Global Policy Forum

Islamic and Arab States Should Have Security Council Seat, Says Pakistan

Pakistan argues that changes must be made to the Security Council to reflect “current realities” that the UN Charter does not take into account, specifically the need for permanent representation on the Council for Arab and Muslim states.  Pakistan’s proposal is one of the many put forward by countries vying for seats and rival groups hoping to restructure the Council.

By Patrick Goodenough

June 30, 2010

As governments consider the divisive issue of remodeling the United Nations Security Council to reflect 21st century realities, Pakistan has reiterated its view that the council should include seats earmarked for the world’s Islamic and Arab states.
Pakistan’s ambassador, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, told a closed meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York this week that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League “have clear demands for representation in an enlarged council,” according to reports in Pakistani media.
“In line with new realities, it is important to increase interaction with and to embed the role of regional organizations in a Security Council of the future,” Haroon was quoted as saying.
Chaired by Afghanistan’s ambassador, a process of intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform is currently moving through a fifth round of talks, the previous four rounds having achieved little beyond highlighting the many differences among individual states and groups of states.
While most concur that reform is necessary, competing agendas and regional rivalries have long stymied any agreement on how to do it.
The council’s permanent membership (P5) largely reflects the balance of power at the end of World War II – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China, which in 1971 took the seat previously held by Taiwan. All five have the power to veto council decisions.
Another 10 rotating seats are held by member states elected by the 192-member General Assembly for two-year stints. They do not have veto power.
Launched more than 15 years ago but given new life in 2005 by a broad push to reform the U.N., the process of modernizing the Security Council has settled on five key issues – categories of membership, the veto question, regional representation, the size of an enlarged council and its working methods, and the relationship between the council and the General Assembly.
Various models put forward since 2005 envisage enlarging the council’s non-permanent membership by another 10 or so countries. Some want additional permanent members too, but differences persist over whether or not they should have veto power.
The proposed models generally call for greater permanent representation for Africa and Asia. Most of the OIC’s 56 member states and all of the Arab League’s 22 members fall into those two regional groups.
Several ac-hoc groupings have formed to promote some models and oppose others.
The so-called group of four (G4) – India, Japan, Germany and Brazil – all want permanent seats and are supporting each other’s bids. They have agreed to forfeit veto power, given the open or implied opposition of the P5 to having more countries with the veto.
The African Union wants new permanent seats – at least two of them for African countries – but with veto power.
A group of mid-sized states known as the “Uniting for Consensus” coalition oppose calls for more permanent seats, not least of all because coalition members Pakistan, Italy and South Korea are reluctant to see India, Germany and Japan respectively in those seats. Instead they have called for 10 new non-permanent seats to join the current 10, for a total council membership of 25.
Of the current P5, Britain has supported the G4 candidacies as well as permanent seats for Africa. Russia and France have voiced support for India’s bid. China has hinted at possible support for India, but opposes Japan’s aspirations.
The United States has generally been wary about expanding the permanent membership.
The Bush administration openly supported only Japan’s bid, arguing that adding any more than “one or two” new permanent members would make it unwieldy, with consensus even harder to achieve than it is now.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton early this month hinted that the Obama administration would also back India for a permanent council seat, if and when there was movement on the issue.


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