31 October 2001


Membership, Veto Powers Remain Contentious Issues;
Delegates Call for Body More Representative of Modern World

NEW YORK, 30 October (UN Headquarters) -- The time had come to move beyond annual speechmaking and analyze various models for an expanded Security Council, which must have genuine and broad support, the representative from the United States said this afternoon as the General Assembly began its debate on equitable representation on, and increase in membership of the Security Council, and related matters.

He said the Council would become more legitimate if Japan and Germany had permanent seats, and the number of rotating seats was increased. The United States would join others in making the Council more transparent and representative of the entire membership. However, his country would continue to oppose efforts to limit or eliminate the veto, which was essential in maintaining international peace and security.

The representative from Algeria said that the question of veto was linked to expanded membership. The veto was an anachronism, which needed to be regulated and then eliminated. Those who had the right of veto should only resort to it in exceptional situations.

The Security Council was unbalanced, undemocratic and non-representative, said the representative of Namibia. Among resolutions that were fully implemented, those relating to Africa were bottom of the list. India's representative said the Council's actions were focused on the developing world and the impact of its decisions would be almost entirely felt there. That stressed the urgency of enlarging Council membership to make it more representative.

The representative of Singapore said the Council could be effective only if it accurately reflected the current global configuration of power, and not that of 1945 when the Organization was founded.

The representatives from Colombia, Japan, Belgium, Peru, Egypt, Netherlands, Slovenia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United Kingdom, Philippines, Portugal and Cuba also spoke.

In other matters, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution, without a vote, on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. Under its terms, the Assembly agreed to take up that topic on 8 and 9 November. The Assembly was informed that, as a consequence, agenda item 48, "Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa", which was originally scheduled for 8 November, would be taken up on 3 and 4 December.

The Assembly will meet again tomorrow, Wednesday, 31 October, at 10 a.m. to continue consideration of the item on the membership of the Security Council.


The General Assembly meets this afternoon to consider the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters.

It is also expected to consider a draft resolution concerning the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. The Assembly has before it a draft resolution on the Year of Dialogue (document A/56/L.6), sponsored by Iran by which it would decide to devote 8 and 9 November to the consideration of the item.

The item entitled "the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters" was put on the agenda of the thirty-fourth session in 1979. At its forty-eighth session the Assembly established the open-ended working group on the question and other matters related to the Security Council. By resolution 53/30, the Assembly determined not to adopt any resolution or decision on the subject without the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of its Members.

The agenda item has been divided into two parts: cluster I and cluster II issues. Cluster I issues include the decision-making in the Council including the veto, expansion of the Council, and periodic review of the enlarged Council of its programme of work. Cluster II issues include the Council's working methods and transparency of its work.

During the Assembly's fifty-fifth session last year, the open-ended working group met five times, according to its report to the Assembly (document A/55/47/Suppl.), under chairmanship of the Assembly's President Harri Holkeri (Finland). On 13 June three Security Council members, including the President, attended the working group's meeting and spoke of steps taken by the Council to ensure greater openness and transparency in procedures.

Concluding its work for the fifty-fifth session, the working group decided to recommend that consideration of the item be continued at the current Fifty-sixth session. To that end, it recommends to the Assembly the adoption of a draft decision by which it would decide that the item should be considered during the fifty-sixth session, and that the open-ended working group should continue its work.

Last year, the plenary heard 110 speakers on the item during four meetings on 16 and 17 November 2001.

Year of Dialogue among Civilizations

Without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations as contained in document A/56/L.6, by which it would devote its meetings on 8 and 9 November to that topic.

The Assembly was informed, that as a result of the resolution just adopted, agenda item 48, "Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa", originally scheduled for Thursday, 8 November, would now be taken up on 3 and 4 December.

Membership of Security Council


ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the question of equitable representation on the Security Council had been considered in the Assembly for some years, and was one of the items of greatest importance and greatest complexity. Central was the question of the veto, which had implications for the functioning of the Council and the possibilities of reform. The existence of the veto, and lack of political will to limit it, would make it more difficult to expand the Council. The expansion should be in the category of non-permanent members.

In addition to that issue, he said, there were procedural matters to consider. There should be intensified dialogue between the Assembly and the Council. The discussion that had taken place in the open-ended working group with members of the Council in June had highlighted the fact that non-members of the Council had concerns about the Council. He emphasized that the working group remained the appropriate forum to discuss reform of the Council in all its aspects. It was an open-ended and transparent mechanism for considering Clusters I and II. Preventing progress in the working group was caused by a lack of realism and political will to achieve reform.

He was committed to implement some suggestions made on procedural issues in the working group. Recently, the convening of the Working Group on Documentation and Procedures had been brought about. The opinions expressed in that meeting should be taken into proper consideration. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to achieve reform of the Council in all its aspects.

YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said changes of great magnitude were occurring in international politics. The 11 September attack on the United States had meant the development of wholly new measures to deal with terrorism. Successfully countering global terrorism required knowledge and expertise in a wide variety of fields, ranging from internal security to international financing. It also implied cooperation of Member States in a broad range of areas, including adjustments in domestic measures to consolidate laws and systems for the monitoring and regulation of cross-border movements of persons, goods and financial resources. It also required cooperation in the exchange of intelligence in those areas.

The Security Council was doing its best to tackle all the new challenges, he said. The need to strengthen international cooperation to fight terrorism underscored the importance of accelerating Security Council reform by casting light on the issue from a new angle. The need to consider the issue of durable peace and stability for Afghanistan was closely related to counter-terrorism actions now being taken. Since there were many areas of the world not yet free from military standoffs and vicious cycles of violence, Council reform must be tackled with new resolve.

He recalled proposals to approach the reform in a step-by-step manner and to include the veto question in the discussion. The next step should be to determine the size of the expanded Council. If concrete progress in the overall reform package was not achieved by 2003, which would be ten years after the discussion had begun, then a political-level opportunity should be created for Member States to assess the situation and seek a way forward.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the subject had been talked about for eight years, but the discussion had lost momentum and had produced no results or improvements. The functioning of the Security Council followed a geopolitical configuration which no longer existed. The Council was at the core of the international system of security, and that was why it needed to be changed.

The improvement of working methods was important. His delegation welcomed the introduction of some positive measures such as opening its briefing sessions to all Member States. But, it was still necessary to enhance transparency. He regretted, for instance, that closed meetings dealing with important issues remained common practice. Furthermore, those who had the veto seemed to determine the final outcome of the deliberations, and some members acted as though they were concerned only with their own national interests.

The Council should consult regularly with those States directly or indirectly implicated in the conflicts being discussed, and more effort was needed in relation to troop-contributing countries. The veto was an anachronism, and needed to be regulated and eventually eliminated. Those who had the right of veto should resort to it only in exceptional situations. There should be a more balanced and representative membership, especially with regard to the developing world and in particular Africa.

JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium) said that the events of September 11 had squarely placed the United Nations at the centre of world attention. In order to fulfil its role of maintaining and restoring international peace and security, the Organization had to be adapted to the demands of the present era. This made work on the reform of the Security Council even more urgent.

He said discussions of the past year showed how difficult it was. Progress on Cluster I again proved elusive, whereas work on the working methods was more productive. He welcomed in particular the discussions between the open-ended working group and members of the Security Council, and looked forward to similar sessions in the future. He said he wished to congratulate the Security Council on its new openness toward troop-contributing countries.

The main question now was to move forward from discussion to a stage of negotiation. The Group of 10 (of which Belgium was the coordinator and which also included Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia) believed that further work could and should be done in the open-ended working group. However, a breakthrough would not be possible without a clear political will from the membership.

OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) recalled that 140 heads of State had called for a comprehensive reform of the Council in all its aspects, yet the picture remained discouraging. There was still too little interaction between the Council and Member States, and too little transparency. The Council’s composition was not representative of the Assembly’s membership, and the veto continued to exert its anachronistic influence over the Organization.

He said the question of the veto was the cornerstone of reform. It had been included in the Charter as an important measure for maintaining international peace and security. That privilege was no longer relevant to international relations. It was time to reverse the decision made in San Francisco when the Charter had been set up. At the very least, use of the veto must now be limited, with an eye towards its eventual elimination. That seemed to be the consensus view of all States except for permanent members of the Council.

With that step as a first move, other initiatives should be undertaken. The relationship between the Council and Assembly should be strengthened and clarified, he said. The openness of some recent Council meetings should be followed by further measures toward transparency, such as the open debate with troop-contributing countries. Peru was firmly committed to making the United Nations more equitable, objective and transparent for the benefit of all States.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said his delegation had steadfastly advocated that the Informal Working Group on Procedures and Documentation should meet more often and that the rules of procedure, which remained provisional after 56 years, should be formalized. Despite pleas, the informal working group had met only twice in 10 months. The unavoidable conclusion was that the Council preferred arbitrary behaviour to rule-based regimes.

He said Singapore supported a reform of the Council's composition and the clearly articulated position of the Non-Aligned Movement. The Council could be effective only if it accurately reflected the current global configuration of power, and not that of 1945. The world had changed enormously since then -- indeed it had changed enormously since 11 September -- and the Council could not remain frozen. Yet small States had served on the Council an average of only once or twice since its creation, while larger States had served five to eight times. It should, therefore, be in the obvious self-interest of small States to link the privileges of permanent or semi-permanent membership to obligation. Without reciprocal obligations to small States, how did it serve their interest to support the current or additional vetoes?

He said the Council had clearly done much good work in recent years, including in East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But it had also had its fair share of failures, as documented in the reports on Rwanda and Srebenica, which had never been examined by the General Assembly. That mixture of success and failure, however, did not reveal the deep-seated structural problem in the Council's response to threats to international peace and security.

The Council was often called required to react to emergencies. Unfortunately, some Council members preferred to put their national interests ahead of those of the international community, raising an obvious question: should the Security Council serve the national interests of its members or those of the international community it was dedicated to serve? Clearly, any comprehensive reform of the Council would have to address such fundamental questions if the Council’s deep-seated structural problem was to be solved.

AHMED ABUELGHEIT (Egypt) said the working methods of the Security Council had progressed in recent years, but he called for more openness and transparency. Informal consultations among Council members were becoming common, but that practice should not be the favoured forum for decisions.

The question of whether the veto was a right or responsibility was yet to be decided, he continued. It was still subject to narrow national positions, which was contrary to the Organization's intentions. General consensus should be sought on a package of reform that considered the interests of the international community as a whole. The Assembly's working group must continue its work within the existing mandate, following its current working methods.

He said the working group on documentation still restricted its activities to official Council meetings, and did not deal with informal consultations. Also, there was a rising trend to increase the number of Council fact-finding missions. Such missions were important, but their mandates should be made public in advance, after due consultation with the concerned country or countries. He also noted that consultations with troop-contributing countries were still below the acceptable level. It was difficult to imagine the Council extending the mandate of a peacekeeping operation without proper consultations with all troop-contributing countries.

DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) said the current objective should be to make the work of the Council more transparent, accountable, inclusive and collaborative as well as much more effective. "Whether we talk about coalitions of the willing or regular United Nations peacekeeping operations including post-conflict peace-building, we deal with Member States able and ready to make their finances, personnel and other resources available", he said.

In terms of committing troops, he said, the major contributors were outside of the Council. The same applied to financial support for peacekeeping operations. That showed the imbalance that existed between those who had the actual responsibility and those more involved in the actual implementation. While the Council had introduced important changes over time, he believed that there was still scope to improve the effectiveness of the Council and that the Charter provided sufficient options to do that. Interaction between the Council and the general membership, for example, could be strengthened by combining an analysis of the Council’s decision-making process with suggestions and proposals made over the years, in order to find which ones would make a practical contribution to that interaction.

He said discussions on the expansion of the Council seemed deadlocked. Instead of looking at it in terms of Council membership only, there should be an issue-based approach, that would imply creating mechanisms to ensure that regional players and all others contributing to a particular United Nations activity would be involved in the lead-up to decisions on peace operations.

In the area of peace-building, he continued, the dividing line between that and peacekeeping had been increasingly blurred into a conceptually seamless operation. The Council was venturing into peace-building simply by default; there was no adequate intergovernmental structure to take over the baton to follow-up on peacekeeping activities. It was the responsibility of the general membership to amend and improve the present intergovernmental structure, in order to establish a clear division of labour between the Council and other bodies. It was amazing just how much room the Charter gave in that respect he added.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said a reformed Security Council, with Japan and Germany assuming permanent seats, and with an expanded number of rotating seats, would enjoy enhanced legitimacy. The open-ended working group was going into its eighth year of deliberations, indicative of the complexity of the issues to be resolved –- balancing representation between the developed and developing countries, achieving appropriate and equitable representation among regions, and ensuring that Council enlargement was not purchased at the cost of effectiveness.

He said it would come as no surprise that his country would continue to oppose efforts to limit or eliminate the veto. The veto remained an essential element of the Council’s ability to maintain international peace and security. Regarding the open-ended working group, he said the time had come to move beyond the annual speechmaking and analyze the various models for an expanded Council. Such a Council must have genuine and broad support. The current Council structure was capable of prompt and effective action, as shown by resolutions 1368 and 1373 adopted within 26 hours of the 11 September attacks.

He would continue to work through the open-ended working group to ensure that the Council continued to be the lynchpin of international peace and security. His country would join with others in making the Council more transparent and more representative of the entire membership, he said.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said an unrepresentative and anachronistic Council would find it difficult to effectively combat the momentous challenge that the international community faced. Moreover, it was clear that the focus of the Council’s actions would, as in the past, be overwhelmingly developing countries, and the impact of the Council’s actions would be almost entirely felt in the developing world. This served to reinforce the imperative of enlarging the membership of the Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories, to make it more representative.

He said India would caution against piecemeal solutions. If there was to be an agreement to expand the Security Council in only the non-permanent category, or if cosmetic changes were to be made in its working methods, this would be a disservice to the United Nations. The seemingly simpler option of promoting agreement only on those issues on which a broad meeting of minds may emerge should be avoided. He said Cluster I and Cluster II issues were equally important and needed to be considered together. The movement of Non-Aligned Countries had consistently held the view that expansion and reform of the Security Council should be integral parts of a common package. Any attempt to promote one at the expense of the other would not only contravene that position, but would also go against the mandate of the General Assembly to consider all aspects of this issue.

It was regrettable, he said, that there was not a genuine partnership between the Security Council and troop-contributing countries. This was accentuated by the fact that few Council members were themselves major troop contributors. Complex and dangerous operations like those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone could not succeed in the absence of cooperation with the troop-contributing countries. While recognizing that Council resolutions 1327 and 1353 sought to address the problem, this was still a situation that must be seriously addressed, lest the disenchantment of troop contributors left the Council with little else but the holding of mostly pointless thematic debates.

India, he said, had consistently contributed to all aspects of the United Nations work, and on any objective grounds it would be considered as qualified for permanent membership of an expanded Security Council.

ERNEST PETRIC (Slovenia) said past debates had indicated that a large number of States supported the enlargement of Security Council membership, which was the only way to make it representative. Such enlargement must ensure the adequate and equitable geographic representation of all regional groups, including the Eastern European Group, whose United Nations membership had doubled in recent years.

For most States, he said, the question of working methods, transparency of work and decision-making, including the use of the veto, were of equal importance. The number of open meetings was growing and discussions with troop-contributing countries had also increased, enabling those countries to participate in Council work. He also welcomed the greater use of Council missions to troubled areas, and believed that such missions should particularly be used for preventive diplomacy. The transparency of Council work had also improved significantly, although he encouraged a unified transparency policy under different presidencies.

One of the most controversial aspects of Council work was the use of the veto, he continued. Slovenia believed all permanent Council members should enjoy equal status in the decision-making process, but felt that use of the veto could be limited to satisfy the Organization's larger membership. Permanent members should be invited to state on a case by case basis why the veto was used. Veto was a specific right entrusted to some Member States, who bore a responsibility for international peace and security for the sake of the entire international community, not only each permanent member.

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that after eight years of discussion, it was disappointing to see that a consensus had not been reached on Security Council reform. The momentum reached at last years Millennium Summit needed to be maintained. Numerous questions had been posed about the restructuring of the Council, including the enlargement of its membership, the reform of its working methods, and making the Council more transparent and democratic.

His delegation favoured an increase in the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the Council. In line with the realities of today’s world, two new permanent members could come from industrialized countries and three from developing countries. In terms of increased Council membership, the idea that Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe should each have a representative seemed reasonable.

He said his delegation also supported transparency in the working methods of the Council, especially in the decision-making process. This would enable everyone to understand the rationale behind the decisions taken by the Council. The issue of the veto was a major one; the majority of Member States believed that the right to veto was discriminatory, anachronistic and anti-democratic. It was time to consider the idea under which this privilege would be restricted, then gradually eliminated.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that as a permanent Security Council member, the United Kingdom realized that it was essential for that body to be made more representative of the modern world. He regretted there had been little progress this year toward Council enlargement, yet there was clear evidence of the emergence of consensus on certain issues, for example that expansion must include developing countries. The United Kingdom’s approach during last year’s General Assembly was to attempt to narrow the areas of disagreement, and this was still its approach.

He said his delegation was pleased at further progress in improving the Council’s working practices; the United Kingdom and other Security Council Presidencies had contributed to this process. The balance between public meetings and informal consultations may still not be quite right but there had been efforts to hold as many Council meetings as possible in public. Personal briefings of non-members had been conducted by the Presidency after informal consultations, and non-members had been invited to speak at Council in most debates. There had also been attempts made to improve consultations with non-members, in particular through briefings with troop-contributing countries.

There had also been an attempt to hold a meeting with Economic and Social Council members during the Presidency in April, to discuss areas of work where intergovernmental coordination needed to be enhanced, such as peace-building. He said that as chairman of the new Counter-Terrorism Committee, he had already held a number of briefings to inform the wider membership of the work under way in the Committee. He hoped that the Council would continue to welcome the new trend towards openness and that it would be prepared to try further innovations when necessary.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the reform of the Security Council was one of the important components in the efforts to strengthen, revitalize and democratize the United Nations. It was important to realise that the indefinite postponement of the enlargement and democratisation of the Council would amount to the gradual erosion and relegation of the General Assembly and other organs of the United Nations. This would be detrimental to the effective functioning of the United Nations, and certainly was not in the interest of the majority of its members.

He said there was a gap between the adoption of Security Council resolutions and their implementation and enforcement. When totalling the number of resolutions which had been fully implemented and enforced, those relating to Africa would be at the bottom of the list. Namibia, having had that rare privilege of serving on the Security Council, could safely state that the major reason was in the undemocratic and non-representative structural set-up of the Council. It was crucial that the Security Council be reformed and democratised.

Namibia stood by the decision of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that Africa deserved two permanent and five non-permanent seats on the Security Council. Its position on the veto was well-known; the veto power as a voting instrument had not served his country well. Nevertheless, it was Namibia's view that an expanded Security Council must have permanent members with equal principles and obligations.

ENRIQUE A. MANALO (Philippines) said that he still believed any final decision on the reform of the Security Council must be in the form of a package agreement, consisting of an expanded membership, in both permanent and non-permanent categories, and a comprehensive and coherent set of measures to reform the procedures of the Council. There must be more transparency in the decision-making process, with the greater participation of Member States. Another element would be limitation of the application of the veto

The establishment of the working group eight years ago brought a sense of expectation and hope that the United Nations would be able to provide the global community with a more representative and transparent Security Council. He remained confident that a package agreement could still be achieved within a reasonable time. However, it was necessary to set the stage for serious negotiations involving "tradeoffs".

He suggested that the working group focus its deliberations at its next session on matters such as the size and composition of an expanded Council, use of the veto, and certain Cluster II issues (such as measures to ensure greater transparency of the informal consultations of the whole, and improving the Annual Report of specific issues which needed to be resolved in order to complete an acceptable package agreement as well as give more time to them). This approach would also entail agreement to drop from the working group's consideration certain proposals which clearly had elicited scant or no support over the years. The group should not squander its valuable time in revisiting these proposals.

FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA (Portugal) said the objective of reform of the Council was clear: review of its membership in view of the substantial increase in the membership of the United Nations, as well as the changes in international relations. Important efforts had been undertaken to move the process forward, and reform of the Council had been given a boost during the Millennium Summit. The main elements for reform were on the table; with political will, delegations should now be able to build an appropriate solution.

Enhancing the Council’s representative nature and improving its methods of work were crucial elements for reinforcing Council authority and the effectiveness of its decisions. It could be helpful to take the subject of reform to a higher political level of debate if progress in the working group continued to experience serious difficulties.

Flexibility must be shown on all issues, from the question of numbers to the question of veto, which must be addressed in the light of the overwhelming support of the general membership for its reform. With other countries, Portugal had submitted to the working group concrete proposals with regard to the restriction of the use of veto. There were new positive signals, coming from within the group of permanent members, regarding some degree of openness to consider restrictions.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said reform of the Council was the most delicate issue before the United Nations. The world today needed a Council that could represent the people. Actions such as the application of coercive measures like sanctions required objectivity. The Council lacked that; it was interested only in preserving the position of its permanent members.

He said the Council usurped areas of concern that belonged to other United Nations bodies, such as the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council. United Nations membership had risen fourfold since its founding, but the Council had not increased correspondingly. A total of 11 new members should be appointed in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. The appointments should include new members from the African, Latin American and Asian groups to correct their current under-representation. How could the Council fulfil its obligation to keep international peace and security when it did not represent the two-thirds of the global population living in the third world and when Africa did not have a single permanent member on the Council?

He said the open-ended working group had made progress but not enough. The Charter had not given unlimited power to the Council. The Assembly must be revitalized. It was the only place open to membership of all States; at present, by use of the Council veto, a single State could overturn the will of the other 188 Member States.

He said the Council that had acted so swiftly after the events of 11 September was paralyzed in situations such as the Middle East, because of one member’s veto. On the same day the terrorists had attacked one permanent Council member, many other things had also occurred. There had been no Council meeting for the 33,000 children who died of preventable diseases every day.

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