General Assembly President laments lack of political will to reform Security Council

18 December 2013

There are no shortages of ideas on how to reform the Security Council, the President of the General Assembly said today, adding that what is needed is a collective political will to tackle this longstanding issue.

The intergovernmental negotiations on Council reform have been taking place for 20 years and key issues under discussion are the category of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council, and the Council’s working methods and its relationship with the General Assembly.

“I’m not making any predictions about the future, but your kids will be grown up by the time we all wrap this up,” John Ashe, President of the 68th session of the General Assembly, told a news conference at UN Headquarters, recapping the first three months of his tenure ahead of the conclusion of the main part of the body’s work next week.

The 15-member Council currently consists of five permanent members with veto power – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – and 10 non-permanent members, with no veto, are elected for two-year terms. Some countries have argued that this structure does not represent the realities of today’s world.

“All concerned, including those who are permanent members, do agree on the necessity for reform of the Security Council,” said Mr. Ashe, who took up his post as President of the General Assembly (PGA) in September. “There are no shortages of ideas on how it should be reformed.

“I think it’s safe to say that what is perhaps lacking is a collective political will to reform the Security Council… that has proven to be a huge obstacle to any movement in this direction.

“It is no secret that any PGA would love to be the PGA that ushers in reform of the Security Council and the fact that it has withstood all attempts up until now says something about the magnitude of the task. But that is not to say that one should be deterred.”

While he did not have a “silver bullet” to solve a problem as longstanding as Security Council reform, Mr. Ashe stressed that he and his staff did intend to give the issue their full attention.

Looking back, he said: “It’s been an eventful year.” Among other things, he noted that, for the first time, the Assembly held an uncontested election to the Security Council, only to learn later that one of the States that was elected had changed its mind.

The State – Saudi Arabia – relinquished its two-year, non-permanent seat, which was later filled in a subsequent election by Jordan.

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