for the inclusion of small- and medium-sized countries and enhanced African representation. Indeed, a Security Council that better represented the current global geopolitical realities would help to preserve the principles of equity and democracy, while enhancing its own legitimacy and effectiveness.
However, Italy’s delegate, speaking for the Uniting for Consensus Group, described the demand by some States for more permanent seats on the Security Council as the main roadblock impeding progress in the negotiations process. In that context, the Group’s proposed establishment of a category of longer-term, non permanent membership with the possibility of immediate re election — as well as more equitable distribution among regional groups — would fulfil the legitimate desire of some countries to make a greater contribution to the Council’s work.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, meanwhile, stressed that the fundamental principles of equality, sovereignty and mutual respect between countries continued to be wantonly violated, with the United States in particular abusing its privileged position as a permanent member of the Council to pursue its strategy of world dominance. That included aggravating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, he said, adding that Council reform must aim at ensuring impartiality, objectivity and democracy, while avoiding double standards, arrogance and arbitrariness. In addition, abnormalities such as the adoption of resolutions designed to justify and legitimize a specific country’s moves for aggression or war should be rejected.
Also speaking were representatives of Guyana (for the Caribbean Community), Norway (for the Nordic countries), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (for the L.69 Group), India, Australia, Malta, Guatemala, Brazil, Philippines, Swaziland, Mongolia, Singapore, Nepal, Estonia, Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Slovakia, Argentina, Egypt, Slovenia, Maldives, Peru, Cuba, Spain, China, Thailand, Germany, South Africa, Mexico, San Marino, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Morocco, Latvia, Panama, Ukraine, Qatar, Nigeria, Ghana and the Russian Federation.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 November, to continue the debate.
Opening Remarks
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said Security Council reform would not just affect the work in that entity, but also the future of the entire United Nations system. “More and more, we are hearing calls for the United Nations to change and evolve at a faster pace,” he said, noting that such calls had come from people and Member States all over the world. During the Assembly’s high-level debate in September, there were calls for the Organization to adapt to a changing world, he said, noting that as the body charged with maintaining international peace and security the Council’s decisions could meant the difference between life and death. Its work made headlines and was viewed as one of the main indicators of the United Nations role in the world. “This is why we must answer these calls for change,” he stressed, warning that the relevance and very survival of the Organization were at stake.
“In answering these calls, we do not have to look further than this hall,” he said, noting that the Assembly itself held the key to reforming the Council. No changes to the body’s structure or process had been made since 1965 — more than half a century ago — when there had been an expansion in the Council’s non-permanent membership. Next year, the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council Reform would mark its twenty fifth anniversary, and the intergovernmental negotiation process was nearing its tenth anniversary. “Now is the time for action,” he stressed, calling for “real dialogue, real listening and real interaction”. Without those elements, the process would remain nothing but an exercise in reading statements reflecting well-known and static positions. States must seek convergences and trust in the process. Admitting that “not all of us see eye to eye” on the issue, he nevertheless recalled that many of the world’s most difficult negotiations had also begun with parties that were not even able to sit in the same room. The Assembly was already ahead in that respect, he said, stressing that “we too can make history, and we can start today”.
ADIKALIE FODAY SUMAH (Sierra Leone), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said despite a general agreement to reform the Security Council, some disagreement on the method to do so remained. Amid a convergence in intergovernmental negotiations, growing support had emerged for expanding permanent and non-permanent member categories, a view shared by a wide cross-section of Member States. At the same time, there had been considerable support for the inclusion of small- and medium-sized States and enhanced African representation. The overall position was to ensure the Council represented current global geopolitical realities, which would help to preserve the principles of equity and democracy and enhance its legitimacy and effectiveness.
However, since the adoption of General Assembly decision 62/557, negotiations had yet to begin, he said. It was time to move from rhetoric to action and produce the desired results of the 2005 World Outcome Summit. To guide the reform process, the interlinkages of the five negotiable clusters must be acknowledged. To correct the current membership imbalance, it must be enlarged to consider the need to redress the prolonged historical injustice done to Africa. Comprehensive reform was needed, not piecemeal or intermediate procedural efforts, he said, highlighting that it was unacceptable for Africa to be the only continent not represented in the permanent category. The African Group would continue to demand the allocation of no less than two permanent and five non-permanent seats. That demand was in line with the right to a fair and equitable geographical representation and the need to address a grossly unjust scenario. Any delay would further perpetuate and compound the current injustice.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said reform of the Security Council and the actual representation of States in that body were some of the main elements needed to reform the United Nations and better address today’s emerging challenges. After 10 years of negotiations on that issue, States should work to move forward by seeking consensus-based decisions. Warning against the imposition of a concrete timeline that might preclude consensus decisions, he said the intergovernmental negotiation process was the only way to a solution on the five main elements of Council reform. Restarting negotiations during the Assembly’s seventy-second session should include all current proposals, which would help to guide the two Co Chairs in making progress.
The Arab Group would help to preserve the Council’s coherence by avoiding any decisions that were not consensus based, he said. The arbitrary use of the veto had harmed the Council’s credibility — at times making it unable to shoulder its responsibilities — and its permanent members had demonstrated that they would use that power to defend national interests or those of their allies. Over the last 25 years, the veto had been used 27 times to protect Israel from accountability for the practices it had carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Calling for States to reach an agreement on the Council’s standing rules of procedure and its number of plenary meetings, he said its decisions and statements should be made more widely available and consultations with affected countries should be increased. Its subsidiary bodies should also make information on their activities more widely available. In addition, the League of Arab States sought permanent and proportional non-permanent representation.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), speaking for the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany, India, Japan), said reform was long overdue. If Member States truly sought to preserve the credibility of the process and the United Nations, there was no more time to lose. To translate words into action, text-based negotiations needed to commence immediately, he said, asking the General Assembly President to grant the Co-Chairs full support for initiating the process without further delay. That was necessary to ensure the credibility of the process, he said, noting that no other negotiations in the history of the United Nations had continued for decades without a text.
He said the basis of negotiations rested on the positions and proposals of Member States contained in the framework document. The next logical step was to prepare a concise and operational negotiation text, preferably in the form of a draft resolution. Overall, reform was needed to make the Council more legitimate, effective and representative, reflecting the realities of the twenty-first century. To achieve that objective, enlargement in both permanent and non-permanent categories was required in a manner that considered the contributions of Member States to the maintenance of international peace and security.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the Uniting for Consensus Group, said “the credibility of a membership-driven process, such as the [intergovernmental negotiations] on Security Council reform, depends on its transparency and inclusiveness”. Concrete progress depended on considering the voices of all Member States, he said, calling on the parties to work in true spirit of flexibility and compromise and to avoid obstacles that had thus far impeded the process. The Uniting for Consensus Group had identified the main roadblock — the demand for more permanent seats — and had offered a compromise solution consisting of longer-term, non-permanent membership with the possibility of immediate re-election, and more equitable distribution among regional groups.
Elaborating on those proposals, he said longer-term seats would fulfil the legitimate desire of some Member States to make a greater contribution to the Council’s work. The proposal would allow for the increased and more stable representation of cross-regional groups, such as the Arab Group, and had been the fruit of an inclusive vision. Expressing concern that some delegations had voiced opposition to it during the previous Assembly session, he said the Co-Chairs’ final document in 2016 had demonstrated the agreement of all Member States with the idea of expanding the number of non-permanent seats and with the notion that such an increase should favour countries belonging to underrepresented regions. A significant and growing number of States were also opposed to expanding the veto and supported limitations on its use, he said, stressing that building a compromise solution must be mapped out on the basis of those three broad areas of agreement.
RUDOLPH MICHAEL TEN-POW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said political will was pivotal to making progress on Security Council reform. Since the Assembly had established an open-ended working group to consider the matter in 1993, there had been limitless opportunities to work towards restructuring the Council in line with current realities. Indeed, progress was possible, given the tremendous number of ideas generated since the start of debates on the question of Council reform.
However, progress was not merely about ideas, but about putting ideas to work, he said. Many Member States had tabled proposals and articulated their positions. Going forward, discussions must focus on the fundamental issues that divided Member States, and must be based on clearly laid out positions and proposals. Referring to the words of the Assembly President in a previous address, he urged Member States to be constructive and reach across the aisle. For its part, CARICOM remained fully committed to the goal of early reform. With a critical stake in the maintenance of international peace and security, he highlighted that small island developing States needed to be better positioned to contribute to the Council’s work.
MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, affirmed their commitment to engage in collective efforts aimed at reforming the Security Council. The momentum for reform that was currently energizing the work of the Secretariat and Member States was encouraging, she said, highlighting that the Council needed to become more transparent, effective, accountable and representative.
An important and desirable step forward would be text-based negotiations, she said. Moreover, reform efforts must seek to ensure the Council better reflected current geopolitical and economic realities, ensure enhanced representation of developing countries and include both permanent and non-permanent seats for Africa. It was also important to safeguard possibilities for small States to serve regularly as elected members of the Council.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the L.69 Group, said that if the membership was serious about the credibility of the intergovernmental negotiations, a standard United Nations negotiating practice must be established as a matter of urgency. Failure to do so would place the entire process at risk and allow a minority to manipulate efforts as a means to maintain the status quo. The call for a negotiating text was not a demand, but a reflection of a shared responsibility. The absence of a text hindered Member States’ honest attempts to engage and created unnecessary confusion and inadvertent misrepresentations or misunderstandings of their perspectives, due to the lack of records of how their positions had evolved over time.
“Where do we go from here?” she asked, emphasizing that engagement in the intergovernmental negotiations was not an intellectual exercise. In the spirit of transparency and openness, it was time for the world to see what had been discussed over the years and to let people know whether any progress had been made. That was the minimum that was owed to constituents, particularly the youth, whose lives would be shaped most profoundly by decisions made by the Assembly. The expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent seats was imperative to better reflect contemporary world realities and achieve a more accountable representative, transparent and relevant Council.
SYED AKBARUDDIN (India), describing the Council as dysfunctional, said it no longer reflected contemporary realities and was facing a crisis of legitimacy and credibility. There was no greater example of institutional inertia than the inability to translate discussions into a text for negotiations, despite the Assembly’s annual consideration of Council reform since 1993. With transnational threats, deepening economic interdependence and environmental degradation all calling for effective multilateral action, the international community had fallen short on an issue as important as Council reform. That was a sign that the aging pillars of the established multilateral order were creaking and crumbling, unable to meet the need for change. Having a negotiating text was not just a demand of the majority, but the responsibility of all Member States.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) expressed disappointment that there had been little progress in reforming the Council, which should be viewed as a necessity. To be relevant and effective, it should better reflect contemporary geopolitical realities, with greater representation for Asia, Africa and Latin America. Such expansion must not inhibit the Council’s ability to act swiftly and decisively. It should be accompanied by improvements to the Council’s working methods, which must reflect greater transparency, better coordination with the General Assembly and better consultation with troop and police contributing countries. He urged Member States to commit to the code of conduct proposed by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group and the complementary French-Mexican Declaration, which called for restraint on the use of veto in situations of mass atrocity. Those two initiatives were among the few welcome steps towards Council reform in recent years.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said “the need for Security Council reform is “beyond dispute”. He supported early reform efforts and proposed an enlargement model that would add long-term seats for eight to 10 years with the possibility of immediate re-election. He also suggested no new veto powers, a strong review clause and a “flip flop” clause which would bar States that lost election for long-term seats to run for short-terms seats. His country had consistently worked with like-minded States to help the Council improve how it carried out its functions and conducted daily business. Liechtenstein had led the effort by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group to create a code of conduct, currently supported by 114 Member States. Those States had committed to take action to end and prevent atrocity crimes when serving as Council members, including by not opposing credible proposals to that effect. He expressed gratification that the Secretary-General had submitted relevant information to the Security Council for action, but expressed frustration at that Council’s slow response. “Subscribing to the code of conduct is the minimum commitment we should be able to expect from any Council member,” he stated. His Government would only support Council candidates from States that had signed it, he said, calling upon all remaining States to do so.
CARMELO INGUANEZ (Malta), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said that Security Council reform was a delicate and sensitive matter and there was no doubt that strategic interests were at stake, thereby rendering the process slow-moving. He noted that in a positive and constructive spirit, the Uniting for Consensus Group had developed a proposal through a consensual approach that took into account the concerns of every State without discounting what was believed to be the essential principles of reform. Reform was a painstaking process that must be driven by Member States. “It is about sowing the seeds — whether we agree or not — of a new multilateral order,” he underscored, adding that it was imperative to ensure that the Organization reflected today’s realities.
JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the fundamental principles of international relations — namely, the equality, sovereignty and mutual respect of countries as stipulated in the United Nations Charter — were currently being wantonly violated. Sovereign States were openly subjected to interference, military invasion and massacres, with other States interfering in their internal affairs under the deceptive cloak of “human rights advocacy” and “democracy”. Similarly, State-sponsored terrorism and subversive plots were being pursued under the pretext of so-called “non-proliferation” and “counter-terrorism”. As a result, terrorist forces were taking shape on a global scale and catastrophic consequences — including the present disastrous refugee situation — were the result.
Those situations were caused by the United States, which abused its privileged position as a permanent member of the Council to pursue its strategy of world dominance, he continued. That State aggravated tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and, as the world’s largest nuclear power, threatened the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “without any trace of shame”. Council reform must therefore aim to ensure impartiality, objectivity and democracy, while double standards, arrogance and arbitrariness must be avoided. Abnormalities such as the adoption of resolutions designed to justify and legitimize a specific country’s moves for aggression or war should be rejected. Calling for Council reform to be based on the principle of full representation for the Non-Aligned Movement and developing countries, he said that while the non-permanent membership should be expanded, Japan’s inclusion in that category must never be tolerated as it remained Asia’s “chief war criminal State” and still denied having committed inhumane and heinous acts during its many invasions in the region.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) reiterated his delegation’s commitment to the intergovernmental negotiations process, which must be transparent and equitable in nature and remain in line with the contemporary situation on the ground. “Institutions cannot stand idly by” against the backdrop of today’s challenges, he stressed, adding that the Council must be rendered sufficiently flexible to be able respond to those challenges. Indeed, for the body to retain its credibility and be able to fulfil its mandate, “we must be ready to accept that the status quo is not an option”. Warning that inertia could allow paralysis to take root and undermine the Council’s effectiveness, he said the use of the veto represented a particular threat as it had allowed the five permanent members to abdicate their responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Calling into question whether the veto should be allowed at all — and whether it should even be considered during the reform process — he voiced support for the code of conduct proposed by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, which would prohibit the veto’s use in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of Four and L.69 Group, said any attempt to reform the United Nations and bring its structures in line with current realities could not overlook reform of the Security Council. A significant number of countries had expressed concern with the outdated structure of the current composition of the Council and the need to adjust it to contemporary realities. It was noteworthy that most of countries which highlighted those concerns were developing countries which were underrepresented in the Council. “It is past time to redress this underrepresentation including of African countries, the only continent not to have a permanent Member in the Council,” he said.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) expressed support for an increased number of permanent and non-permanent seats, including a proposal to expand the Council to 27 members, with balanced geographic representation. Citing an example of the current imbalance, she said that the Asia-Pacific Group accounted for 20 per cent of Council seats even though countries in the region represented 60 per cent of the total population of Member States, 28 per cent of the Organization’s membership and 40 per cent of personnel in peacekeeping operations. The issue of under-representation must be corrected and an enlarged Council must be able to act swiftly and decisively with accountability, coherence, transparency and fidelity to the greater United Nations membership. While such an enlargement could pose challenges, prioritizing key issues could provide an “antidote” to various concerns. On the issue of the veto, she said no State should be granted special privileges, as it was in direct contravention to the principle of sovereign equality as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. While in favour of abolishing veto power, the Philippines supported the code of conduct.
MELUSI MARTIN MASUKU (Swaziland), associating himself with the African Group, said the Security Council should be reformed to reflect the realities of the twenty-first century and become more democratic, legitimate, representative, responsive and transparent in its working methods and decision-making processes. Africa should be represented in the permanent category of the Council as not only was the Council’s agenda mainly concentrated on Africa; for a continent of 54 States it was fair and democratic to do so. The Security Council should not and could not be a dogmatic body, he stressed, adding that its current membership put into question the modernity and credibility of the United Nations. Swaziland fully subscribed to the African Common Position that the veto should be extended to all new members of the permanent category. Otherwise, it should be abolished.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the L.69 Group, said the reform process should advance on the basis of the framework document and the “Elements of Convergence” paper on two key issues of reform. Calling for efforts to move towards text-based negotiations based on those elements and positions, he said an overwhelming majority of countries supported expansion of permanent and non-permanent membership categories. Mongolia supported such an enlargement based on the composition defined in the United Nations Charter, which must also reflect contemporary realities and the principles of justice and equality and ensure the greater representation of developing countries, particularly non- and underrepresented groups. “It is our view that the veto should be abolished,” he said, also voicing support for efforts to restrict its use in Chapter VII-related decisions.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said a text-based negotiating process was urgently needed. “We cannot treat this process as a mechanical routine and as an annual ritual,” he said. The Council must be made more representative, accountable, transparent, inclusive and effective in dealing with present challenges. The process launched in 1993 toward that end must not continue for another 25 years. “Is there any value in keeping a process that does not deliver any reforms?” The use of the veto should be limited in cases of mass atrocities. Security Council reform should focus on identifying elements of commonality already in place between the Council’s working methods and its relationship with the General Assembly, such as the increased number of open Council meetings, regular meetings between the Council and General Assembly Presidents and the submission of annual Council reports. In that regard, he welcomed adoption of the revised Presidential Note 507 and said there was scope to formalize such improvements. Discussions on identified issues should continue and Member States’ varying views on those issues should not prevent a frank and open discussion focused on details. Member States should also revisit issues which had strong support but were not included in the paper prepared by the Co-Chairs of the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on Security Council reform. He said one issue that could be considered for inclusion was the limitation of the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocity, which was supported by most States.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), underlining the need to tackle Council reform as “one of the most controversial issues” in the United Nations, said all Member States should continue to work to identify areas of common ground and make it more relevant and transparent. Associating herself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, she called on Member States to make progress on the issue with renewed dynamism. Warning against any reforms that would expand the use of the veto, she said the Council should “lead by example”. Calling for efforts to enhance its regional representation, she also said regular elections would be critical to ensuring that the body became more inclusive and democratic. It was “high time” to expand representation of such regions as Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Warning against perpetuating the veto privileges of an elite few, she said longer periods of membership would help to ensure the Council’s transparency and credibility and allow it to fulfil its mandate. The reform process should also always respect the principle of the sovereign equality of States.
NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal) said the intergovernmental negotiations were complex and slow-moving. He supported the expansion of permanent and non-permanent membership, which must better represent Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regional groups. Land-locked developing countries should be represented as a special constituency in the Council, given their unique permanent feature of hardship related to security. He supported eliminating the veto, but until such a stage could be reached, the five permanent members must exercise restraint in its use. An expanded membership of 24 seats should ensure equitable geographical representation, enhance inclusiveness in the decision-making process and consider the concerns of unique groups of countries. Further, each non-permanent member would hold the presidency at least once during their two year term. The Council should not encroach on the authority and work of the Assembly and other organs. Instead, he called for an enhanced level of coordination and consultation, including through briefings and information sharing, open sessions and debates.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said certain delegations had been blaming others for the slow pace of Council reform when the responsibility for the impasse lay squarely on them. While they remained firmly wedded to their own positions, they asked others to be flexible. The lack of will on the part of a few remained the most persistent stumbling block in the way of achieving a more representative, transparent and accountable reform. General Assembly decision 62/557 provided the overarching framework for intergovernmental negotiations and agreed parameters for reform. Unfortunately, there had been a tendency by some to sidestep consensus through quick fixes and procedural manoeuvres. Such attempts undermined mutual trust and betrayed a lack of common understanding over the fundamentals of the issue. Seeking to introduce a text into this chasm would only widen differences. Her delegation was firmly opposed to the creation of new permanent seats as they contravened principles of democracy, accountability and transparency. Such a measure would promote the self-serving interests of a few and would compromise the Council’s efficiency and effectiveness. Meanwhile, Pakistan favoured expansion in the non-permanent category of membership, based on equitable geographic distribution, as the natural starting point for any reform of the Council.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) recalled that some Council members had used or threatened to use the veto, leaving it paralyzed and unable to react to situations where action was most needed. Permanent members Council should voluntarily and collectively commit to not use the veto to block action aimed at preventing or ending situations involving mass atrocity crimes. Noting the support of 114 Member States to the proposed code of conduct, he expressed hope that more countries would lend support. Estonia also supported the French-Mexican initiative on veto use. On the issue of membership expansion, he said every country should have an opportunity to be represented on the Council, particularly small nations. In addition, improvements in working methods would have a “wider positive effect”, including through increased inclusiveness and targeted action. He also stressed the importance of better communication between the Security Council and the General Assembly. Noting that the Council’s Rules of Procedure were still provisional, he said members must make use of the existing procedures and outreach formats to achieve better outcomes.
HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said there was an increased sense of urgency to transform the Council into a more effective entity. However, it was unfortunate that no meaningful progress had been made on reform since discussions on the issue began more than two decades ago. He called for reform that was based on clear principles, including representation, transparency, accountability and effectiveness, while welcoming the narrowing gaps of understanding on those principles over the last intergovernmental negotiation meetings. At the same time, the deliberative process should seek a solution that garnered the widest possible acceptance by Member States. While Council reform was urgent, its results must be sustainable, he said, noting that international politics had, and would be, constantly in a state of flux. To achieve that vision, the Uniting for Consensus Group had proposed the establishment of a new category of longer-term, non-permanent seats with the possibility of immediate re-election. Increasing the number of democratically elected non-permanent seats offered a clear way forward and would avoid problems associated with the veto.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic) said the world had changed since the creation of the United Nations and it had become increasingly difficult for the Security Council to prevent conflicts. Against that backdrop, Council reform was becoming increasingly critical. The Security Council must meet the expectation of the present and future. As a candidate for a non-permanent Council seat in 2020, the Dominican Republic sought to breathe new life into the entity and address new global challenges affecting small island developing States. He expressed support for increasing both the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the Council and called for greater representation for underrepresented regions. The Assembly must pay particular attention to small and medium-sized countries, which formed the majority of Member States. He welcomed the framework document established in 2015, as well as the positive steps that had been made during the last two sessions of the Assembly. Moving forward, a consolidated text was needed, as well as the flexibility of Member States.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) noted that all Member States seemed to agree on the general concept of United Nations reform, of which reform of the Security Council was a critical element. Calling for that entity to be rendered more broadly representative, efficient and transparent, he said Member States should accelerate the intergovernmental negotiation process based on results achieved in recent sessions. Echoing calls for the launch of text-based negotiations — which would give the negotiations process a more “substantive meaning” — he voiced support for the expansion of both categories of membership to no more than 25 members based on the principle of geographical balance. That expansion should include at least one additional non-permanent seat for Eastern Europe, he said, stressing that the five core reform elements must remain the guiding principles for the intergovernmental negotiation process. While divergent opinions remained on those issues, States should endeavour to explore them in detail, with a particular examination of the African position and stronger efforts to translate into action the broad agreement on the expansion of the two year non-permanent membership category.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) called for greater flexibility and consensus in Security Council reform, as only then would interests of all Member States be ensured. He expressed outrage by the outcome of the last intergovernmental negotiations as Member States had not upheld the principle of democracy, which should be at the foundation of Council reform. A more transparent and representative Council was needed. Member States must tackle issues of principle, including representation and categories of membership. While the Council needed to continue to discharge its responsibilities, privileges could not be placed in the hands of a few for life, as that contravened democracy. At a time when the world was becoming increasingly complex, there should not be an increase in permanent members. Instead, there should be greater regional representation and seats for non-permanent members should be rotated among regions. The Council also needed to operate in a robust and transparent manner. For its part, Argentina was willing to work with an open mind and consider any proposal that upheld guiding principles of the United Nations.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group and the Arab Group, said the widest possible consensus was needed to strengthen the confidence of Member States during the process of reforming the Security Council. Such reform was part of broader reform of the United Nations system to address new and emerging challenges. Negotiations should be Member-driven to reach a solution that would garner the widest possible political consensus. Over the past two years, Egypt had served as a rotating Council member, which strengthened its longstanding convictions on the issue. No real reform could happen without addressing the dysfunction of the Council, he said, namely the monopoly of the right to veto. He rejected the piecemeal approach that would only focus on expanding non permanent seats. Such a path would not lead to real and fair reform, and would only exacerbate the current imbalance in the Council. Meanwhile, the growing support for the African position proved that an increasing number of Member States were aware of the need to address the historic injustice done to the continent, which continued to be underrepresented. African countries should be able to contribute to the work of the Council, especially in relation to African-related items on its agenda.
JACQUES LAPOUGE (France) said discussions on Security Council reform had been underway in the General Assembly for two decades, but were still far from achieving a resolution. Progress was insufficient for many delegations and discussions must continue during the Assembly’s current session. Work during the sixty ninth and seventieth Assembly sessions had led to the drafting of a framework document for global negotiations and convergence on two key points of reform. Hopefully, this year’s session would lead to decisive progress in general United Nations reform in the peace and security, development and management areas, but the Assembly must resolutely commit to reform the Security Council as well. He stressed the need for a negotiation text, which was crucial to better reflect the realities of today’s world and bolster the Council’s ability to shoulder full responsibility for international peace and security. He supported a strengthened presence for African countries as permanent and non permanent members and a Council that could take appropriate decisions unhampered by the veto when mass atrocities were committed.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia) said the time had come to move forward on Security Council reform. Fortunately, last year’s intergovernmental negotiations had demonstrated there was common ground upon which Member States could build. Nevertheless, the reform process must remain Member State-driven, she said. Slovenia favoured expanding the Council’s permanent and non permanent membership. In that regard, the Council’s enlargement of elected members would enable higher rotation and greater democratic representation. Her delegation placed high priority on allocating an additional non permanent seat for the Eastern European Group. It also supported additional seats for African States. Overall, the Council’s enlargement would improve representation of countries that were underrepresented and unrepresented, while balancing the principles of responsibility, transparency and efficiency. She went on to express support for seat allocation based on regional groups. For the Council to deal with new challenges threatening international peace and security, its methods must adapt.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the African Group and the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government, said the continent’s leaders had demonstrated significant political will on the issue of Council reform. Progress could only be achieved when Member States believed in the process. Fundamental changes were needed in the Council’s negotiation framework, he said, calling for a change in the status of outcome documents “which bind no one to anything”. To delegations calling for the veto not to be extended to new permanent members, he said that position would have been acceptable if the veto were to be abolished altogether, as called for in Africa’s Ezulwini Consensus. However, Africa was not prepared to accept the status of second-class citizen, and as long as the veto existed, the region would continue to demand that any permanent member — new or old — should possess it. “We come from a bad history — of slavery, domination, racial discrimination, colonialism and apartheid,” he said. “We have no intention of moving into a bad future. Africa cannot and will not accept that its fate will be discussed without its full participation. Africa will not accept to be treated as a child that cannot be trusted to exercise the veto responsibly.”
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) stressed that the number of permanent Council members must be increased and that every continent must get at least one permanent seat, reflecting current political and economic realities. There must also be an increase in the number of non permanent seats, with Security Council members coming from both developing and developed countries, including from the small island developing States. “We may be small, but we do have the strength in our shoulders, the grit in our bones, to carry the lofty ideals and aspirations that define this Organization,” he underscored. Nevertheless, for small States, it was difficult to serve on the Council due to the expense involved in doing so, including that candidate countries were expected to spend enormous amounts of money and resources to secure the required votes. That reality was most certainly why only eight small island developing States had managed to secure a seat on the Council since the founding of the United Nations.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said there was overwhelming agreement among Assembly members that the Council must adapt its structure to reflect the international stage. Instead, it stood idly by watching grave violations of human rights and international law, which undermined the world body’s effectiveness and credibility. The Assembly could not restate time and again national positions, but must make genuine progress with negotiations in a transparent and inclusive process. It was imperative to increase members on the Council, but gains made must not erode its efficiency in discharging its mandate. He suggested establishing an interim category of membership. Those members would be non permanent for two years and then could be re elected. He also stressed the need for a text to initiate formal negotiations, which three quarters of Assembly members supported. He noted that more and more were speaking out for closer links between the Secretary-General, the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.
ANA SILVIA RODRIGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) said future Council reform should reflect the needs and interests of both developing and developed nations and should be undertaken in a rational, non arbitrary fashion. At the same time, regional representation needed to be tackled, she said, adding that the current structure did not reflect geopolitical realities. Developing nations were underrepresented in the Council, which undermined its authority and credibility. She expressed support for an increase in permanent members to include two each from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Non permanent members should have the same powers as permanent members. Cuba was not in favour of creating new categories or subcategories of membership, which would only foster division among Council members. While acknowledging that the Council had held more open meetings as of late, she expressed disappointment in overall lack of transparency and democracy. In that regard, the body continued to work in closed formats and take decisions without the consensus of non permanent members.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said both permanent and non permanent Council membership should be widened with the election of more permanent members, which would ensure a proper, healthy rotation in Council membership. The Assembly’s authority to elect Council members would not be usurped, but a rotating membership would be more representative. Spain belonged to the Uniting for Consensus Group, which was created under a proposal to broaden the Council to 25 members. A more recent proposal from the group included long-term membership seats, which would create more common ground and consensus in the negotiation process. Negotiations would then be concluded, giving rightful place to a region neglected and maltreated — the African Group. Longer duration seats would rectify that historical injustice and many small States could then stand for election.
WU HAITAO (China) commended the constructive nature of the intergovernmental negotiations. The issue of Security Council reform was important as it pertained to the United Nations long-term development. At the same time, such reform would help elevate the Council’s authority. He expressed support for greater representation, noting that a voice should be given to developing countries, especially African countries. The intergovernmental process was an important avenue to narrow the differences of Member States, he said, adding that his delegation hoped that Member States would work toward a constructive process without artificial deadlines. He called for unity among Member States and stressed that Council reform was ultimately in the Organization’s long-term interests.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) said the reform agenda would require a constructive, pragmatic and results-oriented approach, with changes made in the composition and working methods. There seemed to be a broad convergence of views on the merits of expanding the membership, be it the expansion of existing categories or the introduction of interim or intermediate options. Reiterating that the size of the reformed Council must be in the mid twenties, he added that veto power had been both a safeguard and obstacle to its unity of purpose and decisive action. Voicing support for the proposed code of conduct on the use of the veto, he called on Council members to engage the wider membership of the United Nations.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said that, like a persistent squirrel that prepared for winter by diligently gathering corn and nuts, Member States had over the years collected all the elements required for comprehensive Security Council reform. The pieces of the puzzle were there, but Member States must find the courage to rearrange them and put the puzzle together. That would require a concise negotiating text ahead of results-oriented negotiations, he said, adding that different positions within the Assembly on Council reform was an argument in favour of starting negotiations that would narrow and eventually bridge differences. With 85 per cent of Member States asking for text-based negotiations, “we should not lose any more time,” he said, emphasizing that Council reform would lead to a strong, legitimate United Nations that would help restore confidence in global governance and cooperation.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group and the L.69 Group, said the African Common Position was clear in its call to expand permanent and non permanent categories. Noting the 2005 World Summit Outcome, he expressed concern about the lack of meaningful progress in the intergovernmental negotiations. Highlighting that 2018 would mark one decade since the start of the negotiation process, he regretted to note that results remained elusive. States must agree on the programme of work for the intergovernmental negotiations, he said, underscoring that 164 countries had called for the immediate commencement of text-based discussions. South Africa welcomed the idea of having a “block of time” allocated per element to allow delegations to engage in interactive discussions.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), emphasizing the need for democracy, equity and inclusion, said Council reform would require genuine political will, with individual interests adjusted and tempered. Reform must garner the broadest possible support. The Uniting for Consensus Group had made a compromise proposal that represented great flexibility and transparency. It was an inclusive proposition that sought to give opportunities to underrepresented Member States and regions while favouring the ambitions of those which wanted to shoulder more responsibility. In reforming the Council, he said Member States must avoid maintaining the status quo or, worse, undertaking senseless reforms which granted eternal privileges to some Member States. He cautioned against granting more eternal privileges to a handful of Member States, adding that history was peppered with reasons why the veto should be restricted or abolished. He noted that broadening the number of elected Council members was the only point on which all delegations agreed, adding that rejecting the Uniting for Consensus proposal was to stand in the way of progress.
DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino), associating himself with the Uniting for Consensus Group, said credible reform of the Security Council required a comprehensive approach. It was the collective responsibility of Member States to move the process forward and find new areas of convergence. Council reform should be based on democracy, transparency, accountability and inclusivity. Such principles should not only be integrated into reform of the Council, but of the broader United Nations system. At the same time, regular and periodic elections were only possible by increasing the number of non permanent seats. To achieve comprehensive reform, Member States should work on a compromise solution that could garner the widest possible political acceptance.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group, said equitable geographic representation in the Council was self-evident. African countries really had a key role to play in the Council, he said, noting that three quarters of the entity’s work dealt with African matters. Moreover, greater African participation in the Council would contribute to righting a historic injustice. He said his country was in favour of maintaining two categories of Council members, so long as broader geographical representation was respected. In the interests of equity, new Council members should enjoy the privileges and prerogatives of existing members if the power of veto was maintained. Much remained to be done vis à vis Council working methods, while the Council must demonstrate more transparency in its relationship with the Assembly. He went on to say that it was high time to move towards text-based negotiations, which were the only way to move towards a consensus-based solution.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said both the ability and credibility of the Council were being widely questioned. Countless reform debates had left Member States with little doubt that overcoming differences on key issues was not easy. Nevertheless, the world could not wait for the reform exercise to run its course. As a result, Indonesia supported tackling the “low-hanging fruit”. As a practical measure to prevent inaction by the Council, his delegation supported initiatives that could regulate veto use and hoped for a greater focus on that issue in upcoming intergovernmental negotiations. His country was also open to exploring proposals under the “intermediate approach” on categories with a clear review mechanism. Such an approach had the potential to garner the widest possible political acceptance and move the process forward, he said. At the same time, the concerns and aspirations of the developing world must be reflected adequately.
ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), associating with the L.69 Group, said it was urgent to remodel the United Nations to ensure that the Organization served the needs of humankind. The international community could not postpone reform of the Security Council and must ensure that its membership and the way it functioned was in line with current geopolitical and economic realities. A negotiating text would help move the discussions toward the consensus and convergence required to make progress with the reform effort during the current Assembly session, and in that context, it was urgently necessary to have a zero draft. The majority of the international community had stated that the status quo was not an option. Now, an open and in-depth reflection process was required to create a more democratic institution.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), associating with the African Group and the Arab Group, recalled that in the last General Assembly session, there had been an increasingly urgent call to continue negotiations on Council reform. It was crucial to ensure that process was not “never-ending” and to reach agreement on the modalities for negotiations, with a clear timeline for the completion of the work. The Security Council must be reformed in a way that reflected the concerns of all Member States, he stressed, adding that such reform must be comprehensive and immediate. Many voices in the international community had been calling for the Security Council’s expansion, and to improve the body’s transparency and openness. However, any expansion of the Council must not impact its effectiveness or efficiency. He went on to underscore that the injustice to Africa within the Security Council impacted all States.
JĀNIS MAŽEIKS (Latvia) said Council reform was long overdue and Member States should all aim to strengthen that body’s legitimacy. With intergovernmental negotiations failing to produce a concrete outcome, the time was right to start text-based negotiations with results achieved through careful consensus-building and the widest political acceptance. On specific aspects of reform, he said all regions must be adequately represented on the Council to ensure its legitimacy, with equitable geographic distribution of both permanent and non permanent Council seats, including the allocation of at least one additional non permanent seat to the Eastern European Group. Due consideration should also be given to adequate representation of small- and medium-sized States during the nomination and election of non permanent members. Council members should refrain from using their veto in situations of atrocity crimes, he said, adding that Latvia supported improving the Council’s working methods to increase the transparency, inclusiveness and representativeness of its work.
LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), recalling that the Council had emerged from the ashes of the Second World War, said that after 70 years the world was now witnessing the eruption of protracted humanitarian crises, a global refugee crisis, increasing terrorism and constant challenges to the global disarmament agenda. All those indicated a critical need to reform the Council, she stressed, emphasizing that inertia within that body in the face of its need to make important decisions would be measured in lives lost. Council reform was also closely linked to sustainable development, and calling for reform processes to take a more tangible form, she said they would make the body more effective, coherent and responsible while also demonstrating that multilateralism reigned supreme over narrow national interests. In that regard, she expressed support, by 2045, for a Council comprising 26 members all with equal rights and privileges and the opportunity for re election every three years, based on a greater representation for regions that were currently underrepresented.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said increasing representation on the Council was an Assembly priority, but should not hinder reaching agreement on other spheres of Council reform or its practical implementation. Any formula for Council enlargement should provide an additional non permanent seat for the Eastern European Group, which had more than doubled in size over the past 20 years. Adding that equitable geographical distribution should be reflected in an expanded Council, he said any change in Council composition should be based on existing regional groups of Member States. There was also merit in exploring the option of allocating a non permanent seat on the Council to small island developing States. To further enhance Council transparency, accountability and inclusiveness, it was equally necessary to regularly hold broader consultations with non Council members.
TALAL AL-KHALIFA (Qatar), associating with the Arab Group, said Council reform required more cooperation between groups and countries. A reformed Council must be more effective in implementing its mandate of maintaining international peace and security. Qatar was committed to the common responsibility to reach consensus and move forward with the negotiating effort. The Doha talks reaffirmed that the reform of the Security Council was of importance to the entire international community. The issue of the use of the veto was crucial to the reform process, and must be restricted or abstained from in certain cases. The arbitrary use of the veto had undermined the credibility and decision-making of the Council and impinged on its ability to carry out its mandate. The Council’s working methods were of great interest to Qatar and deserved more attention in the context of the negotiations.
BABATUNDE NURUDEEN (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and L.69 Group, said new challenges had emerged, posing threats to international peace and security. Those challenges indicated that the current structure of the Security Council must be reformed in order to reposition it to respond in a timely and appropriate manner. A reform of the Council would entail a restructuring and expansion of its membership to consider the increased membership of the Organization and also to reflect the interests of all constituent regions. Nigeria and other nations continued to demonstrate the capacity to add value to the work of all the organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council, he said. A reformed Council with expanded permanent membership would benefit from the unique experiences and capacities that regional representatives could bring to bear on its work.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group, said the apparent lack of political will within the Council to provide effective responses to some of the most urgent and dire threats to global security made it imperative to achieve progress on reform negotiations. It was inconceivable that Africa only had three non-permanent seats and no permanent seat. Africa’s demand for permanent and additional non-permanent seats was a matter of addressing a historical injustice and ensuring the right to an equal say in decision-making on issues of international peace and security. There was growing consensus on the need to enlarge the membership. While progress on other reform issues, such as membership categories, the question of the veto, regional representation and the size of an enlarged Council, may be complex, they were not insurmountable.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom), recalling his delegation’s longstanding support for efforts to reform the Council, said the body had failed to keep pace with global changes since its membership had last increased in 1965. However, too great an increase in size risked a cumbersome and slow decision-making process and could undermine its ability to respond to issues appropriately and quickly. At the same time, the issue of the veto must not be allowed to slow global efforts to expand the Council. Noting that the United Kingdom had not exercised its veto in a generation, he said that it had also signed on to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group code of conduct. “Sadly, we have seen others wielding their veto through narrow self-interest” to the detriment of the Council’s reputation, he said. On Syria, the use of the veto had prevented action against a despicable regime that had murdered its own people with chemical weapons. For those reasons, his delegation supported a modest expansion in the Council’s permanent and non permanent membership, with permanent seats for Brazil, Germany, India and Japan alongside permanent African representation.
OLEG O. FILIMONOV (Russian Federation) said Member States had made some slight progress on the issue of reform, although a universal solution had not yet been found. Yet, divergent approaches among the main players persisted. While recognizing the need to make the Council more representative, he said reform efforts must not harm its ability to swiftly respond to challenges. The Russian Federation was in favour of maintaining a compact Council, with the optimal number of seats in the low twenties. Any ideas to decrease the prerogative of the current members were unacceptable from historical and political perspectives. His delegation was prepared to consider any sensible options to expand the membership if they were based on broad consensus, although the Russian Federation did not support negotiations based on a text or other documents that had not been agreed on by all Member States. The time-consuming work of reform should take place in a calm, transparent and inclusive environment, he said, adding that there was no place for artificial timelines or attempts to resolve the issue with a “stroke of the pen”.

Source: United Nations

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