Press Releases

    GA/10084
    17 October 2002

    DELEGATES CONCERNED AT REPORTED DIVISION BETWEEN
    PERMANENT AND ELECTED SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS, AS
    GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES DEBATE ON REFORM

    NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- As the General Assembly concluded its joint debate on Security Council reform this afternoon, delegates expressed concern over reported division in Council discussions along lines of permanent and non-permanent membership and highlighted the importance of elected members as representatives of the wider United Nations membership.

    As several speakers called for greater interaction between Council members, particularly the permanent five, and the Organization's membership as a whole, Mozambique's representative said that situations in which the five permanent members consulted privately, marginalizing the elected members, were disturbing, as they created a climate of discomfort and jeopardized the Council’s credibility.

    The representative of Mauritius said that during his country’s two-year term on the Council, he had found that elected members brought credibility and balance to the work of the Council, giving a new perspective in dealing with the problems facing the world. By virtue of feeling accountable to their regions, elected members considered it their duty to make the Council's work more open and transparent, he said, adding that they were capable of creating a sense of ownership and belonging for the entire international community, which could only be of benefit for long-term peace and security.

    Turning to the subject of Security Council expansion, delegates stressed the need to make the organ more representative, democratic and transparent. Malawi's representative said that the size of the current membership could not cater to the global interest in and requirements of promoting a democratic culture. He added that the attention given to African issues in recent years justified the need for increased African membership in the Council. In the same vein, Botswana's representative advocated the expansion of both categories of Council membership from 15 to 26 and called for the allocation of two permanent and two additional non-permanent seats to Africa.

    However, Uruguay's representative said the issue of expansion was paradoxical, pointing out that it had been impossible to reach agreement on the Council's expansion, even though no Member State was opposed to the idea. Another paradox was that some States advocated a more democratic Council but then proposed changes that would lead to the complete opposite.

    Also speaking in this afternoon's debate were the representatives of Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Mongolia, Hungary, Slovakia, Cyprus, Ireland, El Salvador, Nepal, Morocco and Liechtenstein.

    The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday 17 October, to begin its consideration of the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, the final review and appraisal of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s, and the implementation of the programme for the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of the report of the Security Council and the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters.

    For further background, see Press Release GA/10080 of 14 October.

    Statements

    LEUTLWETSE MMUALEFE (Botswana), aligning himself with the African Group of States and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Council should be expanded in both membership categories from 15 to 26 members, and called for the allocation of two permanent and two additional non-permanent seats to Africa.

    The use of the veto or threat of its use should be reviewed as an integral part of Council, he said, adding that veto power should be extended to new permanent members of an expanded Council initially. But it should ultimately be abolished and replaced with more democratic decision-making methods, based on the sovereign equality of States. So far, the veto had been used only for the preservation of self-interest, he added.

    It was important to ensure smooth working relationships between the permanent and non-permanent members of the Council, he said, as there was real potential for the marginalization of the latter by their exclusion from consultations on issues hotly pursued by one or more permanent members. Such a situation would call into question the legitimacy of the decisions made and actions taken by the Council, he noted.

    ISAAC MURARGY (Mozambique) expressed satisfaction at the major improvements in the format of the annual report and encouraged the further improvement of the analytical section. While welcoming the Council’s open debates, he noted that the subjects discussed there were of a general nature and should properly be before the General Assembly. In the future, the Council should focus more on specific issues.

    Although the Council had experienced success in its work on terrorism, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, it had been less successful in addressing other situations in Africa, as well as the Middle East, he remarked. The main reason for the Council’s failure in those regions seemed to be a lack of political will by its main actors. If the Council’s record was to be improved, attention would have to be paid to such issues as full implementation of resolutions and prompt reaction to developments on the ground.

    Referring to a division among Council members on important issues, he said that situations in which the five permanent members consulted privately, marginalizing the non-permanent members, were disturbing, as they created a climate of discomfort and jeopardized the Council’s credibility. Democratization, transparency and openness should be central to reform, he stressed.

    Regarding expansion, he said that military and economic power should not be the only considerations and that moral authority and equitable geographical representation should also be taken into account. Africa should be allocated two permanent seats and the veto should be phased out as an unjust privilege that curtailed the Council’s legitimacy.

    ISAAC LAMBA (Malawi), noting that the Council had sometimes been described as too conservative and insensitive to changing global circumstances in its working methods, said that it had been created at the end of the Second World War, exclusively comprising the victor nations as its five permanent members. The Council represented a minority empowered to make crucial decisions for the majority and some had seen it as the punitive hand of those victor nations.

    Regarding the desirability of numerical expansion and equitable representation, he said the Council's current membership size could not cater to the global interests and requirements to promote a democratic culture. Urgent consideration must be given to an increase in both the permanent and non-permanent membership and Malawi reiterated the African Union's quest for redress of that unfortunate situation.

    Pointing out that the attention given to African issues in recent years justified the need for increased African membership on the Council, he also endorsed the African Union's proposal for a minimum of two permanent seats and a total of five non-permanent seats for the region. In addition, he stressed the importance of phasing out the veto, saying that until it was eliminated, the proposed new permanent members should share veto power.

    GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) gave a mixed review of the Security Council’s performance over the last year, citing, on the positive side, developments in Timor-Leste and Angola as well as the prompt response to terrorism. On the other hand, its success in many parts of Africa and the Middle East had been limited. Brazil wanted the Council to do more in the Middle East, using all the mechanisms within its purview to ensure implementation of its decisions on the region.

    Welcoming the innovations in the content and format of the Council’s report, he said it nevertheless failed to reflect the density and importance of the Council’s work. In the past few years, the Council had become more transparent and more accessible to the wider United Nations membership, he added, noting that those developments should be institutionalized. Brazil was concerned that decisions with very important budgetary implications were taken by the Council during informal, closed consultations. Limits should be placed on such expenses, he added.

    Calling for an increase in the Council’s membership, he said his country also wanted use of the veto curtailed. As a first step in that direction, veto power should be confined to decisions taken under Chapter VII of the Charter. Overall, Brazil was deeply frustrated that the reform process seemed stalled, he said. Stressing that the time had arrived for the distillation of conclusions from debates held over the last decade.

    ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) called for an increase in the permanent and non-permanent membership of the Council to a level that enhanced the organ’s efficiency and effectiveness in adopting resolutions and taking action to maintain international peace and security. Such an increase should be in conformity with the principles of equality among Member States and equitable geographical representation. Any increase should also take into consideration the need to rectify the existing imbalance in the representation of developing countries and to enhance political balance. He also called for the allocation of a permanent seat for the Arab Group to be occupied on a rotating basis.

    In the event that agreement was reached on the increase of permanent members, such membership should be allocated to those States which had proved, through their relations with the United Nations, their commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security, and the fulfillment of the purposes and principles of the Organization. Those States should be elected through the Assembly in accordance with agreed procedures. In addition, he called for limits and restrictions to be placed on the use of the veto.

    He was greatly disappointed with the Council’s failure to guarantee the implementation of its resolutions, particularly those related to the Middle East and Palestine. He demanded that the Council carry out its responsibilities and use its authority to ensure full implementation of its resolutions.

    STÉPHANE DE LOECKER (Belgium) expressed satisfaction with efforts in the past year to make the Security Council report shorter and more substantive. The analytical synthesis in the introduction was particularly interesting. Observing that, in addition to terrorism, the various conflict situations in Africa had occupied much of the Council’s work, he concurred with that focus and said it should continue.

    Noting that the Working Group on sanctions had resumed its work, he remarked upon the importance Belgium placed on that issue. It was necessary to draw upon the lessons learned from the numerous studies and analyses on the subject and improve the follow-up of sanctions regimes. The progress on the Council’s working methods was also welcome. The Secretary-General’s suggestion to codify the Council’s practices merited attention, as did further coordination between the Council and troop-contributing countries.

    Council reform was of particular interest, he said. It was of the utmost importance to guarantee the long-term credibility and effectiveness of the Council. In that regard, Belgium had introduced pragmatic proposals with a view to expanding both categories of membership and limiting the right of veto in order to effectuate a balanced reform. However, at the present time, the political will to move forward was missing. A political approach was needed at this stage.

    PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia), welcoming the improved format of the report, particularly the analytical accounts, said the changes offered an opportunity for a deeper analysis of the Council’s workings. Mongolia shared the proposal by Singapore's Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani on the need for a set of agreed criteria to evaluate the Council's performance.

    Although the situation in the Middle East continued to deteriorate, the foundation for regional peace had been laid, he said. Likewise, in Africa, the fragile peace in many parts of the continent was being reinforced by signs of national reconciliation and the political will to achieve the peaceful settlement of disputes. While the Council grappled with those issues, it was still possible for it to improve its working methods significantly, he added.

    He said the Council’s activities had become more transparent, offering wider opportunities for participation by non-members. The monthly wrap-up meetings provided a good opportunity for interactive discussions among members and non-members of the Council, and Mongolia also welcomed the increasing frequency of public meetings and briefings. Never before had the Council held so many public meetings, he said. The deliberations of the Open-Ended Working Group had positively affected the Council's work.

    Expressing his country's frustration with the lack of progress on the question of equitable representation and increased membership, he attributed those difficulties to the politically sensitive nature of the problem. Hopefully, the Working Group would continue its search for a solution, and the Council would be expanded in both the permanent and non-permanent categories.

    LÁSZLÓ MOLNÁR (Hungary), acknowledging improvements in the Council’s report, said it was still too long when compared with the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization. However, that did not detract from the Council’s achievements during the year, and the performance of its Counter-terrorism Committee had been outstanding. Hungary was also pleased with the increase in the number of public meetings, which meant more access to information and allowed non-members to air their views. However, he cautioned against lengthy meetings that were often reduced to mere repetitions of well-known national positions, causing an absence of dialogue on the topic at hand. On the other hand, Hungary was concerned that the holding of open private meetings seemed to be losing support within the Council.

    He said troop-contributing countries had the right to be well informed about the different aspects of peacekeeping missions. There should be an adequate flow of information to non-members so that they could better understand Council activities and policies. The Internet home page of the Council President could be used to good effect in that regard and the daily informal briefings should be reinvigorated as well, he said.

    Calling for adjustments in the Council’s size and composition in conformity with today’s changed political realities, as well as to increase its efficiency, he expressed regret that there had not yet been agreement on a formula that would effect the desired change in the membership. A breakthrough was long overdue, he pointed out.

    KLÁRA NOVOTNÁ (Slovak Republic) supported a reform that would enhance the Council’s representative character, improve its working methods and the transparency of its work, and preserve its ability to act promptly. She supported Council expansion in both categories, from 15 to 26, as the logical consequence of today’s political reality and the increase in United Nations membership.

    In addition to the new permanent members from the industrialized countries, those from Africa, Asia and Latin America should be given the post of a permanent member of the Council, she said. The Group of Eastern European States, whose membership had more than doubled over the last 10 years, should not be omitted in the enlargement process in the non-permanent category.

    She believed it was realistic to expect that consensus could be reached regarding the need to increase membership in both categories. It was also realistic to expect all permanent members to have an equal veto right. While it was not realistic to expect the veto to be abolished, it should be limited and its use more transparent.

    FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said that the Council’s report represented significant progress over reports of past years. It had the advantage of being concise and concrete. The change in the report’s format was another sign of the Council’s willingness to become a more transparent, effective and democratic body. Other improvements included the convening of meetings with troop-contributing countries and the open wrap-up discussions. He welcomed all those changes, which not only benefited non-members but enhanced the Council’s credibility and legitimacy. At the same time, the number of closed-door meetings was still too high.

    The report, he said, should contain a short summary of the monthly wrap-up meetings, the effectiveness of measures taken and more information on the degree to which resolutions adopted were implemented. Perhaps the monitoring mechanisms needed to be strengthened. It was not reasonable for the Council to remain passive and let its decisions go unimplemented. He highlighted the effectiveness with which the Council had led the fight against terrorism and commended the work done so far by the Counter-terrorism Committee.

    The deadlock on reform issues, he noted, was not due to a total lack of agreement in the Working Group. A paradox characterizing those consultations was that no agreement had been possible on expansion, even though no State was opposed to the idea of expansion. Another paradox was that some States wanted a more democratic Council, but then proposed changes that would lead to the complete opposite. He was convinced that it was possible to find formulas to meet the aspirations of those States which were ready to take on their roles in the Council without compromising the democratic nature of the Council.

    CONSTANTINE MOUSHOUTAS (Cyprus) noted that ever-increasing demands were being made on the Council, which exercised sweeping powers under the Charter for international peace and security. Nevertheless the Council remained accountable to the General Assembly, and, by extension, to the membership of the United Nations, on whose behalf it acted. In the Council’s favour were the many laudable developments with regard to its transparency, improvement in its working methods and its relationships with non-member and troop-contributing States.

    Though progress had been made on a number of questions, there were still many long-standing problems, including the question of Cyprus, that remained unresolved, due primarily to the lack of political will and the refusal to implement mandatory resolutions and decisions taken by the Council. All Member States were reminded that they were obligated to comply with such resolutions.

    He said it was the view of Cyprus that for the Council to fully discharge its mandate, it should first be truly representative of present realities. Its expansion was therefore inevitable because it was supported by all Member States. With perseverance and diligence, that goal would be achieved. To further strengthen the Council, there should be greater collaboration between the Council and the General Assembly, and between the Council and regional organizations.

    JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said that during his country’s two-year term on the Council, he had found that elected members were capable of playing a very important and constructive role in the Council’s work in general. The new challenges of the twenty-first century required collective decision-making, flexibility and readiness to compromise, in order to achieve tangible results. Elected members brought credibility and balance to the work of the Council, giving a new perspective in dealing with problems facing the world.

    Through thematic debates, elected members were able to open up the Council's work, not only on newer issues of collective interest, but also by providing an opportunity to the wider United Nations membership to give their views on those issues. By virtue of feeling accountable to their regions, they considered it their duty to make the Council more open and transparent.

    More open sessions should be held on a broader range of issues, he said, noting that elected members had also been able to bring about substantial positive changes in working methods and procedures. Given the appropriate support and opportunity, elected members were capable of creating for the entire international community a sense of ownership and belonging, which could only be of benefit to long-term peace and security.

    Elected members should have adequate support from the Secretariat as well as from departing members to avoid a hiatus in the treatment of the various issues before the Council. He proposed an appropriate mechanism that would act as an institutional memory and provide much-needed background information that was essential for proper and constructive participation in the Council’s deliberations.

    PHILOMENA MURNAGHAN (Ireland) said the restructuring of the Security Council’s report, with the introduction of a more analytical character than before, was a good start. As Ireland would move off the Council at the end of the year, it would have a particular interest in monitoring the further expansion and deepening of the report. During its term on the Council, her country was pleased to be associated with several innovations in the Council’s working methods, including the increased frequency of open meetings and the arrangements for closer consultations with troop-contributing countries.

    She said the Security Council had had an active year since its last report, and good progress has been made in many conflict regions, but daunting challenges remained. While Ireland particularly welcomed the way the Council had addressed the situation in the Middle East, the Council had rightly been faulted for its lack of transparency. Her Government had actively supported opening more meetings to wider participation. Yet, the Security Council, while recognizing how many issues were interconnected, should not encroach on other United Nations bodies or their roles, but complement them. Reform was at the top of Ireland’s agenda, and she applauded the progress made concerning the Council’s working methods. However, Ireland was disappointed that there had not been more progress on making the Security Council a more representative body and one better equipped to deal with the challenges of the twenty-first century.

    Interim solutions were makeshift and ran counter to the explicit commitment in the Declaration to a comprehensive reform of the Council.

    GUILLERMO A. MELÉNDEZ-BARAHONA (El Salvador) said that joint consideration of the two issues before the Assembly was appropriate both because of the linked subject matter and for financial reasons. The changes to the annual report of the Security Council were not all that had been desired, as there was a generalized need for structural and functional change in the Security Council.

    These were complex and difficult times, he said. Compared to previous periods, the serious challenges facing mankind had taken on a global dimension. While, in 1945, the United Nations had been set up on the basis of conditions prevailing at that time, the Organization -- which was one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century -- needed to adapt itself to the new realities of international relations. At different international summits, heads of State had committed themselves to strengthening the United Nations and the multilateral system of collective security, but these pledges had not been translated into reality.

    As the Secretary-General had recommended in 1992, the Security Council should not lose its collegial nature ever again, which was essential to its functioning, he said. Agreements between permanent members should have the full support of non-permanent members and Member States of the United Nations in general. The powerful must resist the double attraction of unilateralism and isolationism, but instead add their power to the collective purposes of the United Nations. Given the current view of the international system, it was important to draw lessons from history. The League of Nations had disappeared because its Member States undertook unilateral actions, which weakened the system, and trust, respect and legitimacy were lost.

    DURGA BHATTARAI (Nepal) said that the need for increased transparency in the Council’s work had not diminished and that the participation of non-members in the Council’s deliberations be enhanced. The public debates and open public meetings, intended to address that gap, had now been ritualized and were at times perceived to be indirectly camouflaging the Council’s own inherent weaknesses.

    He said that as a committed troop-contributing country, Nepal appreciated the Council’s positive role in forging ways to strengthen the relationship between troop contributions and Council members. He understood the significance and impact of such a relationship on the success of United Nations peacekeeping operations and encouraged the Council to devise further means to enrich and strengthen that relationship in an institutionalized manner.

    Innovations in terms of sending Council missions to the field had greatly contributed to making decisions more relevant to the realities on the ground, he said. However, a sense of balance and fairness should inform such missions. The balanced treatment of all peacekeeping missions, irrespective of geographic location, was an objective that the Council should strive to achieve in the future.

    MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) commended the Council on the introduction of its latest report and recalled the positive contribution by the Ambassador of Singapore, which had made the report shorter and more accessible. Some of the issues covered related to crises that threatened international peace and security and that had led to action by the Council under Chapter VII. Morocco intended to comply strictly with those decisions. Other questions related to disputes, which, if they continued, could threaten international peace and security.

    Underscoring the Council’s attention to humanitarian issues, as well as the use of smart sanctions, he said peace must be of immediate benefit to those directly involved. They must feel its positive effects and be motivated to consolidate that peace. The international community should give strong support to Angola and confront the humanitarian problems that had emerged following the settlement of the conflict there.

    Calling for dialogue between the Assembly and the Council, he said that the distribution of competencies between the two organs, as stipulated in the Charter, must be respected. Regarding Council reform, he was not in favour of extending the right of veto power. Noting the need to take into account the changes in the Council’s structure and size since the establishment of the Organization, he said reform could not take place except as part of the overall reform intended to strengthen and revitalize the United Nations.

    CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that given the wide perception that the Security Council was the United Nations, the two key goals that should be pursued were enhancing the relevance of the General Assembly and ensuring that the work of the Council enjoyed strong support from the international community as a whole. Only that could ensure the Council’s credibility and political legitimacy in the long run. Accountability to the membership as a whole was key to securing that credibility and legitimacy, but accountability could not be guaranteed through an annual exercise alone and a constant interaction was needed, particularly on sensitive matters.

    Welcoming the open Council debate on Iraq, which had just begun today, he said that United Nations action on that issue would only be credible if it enjoyed broad political support from the whole membership. Open debates were thus important. However, even more interactive formats were desirable, he said, adding that it was also important to realize that though "friendly competition" between the Council and the Assembly was inevitable, it should be underpinned by the common understanding that the two bodies needed each other.

    On the subject of the Open-Ended Working Group, he said it had carried out many of the improvements in the Council’s working methods. However, the composition of the Council was no longer a reflection of today’s realities and though the discussions of the working group were complex, it all came down to one issue -- the question of the veto, which was at the core of comprehensive reform.

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