37th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 73rd Session

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20-Nov-2018 03:14:52
Member states call for removing veto power, expanding Security Council to include new permanent seats, as General Assembly debates reform plans for 15-member organ at 36th and 37th plenary meetings.

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To meet emerging challenges of today’s increasingly complex international security and peace architecture, the United Nations Security Council must adapt, reform and expand its membership to include underrepresented regions, particularly Africa, the General Assembly heard today.

Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), opening a day‑long debate, stressed that the Council must adapt to new political realities, with increased representation boosting its legitimacy and the implementation of its decisions. However, even though the issue of increased Council membership has been on the Assembly’s agenda for two decades, she said no consensus has been reached on how to reform the vital and crucial organ. Pledging full support for Council reform, she recognized that the issue is complex and closely intertwined with efforts to ensure international peace and security.

Delegates discussed a range of ideal solutions. Many called for broadening the number of permanent members beyond the current five (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States) and abolishing the permanent membership’s use of veto power to overrule the adoption of draft resolutions.

Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, spotlighted that most issues discussed in the 15‑member organ are related to his continent. Its 54 nations must be involved in decisions concerning not only international peace and security, but its own very continent. Africa demands no less than two permanent seats, including the veto power, if it remains, and five non‑permanent seats. Widespread support from Member States for this position means that it is time to “redress the historical injustice of not being represented in the permanent category”.

“We cannot afford to remain indifferent,” Algeria’s delegate said. Despite having the largest number of Member States in the United Nations, Africa continues to be undermined and has no representation in the permanent category, which is the core decision making unit of the Council.

Guyana’s representative, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), pointed out that the Council has excluded other regions from permanent membership as well, including Latin America and the Caribbean. Multilateralism and inclusiveness will only strengthen the work of the United Nations and its organs.

Member States also highlighted the role of the Assembly in helping to achieve progress in the intergovernmental negotiations on Council reform. India’s delegate, on behalf of the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany, Japan and his country), emphasized that discussions should operate under normal rules of procedure. He added that “nay‑sayers” cannot be allowed to cast a dark shadow and hold the overwhelming majority back.

Delegates expressed concern over a lack of consensus on certain critical issues, with Pakistan’s delegate pointing out that despite agreement on expanding the number of non‑permanent seats, questions remain concerning the expansion of permanent ones. “If the Council cannot reconcile the interests of its five permanent members, how will it cope with the interests of a bigger membership?” she asked.

Others questioned the Council’s working methods, with Cuba’s delegate spotlighting the organ’s growing tendency to assume functions outside its purview and usurping the role of other organs.

Some of the Council’s five permanent members also joined the debate, with China’s delegate expressing support to necessary reforms and to prioritizing an increase in the representation of developing countries, particularly African States. The only way to achieve reform is to pursue consensus‑based solutions, he added.

The representative of the United States said his country supports a “modest expansion” of the Council in permanent and non‑permanent categories. Consideration of new permanent membership must take into account the candidates’ ability contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. He also noted his delegation’s opposition to any change to the use of the veto.

The representative of the Russian Federation also defended the veto, highlighting that its use has more than once spared the United Nations from getting involved in dubious enterprises.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Kuwait (on behalf of the Arab Group), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (on behalf of “L.69” Group), Italy (on behalf of the Consensus Group), Iceland (on behalf of Nordic Countries), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Australia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Mongolia, Maldives, Brazil, Singapore, Argentina, South Africa, Japan, Colombia, Qatar, Slovenia, Turkey, Slovakia, Ukraine, Sudan, Portugal, Indonesia, San Marino, Hungary, Egypt, Latvia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, France, Malta, Morocco, Germany, Republic of Moldova, Kenya, Bhutan, Malaysia, Iran, Ireland, Spain, Estonia, Congo, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Mexico and Republic of Korea.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 November, to mark the commemoration of the abolition of slavery and the trans‑Atlantic slave trade and to discuss the impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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