Press Releases

    GA/9944
    1 November 2001

    GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS TOLD PERMANENT SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS MUST RESPOND TO WIDESPREAD
    UNEASE OVER VETO PROCEDURE

    Reform Debate Continues; Increase in Membership Widely
    Supported, But Speakers Express Concern to Maintain Efficiency

    NEW YORK, 31 October (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly was told this afternoon that however compelling the rationale for the Security Council veto, there was much dissatisfaction among the United Nations membership over the issue. As the Assembly continued its consideration of Security Council reform the representative of Canada said the permanent Council members who expected the general membership to respect Council decisions needed to respond to this dissatisfaction.

    He said an agreement on enlarging the Council in the non-permanent category could only be helpful, and would also assure a more representative Council.

    The representative of France said representation on the Council should be improved but the efficiency of its work must be preserved. He could accept an increase of five permanent members and four non-permanent members. The Council's primary responsibility was to deal with serious violations of international law. For permanent members, that meant a responsible use of the right of veto.

    A limitation of the veto would be part of a comprehensive Council reform, said the representative of Mexico. The reform would include an increase in equitable membership and a substantive change in the Council’s working methods for greater transparency and openness.

    The representative of Thailand said he hoped the permanent five would recognize the moral and political responsibility entrusted to them in the use of the veto. The exclusive character of the Security Council veto was anathema to any notion of democracy. It should be curtailed and gradually abolished.

    Also addressing the Assembly this afternoon were the representatives of Vietnam, China, Poland, Nigeria, Libya, Republic of Korea, Uruguay, Slovakia, Turkey, Iran, Ghana, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Myanmar, Croatia, and South Africa.

    The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, 1 November, to continue its debate on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this afternoon 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.)

    NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said more vigorous efforts should be made by all countries to reform the Security Council. The Organization was at a crossroads in its exercise to expand the Council into one that was more accountable, representative and transparent. There were concrete agreements on the principles and criteria to renovate the Council’s working methods, but there were clear differences in the views of permanent Council members on expanding membership and on the power of veto.

    Member States had a common objective to bring the Council in tune with the political realities of the time and to make it better equipped to deal with the challenges of the twenty-first century, he said. The membership of the Council must reflect the principle of sovereign equality of States. Its legitimacy relied heavily on its accountability to the membership of the United Nations. Viet Nam strongly supported increased membership in the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories.

    Developing countries must have appropriate representation taking into account that most of the issues were of vital interest to those countries, he continued. The regions of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean must have representation in an expanded Council. But any formula for reform would fail if the power of veto was left intact.

    SHEN GUOFANG (China) said great changes had taken place since the inception of the United Nations. The Security Council needed appropriate and necessary reform in order to adapt itself to these changes and the needs of the times, and to fulfil its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The United Nations was the most representative intergovernmental organization in the world and therefore the overriding priority in the reform of the Council was to correct the imbalance of its composition and increase the representation of developing countries in accordance with the principle of equitable geographical representation.

    At the Millennium Summit, it had been declared that the Security Council should be reformed in all its aspects. In order to implement this reform, the open-ended working group had conducted a series of discussions on Security Council reform in which Member States had participated in an active manner.

    The Chinese delegation supported the continuation of in-depth discussions on the reform within the open-ended working group. It was a serious consideration for almost all members as to how to enable the working group to achieve greater progress. The Chinese delegation would continue to support and participate actively in the work of the group and join hands with all other Members to facilitate the reform process.

    JORGE EDUARDO NAVARRETE (Mexico) said reform of the Council was not easy. The aim was deep reform in the composition, decision-making and working methods of the body entrusted with international peace and security to make it more representative, more democratic and more transparent. It could not be done overnight but the need for reform had been imprinted in the international psyche.

    Comprehensive reform would include an increase in equitable membership, a limitation of the veto and a substantive change in the Council’s working methods for greater transparency and openness.

    Most progress had been achieved on what were known as Cluster II issues –- on the Council’s working methods and the transparency of its work. The changes made in that regard had affected Council members, who had instituted reforms and had sought to establish a legal foundation for them. Still, transparency and openness must become the fundamental pillars of the Council’s work.

    It was important to remember that the Council worked on behalf of others, he said. Patience and a tenacious attention toward the end goal must guide the Assembly’s attitude with regard to the activities of the working group, the body entrusted with bringing about the important and difficult reforms.

    JANUSZ STANCYK (Poland) said all parties needed to work together in the spirit of compromise and show the flexibility needed to move forward. Poland viewed the reform of the Security Council as a key component of the overall reform of the United Nations. The changed realities of the world should be recognized in an agreement that would allow for a simultaneous increase in both categories of membership.

    Increasing the Council composition by five permanent members, two of whom would be from industrialized and three from developing nations would be the optimum solution. At the same time, the non-permanent category should be expanded so as to take into account the legitimate interests of all regional groupings.

    A solution would also be needed on the question of the veto. A balance would have to be struck between the need to maintain equality of rights in the permanent member category and the necessity to enhance the efficiency of the Security Council as one of the main objectives of its reform. A comprehensive reform of the Security Council should also address the question of the periodic review of the enlarged Council.

    ARTHUR C. I. MBANEFO (Nigeria) said the United Nations would not be strengthened if reform concentrated only on cost-effectiveness, efficiency and better coordination. No reform of the United Nations would be complete without the issues relating to the expansion and working methods of the Security Council. Reform should include expansion of the Council's membership, improvement in the working method and reform of its decision-making process.

    After more than eight years in its deliberations, the open-ended working group on the reform of the Council had not made any appreciable progress. The time had come for the working group to reform. A handful of States could not hold it ransom.

    On the question of the enlargement of the Security Council, he said it should be in both permanent and non-permanent categories. In this regard, Nigeria supported the Organization of African Unity's position that there should be two permanent seats for Africa in an enlarged Security Council. With regard to the veto, Nigeria supported the curtailment of its use by the permanent members of the Council. However, if it were to be retained in its present from, it should also be extended to the new permanent members of the Council.

    MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said the Security Council still conducted far too much of its regular business behind closed doors. None of the information discussed needed to be withheld from Member States. There were, in fact, few occasions when the Council needed to meet in camera. Another problem was that of habit. The default position for Council meetings was informal consultations, unless a Council member suggested otherwise. If suggested, it was often over objections from the permanent members, who perhaps felt less compunction to respond to the demand of the general membership, their tenure secure as it was. The default position must be a meeting open to Member States of the Organization.

    The Council also needed to end the fiction that informal consultations were not meetings of the Security Council, he continued. Informal consultations were closed meetings of the Council and must be treated as such, which would ensure that official records could be kept. Most importantly, it would mean that meetings of the Security Council were treated with all the seriousness they deserved. Also, the working methods must be improved by changing the relationship between the Security Council and troop-contributors, from consultations to genuine cooperation. Such cooperation would narrow the accountability gap between those that made the decisions and those that assumed the risks.

    Finally, he said that, however compelling the rationale for a veto, it remained true that much of the dissatisfaction of the general membership with the Council arose from the use or the threat of use of the veto. The permanent members who expected the general membership to respect Council decisions needed to respond to that dissatisfaction. On another issue, he called on those few delegations that continued to insist that the Council be enlarged -- in a way that granted them permanent seats -- to set aside their national aspirations for the sake of moving forward on reform. An agreement on enlarging the Council in the non-permanent category only could help to get out of that quagmire, and also assure a more representative Council.

    GUMA AMER (Libya) recalled that the working group had been established in 1993 with the hope of achieving equality on the Council. It was clear there was no unanimity on how to institute changes that would reflect the two thirds increase in the general membership of the United Nations. That was not for a lack of proposals, since many had been put forward. And, while certain steps toward progress had been taken, such as the holding of consultations with troop- contributors, much more needed to be done.

    Cooperation between the Security Council and other bodies of the United Nations must be enhanced, he said. Decisions in the Council should also be taken in the open debate, not decided beforehand. Selectivity should not be part of the process of choosing members, and permanent memberships should not be given as favors. All should be represented on the Council and any increase should result in the allocation of two permanent seats to Africa on the rotational basis, as had already been set forward.

    While some were claiming that the share of contributions paid should be the measure of determining Council membership, he said, the truth was that States victorious after the second World War had given the veto to themselves as a privilege. The veto should be canceled. Otherwise, some other mechanism should be devised, either to require two negative votes for a veto or to subject the veto to the Assembly’s consideration. Change should be brought about in the new round of negotiations on reform.

    SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said the most crucial component of overall United Nations reform should be the Security Council, given its critical role and weighted authority in maintaining international peace and security. Reform should reflect current reality and encompass all aspects of Council structure.

    A growing number of States were playing an increasingly active role in the work of the Organization, he continued, and had become indispensable to maintaining and promoting international peace and security. However, only a few States were given the opportunity to fully participate in Council work, and a large majority were marginalized from the decision-making process.

    Some progress had been made in improving the working methods of the Council, but the most critical issues remained unresolved. A genuine effort must be made to enhance the representativeness, transparency and effectiveness of the Council. Two major sticking points of Council reform –- enlargement and the veto power -– were inextricably linked, he said. A quick or partial solution for expansion, while setting aside the question of decision-making, was likely to undermine efforts to achieve far-reaching, comprehensive reform.

    He said the landscape of the world had changed dramatically since the inception of the United Nations 55 years ago, and those changes should be reflected in the structure and decision-making process of the Council. Many countries contributed to the work of the United Nations without having their views adequately reflected.

    FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said many delegations had expressed dissatisfaction with the unrepresentative character of the Security Council. Criticism had not been new. Remedies had been known for a long time. Membership had to be increased and, in order to achieve greater transparency, working methods had to be changed.

    There had been a consensus that reform should include increase of non-permanent members. Why then, if all agreed on the increase of non-permanent members, had it not been done, he asked. That question had been held hostage to acceptance of other reforms on which there was no agreement. It was a paradoxical situation where reform desired by everyone had been blocked by desire for reform that had not been agreed upon. That had been going on for more than eight years, with the consequence that the Council’s working methods and composition were unsatisfactory.

    Progress would not be made if work continued on the basis of the same proposals. The open-ended working group could de-link the questions of working methods from controversial proposals, or consultation could be based on new proposals. Consultations based on old proposals was not very promising. If, for instance, an increase in non-permanent membership of 10 had been accepted in 1993, 40 more countries could have been members of the Council over the past eight years.

    KLARA NOVOTNA (Slovakia) said Council reform was urgently needed to strengthen confidence in the United Nations and to enhance the perceived legitimacy of the Council and its actions, especially by improving its effectiveness in preventive diplomacy. The Council's ability to act promptly must be preserved.

    To be effective, she said, the Council’s decisions must be respected and carried out. Reform should also make sure that important global and regional perspectives were included in the decision-making process.

    A global decision entailed global involvement, she continued. That meant taking regional views into account when enlarging the Council’s membership. Further, the Council’s credibility was related to its transparency. Discussions and proposals from the working group had influenced the Council’s openness, but more needed to be done to improve the Council’s "culture" in that direction.

    Since the new international situation had created new opportunities for unity, the Council should incorporate a co-operative approach to its decision-making. The threat of the veto remained an issue of central importance. If the right of veto was extended to new permanent Council members, all permanent members must minimize their use of it.

    UMIT PAMIR (Turkey) reiterated his country’s firm commitment to comprehensive Council reform, encompassing all facets of the question. He said the open-ended working group was the only appropriate forum to examine in substance all the issues at hand. Progress achieved so far was modest and he therefore called upon all members to commit to the reform process with more dedication and the necessary political will.

    The veto had played an important role to sustain global peace in the past, he said. Nevertheless, its scope and use today was in dire need of reassessment. During last year’s deliberations it had become evident that the veto was central in the entire discussion. However, in so far as those countries enjoying the prerogative of veto were not prepared earnestly to review the scope of it, the issue should not preclude delegates from moving in the direction of other reform, including increasing the number of non-permanent seats.

    The other issues waiting for reform were also important. Progress on improving the working methods was still slow. There was, however, a certain willingness on the part of some members of the Council to improve their working methods, with a view to make the Council’s activities more transparent. He mentioned the consultations with troop-contributing countries and improved means of dialogue with the Council’s secretariat.

    JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said the need was for better representation in the Council while preserving the efficiency of its work. France was prepared to accept an increase of five permanent members; two from industrialized countries and three from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Germany, Japan and India could occupy a permanent seat. France could also accept an increase of four non-permanent members, respectively from the African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean and Eastern European Groups.

    He said the use of veto could not be regulated because of its predefined character. The Council must fully realize the primary responsibilities entrusted to it, particularly when faced with serious violations of international humanitarian law, which meant for permanent members a responsible use of the right of veto. He also attached great importance to improvement of the Council’s working methods. Clear progress had been made in better cooperation and greater transparency.

    There were more public meetings and daily accounts of consultations made available more q1uickly. Greater transparency also meant associating countries directly concerned by a conflict more directly with the consultations dealing with it. That idea had been put forward and should be implemented immediately.

    HADI NEJAD-HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said that a considerable number of delegations, including his own, had been expressing frustration over the slow progress in the work of the working group. He reaffirmed the fallback position maintained by the Non-Aligned Movement, namely that if agreement was not reached on the expansion of permanent membership, then the expansion must be limited for the present to the non-permanent seats.

    The reform of the Security Council was a historic exercise, he said, and must not be subject to any predetermined and superficial timetable. Any attempt to impose a premature, hasty decision would run the risk of doing harm to this very delicate process. The objectives of the reform were to make the Council more representative, more democratic, more transparent, and more accountable, thereby helping to strengthen its efficiency and to increase its authority and that of the United Nations as a whole.

    Reforms must take into account the dramatic changes that had taken place since the creation of the United Nations 55 years ago. Any reform would require Council membership to be expanded to at least 26, so that the developing world could be better represented. The curtailment of the veto had been prominent among the minimum objectives sought by the general membership of the United Nations over the years. There was a near-consensus on this issue. At their latest summit, members of the Non-Aligned Movement agreed on the need for the curtailment of the veto with a view to its eventual elimination.

    A position so widely expressed must not be overlooked in the course of the reform. To disregard the widespread call for the curtailment of the veto was not in the interests of the Security Council. A vague commitment to apply self-restraint in the exercise of the power of veto, or resort to it in a responsible manner, could not supplant its curtailment in a legally binding way.

    CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said the exclusive character of the Security Council veto was anathema to any notion of democracy. He echoed a call by the Non-aligned Movement to curtail the veto and gradually abolish it. He hoped the permanent five would recognize that entrustment of the veto by the international community more than 55 years ago implied the need to exercise moral and political responsibility in its use.

    Thailand supported the mainstream approach to expanding the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. Expansion should be based on two considerations –- equitable geographical representation and the readiness to share in making financial and political contributions to the United Nations. On that basis, Japan was a worthy candidate as a new permanent member of the Council. Regarding the upper limit on Council size, a balance was needed to ensure that the representative nature of the body and the need to work quickly, effectively and efficiently were respected.

    The sanctions regime of the Council was of great interest because it not only affected international trade and investment, but involved the humanitarian consequences of sanctions. The ideas and perspective from the general membership of the Organization would surely be useful to the Council’s deliberations on that matter. Thailand wished to see the international community continue its efforts to develop targeted sanctions, and for the Council to improve the monitoring of sanctions regimes as well as the assessment of their humanitarian impacts.

    NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said the slow progress of Security Council reform reflected the substantially divergent views on key issues such as the size of increase in its membership, the use of the veto, improving the Council’s working methods and the need for periodic review of the Council’s work. The situation was all the more regrettable as the most persistent advocates of democratic governance and transparency in decision-making at national levels seemed not to be wedded to those same principles on the international plane.

    He said the recent terrorist attacks in the United States had been soundly condemned and had ushered in a new spirit of cooperation, coalition and collective thinking. That boded well for multilateralism, but only if the same spirit were allowed to pervade the United Nations.

    The Council’s credibility must be enhanced through a substantive reform guided by the principles of democracy, sovereign equality of States and equitable geographic representation, he said. A reformed Council would be transparent in its activities and responsive to the general membership on matters within its mandate.

    HYNEK KMONICEK (Czech Republic) said that the response to the recent terrorist attacks by the international community had been immediate and firm, and the members of the United Nations were, in that response, more united than ever before. The prestige of the Security Council grew at that moment, but so did its responsibility, and in a way, the scope of its action. As international security called for broader coalitions, for collective action by as many States as possible, the need for a truly representative Council had become more urgent. The Council should be enlarged and its working methods improved.

    The Czech Republic had been pushing the reform agenda for many years and believed that there were enough reform options from which to choose. In his delegation's opinion, the Security Council should be enlarged in both categories, preferably with five additional permanent seats and four to five additional non-permanent seats, including one for Eastern Europe. He respected the option of rotating permanent seats for specific regions, but no country or region should be forced into such a scheme. Furthermore, his country continued to favour some reduction of areas where the veto could be applied, possibly through individual commitments by permanent members and other steps that did not necessarily require Charter amendments.

    KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that present debates on Security Council reform gave rise to concern as to whether it would be carried out in conformity with the Council’s intrinsic purpose. Certain countries were interested in decreasing their financial burdens while preserving their privileges, and others were trying to gain a privileged position by waving a purse, without having any political quality. If those erroneous purposes were pursued, Council reform would never be achieved, or if it were, it would not contribute to the establishment of a fair international order.

    A prerequisite for proper Council reform was that all matters should be settled by consensus through full negotiations by all Member States, he continued. Any pressure or arbitrary action should not be tolerated in the discussion of reform issues. Reform of the Council, as a part of overall United Nations reforms, should be addressed in the context of increased power for the Assembly.

    In enlarging the Council, the representation of developing countries must be increased, he said. Since more than 70 countries had joined the United Nations since the Council was formed, the present composition could not reflect reality. He noted that questions of increasing the number of non-permanent or permanent members were discussed separately, and the enlargement of non-permanent membership was given priority. It was an upside-down practice that the name of an individual country had been quoted as the candidate for a new permanent seat before any agreement had been reached on enlarging permanent membership. Furthermore, it did not conform with the noble purpose of Council reform to speak about a country’s qualification for permanent membership of the Council, when that country had not yet eliminated its past crimes against humanity.

    JEAN DELACROIX BOKANIARIVO (Madagascar) said the current climate of uncertainty surrounding international relations made a comprehensive reform of the Council more urgent than ever. His country was concerned at the little progress achieved in that regard and it was regrettable that the momentum of the Millennium Summit had not led to any significant advance. It was not surprising that such a situation should arouse skepticism as to the point of continuing. However, despite continuing difficulties, reform was indispensable if Council effectiveness and an increase in the membership was desired.

    In its present form, the structure and composition of the Council did not reflect current political, economic and demographic realities, he said. The permanent members were still the same. Developing countries, a majority of the Organization’s membership, had been marginalized and had to submit to the decisions made by the small Council club. An increase in both categories of membership was necessary. Africa, which represented one quarter of the United Nations membership, must have at least two permanent and non-permanent seats in addition to existing ones. He hoped that during the current session, the open-ended working group would find some common ground on that issue.

    The majority of States regarded the veto as anachronistic and discriminatory. Its scope should be limited with a view to its elimination. The right of veto should no longer have any place in a Council that was seeking effectiveness and legitimacy. Pending its abolition, the right should be limited to Chapter VII matters and explanations on veto should be given. He supported having a substantive debate on the veto question with the permanent members of the Council.

    Transparency was also an important issue. He welcomed efforts of Council members to increase the number of open meetings. That trend towards openness should be maintained. The debates in the Council were only effective to the extent they afforded an opportunity for debate between the Council and non-Council Members. Reform impinged on the vital interest of all States and played a crucial role for the future development of the United Nations, he said.

    U WIN MRA (Myanmar) said that, as many delegations had rightly assessed, the present stalemate was the result of the lack of necessary political will and leadership on the part of the most responsible members of the Security Council. He believed that without that leadership, it would not be possible to move the Council reform forward. The reform of the Security Council was not a mere restructuring of an organ, it went far beyond that. It also represented the most fundamental question in international relations as the present composition of the Council did not fully represent either the character or the needs of the globalized world. Concerning its representation, there was no denying that a membership of 15 countries could not adequately represent 189 countries of the Organization. The small membership left many regions and subregions either under-represented or wholly un-represented.

    The most important question ahead was that of the overall size of the new Council and its corollary issues of how many new seats must be created and which countries should fill those new seats. He stressed that the size question must be addressed as a matter of top priority if there was to be any forward movement in the now stalled discussions. Ways must be sought on how to institutionalize the suggestions that had been submitted to make the work of the Council effective and transparent.

    As far as the accountability of the Council was concerned, there still remained much room for improvement, he said. The Council's accountability would be much enhanced if more formal channels could be established between the Council and the Assembly, other than the stop-gap measures being taken to assuage the general membership's concern to know more about the Council's work. In that respect, special reporting on issues of particular concern to other members could be an effective device, although that would mean extra burden on the already heavy agenda of the Council. However, such a mechanism would strengthen the confidence in the Council.

    At a time when economic and political processes all over the world were being liberalized and democratized, the Security Council could not maintain its status quo, he stated. Its continued relevance and legitimacy would not stand if its composition and powers were not compatible with changes of the time and the ideals of democracy.

    JASNA OGNJANOVAC (Croatia) said that the Security Council must be enlarged in both categories of membership to reflect changes in international affairs. Croatia supported the creation of five new permanent seats, two from the industrialized and three from developing countries. On the possible rotation of those posts, he believed that it was up to the regions to decide about such an arrangement with the consent of each Member State in question.

    His delegation believed there should be four more non-permanent seats -- one each to the African, Latin American and Caribbean, Asian and Eastern European regions.

    He said Croatia favoured abolition of the veto, arguing that it was not a democratic method of decision-making. If political realities would not allow the negotiations to go in this direction, Croatia would support a reduction of veto-power and the use of so-called "double veto". It was agreed that working methods of the Council should become more transparent and democratic. There was much to be done, not just in the transparency and improvement of the Security Council's working methods, but in improving coordination of the work of all the main bodies of the United Nations.

    FADL NACERODIEN (South Africa) said the ongoing stalemate in Security Council reform had meant that many Member States, particularly from developing countries, were unable to justify continued participation in the open-ended working group. Surely, the Organization could not have a working group that would eventually mirror the body it was trying to reform –- an unrepresentative club presiding over and deciding on matters of importance to all.

    Lack of participation from developing countries was not due to a lack of interest or diminished importance attributed to Council reform. The assumption could therefore be made that delegations from developing countries would be more than willing to participate in the working group if they anticipated some concrete progress in its deliberations.

    The ongoing stalemate in Council reform led to the conclusion that the working group was in danger of losing its credibility, he continued. The General Assembly should not merely mandate the working group to continue with business as usual. Nor would it be productive to review the working group’s current mandate and working methods, as this would most likely result in an unproductive debate on reforming the working group and not the Security Council.

    The issue needed to be taken to a higher political level, because the technical experts in the working group were apparently unable to fulfil the task of negotiating Council reform. If the Organization was to achieve results, the next session of the working group should be devoted to ensuring that its work was brought into step with the political will expressed by the leaders of the Millennium Summit. Clearly, it was now time to establish the high-level mechanism proposed earlier by the former Chair of the working group, Harri Holkeri, to take the process forward.

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