Press Releases

    GA/9943
    1 November 2001

    NEED FOR SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM GIVEN NEW IMPETUS
    BY RECENT EVENTS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS TOLD

    Speakers Regret Continued Impasse in Formulation of Proposal;
    Self-Interest of Veto-Holders, Lack of Political Commitment Cited


    NEW YORK, 31 October (UN Headquarters) -- The political determination of Member States to achieve comprehensive Security Council reform, as reflected in the Millennium Declaration, had gained impetus by the recent new threat to international peace and security, the representative of Germany said this morning, as the General Assembly continued its debate on the question of equitable representation in the Security Council.

    He said today’s world held greater threats to international peace and security than most would have acknowledged just a few weeks ago. The United Nations was uniquely positioned to meet the challenges but broader coalitions and stronger multilateral forums were needed.

    The representative of Tunisia said it was clear that political will and concrete commitment were lacking. Reform should enhance the Council’s democratic and equitable representation, its accountability, credibility and efficiency. Brazil echoed the view that new threats to the international community made an eloquent case for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council. Both permanent and non-permanent membership should be increased for a total Council membership in the mid-twenties.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said it was important to keep the Council’s existing decision making procedure, to ensure a balance of member interests and ability to reach consensus. There must be no derogation from prerogatives and powers presently available, including the right to veto.

    The representative of Pakistan said there may be no consensus on expanding the permanent category of council members but there was a genuine demand to enlarge the non-permanent seats. The vast majority also wanted to eliminate or restrict the use of the veto, as a tool of coercion unjustified in the twenty-first century.

    Argentina’s representative said the veto contradicted the principle of sovereign equality among States and the democratic principles for settling disputes. Limiting the veto would be a first step to eliminating it. Perhaps permanent members might explain before the Assembly their reasons for casting the veto.

    The representative of San Marino said enlarging the Council now would be premature and hasty. Only the non-permanent seats should be increased.

    Also addressing the Assembly this morning were the representatives of Kuwait, Italy, New Zealand, Belarus, Guatemala, Ukraine, Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Spain, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Brunei Darussalam and Armenia.

    The Assembly meets again at 3 p.m. today to continue its debate on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related issues.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters. (For further information see press release GA/9942 of 30 October.)

    Statements

    MUHAMMAD A. ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said the discussions in the open-ended working group reviewing the issue served to show how urgent the restructuring of the Council was, to provide for transparency. However, after eight years of discussions it had been impossible to find agreement on the kind of changes required, although progress had been made on the issue of procedures and working methods.

    He said Kuwait’s position was based on support for increasing the membership of the Council, although it should not become too large. The Council’s enlargement must be consistent with the sovereignty of States and equitable regional representation. His country agreed to a limited increase in permanent members, to be determined by the Assembly. He agreed with proposals on reforming working methods and procedures, and improving links with other United Nations organs, and aimed at increasing transparency and allowing a more flexible flow of information. Codifying the working procedures of the Council should be implemented without having to wait for agreement on other issues.

    He said the mechanism for election of non-permanent members should be maintained, as it was a way for smaller States to become members. He observed that the working group had seen an almost complete agreement on the need to regulate the way the veto was used. He hoped it would be possible to achieve wording which satisfied all parties, and allowed the Council to carry out its activities.

    SERGIO VENTO (Italy) said eight years of debate had shown that effective Security Council reform must primarily address its working methods and decision-making process, rather than seek to increase the number of " privileged members". New global threats like that of international terrorism had ushered in a new era and required a different kind of global governance based on a culture of consensus, collective decision-making and global responsibility in the place of the unilateral promotion of the national interest of a handful of countries.

    Increasing the number of countries endowed with veto power was hardly the way to improve the Security Council’s credibility and accountability, he said. Italy was one of the overwhelming majority of countries for whom the veto represented the crux of the reform process. From the start of the exercise on expansion, Italy had thought that the only practicable solution would be to add a few non-permanent members. The addition of a limited number of elective seats would make the Security Council more representative of the regions currently under-represented and allow a fair rotation for those countries who shoulder greater responsibilities in terms of financial resources, troops and political support.

    After ten years of heavy commitment to bringing peace in the Balkans, Italy had learned from its experience as a front-line country that the Security Council should better involve countries whose interests were particularly affected, as described in article 31 of the Charter. The key to making progress in the Council’s reform process lay in greater involvement of non-members, as well as increased interaction with other United Nations and international bodies.

    TREVOR HUGHES (New Zealand) said that while the reluctance of permanent members to curtail the veto power was not helping reform, extending the veto power to any other member States would be inconsistent with the wishes of the majority. Issues posed by the veto were difficult and it was hard to see any way around them. So long as a small number of States insisted on acquiring the veto power for themselves, progress towards enlargement was likely to remain stalled.

    As for equitable representation, the time was fast approaching for a complete overhaul of anachronistic regional groups. Reform in that area could help bring the Council representation into line with the modern world. With respect to the idea of "periodic review", New Zealand was not opposed to a future review of any arrangements which could eventually be agreed upon as an outcome of current reform. The Organization had already been engaged in a "review" of previously agreed arrangements for these past eight years in the open-ended working group.

    Despite the continuing obstacle posed by the veto issue, the open-ended working group had once again shown its worth over the past year, and remained the appropriate forum for discussion of that item. The working group’s key characteristics of inclusiveness and transparency would ensure that the reform package that was eventually arrived at would have general agreement and would be sustainable.

    ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said the vast majority of delegations wanted a more democratic, representative and transparent Council. Not enough progress had been made particularly on issues related to the veto and the expansion of the Council. The veto was contrary to the principle of sovereign equality among States and in contradiction with the democratic principles the Council promoted for settlement of disputes. Only a small minority of States continued to reject all modifications to the veto. They argued that it was rarely used since the end of the cold war. But if the question of the veto was so irrelevant, why was there so much resistance to changing it.

    It was necessary to limit the veto, as the first step towards its eventual elimination. For the time being, it should be limited exclusively to Chapter VII issues. Eventually, permanent members might explain before the Assembly the reasons for having cast a veto. Those limitations must be established through amendments to the Charter. A political commitment was not an adequate legal guarantee.

    He said reform of the Council was a package deal. He opposed postponing the question of the veto in order to concentrate on the increase in membership. His country supported an increase only in non-permanent seats. It was for the regional groups to decide the allocation of the new non-permanent seats.

    SERGEI S. LING (Belarus) said he welcomed progress to enhance Security Council transparency and effectiveness. Council reform consisted of three basic components -– working methods, balanced representation and the power of veto.

    He said he was pleased to see an increase in open Council meetings, and informational consultations, such as those on peacekeeping. Other improvements included giving the floor to non-members, such as special envoys of the Secretary-General, as well as question-and-answer sessions with non-members. He welcomed further measures, which would allow non-members of the Council to discuss important issues. It was important not to limit discussions of burning issues, such as measures to eliminate international terrorism, which had been discussed in the Assembly, to members of the Council. Belarus was keen to be part of a collective search on the way out of crisis situations.

    Belarus had always been an active advocate of a stable system of international security. The main task of such a system should be to broaden international cooperation and narrow rivalry. His country felt that the open-ended working group should continue and was confident that it would contribute to Council reform.

    DIETER KASTRUP (Germany) said the Millennium Declaration of a year ago had reflected the political determination of Member States to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Security Council. As recently learned, today’s world held greater threats to international peace and security than most would have acknowledged a few weeks ago. The United Nations was uniquely positioned to meet the challenges but the world needed broader coalitions and stronger multilateral forums than those reflected by the Council’s present composition. The United Nations and its principle organs needed to be reformed, not least the Council.

    He said Germany had proposed that Council reforms should come under the headings of representation, accountability, democratization and transparency. The Council needed to be more representative, which meant an increase in the seats in both permanent and non-permanent membership. The Council needed to be more accountable and therefore subject to a review process.

    Further, a reform of the veto would make the Council more democratic and a reform of its working methods would make it more transparent.

    While he agreed that a high-level meeting should be held to generate political will for reaching general agreement on reform, he did not agree that a step by step reform of the Council would lead to a truly meaningful reform. Rather, the next step would be to develop alternative reform models based on the positions expressed by Member States. In essence, since all proposals had now been tabled, they should be summarized and consolidated. Once elaborated into reform proposals, in cooperation with the Assembly President and the Chairman of the open-ended working group, they should be submitted in implementation of the Millennium Declaration’s obligations.

    GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that the new threats faced by the international community made even more eloquent the case for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council. Brazil favoured an enlargement in the number of both permanent and non-permanent members, increasing the total number of members to the mid-twenties. His delegation also believed that equitable representation could be achieved only if new permanent seats were allocated to both developed and developing countries. Brazil also favoured a curtailment of the veto with a view to its gradual elimination. As a first step, the veto should be limited to matters covered by chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

    He said Brazil commended the increasing tendency of the Security Council to be more transparent and inclusive in its procedures, and welcomed the practice of public "wrap-up" sessions. Notwithstanding these positive developments, two issues continued to elude consensus with respect to the working methods of the Council. The first related to informal consultations. It was recognized that "in camera" meetings were necessary and useful, but often, actual decisions were taken in these informal meetings -– "totally veiled or locked away from the general membership".

    The second issue was the need to improve the way the Security Council interacted with the General Assembly and other main bodies of the Organization. It should not be confined to a one-day debate of the annual report. There was, for example, fertile ground for the Council to produce focused, analytical special reports on a variety of issues such as the protection of civilians, peace-building, and cooperation with troop contributing countries.

    Brazil also believed there should be greater financial accountability of the Security Council, in the sense that the wider membership be entitled to receive more and earlier information on budgetary implications of decisions taken by the Council.

    GIAN NICOLA FILIPPI BALESTRA (San Marino) said a decision now on the enlargement of the Security Council would be premature and hasty. His country favoured an increase only in the number of non-permanent seats. The extension of the privileges of the permanent members to other countries would create additional problems.

    The limitation to the power of the General Assembly was significant if one considered that 81 Member States had never been members of the Security Council. The only contribution they could make to its work was by democratically electing their representatives to it. For the time being, the only enlargement possible was in the non-permanent category. Blocking this kind of reform went against the interest of many countries from all geographical areas who had participated in an enlarged Security Council during the past eight years when reform had been under consideration.

    LUIS RAUL ESTEVEZ-LOPEZ (Guatemala) said the United Nations needed a more representative Security Council which reflected today’s world, rather than the one of 1945. The new Council would act with greater transparency and accountability, especially in informing the wider membership. After the terrorist events of 11 September in the United States, those concepts had become imperatives for the good governance of the Organization.

    More avenues of communication must be built between the Council and the Assembly. Also, the Organization must abandon the "culture" which held that reform of the Council was such a daunting task it was best not even to try. The first who must abandon that attitude were the permanent members, who presumably should be the most interested in having decisions of the Council well received by the wider membership.

    He said it was clear that the decision-making process in the Council must reflect reality, which would lead to some type of weighted voting. But it was also clear, due to the force of circumstances, that the time had come to revisit the composition of the Council to provide it with greater transparency and accountability, and make it more representative.

    VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) his country shared the disappointment that little progress had been achieved with regard to substantive issues of Council reform, even though provisional agreement had been recorded on a number of issues dealing with the Council’s working methods. The Assembly’s mandate to the working group was clear: to seek general agreement granting legitimacy and credibility to reform. The current stalemate in the working group could be overcome through a greater degree of flexibility by all parties

    The enlarged Council should comprise 24 to 26 seats, with an increase in both permanent and non-permanent categories of membership. Those countries which were able and willing to take greater responsibility, including financial, in the maintenance of international peace and security, and which enjoyed the necessary support at both regional and global levels, might receive permanent membership. He recognized the willingness of Germany and Japan to assume those responsibilities.

    The Council’s enlargement by way of adding new seats in both categories for developing countries would better reflect the changed international landscape. Expansion in the non-permanent category must necessarily include an additional seat for Eastern European States.

    He said the veto remained at the heart of the reform problems. Under the present political realities, the institution of the veto in its present form was obsolete and unjustified. Its existence was one of the main reasons why the Council so often found itself prevented from discharging its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. He called for curtailment of the scope and application of the veto, with its subsequent abrogation.

    MARJATTA RASI (Finland), speaking also for Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said it was widely recognised that enlargement of the Council was necessary, to ensure a better geographical representation in the Council and to strengthen the role of the developing countries. At the same time it was essential to avoid reducing the Council’s efficiency. Discussions on both the enlargement and the decision-making of the Security Council must continue with more vigour and determination to break the current impasse, she said.

    The veto remained a crucial issue. The practice of trying to achieve texts and resolutions that permitted permanent members to abstain rather than exercise their veto represented a step in the right direction. A difference of opinion was expressed without blocking the Security Council from necessary action. Changes to the right to veto could be based on a common understanding between the Member States without amendments to the Charter. The present permanent members would still have unique responsibility for the activities and decisions of the Security Council.

    She said she welcomed the active participation and engagement by the permanent members in open and results-oriented discussions. Permanent members must limit the use of veto, and when it nevertheless was used, it must be explained.

    SERGEY A. ORDZHONIKIDZE, Deputy Foreign Minister, Russian Federation, said solving this issue of Security Council reform was, in many respects, vital for the future United Nations role in world affairs and for enhancing the effectiveness of the Council as the body bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. This was why Russia had been consistently in favour of achieving the broadest possible agreement, or even a consensus as a preferable option, on the possible formula of the enlargement of the Council.

    Russia remained open for constructive proposals concerning categories within which the Council could be enlarged. The existing decision-making procedure of the Council, which ensured the adequate balance of interest of its members and contributed to reaching consensus on issues under its consideration, was essential for its effective work. There must be no derogation from prerogatives and powers of the current permanent members of the Council, including their right to veto. The unjustified criticism of the institute of the veto only stirred up unnecessary emotions and in no way facilitated the achievement of the desired agreement on the parameters of the reform.

    He said it was important to keep the Security Council as compact as possible to provide for its due efficiency and viability. Enlargement must embrace both developed and developing States, he said. This was important in order to ensure a balanced membership of the Council. In this context, he considered India a strong and worthy candidate for permanent membership in the Security Council, should it be decided to enlarge the Council in both categories. There were other strong candidates in Latin America and Africa, he added.

    MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said the question of Security Council reform encompassed issues that were both complex and of direct relevance to the sovereign equality of States. He said the open-ended working group had discussed the issues in detail. Deep differences of view remained. A minority felt that simply according permanent status to a few Member States would be a panacea for all problems. The overwhelming majority believed Council reforms must take into account the principle of sovereign equality of States and of geographical location.

    Another small group, aspiring to permanent membership for enhancing of individual prestige, wanted to convince the world that size and economic or industrial power qualified them for permanent membership. However, he said, the Council could be made more effective only by strengthening its democratic, accountable and participatory character, not by creating new centers of power.

    While there was no consensus on expanding the permanent category, there was a genuine demand to enlarge the non-permanent seats, he said. It was also the wish of the vast majority that the veto should be eliminated or restricted to decisions under the Chapter VII of the Charter. That was because the veto had been intended as an instrument of confidence and security for Member States. Instead, it had become of tool of coercion with no justification in the twenty-first century.

    While the Council had moved in the right direction in adopting a mechanism for greater coordination with troop contributing countries, he said, much more needed to be done to institutionalize the triangular cooperation between the Council, the Secretariat and the troop contributors.

    NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said the report of the working group was a reflection of the frustrating stalemate that had been evident since the group’s establishment. His delegation acknowledged the progress that had been made in some aspects of Security Council reform, but it was clear that what was lacking was not ideas or proposals but the necessary political will and concrete commitment.

    The goal of reform was the enhancement of democratic and equitable representation, accountability, credibility and efficiency of the Council. These could not be achieved without an expansion of both permanent and non-permanent categories. Tunisia remained firm in its support of the African position, and the legitimate and justified request to allocate two permanent seats to Africa with all the privileges granted to the members of this category, and two additional non-permanent seats. He said Tunisia also supported the rotation formula endorsed by the African heads of State and Government. However, this formula should not be imposed as an option on the other regional groups. It was also in this context that Tunisia supported the allocation of permanent seats to Japan and Germany, both strong and worthy candidates for permanent membership.

    He said the issue of the veto had to be addressed as part of the reform package. Tunisia supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, in that the use of the veto should be curtailed to actions taken under Chapter VII of the Charter. A positive and constructive attitude on this issue by the permanent members of the Security Council would be crucial.

    INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said an effective reform of the Security Council would be possible only if consensus was reached in each and every component of such reform. Spain supported more than ever the necessity of the working group.

    The greater transparency achieved in the Council’s working methods was the result of the efforts of many delegations in the working group. Unfortunately, however, general agreement on the expansion of the Council had not been reached. Discussions must continue.

    The question of the veto remained essential for reform. An overwhelmingly large group of States wished to eliminate, or at least curtail, this colossal tool of power. Nonetheless, his country was aware that this wish had a somewhat illusory nature, since those who had the veto were not likely to renounce it, even partially. To grant that power to a new group of countries would establish a new class of privileged States, and therefore do a disservice to the United Nations.

    PHILOMENA MURNAGHAN (Ireland) said that the role of Security Council had grown in importance, just as had that of the United Nations. Following the events of 11 September in the United States, when the situation had truly demanded it, the Council had acted collectively, promptly and with determination. She noted that the new, even more complex, world we lived in made reform of the Council more urgent. Ireland wished to see a more transparent Council which, structurally and procedurally, was more reflective of current world realities.

    While some progress had been made on Council working methods, and useful discussion had taken place on the veto, the overall results did not live up to expectations. The Council should pursue its efforts to make its work more transparent. She commended the greater openness towards troop-contributing countries and encouraged the Council to continue enhancing the tripartite relationship between itself, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat.

    Ireland believed the open-ended working group could bring Council reform to a point where a move to negotiations could be made. She supported the idea of taking reform to a higher political level. Reform must be addressed in a comprehensive manner, with the aim of achieving a Council more representative of the membership, more transparent in its working methods and more effective overall.

    ABDULAZIZ BIN NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said he supported reform of the Council which included an increase in the number of members to better suit international political activity, with the increasing level of security challenges. He was concerned about the deepening of differences among States over the shape and size of the Council’s membership. His country fully supported the positions of the Non-Aligned Movement.

    He said expansion of Council membership should adhere to the principle of equality among States and fair geographic distribution. Any increase in both membership categories should not lead to an increase in seats of developed States, permanent or non-permanent, but should correct the inadequate representation of developing countries. Because the number of Arab States amounted to 12 per cent of the United Nations membership, he called for the allocation of at least two non-permanent seats for the Arab group, in addition to another permanent seat which the Arab States would rotate within the framework of understanding of the Asian and African Groups.

    He said he regretted the double standard policies of some permanent Member States which had on many occasions prevented the holding of urgent Council meetings to deal with developments regarding the Palestinian question and the situation in the Middle East, or to take obligatory actions to halt the excessive violence, expansion of settlements and siege that Israeli forces practiced daily against unarmed Palestinian people without any regard for Council resolutions.

    SERBINI ALI (Brunei Darussalam) said there had been some progress in improving the working methods of the Security Council, but the Organization was far from reaching its central objective to restructure it. Countless proposals for restructuring had been worked out, but unfortunately views among Member States had remained divergent.

    He said eight years was a long period to dwell on such an important and complex issue as Council reform. The rapidly changing world environment had posed new threats and challenges to international peace and security. That, together with the increase in United Nations membership, made reform a compelling necessity. But, there should not be any "quick fix" solutions to Council expansion.

    It was encouraging that most Member States wanted to see additional permanent and non-permanent memberships in the Council, but the issue of veto remained complex. His country felt that its use should be curtailed and its eventual elimination considered.

    ARMAN AKOPIAN (Armenia) said that the Security Council reform process should ensure that the Council’s composition reflected the political realities of today’ world. Some progress had been achieved over the past years, but it had been far too slow and the Security Council was still not fully representative. Real reform lay in the expansion of both categories of membership, in conformity with the principles of equality and sovereignty amongst States.

    The last few decades had seen the growing complexity of the issue of international security. Therefore the composition of bodies responsible for the maintenance of peace and security must evolve accordingly. In particular, the permanent members must have the ability and readiness to contribute both financially and politically to United Nations activities. In this regard, his country supported the desire of Germany and Japan to acquire the status of permanent members of the Council.

    The issue of equitable geographical representation was particularly important, and his country supported the proposals to increase the regional representation, especially for Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. His delegation believed that India deserved to be seriously considered as a candidate for permanent membership. Any increase of the non-permanent membership of the Council should ensure enhanced representation of the Group of Eastern European States.

    * *** *