United Nations: General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kahamba Kutesa and several nations called Wednesday for the creation of a negotiating document for the expansion of the Security Council in a bid to give a new impetus to the reform initiative ahead of the 70th anniversary next year of the UN`s founding.
Kutesa told the UNGA, "What is now required is a firm commitment to move the (Council reform) process to text-based negotiations."
Since the current initiative for council reform began at the World Summit in 2005, there has not been a concrete document to be the basis of reform negotiations and this has been a major roadblock. The issue of having such a text has been caught in a Catch-22 situation with some countries insisting on reaching a consensus on reforms before a document can be produced, while talks for a consensus have not been able to proceed without a written framework for the discussions.
"We must be the only forum in the United Nations to be negotiating without actually having a negotiating text on the table before us," Indian Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji pointed out. Urging early action on reforms, he said the Council "is today a seriously impaired organ" that is "unable to act with credibility essentially due to its unrepresentative nature."
Kutesa, who listed Council reforms among his priorities for this UNGA session, appointed Jamaica`s Ambassador Courtenay Rattray as the new chairman of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN), succeeding Afghanistan Ambassador Zahir Tanin.
Backing the UNGA president`s call for "text-based negotiations," Mukerji said, "We now look to you, as the President of the General Assembly, to truly empower our Chairman by giving him, under your authority, a text on the basis of which all of us can begin to engage in actual negotiations."
The topic of the UNGA debate was equitable representation on the Council, which would require adding permanent and non-permanent members to the Council, which now has 15 members, five of them permanent with veto powers.
The Group of Four (G4), comprising India, Brazil, Japan and Germany, which are seeking permanent seats on the Council and back each other`s candidacu, also collectively pressed for a negotiating text. Speaking on behalf of G4, Brazilian Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota said, "As for those who state that there must be a prior consensus before drafting a working document, let me point out that this requirement has no precedent in any other process in the UN." He recalled the parameters set for such a document by former UNGA President John Ashe, who said it only needs "sufficiently wide, but not necessarily universal agreement."
Another grouping known as L69 and comprising 42 countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean region also backed the demand. Representing the group, Saint Lucia`s Ambassador Menissa Rambally asked Kutesa to "mandate the (IGN) Chair to conduct negotiations immediately on the basis of a text, which is tabled with your full authority and backing."
Even Uniting for Consensus (UfC), a 13-member group that includes Pakistan and opposes adding permanent members to the Council, acknowledged the need for text-based negotiations. Speaking on its behalf, Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, said "the UfC heeds, with genuine political openness, the call for text-based negotiations," but added the caveat, "we need to first and foremost agree on such text."
However, Rambally said, "If we allow the self defeating argument of `consensus to emerge even before the commencement of negotiations` as a pre-condition for commencing text-based negotiations, then we are simply trying to scuttle any forward movement on this process, which only suits the interests of a limited minority of objectors."
A reason for some countries opposing the creation of a negotiating text is that they fear it would give some countries seeking permanent seats an edge by putting their names out there and handicap others.
Mukerji said, "Our Intergovernmental Negotiations should not be perceived to be biased against any individual country or group of countries just because a text is on the table." He added, that if there is no negotiation text, "then we would surely have just cause to detect a bias against those of us" carrying out the 2005 mandate to reform the Council.
Pakistan`s Ambassador Masood Khan, who endorsed UfC`s position set out by Italy, said Islamabad "opposes new permanent seats, not because of regional rivalries or realpolitik, but because of the principles that should drive the Council`s reform," which he said were spelled out by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as making it "more representative, equitable, accountable and transparent."
Britain, China, France, Russia, and the US, who were then considered the leading powers of the winning side in World War II, have been the permanent members of the Security Council with powers to veto its resolutions since the founding of the UN in 1945.
Originally, Taiwan held the China seat and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the Russia seat and other than that there have been no changes in the permanent membership to reflect the vast global changes.
There are in addition members who are elected to two-year terms to the Council based on a system of regional representation and their number was raised from six to ten in 1965, the last time there was any change in the composition of the council. Since its founding, the total membership of the UN has risen from 51 to 193.
India`s candidacy for a permanent seat in the Council is backed by four of the five permanent members, Britain, France, Russia and the United States.