11 November 2005
General Assembly Resumes Decade-Old Debate on Crafting Security Council more Reflective of Modern Geopolitical Realities
Time to Tackle Working Methods Separately from Enlargement in Effort to Make Headway, According to Some
NEW YORK, 10 November (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly today heard a wide range of views on ways to strengthen the Organization's principal organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, as it discussed the work of the Security Council, including the reform of its working methods and its enlargement.
Opening the debate, Assembly President Jan Eliasson (Sweden) recalled that world leaders at the September Summit had expressed support for early reform of the Council as an essential element in the overall renewal of the United Nations. They had also called for making the Council more representative, efficient and transparent in order to enhance its effectiveness and add legitimacy to its decisions. Today's meeting was an opportunity for Member States to provide input to the review of progress that world leaders had requested the Assembly to undertake by the end of 2005.
As the Assembly resumed its decade-long consideration of the item, the representative of the Russian Federation, echoing the sentiment of a majority of speakers today, said reform needed to lead to an expansion that would make the Council more representative and reflect changing global realities. Enlarging the membership should not erode effectiveness. Therefore, the number of Member States added to the Council should not exceed a reasonable level. His country would continue to work towards reform proposals that were acceptable to the largest number of Member States as possible.
The United States was in favour of increasing Council membership in a way that strengthened that body's ability to act rather than weakened it, its representative said. Too large an expansion risked the Council's ability to quickly address challenges to international peace and security. He was prepared to find agreement based on a modest expansion of both permanent and non-permanent members. But the proposals previously introduced in the Assembly should be dropped to avoid a return to divisiveness.
Among those proposals was that of the so-called "G-4" -- Brazil, Germany, India and Japan -- which proposed expanding the Council to 25 members, by adding six permanent members, with veto power, and four non-permanent members. Subsequently, the African Union tabled its proposal calling for 11 additional members on the Council, with Africa gaining two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats. The Union also recommended that new permanent members gain all existing privileges, including veto power.
In response to proposals, the "Uniting for Consensus" group tabled its alternative proposal: adding 10 non-permanent members immediately eligible for re-election to the Council, leaving formalities of re-election and rotation to regional groups.
As a country seeking a permanent Council seat, Germany said Council reform should not be piecemeal but should be structural. New permanent members would serve an invaluable role on a reformed Council since they understood the needs of non-members. As it was clear that there would be no consensus on reform, he advocated a vote. Those who opposed a vote did not want reform.
Costa Rica's representative said it was time to tackle the issue of working methods, which should be done separately from enlargement. Since 1993, all efforts to reform the Council had always privileged enlargement to the detriment of working methods, the latter becoming hostage to the former. It was time that the Assembly sent an unequivocal message to the Council that it could not continue shunning greater transparency and accountability.
With no concrete proposal on Council reform currently on the table, stated Liechtenstein's representative, the immediate task was to recreate momentum for progress in that area. His country, along with four other States that had circulated a draft resolution, believed that the Council's working methods deserved the same careful consideration as the politically charged topic of enlargement. Only by treating the two topics separately could satisfactory results be achieved in both areas. Enlargement would always lead to a Charter amendment, and thus become a completed process, while adaptation of working methods could be ongoing.
At the outset of today's meeting, President Eliasson offered the Assembly's deepest sympathies to the people and Government of Jordan, and to the families and friends of those killed and injured in yesterday's terrorist attacks on three hotels in Amman. He said the attacks were a further stark reminder of the urgency of the work to conclude a comprehensive convention on terrorism.
Introducing the annual report of the Council was the Council President for the month of November, Andrey i. Denisov (Russian Federation).
Also making statements were the representatives of Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Malaysia, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), South Africa, Egypt, Bahamas, Algeria, Kuwait, San Marino, Peru, Viet Nam, China, Singapore, Switzerland, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, France, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Jordan, Myanmar, Iceland and New Zealand.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 11 November, to conclude its debate on the Security Council.
The General Assembly met today to hold its annual debate on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters.
Before the Assembly is the annual report of the work of the Security Council (document A/60/2), which covers the period from 1 August 2004 to 31 July 2005. The period under review reflected a continuous increase in the volume and scope of the activities of the Council. Africa, once again, was at the forefront of the Council's agenda. Several conflict situations such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire and Somalia, or post-conflict situations like those in Burundi and Sierra Leone, dominated the Council's agenda. The Sudan was one of the most prominent issues on the Council's agenda, owing to the severity of the circumstances of the crisis in the country.
The Council adopted eight resolutions on the Sudan, according to the report. The deployment of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) showed clearly the Council's commitment to peace and security in that war-torn country. The Council also continued to monitor closely the situation in the Middle East, holding monthly open briefings, focusing on important developments, such as the Palestinian presidential elections and the Israeli withdrawals from Gaza.
Lebanon also took a prominent position in the Council's work following the adoption on 2 September 2004 of resolution 1559 and subsequent developments on the ground. Another matter considered by the Council was Haiti, which culminated with the Council's mission to the country from 13 to 16 April 2005. In addition, counter-terrorism continued to remain a top issue for the Council.
Also before the Assembly was a note by the Secretary General (document A/60/352) transmitting his report on matters related to the maintenance of international peace and security that were being dealt with by the Security Council and of matters with which the Council has ceased to deal. The matters that have been discussed during the period since notification to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session were: threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts; reports of the Secretary General on the Sudan; the Situation in the Middle East, and the meeting of the Security Council with troop-contributing countries to the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).
The Assembly's main focus now would be to make headway in its decade-long consideration of ways to craft a Council more reflective of modern geopolitical realities, including through expanding the 15-nation body's membership. Formed on the ruins of the Second World War, the Council has five permanent members with veto power -- China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States. Another 10 countries rotate for two-year terms.
In December 2004, the Secretary General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change proposed two models for enlargement, both of which would see the Council grow to 24 members. The Panel advocated a more representative and responsible Council with the "enhanced capacity and willingness to act in the face of threats". "Model A" proposed adding six new permanent seats, with no veto, and three new two-year elected seats. "Model B" would create a new category of eight seats, renewable every four years, and one new two-year non-renewable seat.
Neither the Panel's blueprint, nor "In Larger Freedom" -- the Secretary General's March 2005 follow-up report on ways to forge a global consensus on development, security, human rights and United Nations renewal -- expressed a preference for either of the two models, leaving the path the Organization would take to Council reform squarely in the Assembly's hands.
In the meantime, as the calls for revamping the Council have grown, a handful of countries have made strong demands for permanent seats, including Japan, Germany, Brazil and India. Those countries, the so-called "G-4", proposed expanding the Council to 25 members, by adding six permanent members, with veto power, and four non-permanent members. Subsequently, the African Union tabled its proposal calling for 11 additional members on the Council, with Africa gaining two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats. The Union also recommended that new permanent members gain all existing privileges, including veto power.
In response to proposals tabled by the G-4 and the African Union, another alliance, "Uniting for Consensus", tabled its alternative proposal: adding 10 non-permanent members immediately eligible for re-election to the Council, leaving formalities of re-election and rotation to regional groups. That proposal was presented to the Assembly in July 2005 by the representatives of four Uniting for Consensus members -- Canada, Italy, Colombia and Pakistan.
JAN ELIASSON ( Sweden), President of the General Assembly, recalled that the Assembly had decided, on the recommendation of the Open-ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Council and related matters, to continue consideration of the item during the present session to facilitate the process of reaching general agreement. Also, world leaders at the September Summit had expressed support for early reform of the Council as an essential element in the reform of the Organization. Leaders had called for making the Council more broadly representative, efficient and transparent, so as to enhance the Council's effectiveness and add legitimacy to its decisions.
In addition, he said, leaders called for adaptation of the Council's working methods to increase participation in, and transparency of, its work and enhance accountability to the membership. They had committed themselves to efforts towards achieving a decision on Council reform and requested the Assembly to review progress by the end of 2005. Today's debate offered Member States an opportunity to provide input to the proposed review.
ANDREY DENISOV ( Russian Federation), in his capacity as the current President of the Security Council, presented the Council's annual report. He noted that the Council held 229 formal meetings, 195 of which were public, during the period from 1 August 2004 to 31 July 2005. Issues related to the settlement of regional conflicts and the assurance of stability in Africa remained high on the agenda. The Council addressed issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur and Côte d'Ivoire, among others. The Council undertook a mission to Central Africa, and concerned itself with post-conflict peacebuilding, food crises, the threat of small arms, cross-border issues, and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The Council also oversaw the winding down of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), which was at one time the largest United Nations peacekeeping operation in the world. It held an extraordinary session in Nairobi in November 2004 to reenergize the Sudanese peace process. At that conference, the Council sought to strengthen its relations with the African Union.
During the year, he said, the Council had also sought to assist with the political transition in Iraq and, in August 2004, it extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission there for another 12 months. With respect to events in Lebanon, the United Nations reaffirmed its support for the political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country. The Council had also established an independent commission to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The Council had paid close attention to other issues in the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Balkan Region and in Haiti. Due to progress made in those areas, the Council closed the United Nations missions of support in Timor-Leste and in Bougainville, Papu New Guinea. It also established a new peacekeeping operation in the Sudan. In addition to addressing crises, the Council had open-ended discussions on thematic issues including children, women, small arms, post-conflict peacebuilding, and the protection of civilians in conflict.
Addressing the threat of terrorism remained a top priority for the Council. The Counter-Terrorism Committee worked intensively, including through visits to States and through revising methodology to identify States' needs for technical assistance. It also discussed other tactics for tackling terrorists who were not connected to Al-Qaida or the Taliban, and improved the sanctions regime with respect to Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Also, it worked to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Steps were also taken to increase the transparency of the Council, he noted. To that end, when abroad, the Council sought to meet with non-governmental organizations, civil society, Governments and others. The Council had also sought to strengthen peacekeeping operations and improve their management and conduct. Furthermore, it considered how to improve relations with non-Council members. In particular, it had considered the importance of improving communications with troop-contributing countries and with States affected by sanctions.
CHRISTOPHER HACKETT (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), made note of the Council's decision to hold an extraordinary session in Nairobi near the centre of the Sudan conflict, and said such initiatives would promote collaboration on maintaining peace and security in the region, as would the strengthening of the institutional relationship between the African Union and the Council. The open debate on Haiti had allowed the CARICOM to provide a regional perspective to the Council's assessment of its long-term commitment to that country. The Council's mission to that country had resulted in the extension and strengthening of the United Nations presence.
With regard to the top-priority issue of counter-terrorism, he said the reporting obligations and responsibilities were onerous for small States with limited resources. The Council should consider ways to consolidate reporting requirements, as called for by the Heads of State at the World Summit.
Turning to the question of Council reform, he said efforts must be redoubled to reach agreement on increasing the membership. That issue was grounded in the reform of the Council's working methods, to make them more transparent and open along the lines set out by the Costa Rica-led draft resolution. Further, the Council should be accountable to the Assembly, it should have more frequent open debates, and it should have a formal relationship with troop-contributing countries, whose views should enter the decision-making process. Limitations should be put on the use of the veto with a view towards eliminating it. And since Heads of State had called for early Council reform as essential to the overall reform of the United Nations, the consultations on the matter should be continued throughout the sixtieth session.
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said the rationale and justification for reform of the Security Council was clear. The Council should be reformed to make it more representative, more transparent, more accountable and more effective. However, there were significant differences on how those objectives should be achieved. The Uniting for Consensus proposal offered the most promising basis to evolve a consensus, especially on the issue of equitable representation on the Council. The virtues of that proposal included increased opportunity for all Member States, including small and medium States, to secure more representation; enhanced accountability of Council members through periodic elections; and creating a direct United Nations Charter amendment for the approval of the Assembly.
Also, he continued, the proposal was compatible with Africa's desire for equitable representation. Rotation on the Council was the best means to ensure the representation of regional interests, including those of Africa. The regional approach was also positive for subregional groups, such as the Arab League, the CARICOM and Central America. There was also a need to consider reform for the Cluster II issues. The reform of the Council's working methods must go beyond just improving its operating process. Openness, transparency and inclusiveness needed to be introduced in the working modalities of the Council and its subsidiary bodies, especially the "sanctions committees".
ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI ( United Arab Emirates) said the deep difference in views on Council reform was of concern. The Council should be reformed along the lines of the Council's present agenda, which was more complicated than during the cold war era and beyond the range of traditional issues. Enlargement of the Council should be structured on the principles of equality and equity. The underrepresentation of developing and small States should be addressed. Arab States should be given a permanent seat since they represented 12 per cent of the United Nations membership. The permanent seat should be filled on a rotating basis according to the practice of other bodies such as the League of Arab States, so as to strengthen participation in resolving complicated regional issues and in maintaining peace and security.
Continuing, he said that while some measures had been taken in the last years to improve the Council's working methods, its double-standard policy on some issues was disappointing. A serious, comprehensive and objective evaluation of the Council's working methods should be undertaken to enhance the institutional and transparent nature of the Council's procedures. The right of veto should be repealed or rationalized; State interests should be taken into account when considering sanctions; non-Council members should be invited to Council sessions when their interests were involved; and coordination should be strengthened between the Council, the Assembly and regional groups to mobilize resources to contain disputes and conflicts.
TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR ( Bahrain) said the Security Council had undoubtedly become the most active United Nations organ. Its role had grown in recent years, and its activities had become the Organization's most visible ones. The world had come to see the Security Council as representing the whole Organization. That needed to be corrected. The roles of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council must not be weakened. They were equal to the Security Council, and their importance must not be diminished. The roles of the various United Nations organs must be clearly defined to avoid a conflict of competencies between them. A strong relationship marked by cooperation between the Assembly and the Security Council was of critical importance. In order for the Organization to be effective in dealing with the challenges facing it, the Council must respect the Assembly in its decision-making process.
He said reform should be comprehensive and reflect the political facts of the times. It must be democratic and transparent, protecting the interests of small States, even before the interests of big ones. The question of increasing the Council's membership and improving its working methods was one of the priority issues before the United Nations. Reform should be guided by equality and take into account the large increase in the Organization's membership. The Council must equitably represent all States, and recognize and take into account their interests.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said consideration of the Council's report gave the Organization's wider membership an excellent opportunity to assess that important body's work and performance. The report was also a useful reference for all Member States and should be seen in the context of promoting further transparency in the Council's work. But he added that more could be done in that regard by holding an open meeting of the Council to discuss the report, prior to its submission to the Assembly. After a brief overview of the Council's agenda, particularly its efforts to defuse conflicts and its increased consideration of humanitarian issues as they pertained to particular conflict, post-conflict and peacebuilding situations, he called on the Council to, among other things, improve and maintain its credibility by enforcing its authority concerning the Palestinian question, particularly concerning the construction of the separation wall in Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
On Security Council reform and expansion, he said that although constructive discussions on the matter had been under way for much of the year, it was time to move on. Malaysia would once again stress its position that if there was no agreement on the expansion of the Council's permanent membership, the Assembly should then proceed to the expansion of the 15-nation body's non-permanent members, while keeping all unresolved matters on the Assembly's agenda. He added that the reform debate should address the question of the veto, with a view to eventually doing away with that privilege. At the same time, the exercise of the veto by the Council's permanent members should be regulated so that it was not used solely to unjustly overrule the wishes of the majority. Malaysia had previously proposed that until the veto was abolished, a "modified" veto should be created, where two vetoes and the backing of three other Council members would be required to block any resolution. He added that the Council should also seek the views of the wider membership on issues of global importance that required broad implementation.
AMINU BASHIR WALI (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that Africa considered reform of the Security Council as fundamental not only to the entire reform process of the United Nations, but also to the maintenance of international peace and security, in line with the provisions of the United Nations Charter. Security Council reform would enhance the legitimacy of the Council's decisions and the representativeness of its membership.
Broadening representation would increase the transparency of the Council. Not only should the number of permanent and non-permanent members be increased, but the working methods of the Council also had to be improved to make it more effective and efficient. Reform efforts afforded the opportunity to redress injustices to developing countries, and especially those towards African countries. Africa could, therefore, not support anything short of total reform of the Council. Adequate reform required the establishment of at least two permanent seats for Africa, as well as five non-permanent seats.
DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said he was pleased that the Council was gradually opening up to regional players, as demonstrated by its meeting in Kenya and subsequent reaffirmation of the institutional relationship with the African Union. It was of deep concern, however, that the conflict in the Middle East continued unabated. During the past year, the Council had missed a significant opportunity to revive the peace process after the reduction in violence and the disengagement of the Israeli army from Gaza. The Council could have seized the opportunity rather than passively receiving monthly updates from the Secretariat. It also failed to react as Israel accelerated construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and continued building a separation wall. Syria's compliance with the call to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and cooperate with the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was welcome. The Council should make a similar call on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Sha'aba Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as look into the assassination of numerous Palestinian leaders in the area.
On the question of increasing the Council's membership, he said he was pleased by the African Union's reintroduction of its resolution calling for the expansion of the Council in both categories. Last week, an extraordinary session of the African Union Summit reaffirmed the continent's desire for two permanent and five non-permanent seats, with the new members exercising all the rights and privileges of the current Council. Reform had to equally address both the enlargement of the Council and improvement of its working methods. South Africa would have great difficulty in supporting any approach that addressed only one element of Council reform.
MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said the Assembly should take practical steps towards expansion and reform of the Security Council, particularly in the context of the proposals put forward by the Secretary-General's High-level Panel and the discussion of the matter during the run-up to the 2005 World Summit. But it was important to note that the requisite political will had not been generated in the Open-ended Working Groups, which had not made much progress. He urged the Group to continue its important work, with a view to ensuing equitable representation in the Council, as well as improving the transparency of its work.
Egypt would, in that regard, call for greater representation of Africa in the Council in both permanent and non-permanent membership categories, in line with the position of the African Union. He went on to stress the urgent need for the Council to enhance its interaction with other United Nations bodies, particularly the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). That was important to ensure that the Security Council did not encroach on areas traditionally in the Assembly's purview, particularly regarding issues like human rights and international cooperation to combat terrorism. The Council should also enhance its cooperation with the African Union relevant to conflict resolution and peacebuilding on the continent.
PAULETTE BETHEL ( Bahamas) said the annual report of the Security Council to the General Assembly needed to be more substantive, analytical and reflective in scope in terms of reporting the Council's activities. In that same vein, the Bahamas supported an interactive exchange between the Council and the General Assembly when the report was being considered by the Assembly. The report demonstrated that the Council had continued to increase its activities, which were geared towards bringing resolution to a number of conflict and post-conflict situations, particularly in Africa and in Haiti.
The Council had also developed new mechanisms in the field of counter-terrorism, increasing coordination and technical assistance to those States in need. Small States, like the Bahamas, faced a particularly difficult challenge in implementing critical counter-terrorism measures adopted by the Council. The Council should continue its efforts in providing much needed assistance to States in meeting their counter-terrorism obligations. A Council that was truly representative of the present world needed to more equitably reflect the current membership of the Organization and allow developing countries to play a greater role. Many Member States had placed great emphasis and importance on the working methods of the Council as a means of making the body more transparent, accountable, and inclusive. The Security Council needed to consider the plethora of recommendations made by the Open-ended Working Group on the working methods.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said his country had drawn some lessons from its recent term on the Security Council on the issue of equitable representation. During its term, Algeria, as a non-aligned, African and Arab country, had sought to underline three essential components of the Organization, shared by the majority of Members States, namely democratization of the Council, the transparency of its work and improvement of its efficiency, with respect to the prerogatives given by the Charter to the principal organs of the United Nations.
The large number of conflict and pre-conflict situations facing the Council in the past year had made it necessary for it to draw on all its resources. Within the Council, Algeria had promoted shared responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. There had been improvement in the transparency of the Council's work, with more public meetings taking place. But there was still a lack of political will to act under Chapter VII on issues related to the Middle East conflict.
Council reform, he said, was an essential part of the necessary reform of the United Nations. Improvement of the Council's working methods would help to increase its legitimacy and authority. A historic injustice had been done to developing countries, particularly those in Africa, in terms of equitable representation. Therefore, comprehensive Council reform must take place soon, regarding both working methods and expansion.
JASEM AL-NAJEM (Kuwait) said great importance was attached to the topic of Council reform, as evidenced by the number of proposals tabled on the issue. Notwithstanding agreement of Member States on the principle of reform, the Working Group had yet to agree on the nature of that change after 12 years of work. The progress it had made, particularly on procedures and working methods, could not be ignored. There was a near consensus on the changes that needed to be introduced. United Nations organs, including the Security Council, must be revitalized in order to enable them to discharge their mandate. Any change in the Council's composition must not affect its efficiency.
He supported all proposals, which would increase the transparency of the Council's work, and which would increase the flow of information to and from Member States. Steps to improve working methods needed to be institutionalized without waiting for agreement on other issues. He supported the machinery laid out in the Charter for electing non-permanent members, as it afforded small countries a greater opportunity to join the Council and contribute to its work. It was important to limit and regulate the veto. That included restricting its use to actions taken under Chapter VII of the Charter.
DANIELE D. BODINI ( San Marino) said discussions on Council reform had been disappointing, particularly for those countries which sought to increase Council membership without increasing the number of permanent members. One of the many problems with the existing Council was that elected members felt like temporary witnesses with marginal weight in decision-making. The use of the veto ought to be reassessed because the Council often became polarized. With greater representation, that would be less apt to occur. Even if the number of members were held to 15, it would be important to get greater representation of small- and medium-size countries. It was also critical to address the need for greater transparency and for improved working methods for the Council.
RICARDO MOROTE ( Peru) said that despite the Assembly's decade-long discussions on Security Council reform, and the impetus generated to resolve the matter during the run-up to the 2005 World Summit, nothing had happened. The Council remained as it had always been. The reform movement had stalled. Why had that been the case? He felt that it was simply because the issue involved the distribution of global power. Indeed, history had shown that such power, particularly in the context of reorganizing the global order, was rarely shared; it was more commonly won or lost. So, with the Council's reform process mired in politics and self-interest, it was clear that it was not only time to move forward, but to do so in a realistic way that, at the very least, could be considered by the Council's permanent membership and the Organization's wider membership, without the possibility of being vetoed.
He went on to say that Peru rejected unrealistic methodologies for the election of new Council members but supported Council expansion through wide consensus. In that regard, Peru supported Brazil as a possible new permanent member. He added that discussion of Council reform had overtaken the real purpose of the Summit, and that important event had ended without adopting a plan of action to help all nations achieve the Millennium Development Goals. He called for the overall reform effort to ensure that the Security Council was more transparent, and that it was more effective in combating crimes against humanity. The Council could also step up its field visits to increase its effectiveness in dealing with and understanding civil conflicts. He also urged the Council to improve the format and content of its annual report to the Assembly to ensure that its work could be better understood and appreciated by the media, the wider international community and students, among others.
LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that as the report to the Security Council described, around 50 per cent of the work in the Council was dedicated to Africa. The Council should continue to give African issues particular attention. Terrorism was also a matter of priority for the Council, and it continued to be one of the most dangerous threats to international peace and security. Efforts made to provide a guide to the activities of the Council in a concise manner were appreciated, but the report was still far from substantive and lacked assessment of the Council's work. With regard to Council reform, some positive changes had been made in the working methods, such as the increased use of public meetings and the consultations with regional organizations.
His country took note of the report of the Open-ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters. While acknowledging some progress, the report pointed out there were still different views on six issues concerning the working methods of the Council and the transparency of its work. Proposals put forward by several delegations on the working methods of the Council needed careful consideration. The Council needed to be enlarged in both categories of its membership to ensure that it truly represented all United Nations members. Developing States should be more adequately represented. Viet Nam had registered its candidature for a non-permanent seat on the Council for the term 2008-2009.
WANG GUANGYA ( China) said that an effective, accountable and representative Security Council was in the common interest of all Member States. Adhering to the principle of multilateralism, strengthening the role of the United Nations and safeguarding the authority of the Security Council could help countries to effectively cope with complex global threats and challenges. Turning to reform of the Council, he reiterated the statement Chinese President Hu Jintao made at the 2005 World Summit this past September: China supported necessary and rational reform of the Council, including its expansion and the improvement of its working methods, in order to maintain its authority, increase its efficiency and strengthen its role. The democratization of international relations was a global trend, which should be equally reflected in the Council.
China believed that expansion of the Council should give priority to the representation of developing countries in general -- and African countries in particular -- and increase opportunities for more countries, particularly small- and medium-sized countries to participate in its decision-making process, he said, stressing that Council expansion should adhere to the principle of equitable geographical distribution. Council reform was an issue of "great sensitivity and complexity", as it bore on the national interests of all Member States. China stood by the following principles: Council reform should be based on democratic discussion with view to reaching the broadest possible consensus -- no artificial deadline should be set, nor a vote imposed; reform should reflect the spirit of mutual compromise and maintain solidarity, with a view to finding an expansion formula that could meet the concerns of all 191 members of the United Nations "big family"; and Council reform should be a gradual process, in line with wider organizational reform.
JOHN BOLTON (United States) said discussions of reform and expansion of the Council must emphasize the need to strengthen the Council's ability to act and not weaken it. The Council was conducting a comprehensive review of its methods and procedures. It was taking steps to improve its efficiency in accordance with the Charter, which left it to the Council to determine its own working methods and procedures. Ideas were welcome and taken into consideration through the Open-ended Working Group, which had already led to increased access to information on items under consideration. The Council also engaged with Member States on matters such as conflict prevention, sanctions and reform. Expansion must contribute to the Council's strength and effectiveness and it could take a variety of forms.
He said he supported Council expansion and, earlier in the year, had made a specific proposal to modestly expand both the permanent and non-permanent membership. The proposal still stood and input was welcome. As the United States Secretary of State had said, the body must reflect the world as it was now and not as it had been in 1945. The new permanent members must be supremely qualified for the tremendous duties and responsibilities they would assume. Therefore, they must meet criteria in terms of size, military capacity, contributions, commitment to democracy, geographic equity and records on non-proliferation and counter-terrorism. Japan met those criteria, and the developing countries deserved greater representation. Deserving members who met the criteria should be allowed to serve even when there was disagreement over other candidates.
He said he was prepared to engage fully in efforts to find a proposal allowing for agreement. But too large an expansion would risk making the Council unable to quickly address challenges to international peace and security. The three proposals introduced during the last Assembly session should be dropped, so as not to return to divisiveness. Further discussion should focus on proposals that contributed to the Council's effectiveness and proposals with narrow support should not be taken up.
VANU GOPALA MENON (Singapore) said it was a pity that the process to reform the Security Council was stalled. The G-4 proposal to expand both permanent and non-permanent seats was a missed opportunity that would have updated the Council's membership and made it more representative of current day realities. He opposed granting any new permanent members the veto because it would complicate decision-making and undermine United Nations credibility. It was unrealistic to expect the five permanent members to give up their right to veto. Steps were needed to improve the Council's transparency, accountability and efficiency. The Council had, once again, wasted an opportunity to do an analytical review of its own work and performance. It needed to uphold standards of fairness and justice in all its decision-making and actions.
He said that if the Council's decisions were taken in exclusivity or if it was unable to explain the rationale behind its decisions to the general United Nations membership, then the Council's decisions risked not being taken seriously. Any institution that eschewed transparency, risked raising suspicions. Unfortunately, the Council's communications were often limited. If it was unwilling to be transparent, the work could end up being "outsourced". Some of the smaller countries in the United Nations, including Singapore, had informally circulated a draft text of a resolution containing some ideas for improving the Council's working methods by building on the current system. Singapore, as well as the other delegations, were ready and willing to engage in consultations and discussions on the matter.
PETER MAURER (Switzerland) said the Council's annual report, while containing much useful information, was mainly a compilation of meetings held and documents issued by the Council. A more analytical presentation of the challenges the Council faced would be welcome. The Council should be enlarged based on objective criteria. The veto should not be extended to other countries, as that would complicate the Council's decision-making process and hinder its ability to take action. Switzerland and four other countries had authored a draft resolution, under which the Assembly would invite the Council to consider a series of measures and report back to the Assembly during the current session. Among other things, the resolution proposed making the discussion of the Council's annual report a platform for a more interactive exchange of views and having the Council present subject-oriented reports. The Council would also be encouraged to invite non-members, on a case-by-case basis, to take part in the work of subsidiary bodies, when such States had a strong interest or relevant expertise.
He said the resolution would invite permanent members that had used their vetoes to explain publicly their reasons for doing so. It would also prevent the use of the veto in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law. The resolution had been formulated in such a way as to not infringe upon the prerogatives and competencies of the Council. It did not in any way affect the discussion on enlarging the Council. In fact, it was hoped that a separate, mutually enforcing process would address that issue. Switzerland and its partners were open to continuing discussion on the contents of the resolution, the time of its tabling and the appropriate time to take action, particularly to avoid any interference with initiatives concerning the enlargement of the Council.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said his country welcomed the report on the Security Council's activities but was disappointed that it was "far too much a compendium of facts", rather than a report which explained how or why certain decisions or courses of actions were preferred over others. The latter approach had been requested for years, and until it was followed, the usefulness of the report would remain limited. Setting clear guidelines for analysis in the report would preclude protracted negotiations in the preparation of such a report. Despite those reservations, he commended the Council's work during the period under review.
It was disappointing that little substantive progress had been made in the Open-ended Working Group in the past 11 years. Establishing good relations between the Security Council and the General Assembly, and indeed between all bodies of the United Nations, remained a critical objective. It was also important that the Council increase the involvement of non-members in its work. His delegation was concerned about the encroachment of the Security Council on the General Assembly's mandate. The Council should not address thematic issues, which should fall under the purview of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. Consultations between the Council and Assembly Presidents should be instituted to maintain that demarcation. Troop-contributing countries in particular should have a larger role in Council decision-making. Indonesia supported the draft resolution proposed by Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland concerning Council reform.
Y. J. CHOI (Republic of Korea) conveyed his delegation's deep condolences to the victims of the bomb attacks in Jordan. Africa continued to dominate the agenda of the Security Council. There had been some positive developments there, but instability continued in many parts of the continent. There had been an increasing assumption of responsibility by regional organizations in Africa, and he hoped that cooperation between the Security Council and those organizations would be further developed. At the same time, the root causes of conflict in Africa needed to be addressed, such as chronic extreme poverty. To achieve lasting stability and peace in Africa, there must be a focus on long-term economic and social development strategies in combination with security measures.
During the last year, the Council devoted considerable attention to the situation in Iraq, he said. There had been some successes, but the lack of improvement in the security situation remained a source of serious concern. The Security Council must play an important role in stabilizing Iraq. No country was immune from the terrorist threat. Ongoing consultations on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism should be concluded during the current session of the General Assembly. Unfortunately, discussions on the issue of Security Council expansion did not lead to much progress. The Republic of Korea opposed any expansion of permanent membership. Further reform of the Council's working methods was needed to make the Council more transparent, democratic and efficient.
KONSTANTIN K. DOLGOV (Russian Federation) said the Summit's Outcome Document had helped to continue the process of enhancing the work of the United Nations while, at the same time, highlighting the serious divergences regarding Security Council reform. Unfortunately, there were no solutions presented at the 2005 Summit regarding the issue of reform. The wide array of positions of Member States on reform had the potential to create an environment not conducive to continuing the important work of the United Nations. Thus, it was imperative to move ahead immediately with the reform process.
Reform needed to lead to an expansion that would make the Council more representative and reflect the changing global realities, he said. Enlarging the membership should not erode effectiveness. Therefore, the number of Member States added to the Council should not exceed a reasonable level. Russia would continue to contribute to efforts taken by the Council to enhance transparency, and would also reach out to Member States that were not members of the Council, particularly those countries that contributed troops to peacekeeping missions. Russia would also continue to work towards reform proposals that were acceptable to the largest number of Member States as possible.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said the Council's report contributed to the promotion of dialogue and transparency in the 15-nation body's work, and enhanced the Council's relationship with the Assembly and other United Nations bodies. The Council continued to shoulder its crisis management responsibilities, particularly regarding Africa, were it had worked closely with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other regional groups. The Council had shown particular unity in dealing with the Lebanon issue following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That same spirit had been shown in the Council's counter-terrorism efforts, the fight against impunity, and consideration of issues, such as children in armed conflict.
He said that the Council had also continued to enhance and adapt its working methods to ensure greater transparency and openness. It had devoted more time in recent months to take up the concerns of troop-contributing countries, and had made greater efforts to take into account the views of non-members. And while its thematic debates were often criticized, the Council had learned much about the views of the wider membership on such occasions. On Council reform, he said that while many had called the months-long discussion of the matter divisive, France believed that it had been an opportunity for evaluation and reconciliation of views. France supported expansion of the Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories. Africa deserved proper recognition, he said, also expressing his delegation's support of the petitioning States: Germany, Japan, Brazil and India. France also believed that the Assembly should be in the position to report that progress has been made on the issue by the end of the year.
BRUNO STAGNO UGARTE (Costa Rica) said that discontinuing the practice of discussing the annual report in an open meeting of the Council was a true regression in the Council's working methods. It was time to tackle the issue of working methods, which should be done separately from enlargement. Concerns in that area had only multiplied with the lessons drawn from the Council's role in the "oil-for-food" programme. It was particularly pressing to initiate a joint discussion process in the Assembly. Since 1993, all efforts to reform the Council had always privileged enlargement to the detriment of working methods, the latter becoming hostage to the former. It was time that the Assembly sent an unequivocal message to the Council that it could not continue shunning greater transparency and accountability.
He said it was surprising that some sought to evade the improvements by questioning the authority of the Assembly in such matters. The Assembly was not infringing on any mandates or prerogatives. On the contrary, it was precisely complying with its mandate under the Charter. The Council had primary, but not sole, responsibility on matters pertaining to the maintenance of international peace and security. While others might argue that Article 30 expressly conferred on the Council the power to adopt its own rules of procedures, the Council had failed to do so in 60 years of proceedings. The argument that the division of powers was such that the Assembly should not infringe on the internal procedural matters of the Council was not only inconsistent with the comprehensive jurisdiction clause of Article 10 of the Charter but was also disproved by past practice.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that with no concrete proposal on Council reform currently on the table, the immediate task was to recreate momentum for progress in that area. Liechtenstein, along with four other States that had circulated a draft resolution, believed that the Council's working methods deserved the same careful consideration as the politically charged topic of enlargement. For a majority of the membership, daily interaction with the Council was at least as important as who served on it. Only by treating the two topics separately could satisfactory results be achieved in both areas. Enlargement would always lead to a Charter amendment, and thus become a completed process, while adaptation of working methods could be ongoing.
He said the Security Council was the master of its own procedures and, therefore, had the sole competence to decide on all procedural aspects of its work. Liechtenstein's resolution was aimed at reconciling that undeniable fact with the Council's Charter obligation to carry out its duties on behalf of all Member States. Since the cold war, the Council had significantly expanded its activities into areas that were previously the domain of other United Nations bodies, particularly the General Assembly. The role of its subsidiary organs had dramatically increased, including in the area of sanctions. There was a need for stronger involvement of the membership at large in relevant Council decisions.
FERMÍN TORO JIMÉNEZ (Venezuela) said the Council's annual report showed a growth in the scope of the Council's activities, including in the area of terrorism. Acts of terrorism were to be fought against but it was important to understand the true scope of terrorism. It included collateral damage to civilians in Iraq by invading forces, the siege against Iran and the building of settlements in the Middle East. The Council was taking up matters more frequently that did not concern international peace and security. It should focus more on the peaceful settlement of disputes. It should not take over functions that were properly under the purview of the General Assembly, and should avoid interference with the operation of States.
There had been a proliferation of peacekeeping operations, whose activities were extending beyond their proper mandate, he said. Peacekeeping operations should not remain involved in failed States. The international community did not have the right to dictate what institutions were to be built in a failed State. Also, intervening for humanitarian reasons could not be used as an excuse for improper interference in a State. The perfidious institution of trusteeship would give the Council the authority to adopt coercive measures against States.
Sanctions had to be used sparingly and not to try to overthrow States, he said. The Council's membership had to be enlarged, both in permanent and non-permanent categories. In particular, developing countries should be among the permanent members, and the veto should be eliminated. Improving the working methods of the Council would not be a panacea for the Organization's problems nor would it improve transparency. Trying to make the improvement of working methods a priority was a tactic to avoid the truly critical issues concerning democratic representation on the Council. Venezuela opposed creating new bodies in the United Nations that would reaffirm the dominance of current permanent Council members.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said his country had long supported adding new permanent and non-permanent members to the Council, including Germany, Japan, India and Brazil as permanent members, as well as increased permanent representation for Africa. Improvements in the Council's working methods were also desired. The Council should involve non-members more, through informal meetings, contacts with civil society, and more dialogue with troop-contributing countries. The Council should also engage more in dialogue with non-Council members and other experts, both to build up greater expertise and to respond to others' concerns.
He said a welcome development was increased coordination with regional and subregional organizations on conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and in the fight against terrorism. The Peacebuilding Commission was an opportunity to ensure that the Council received coordinated advice from major donors, regional organizations, troop contributors and others especially interested in a particular country. Ways should be found to simplify and rationalize the work of the Council, including its growing number of subsidiary bodies, to avoid duplication and concentrate efforts where they mattered most. Terrorism remained at the centre of the Council's work. The Council had already begun to examine how it could respond to some of the Summit's recommendations for reform in that area. Hopefully, the coming year would see at least some of them implemented.
ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) thanked the Assembly for its expressions of support following yesterday's "criminal" deadly bombing of three hotels in the Jordanian capital. Turning to the topic of the day, he said that overall United Nations reform should be seen as a continuing process, in line with the position adopted by global political leaders at the 2005 World Summit. Renewal would not be complete without reform of the Security Council. Jordan supported expansion of both the Council's permanent and non-permanent membership.
At the same time, he said that Jordan supported efforts to enhance the Council's working methods, and believed that that important issue must be dealt with along a separate, but equally comprehensive, track. Such improvement of the Council's procedures and operation should not be seen as affecting only that 15-nation body. Indeed, while that exercise would aim to increase the Council's transparency and boost its efficacy and veracity, it would also enhance the overall standing of the wider United Nations system.
U WIN MRA ( Myanmar) said he had placed high hopes on the 2005 World Summit for addressing the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council. But no significant result was reached. The United Nations must be reformed. If the Security Council was to become more representative of contemporary political and economic realities, it should be expanded in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. However, expansion alone would not fully guarantee effectiveness or transparency of the Council. Further improvement of its working methods and decision-making process was necessary. Myanmar was appreciative of a number of initiatives taken by the Council to promote its transparency, such as increasing the number of public meetings.
He said the frequent holding of open debates in the Council was a step forward in enhancing the involvement of the larger membership, as it afforded the non-Security Council members with the opportunity to express their views on matters affecting them. As the non-permanent members of the Security Council were representatives of their respective regional groups, they should keep their own regional groups informed of the developments in the Council. His country shared the growing concern about the gradual encroachment of the Council on the powers and mandate of the General Assembly. More worrisome was the tendency of the Council to become involved in legislative work. It was of paramount importance that members of the Council strictly adhere to the purposes and principles of the Charter.
HJÁLMAR HANNESSON (Iceland) said his country had consistently supported calls for increased transparency in the Council's work. Some substantive steps had been made in that regard, such as the growing practice of open briefings, meetings and debates. The open debates could serve as an important tool for communication between the Council, the wider United Nations membership and international civil society.
He said that effective reform of the United Nations entailed reform that created a more representative and legitimate Council that better mirrored today's geopolitical realities. There should be an expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent members. During the general debate in September, Iceland's Foreign Minister had expressed disappointment that the G-4 reform proposal had not received the support it deserved. Indeed, Iceland was one of the co-sponsors of that proposal. Consensus on the expansion of the Council was desirable, but after more than 12 years of debate, "we all know that it is not reachable". It was now time to utilize the democratic decision-making at the disposal of the Assembly.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said the growing agenda of the Security Council made transparency and outreach in its work more important than ever. The far-reaching implications of Council decisions made it essential for the larger membership to understand what decisions were being taken in the Council and why. Council deliberations were too often inaccessible to Member States. While there had been some improvements, there were still too few practical and effective mechanisms for interacting with the Council on key issues.
The challenge was to find a way to resolve those concerns, and still allow the Council to do its work efficiently, while giving Member States greater confidence in the Council's decisions. Basic changes to the Council's working methods could alleviate many of those problems. Greater use of smaller informal meetings where the Council and the membership could discuss particular issues was important, in addition to open debates. There was also a need for more extensive use of drafting groups that included Member States not currently serving on the Council, and Council subsidiary bodies should include non-Council members in their work.
The Council should also be more available and more responsive to troop-contributing countries, she said. In addition, Council members who possessed veto power often misused it, resulting in complete inaction where action was needed. New Zealand was completely opposed to the use of the veto for any members of the Council, current or future. Council expansion was an essential area of reform, and she said any expansion of the Council must include Japan.
GUNTER PLEUGER ( Germany) said that Security Council reform was an essential part of overall reform. The G-4 proposal would achieve greater legitimacy, transparency and effectiveness in the Council. It would further ensure participation of major contributors to the maintenance of peace and security, and ensure the equitable representation of developing countries. That proposal was the most comprehensive but Germany was open to considering amendments. The African Union resolution was very similar to the G-4 proposal. Reform of the Council should not be done in a piecemeal fashion. It would be futile to enlarge the Council if it did not change its ways. Nor would reformed working methods that looked good on paper be useful unless the Council changed structurally.
To change the Council's working methods, there had to be a structural change in the Council. There ought to be more permanent and non-permanent members. And, new permanent members would be invaluable for a reformed Council because they understood best the needs of non-members. It was clear that there would be no consensus on reform. There must, therefore, be a vote. Those who opposed a vote did not want reform. One had to ask how those who opposed a vote reconciled their view with the fact that the outcome document contained a clear demand for Council reform. The Uniting for Consensus group wanted a vote on cluster I issues but not on cluster II issues. If one advocated a vote on one group, one had to advocate a vote on the other. Some worried that an increased membership would diminish effectiveness. But, effectiveness was not necessarily being able to obtain a decision easily. Effectiveness entailed wide participation as well.
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