Press Releases

    GA/10370
    19 July 2005

    Time Ripe to Redress Historical Injustice by According Africa Permanent Representation on Security Council, General Assembly Told

    African Proposal also Seeks same Privileges as Current Permanent Members

    NEW YORK, 18 July (UN Headquarters) -- The time had come to redress the historical injustice done to Africa and to accord it permanent representation on the Security Council, the General Assembly heard this afternoon, as the African States presented their proposal for reforming the Council to make it more democratic, legitimate, representative and effective.

    Following discussions last week on proposals for Council reform presented by the “Group of Four” (G-4) -- Brazil, Germany, India and Japan -- as well as “Uniting for Consensus”, the Assembly today heard Africa’s proposal for Council reform, which would increase the body’s membership from 15 to 26.  The proposal, introduced today by Nigeria’s representative, on behalf of the African States, seeks to enlarge the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, granting Africa two permanent and five non-permanent seats.  It would accord the new permanent members the same prerogatives and privileges as those of the current permanent members, including the right of veto.

    Introducing the text, Nigeria’s delegate said it contained a reaffirmation of the commitment to strengthening the United Nations, including the Security Council; the need for the Council to be more representative of the entire United Nations membership; and the fact that the Council would be better placed to perform its primary responsibility when it was more inclusive.

    On the issue of the veto, Algeria’s representative stated that the continent had reiterated its opposition to the right to veto, but had decided that as long as the current permanent members had that right, it should also have it.  Either the veto should be abolished or it should be granted to new permanent members.  Without the right of veto, new permanent members would have no impact on the process of events, and the relationship of force would remain dominated by the five permanent members.

    Egypt’s representative noted that, despite the fact that African issues dominated more than 60 per cent of the Council’s agenda, several practices and historical factors had deprived the continent of representation in the permanent category of membership.  The time had come to redress that situation and for Africa to regain its legitimate rights, with a view to enhancing both the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Council’s actions.  Africa had presented an integrated vision of a just Council expansion, which took account of all geographic regions and guaranteed a balanced representation of all civilizations and cultures.

    Also making statements today were the representatives of South Africa and Burkina Faso.

    The next meeting of the Assembly will be announced in the Journal.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider a proposal by the African Union for the enlargement of the Security Council.  By the terms of a draft resolution on reform of the Security Council (document A/59/L.67), the Assembly would enlarge the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories and improve its working methods.  It would accord the new permanent members the same prerogatives and privileges as those of the current permanent members, including the right of veto.

    In addition, the Assembly would grant Africa two permanent and five non-permanent seats in the Council and increase its membership from 15 to 26 with the 11 additional seats to be distributed as follows:  two permanent seats and two non-permanent seats for the African States; two permanent seats and one non-permanent sea for the Asian States; one non-permanent seat for Eastern European States; one permanent seat and one non-permanent seat for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and one permanent seat for the Western European and other States.  The Assembly would also amend the United Nations Charter accordingly.

    Statements

    AMINU BASHIR WALI (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African States, introduced the draft resolution on Council reform, saying that the region’s request was based on the fact that the Council had to adapt to current realities by reflecting the principles of equity and balance.  It could not be otherwise, given that the Council had the responsibility to maintain international peace and security.  If the Council was truly representative of the entire membership, then its decisions would enjoy greater legitimacy.  At its recent summit in Sirte, the African Union had resolved to throw the weight of its political support behind current international efforts towards that end.  The issues were clear, the challenge obvious, and the opportunities enormous. 

    The draft resolution, he continued, contained a reaffirmation of the commitment to strengthening the United Nations, including the Security Council; the need for the Council to be more representative of the entire United Nations membership; and the fact that the Council would be better placed to perform its primary responsibility when it was more inclusive.  It proposed a distribution of seats in both the permanent and non-permanent categories to ensure more representation by developing countries.  It also sought to invest new members with privileges commensurate with their new responsibilities.  It was balanced and tailored to meet the challenges of the times.  Africa was open to negotiations, but to be productive, the interlocutors must have certain fundamentals in mind, such as the fact that Africa had no permanent presence on the Council.

    MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) hailed the draft as illustrating the vision and wisdom of the African leaders who had prepared it.  By presenting the text, they were indicating their willingness to contribute effectively to meeting the aspirations of the international community through genuine institutional reform based on the principles of justice and equality, and the effective participation of all States, cultures and civilizations in the collective work of the United Nations.  Despite the fact that African issues dominated more than 60 per cent of the Council’s agenda, several practices and historical factors had deprived the continent of representation in the permanent category of membership.  The time had come to redress that situation and for Africa to regain its legitimate rights, with a view to enhancing both the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Council’s actions.

    He said that mutual compromises by all African States had resulted in an integrated picture of their common position, which was based on demanding two permanent seats with all the privileges and prerogatives enjoyed by the current permanent members, including the right of veto, in addition to five non-permanent seats.  That would allow for the representation of Africa’s five subregions.  No other group had managed to address the issue in a regional context based on the principles of cooperation and solidarity, which were essential to strengthening the democratic foundation upon which each region would select its own representatives for the Council.  Africa alone had addressed the regional dimension of Council expansion, with a view to strengthening the ties between the performance of new African members and the continent’s core issues.  It had presented an integrated vision of a just Council expansion, which took account of all geographic regions and guaranteed a balanced representation of all civilizations and cultures. 

    ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), associating himself with the statement by Nigeria, underscored that, far from being reactive, Africa was seeking to remedy a historical injustice.  The African approach to Council reform, as portrayed in the draft, reflected the continent’s aspirations, as set forth in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, to make the Council more reflective of today’s realities.  Africa proposed enlargement of the Council to 26 seats, with two permanent seats for itself and the same privileges as the current permanent members, as well as five non-permanent seats.  Africa would decide on the modalities for those seats, while the other seats would be given to other regional groups, as laid out in the draft.

    Underscoring the basic elements of the African position, he said that the two permanent seats must be equipped with the right to veto.  African countries had taken a fundamental view against the veto, but in the Harare Declaration, the continent sought two permanent seats with the veto.  Later, in the Ezulwini Declaration, it had reiterated its opposition to the right to veto, but decided that as long as the current permanent members had that right, it should also have it.  Either the veto should be abolished or it should be granted to new permanent members.  Without the right to veto, new permanent members would not have an impact on the process of events or modify the relationship of force, which would remain dominated by the five permanent members.  The key quality that came with permanent seats was not the permanence of the seat, but the privileges it provided.

    He reiterated his readiness to work with other delegations to move forward on the issue of Council reform.  The Sirte Declaration had authorized no departure or concession on the elements outlined.  Algeria stood ready to work for, prior to September, a final decision on Council reform.  The status quo was not acceptable.

    XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) said Africa sought two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats in an expanded Council, as well as fundamental changes in that body’s working methods, in order to make it more transparent and accountable.  Underpinning the draft was the need to ensure Africa’s effective representation in the Council, like that of other regions of the world.  That was especially important at a time when African issues dominated the Council’s agenda.  A decisive phase had been reached in the decades-long debate on Council reform, and Member States now had an unprecedented opportunity to modernize the Council and make it more representative and responsive to the needs of all peoples.  It was time to begin redressing historical injustices in global governance and to give a voice to the billions of people in the developing world who were now excluded from the Council’s decision-making processes.

    He said it was also time to close a chapter of history that followed two world wars and move forward in the quest for collective security by working together in a more inclusive, transparent and democratic manner.  If the international community failed to seize the present opportunity, the Council’s credibility and legitimacy, and, indeed, the entire system of global governance, would continue to erode, to everyone’s detriment.  Moreover, public expectations for good global governance could no longer be deferred to some undetermined future point.  Africa viewed Security Council reform as an important and integral part of a larger reform process at the United Nations and beyond.  People in developed and developing countries alike aspired to live in dignity, free from want and fear.  Africa was ready to fully engage all regions in the work of the United Nations and to enlist their support for the progress of humanity.

    MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said there was at least one widely acknowledged fact in the debate, namely, that Africa deserved better representation in that decision-making body.  It was that unfair situation that had led African Heads of State to recall on several occasions the need to “cure this historical injury”.  The African Heads of State had called for restoration of Africa’s legitimate rights to just and equitable geographical representation, which had led to the draft resolution tabled today.  Its proposals were the bare minimum, given that Africa had no permanent seat on the Council, while Europe alone had up to three.  Any restructuring of the Council, therefore, should not ignore that fact.  Since no United Nations reform could take place without Africa, whose States represented some 37 per cent of General Assembly votes, it must be taken into account. 

    He said the draft was flexible and balanced, and it should be possible, therefore, to arrive at a dynamic compromise.  Democratization of the Security Council was at stake, and only that would enable it to reflect today’s realities.  When the United Nations had been created, most of Africa had not been represented.  It was not possible to ask States to respect democracy without providing a model for it.  The proposal in the text could contribute to a redesign of the Council and to a new order overall.

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