34th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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25-Nov-2019 02:57:25
Security Council must expand, adapt to current realities or risk losing legitimacy, delegates tell General Assembly amid proposals for reform at 33rd and 34th plenary meetings.

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The Security Council risks losing legitimacy unless it reforms and expands its membership to include developing States, particularly from Africa, delegates told the General Assembly today, with many stressing that intergovernmental negotiations, held over nearly 20 years, must now bear fruit if the United Nations “most important” body is to emerge strong and effective from a bygone era.

Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria), speaking through a representative, opened the debate by underscoring the importance of a non‑biased, transparent process. Consultations to identify co‑chairs of the intergovernmental negotiations framework have been “exceptionally” complex and he remains actively engaged in the search.

That framework was the focus of many speakers throughout the day. Germany’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Four — Brazil, India, Japan and his own country — said the intergovernmental negotiations framework was marred by “constraints and flawed working methods” but should receive one last chance to reach a breakthrough.

“We remain alarmingly far away from the intended destination,” said the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, on behalf of the L.69 group of developing countries, pointing to scant results achieved over 10 years. The process does not allow for real give‑and‑take discussions based on a single text. She called for attribution of positions, as well as official records and webcasts of meetings. South Africa’s representative, meanwhile, rejected the idea of ending the negotiations before June, saying it does not use time efficiently and “denies the process of adequate opportunity for full discussions”.

Delegates put forward a variety of reform proposals, with many calling for increasing the number of permanent Council members beyond the current five (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, the United States). Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking for the African Group, called Africa’s absence from the Council a historic injustice, a sentiment echoed by many. The continent must be represented by at least two permanent seats and five non‑permanent ones. “It is unacceptable for Africa to be the only continent not to be represented in the permanent category and, at the same time, underrepresented in the non‑permanent category,” he said. On that point, Libya’s delegate said 70 per cent of the Council’s work focuses on the continent, and thus, Africa’s demands are legitimate. He called for the creation of two permanent seats with veto power and two non‑permanent seats.

Along similar lines, Kuwait’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, advocated for a permanent Arab seat, given that several items on the agenda deal with Arab countries. Grenada’s delegate, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called for a rotating seat for small island developing States. The region’s “small, weak and defenceless States” are particularly sensitive to the need for greater Council membership, he said.

Veto power was a continual source of debate, with some calling for abolishing the veto altogether, among them, Egypt’s delegate. Norway’s representative, speaking for the Nordic countries, said the veto is the main source of the Council’s paralysis. Turkey’s delegate agreed, saying it is “the reason why we need to reform the Council in the first place”.

Several delegates defended the veto. The Russian Federation’s representative said the veto offers an effective check on unwise schemes and its use — or threat thereof — has prevented the United Nations from being drawn into “dubious ventures”. Reducing such prerogatives is unacceptable, he said, noting that the Russian Federation is ready to endorse the so‑called “interim solution”.

Liechtenstein’s representative described a yawning gap between the Council’s mandate and performance, stressing that its enlargement is neither a silver bullet nor a condition sine qua non for improved action. He suggested an enlargement model based on long‑term seats of eight to 10 years, with the possibility of immediate re‑election. There would be no new veto powers, flexibility to add new two‑year seats, a strong review clause and a “flip‑flop clause” barring States that have lost an election for long‑term seats from running for short‑term seats.

Many reflected on the repetitive nature of the discussions, with Indonesia’s delegate denouncing them as “mere statement‑reading sessions”, and India’s delegate calling them a Sisyphean struggle. At the same time, some underscored the importance of the Council to international order. China’s representative, lauding its “irreplaceable” role in preventing another world war, expressed support for “reasonable and necessary reform” that prioritizes a voice for Africa.

Also speaking today were representatives of Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Argentina, France, Slovenia, Mexico, Japan, Mongolia, Spain, Brazil, Pakistan, Qatar, Cuba, Singapore, Hungary, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Namibia, Slovakia, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Ecuador, United States, Iran, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Ukraine, Congo, Uganda, Syria, Estonia, United Kingdom, Burundi, Algeria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Colombia, Lesotho, Morocco, Ethiopia, Serbia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The representative of Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 26 November to conclude its debate and discuss other organizational matters.

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