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    Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/1621
    Release Date:  7 March 2000
     Assembly President Calls for Decisive Steps Forward to Be Taken
    On Question of Reform and Enlargement of Security Council

     NEW YORK, 6 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the statement made today at Headquarters by Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, at the opening meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council:

     May I begin by warmly welcoming you all to this meeting and extending my best wishes to you and your countries for a productive, prosperous and happy new millennium.

     You will have noticed that I have here next to me two distinguished Ambassadors, Hans Dahlgren of Sweden and John de Saram of Sri Lanka, who are my dedicated collaborators in this joint effort.  I have greatly benefited from their hard work and institutional memory, and I know that I will continue to count on them now and in the future.

     Here we are again, starting the seventh year of the work of the Open-ended Working Group on the reform and enlargement of the Security Council.  Last year, between September and December and through the debate of the General Assembly, I immersed myself in the scope, as well as the nitty-gritty, of what has been done so far.  That’s to say that I have been searching for any verifiable progress -? or a consensus -? in the areas of debate that had been delineated when the process commenced six years ago.

     In my opening statement of 16 December 1999 in the General Assembly, I said:  I am happy to point out that I have been encouraged by the open and frank views of the delegations which I consulted and their expressed willingness to contribute in good faith in the continuing search for workable solutions to overcome the existing major sticking points, on the basis of constructive negotiations, flexibility and compromise.

     We had all agreed that this Working Group continues to be the appropriate forum in which to pursue the efforts aimed at reforming the Security Council (A/53/47).  In that opening statement, I also noted that the Member States were not quite ready then for concentrated negotiations and the final package deal.  For this reason, I indicated that I would be convening, in the early part of 2000, the meeting of the Open-ended Working Group.  Furthermore, you will recall my intimation that:  “I will, however, be listening for helpful ideas and suggestions from the speakers.”  The moment has come and the work is commencing now in earnest.

     I concluded my statement, on that occasion, having four things in mind:

     Firstly, I lamented the never-ending nature of the consultations in the Working Group.  This made me to observe:  No quick-fix, but, on the other hand, no tortured Uruguay-Round style, endless negotiations either.

     Secondly, and with that in mind, I stressed, as a commonly cherished ideal, the enhancement of the credibility and accountability of the United Nations itself, if these ongoing consultations and negotiations should, rather than serving as a means to the end, be judged by the court of the world public opinion to have become an end unto themselves -? that end being the “Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council”.  Is this not really the ultimate goal we all want, after six solid years of mostly only talking and consulting each time we meet?  Of course, neither I nor anybody else should ever even think of killing any useful debate, transparency or inclusiveness.  But I like to believe that we would mainly want to proceed.

     No delegation has a contrary view; in fact, we all agree that “to ensure that the United Nations will continue to play the role assigned to it by the Charter, it is important to reform the composition and functioning of the Security Council so as to strengthen its authority and make it more equitably representative and more capable of continuing to assume its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security”.

     Thirdly, I pleaded with Your Excellencies, and I reiterate the same this morning, to assist the Bureau with the critical issues of Clusters I and II and the exercise of the veto, for, without resolving them, there can surely be no progress.

     Fourthly, and lastly, I dared to refer once again to my opening statement in December, to treading the troubled waters of sovereignty and transparency. I threw in my fishing hook and announced from the rostrum:  “The meeting of the Working Group (this meeting, that is) must deal only and specifically with the substantive issues and matters directly related to it and avoid, at all cost, another general debate.  I am not sure, but I thought I heard some murmuring and scuffling of feet.  This I actually meant purely in the interest of progress and nothing else.

     I very well know that the final package deal is still far off for now and the negotiations will continue to be tough, no doubt.  But can’t we try very hard to move the process forward by taking some decisive steps where there’s agreement, to show real progress in the twenty-first century?  That’s all I ask.

     This is, as I see it, the essence of the challenge before the Working Group today.

     The Bureau will, for its part, do everything possible to provide whatever guidance we can with a view to accelerating decision-making and focusing on results-driven exchanges on all pertinent issues.

     Finally, I will now open the floor and invite comments from the delegations on the way forward, before I present to the meeting the draft programme of work.  My two collaborators are free any time they wish to put on any one of the two hats they carry as we proceed.

     I am done, and thank you for your kind attention.

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