United Nations: An "overwhelming majority" of UN members want more permanent members added to the Security Council to make its decision-making "more participative and democratic", according to India and the three other aspirants for permanent seats.
Speaking on Monday at the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on Security Council reform, India`s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said the categories of both permanent and non-permanent members must be expanded to bring about "an equilibrium that reflects the current situation."
He was speaking on behalf of G4, the group made up of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, who are jointly pushing for reforms and mutually support each other for a permanent seat in an expanded council.
The IGN session dealt with categories of membership and regional representation, the most divisive topics of the reform process.
A 13-member group known as Uniting for Consensus (UfC), which included Pakistan and is led by Italy, reiterated its opposition to adding permanent members, the core of its position on the reform process.
Without naming the group or any country, Akbaruddin responded that their position of expanding only the non-permanent category would result in further tilting the balance in the council in favour of the five permanent members, whose special powers are a holdover from 1945 in a world that has dramatically changed with the rise of new powers and the UN itself increasing its membership by nearly three times, from 51 to 193.
When the UN was founded in the rubble of World War II, the five victors -- Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union and the US -- assumed for themselves permanent council memberships and veto powers.
After more than 20 years of stalling, the council reform process gained momentum last year when a negotiating text was adopted at the last session of the General Assembly overcoming sustained opposition to it from a determined small group of countries like Pakistan and Italy.
Akbaruddin referred to the negotiating document which is based on a survey of UN members on council reforms and said: "It is evident from the positions submitted in the text that an overwhelming majority of member states support expansion in both categories."
Of the 122 countries that made written submissions for the survey, 113 -- or more than 90 percent -- supported expanding both categories of council membership, he said.
They include the 54 members of the African Union, 42 from the L.69, which is a group supporting reforms, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members, the G4 and 21 others, in addition to two permanent members, Brtain and France, he said.
Moving on to how the new permanent members would be added, Akbaruddin said the G4 wanted them to be elected by a vote of two thirds of the assembly through a secret ballot, which would be in keeping with the Charter and the assembly`s rules of procedure.
Asserting that it was "untenable that whole continents are not represented or under-represented in the permanent category of the Security Council today," he said that G4 supported the "appropriate representation of Africa in the council."
Besides Africa, the theatre for the bulk of the UN peacekeeping operations mandated by the council, Latin America does not have any permanent members.
"The Security Council is also not representative of the geo-political and economic realities 70 years after its inception," Akbaruddin said.
"New major powers have emerged and the voice of all regions needs to be heard in international security policy."
Germany and Japan have risen as major economic powers, while India is now a significant player in international affairs and the global economy.
Speaking for the UfC, Italy`s Permanent Representative Sebastiano Cardi said proposals to increase the council`s permanent membership was based on a "misguided assumption that this would ensure greater representation and effectiveness in a council".
"A more representative and democratic Security Council means offering equal opportunity to all member states to serve periodically on the council," he added.
Without naming anyone, Akbaruddin responded to this line of opposition saying: "We have heard some oft-repeated arguments that expansion in the permanent category would be `undemocratic`."
"Assuming that, we all acknowledge the fact that the present structure of the Security Council is not reflective of contemporary realities and not fit for purpose, there is urgent need to reform it," he said.
"The problem lies in the imbalance of influence within the Security Council between the permanent and non-permanent members. Expanding only in the non-permanent category is not going to solve the problem."
He said that such one-sided action would only tilt further the scales in favour of a "dispensation that was valid in the special situation in 1945 but is no longer now."
"This is why a balanced enlargement in both categories is necessarily the only way to ensure an equilibrium that reflects the current situation," he said.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)