27 July 2005

“Uniting for Consensus” Group of States Introduces Text on Security Council Reform to General Assembly

Proposes Maintaining Permanent 5, with 20 Elected Members

NEW YORK, 26 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council would consist of 20 elected members, serving for a two-year term, in addition to the five permanent members, according to a draft resolution presented to the General Assembly this afternoon.

By other terms of the text (document A/59/L.68), co-sponsored by the 12-strong group of Member States known as Uniting for Consensus, the Assembly would also make amendments to the United Nations Charter and submit them for ratification by Member States. According to the text, the amended Article 23, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Charter, would read, as follows:

“1.  The Security Council shall consist of twenty-five Members of the United Nations. France, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly shall elect twenty other members of the United Nations to be non-permanent members of the Security Council, due regard being specially paid, in the first instance, to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution.

“2.  The non-permanent members of the Security Council shall be elected for a term of two years.  In the first election of the non-permanent members after the increase of the membership of the Security Council from fifteen to twenty-five, five of the retiring members shall continue for one more year. Non-permanent members may be eligible for immediate re-election, subject to the decision of their respective regional groups.”

Further by the text, the Assembly would also amend Article 27, paragraphs 2 and 3, and Article 109, paragraph 1, of the Charter to require the affirmative vote of 15 of the 25 Council members. The Assembly would also call for improving the Council’s working methods in a transparent, inclusive and accountable manner, including restraint on the use of the veto; procedures to ensure transparency in decision-making, accountability in performance and access to information, including open briefings and interaction with all interested parties; consultation, cooperation and adequate exchange of information with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council; access and better participation of non-member States of the Security Council in its work; and the adoption and circulation of formal rules of procedure.

According to the text, presented to the Assembly by the representatives of four Uniting for Consensus members -- Canada, Italy, Colombia and Pakistan -- the Assembly would decide that the 20 non-permanent members of the Security Council would be elected according to the following pattern:  six from African States; five from Asian States; four from Latin American and Caribbean States; three from Western European and Other States; and two from Eastern European States.

The proposal would have the Assembly recommend that each geographical group decide on arrangements among its members for re-election or rotation of its members on the seats allotted to it.  Those arrangements would also address a fair subregional representation.

Other members and co-sponsors of the text, entitled “Reform of the Security Council”, are Argentina, Costa Rica, Malta, Mexico, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Spain and Turkey.

The text was introduced following discussions over the past two weeks on several competing proposals for Security Council reform. The proposal by the “Group of Four” (G-4) -- Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, all of whom are aspiring to become permanent members of the Council -- would have the Assembly increase the Council’s membership from 15 to 25, by adding six permanent and four non-permanent members.

Another initiative considered by the Assembly was the African Union proposal, which would increase the body’s membership from 15 to 26, with increases in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, and granting Africa two permanent and five non-permanent seats.

Introduction of Draft

ALLAN ROCK (Canada), introducing the draft (document A/59/L.68), said that the objective of the text was to achieve the fairest and most democratic approach to the complex and controversial question of Security Council enlargement, while seeking the broadest possible consensus on how to proceed.  It would not serve the larger purpose if nations were left divided after choosing among resolutions that favoured a few, leaving fissures and factions as winners and losers were picked, once and for all.

The draft before the Assembly represented a good-faith effort to avoid such an “all or nothing” approach, he said. It would add no permanent members to the Council, but would rather create new permanent seats in each region, leaving it to the members of each regional group to decide which Member States should sit in those seats, and for how long. That approach would permit the international community to achieve all of the major objectives of Security Council reform, while preserving an environment conducive to broad agreement in September, and cooperation in the years ahead.

The accession of additional permanent members to the Council was not in the best interests of the United Nations, and it was not in the best interests of the overwhelming majority of its Member States, he continued. Widening the permanent circle for the few who sought special status, no matter how worthy their candidacies, would make the Council less accountable for its conduct, more remote from the membership and less representative of the world’s regions.

His country favoured the approach presented in the draft, because it was democratic; it would make the Council more accountable to Member States; it provided for a flexible allocation of Council seats; and it provided for fairness. And finally, it provided for a meaningful and effective Council reform without forcing divisive and potentially damaging votes on the General Assembly, as individual States vied for special status.

One of the aspects of the draft’s flexibility was that it allowed for repeated terms of different aggregate length among the elected seats permanently allocated to each region.  For example, it permanently accorded Africa six seats on the Council. The African Group had made it clear that it wanted to have two representatives on the Council, who would be there for the long term. The draft empowered the Group to identify two of its members who would represent the region for as long as that Group decided.  The balance of the seats set aside for Africa could be held for periods to be determined by the region.

Each of the other resolutions before the Assembly provided for new permanent members of the Council, but if either of those drafts were to be adopted, that would be only the beginning of a contentious and competitive process. The approach of L.68 would entail a single initial vote of the Assembly, with subsequent elections that would implement the choices of regional groups.

In his introduction, MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy) said that the G-4 model was structured in such a way as to benefit just six “happy few”, at the detriment of all the other 180 Member States, and with a tremendous divisive impact on the membership. He was sure that Member States would not accept “to be taken for a ride”. Arrogance never paid. No reform would be able to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Organization if it was not rooted in the principle of fair and equal opportunities to be granted to all its Members. Only then would they be able to strengthen and enhance their sense of ownership of the United Nations, their sense of belonging to an organization of which they could be proud.  It was along those lines that the Uniting for Consensus draft resolution intended to offer a constructive non-divisive platform for discussion and decision, a platform extremely flexible and centred on a strong regional empowerment.

Continuing, he approached “a very delicate issue” that risked -- if not addressed properly -- to “bring shame upon this house” and to destabilize the whole process of reform. That ethical issue related to the G-4 resorting to financial leverage and financial pressures in order to induce a government to align or not to align itself with a certain position, or to co-sponsor or vote in favour of a certain draft, he said.  Not later than yesterday morning -- and that was just the latest example -- a G-4 donor country had informed a government that had co-sponsored the Uniting for Consensus resolution that, because of that, the donor would put an end to a development project already in place in that country and would never start another important infrastructural project that had already been decided.  Such improper and unethical behaviour was a shame.

After the “oil-for-food” scandal, the Organization could not afford the luxury of another scandal, much more serious and destabilizing than oil-for-food, he said.  Here, it was not a question of pocketing money.  It was a question of ethics and moral values. It was a question of blackmailing some sectors of the membership, taking undue advantages from others’ vital needs. “Enough is enough”, he said. “In the United Nations, we should promote a public culture in which responsible political advocacy, with no distortions or abuses, becomes the operative norm; a culture in which legitimate political advocacy or lobbying does not trespass an undoubtedly thin borderline, and becomes blackmail and corruptive practice.”

He was sure that Member States and the Secretary-General would not turn their heads, he continued.  They would not want to be responsible in front of the international community “in deciding to sweep the dust under the carpet” and not to go into an in-depth assessment of the situation through an independent committee of inquiry, or any other initiative deemed appropriate. At stake was the credibility of the Organization and of its process of reform.  Reforms could not be dictated by power or money.  They had to be dictated by principles, and it was the Assembly’s duty to strengthen the hand of those Member States who relied on the Organization and who must know that they would be able to say “no” to improper and unethical requests without fear or suffering financial consequences.

MARIA ANGELA HOLGUĺN CUÉLLAR (Colombia) recalled that when the United Nations was formed in 1945, her country had been one of two countries that had voted against the veto and had never believed in its privilege.  That conviction remained the same and the current world dynamic confirmed Colombia’s initial position.  At this time, Member States were not in the process of overcoming a world war and, if the world was evolving, it was towards the plurality of multilateralism, with 191 Member States, as well as diverse and dynamic national and regional realities.  Development needs were not met by the creation of new powers through a United Nations vote that might lead to a deep internal confrontation in the Organization, from which no one was bound to benefit.

She said the five permanent members of the Security Council were the product of the agreements following the Second World War and many had arrived at the United Nations with pre-established rules made for others to abide by while waiting for other benefits in development and progress.  It was a period of reconstruction where most of the current Member States had no opportunity to speak or make decisions.  Now the proper conditions were in place to create an Organization to face an international arena with a multiplicity of actors, challenges, threats and realities. The response must, as a result, be plural.

Colombia wished for the United Nations in the twenty-first century to strengthen its development agenda and effectively push for progress and cooperate to overcome infrastructure, technology, training and investment limitations, she said. Only social and economic development would allow Member States to realize sovereign equality. They did not want a United Nations that approached all problems in a coercive, punitive way and forceful measures that did not lead to long-term solutions. They did not want a United Nations that created a dependency of States on the system or on peace operations for their existence and survival.  Missions should be able to strengthen national institutions and governance and avoid creating political, economic and social distortions that could delay and limit the development possibilities of States.

She said that Uniting for Consensus looked at a 25-member Security Council, with 20 non-permanent members, elected for a two-year term, with the possibility of re-election depending on the decisions of each regional group. The Uniting for Consensus had hoped for the present decision not to come to a vote -- that Member States would reach a common agreement on reform of the Security Council.  But the present trying months had left all Member States troubled. They had not communicated or negotiated.  Mistrust and divisions had deepened and that had led States to consider a vote. It was to be hoped that States would make that decision out of conviction and principle and not out of pressures and temporary convenience that were circumstantial.  The decision to call a vote implied an historical decision.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the greatest virtue of the Uniting for Consensus draft was its flexibility.  It could accommodate, through variable geometry, the aspirations and interests of the majority of the membership, including regional groups. Member States had taken full note of the proposal by the African Union, which was fully compatible with the Uniting for Consensus text. Both were based on the principle that each region would be in a position to construct its own architecture for representation on the Security Council. The African Union had called for two permanent seats for Africa with full rights.  The Uniting for Consensus saw that demand as qualitatively different from the call in the G-4’s draft resolution for six new “permanent members”.  Permanent members did not represent their region, only themselves.  The G-4 countries were seeking permanent membership for themselves, not for their regions.

The African Union had indicated that the permanent seats it was seeking would represent Africa and “act on its behalf”. The regional organization would also select its own representatives for those permanent seats.  If it chose two countries to represent it continuously, or “permanently”, against those two seats, that would be possible under the Uniting for Consensus resolution.  If the African Union decided that three, four or five more countries should occupy those seats, that could also be accommodated under the Uniting for Consensus proposal, whose additional benefit was that the African Union would retain the power to ensure accountability on the part of those States that would represent it on the Council. The Uniting for Consensus proposal could also ensure representation of all the subregions of Africa. The non-permanent seats for Africa under the Uniting for Consensus proposal could enable it to fulfil the desire for equitable representation of each of its five subregions.

He said that since the present proposal was based on a regional approach, it could also accommodate the interests of subregions, such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Central America. The larger number of elected seats which could be available under the Uniting for Consensus proposals could be appropriately distributed within each region, to ensure the representation of subregions, as well as other political groupings.

The formal tabling of the present draft resolution should not be construed as the group’s concurrence with a vote on the crucial issue of Security Council reform, he said.  On the contrary, for any proposal for Security Council reform to be successful and conclusive, it must be evolved on the basis of consensus, or the broadest possible agreement. The present proposal had been submitted to indicate the serious nature of the Uniting for Consensus position and its desire for an early agreement on Security Council reform.  Such a solution could be achieved through patient dialogue and consultations.

Expressing concern at reports that the sponsors of the G-4 would call for a vote on their draft in the near future, he said that such a vote would be a recipe for disaster. A vote would divide the United Nations membership, exacerbating tensions in every region of the world.  The adoption of the G-4 resolution, in the unlikely event that it happened, would lead to a dead end, freezing the whole issue of United Nations reform for many years and obliging the general membership to live with the status quo. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that the G-4 framework resolution was adopted, one could expect a spate of candidatures for permanent membership from every region. The September Summit would then become a lobbying bazaar as countries sought to promote their national ambitions or protect their national interests. Other reform proposals contained in the General Assembly President’s draft outcome document would become peripheral, the United Nations would become peripheral, and United Nations reform would become hostage to Security Council reform.

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