Annan, General Assembly President express optimism over talks on UN reform

2 May 2005
Annan (R) and GA President Ping (file photo)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and General Assembly President Jean Ping today expressed optimism over the informal consultations that have been taking place among representatives of Member States on Mr. Annan’s groundbreaking proposals for reforming the major organs of the world body.

“The Secretary-General is pleased with the active participation of the membership,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said about Assembly discussions of Mr. Annan’s report, “In Larger Freedom.” The report aims to make the UN more responsive to present and emerging challenges.

“The Secretary-General is confident that world leaders will be able to take far-reaching decisions at the September summit. He looks forward to assisting in the process in the upcoming weeks and months,” Mr. Dujarric added.

He noted that Mr. Ping, of Gabon, was leading the work of the Member States in tackling the reform agenda. The Assembly had a three-day meeting on the proposals last month, followed by informal consultations, which started on 19 April.

Mr. Annan’s proposals include recommendations on the UN role in four inter-related “clusters:” Freedom from Want, or socioeconomic development; Freedom from Fear, or peace and security; Freedom to Live in Dignity, or law and human rights; and Strengthening the United Nations, or institutional reform.

At a news briefing Monday, Mr. Ping acknowledged that the thorniest reform issue was changing the Security Council, a subject which he said has been discussed for the past 11 or 12 years.

The Secretary-General has proposed two formulas for expanding the Council, which would increase the membership to 24 from 15. Model A would add six permanent seats, with no veto, and three additional members with two-year terms. Model B would add eight members with four-year renewable terms and one two-year, non-renewable seat.

Neither plan changes the veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members –China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The current 10 non-veto-wielding Council members, representing regions, are elected to rotating two-year terms.

Mr. Ping said he had received, earlier in the day, two or three new compromise proposals based on Model B from a group of Member States known as Uniting for Consensus.

That group, which includes China, has made known its opposition to Model A. Four countries – Brazil, Germany, India and Japan (or the G-4) – are campaigning to be added to the Council under that scheme.

Mr. Ping said with the informal consultations behind him, he would bring the different groups together, starting on Thursday, for talks that he said he would not yet describe as negotiations, but which were aimed at reducing the divergences between positions.

His role, with the help of 10 facilitators, was to forge as broad a consensus as possible and avoid a divisive vote on Mr. Annan’s proposals. If a Member State or group of States called for a vote, however, he would have to conduct a vote, he said.

“For the President, what is good is reaching unanimity,” he said. “If we can’t reach unanimity, we must reach a broad consensus.”

He said alternative scenarios to consensus would be a catastrophe, disappointing the expectant international community and setting back all reform efforts. The unwelcome scenarios would be postponement of reform, keeping the status quo as a “minus situation” and taking extremist positions.

“I cannot envisage it,” he said.

Other problems for discussion include reaching the donor target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for official development assistance (ODA), as well as the status of international financial facilities (IFFs), with Britain suggesting a new IFF for development, Mr. Ping said. He added that he was waiting to hear from the Group of Eight (G-8) most-industrialized countries on these matters.

 

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