Global Policy Forum

Question of Equitable Representation on (October 29, 1996)


Ambassador Celso L. N. Amorim

October 29, 1996


Mr. President,

Let me start by thanking Ambassadors Breitenstein and Jayanama for their competent co-Vice Chairmanship during the past year and place on record our appreciation for the leadership provided by Professor Freitas do Amaral as President of the Working Group for the 50th General Assembly. We are convinced that our current President, Ambassador Razali Ismail, will contribute with his well-known dynamism and lucidity to our future work.

Mr. President,

2. The Working Group on Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council continues to inspire heated debates and stimulate profound reflection on a central item for the future of the Organization. The Working Group's Report to the 50th General Assembly can be described as a satisfactory summary of its recent activity even if - given the rule of consensus - it understandably omits important details and falls short of reflecting certain trends. It stands nevertheless as an expression of what was achievable under the circumstances and as a useful tool for work to proceed towards a widely acceptable blueprint for a truly equitable Council reform.

3. As stated by the Brazilian Minister for External Relations in the general debate "there is a virtual consensus that the Security Council should be enlarged to allow for greater participation by countries with the capacity to act on a global scale and the willingness to bear the responsibilities it would entail. We must now set a course for this process. Its outcome is essential for strengthening the United Nations".

4. At the same time, we share with many others a sense of disappointment at the General Assembly's incapacity to have gone further than it did - during its 50th session - in setting the stage for Security Council reform. The United Nations cannot face the future with confidence as long as the composition of the organ with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security is not made equitable and representative. The historic opportunity to introduce the necessary change in the Security Council's composition must be seized before its credibility is eroded beyond repair.

5. We must be wary of the risks involved in failure to act when conditions for equating the many variables at play are relatively favourable. But we must be even more careful not to mistake the need for equitable representation in an expanded Security Council with forms of expansion which will neither make it representative nor equitable and instead of taking us closer to those objectives may, on the contrary, lead us altogether in wrong directions.

6. The Working Group has already reached the conclusion that "in the event that there is agreement for an increase in the permanent membership, an increase only by industrialized countries would be widely regarded as unnacceptable". But as much as this conclusion may be taken as a welcome sign of wisdom, there are other discriminatory ideas still lurking in the background which must also be set aside before we can feel confident that the General Assembly has embarked in good faith cooperation towards reform.

7. Prolonged discussions in the Working Group exposed the inherent flaws in the proposals which conceive a regional process for the selection of permanent members from some quarters, while exempting two specific countries from the same type of selection. The attempted justification for such ideas remains unconvincing. It is said, for example, that there seems to be a lack of agreement in three regions as to who should occupy corresponding permanent seats. Nothing is said of the the regional situation of the two specific countries, although some of the strongest opposition to the mere idea of permanent membership is precisely to be found in their parts of the world.

8. The concept of "equitable representation", in our view, encompasses both the idea of equitable "geographic" or "regional" representation, as well as other dimensions, such as level of development. The idea worth retaining is that an organ of limited composition and such wide ranging powers as the Security Council must be perceived as legitimate, and for that to be the case it must include a sample of member States, in the permanent member category, that is broadly seen as equitably representative.

9. We continue to believe that the regional component must be kept in mind in any plan for reform. But not as a pretext for establishing inequities at the outset of the reform process, in contravention to our very mandate. The selective application of regional procedures for identifying new permanent members is a case in point. Not only would this procedure be discriminatory and undemocratic if applied only to developing countries, but it raises a number of conceptual problems which the proponents of the approach would probably prefer to leave untouched.

10. The so-called regional permanent seat - whether in its rotating variant or some other guise - could theoretically have an operational meaning in parts of the world where integration in the fields of foreign policy and defense have advanced beyond broad plurilateral coordination. However, if the one region of the world where that is already happening does not feel ready to embrace the regional permanent seat for itself, it is doubtful whether there is a legitimate basis for encouraging others to do so.

11. Moreover, care should be taken not to confound the informal regional groupings of the UN system with regional organisms in the field of international affairs and security matters. To begin with, their composition is not identical, and can differ greatly. Let us not forget that the establishment of a common foreign or security policy only comes about, if at all, as one of the last stages in any viable process of regional integration. Perhaps we will head towards an inter-regional world of a higher standard of understanding among governments and peoples in the future. If that were to happen a revision of the basis for representation in the Security Council would be in order. But, for the time being, the truth is that we still live and work in an inter-state world as far as cooperation for the maintenance of peace and security is concerned; the current permanent members of the Security Council have not given indications that it is otherwise.

Mr. President,

12. To my Delegation, as well as to many others involved in the the Working Group's deliberations, the democratization of the United Nations stands out as a priority. If the Security Council is to shape a peaceful world order capable of honouring the principles of the Charter, its decisions must be perceived as legally sound and politically wise. Its work must meet the required standards of accountability expected of governmental institutions in democratic regimes. The powers entrusted to the temporary and permanent members of the Council cannot be subject to misuse or abuse.

13. These considerations apply to all Council activity, in general, but acquire greater significance with respect to the authorization of coercive measures, even when they do not involve the use of force.

14. The political nature of the Council's work does not entitle it to treat considerations of a legal nature with laxity. The need for urgent action cannot justify persistent improvisation. The time has perhaps come for a critical assessment of Council action since the end of the cold war, with a view to identifying the cases where decisions did not contribute to preserving the credibility of the United Nations as well as looking at alternative approaches capable not only of preserving but, if possible, enhancing the Organization's image as an impartial broker for peace.

15. The President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Mohammed Bedjaoui, has made an important contribution to such an evaluation in his book entitled "the new world order and the Security Council". We concur in particular with his prescription for future Council activity when he states that "the task is to subject the use of force to ever more rigorous discipline, to confirm and develop the rules which fortify just recourse to it, to eliminate the practices which lead it astray and endow such recourse with the respect and recognition it inevitably arouses when it serves to found order upon justice."

Mr. President,

16. It is impossible to discuss last year's Report without taking note of the wide support expressed in the Working Group to proposals to limit the scope and use of the veto. We sympathize with many such proposals, in particular those submitted by the Non-Aligned Countries and the interesting suggestions by the Delegation of Uruguay mentioned in paragraph 31 of document A/50/47. We recognise, at the same time, that these proposals have been meeting with some resistance.

17. I have alluded in the Working Group to an idea - that I believe might contribute to discourage resort to the veto - which would consist in allowing permanent members to cast negative votes in the same way as temporary members cast them: without blocking decisions. Were the Council's permanent members be granted such a right, it would offer new possibilities for self restraint, not by limiting their present rights, but indeed by expanding them. They would enjoy four possibilities in the decision making process: to vote yes, to abstain, to vote no or to veto.

Mr. President,

18. We need an Organization with a balanced institutional architecture. The relationship between the Security Council, the General Assembly and ECOSOC is of fundamental importance, as we become increasingly aware of the mutually reinforcing interlinkage between peace, development and democracy. The International Court of Justice is also an essential part of our edifice. A number of questions related to peace and security either do not fit exclusively within the Security Council's area of competence and could be dealt with elsewhere or in cooperation with other organs. The General Assembly, in particular, should be in close touch with Council activity and - as a small step in that direction - I would suggest, in this regard, that the President of the GA should participate in the monthly luncheon offered by the President of the Security Council to the Permanent Representatives of Council members along with the Secretary-General.

Mr. Chairman

19. In an article published last month, the British historian working at Yale University, Paul Kennedy, commented that "the end of the Cold War has made much of world politics unfamiliar, messy and difficult to assess". But he also argues that the challenges facing the world today are not really greater than those confronting world leaders in the chaos of 1945. He concludes that the world is in need of leadership and that world leaders should have the foresight to make the Security Council more representative. His article only provides us with one more incentive to continue to participate actively in the promotion of equitable representation and increase in the expansion of the Security Council, as an indispensable element in the effort to strengthen multilateralism in the field of peace and security.

Thank You Mr. President.

More Information on Security Council Reform in 95/96


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