Secretary-General expects successful end to debate on Security Council reform

Secretary-General expects successful end to debate on Security Council reform

Kofi Annan
With the General Assembly in the middle of its first round of open debate on Security Council reform and with views, so far, varying widely on how to bring the 15-nation body into the 21st century, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he was confident that, realizing what is at stake, the Assembly would “pull together and ensure that we have a sensible agreement.”

“I think we are at a very early stage yet,” Mr. Annan told reporters on his way into UN Headquarters today when asked if he was afraid that, with all the competing views, the issue would get bogged down ahead of the Assembly’s World Summit in September. “They've just had one day of discussion. One day of discussion doesn't make a resolution; it doesn't make a General Assembly session.”

“There is no reason, no excuse, not to bring those discussions to a closure,” he said warning that Member States should move on the other reform “clusters” he had suggested in his report on UN renewal “In Larger Freedom.”

“I see all aspects of the reform as important and we need to be able to give something to the Member States – or the heads of state and government – when they come in September, to endorse,” he added.

“So we are at a very early stage, and I think we should calm down and better not get all excited about it. These are mature men and women who are dealing with a very serious issue. And they all know what is at stake. And I hope no one is going to want to play a ‘spoiler’, to be blamed for lack of progress.”

The Assembly yesterday began debating a set of competing proposals for reforming the Council, touching on issues of enlargement, the right of veto and equitable geographic representation, with some speakers stressing that action on the matter was long overdue, while others cautioned against undue haste that could divide the 191-member body.

At the centre of the discussion was a proposal introduced by Brazil, known as the “Group of Four resolution.” Competing texts were put forward by the African Union and a group of nations known as “United for Consensus.”

The Group of Four (“G-4”) – Japan, Brazil, Germany and India – have all expressed their desire to become permanent members of the Council. Their proposal would have the Assembly increase the Council’s membership from 15 to 25, by adding six permanent and four non-permanent members. None of the new permanent members would have the veto power wielded by the current five permanent members – China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States.

Brazil’s ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg said the realities of power of 1945 had long been superseded. The security structure established then was now “glaringly outdated” and the new resolution was an attempt to have the Council better reflect “contemporary world realities.”

But some speakers felt the reform process had been “hijacked” by a small group of nations seeking new and unequal privileges for themselves in an enlarged Security Council. To add insult to injury, stated Pakistan’s ambassador Munir Akram, self-interest had been portrayed as altruism. The seekers of special privileges and power masqueraded as the champions of the weak and disadvantaged, asserting that the special privileges they sought would make the Council more representative and neutralize the power of the present members.

Algeria’s ambassador Abdallah Baali felt that all the proposals put forward were equally unsatisfactory, taking into account the positions of Africa. While African States considered the veto as an unjustified, anachronistic right and had called for its abolition, he said that as long as the present permanent members had the right to veto, it was unacceptable for new permanent members to be deprived of that right.

While views diverged on the formula for Council reform, most speakers agreed that it would not be wise at the current time to force a vote on a draft proposal that did not meet with the support of the majority of the Organization’s membership. Council reform needed the broadest possible support to be considered legitimate. In addition, comprehensive reform of the Council must also place emphasis on improved working methods, including more transparency and inclusiveness, it was stated.