Global Policy Forum

Six Member States Submit New Proposal

March 27, 2008

A group of UN Member States has prepared a new proposal on reforming the Security Council. The President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, is expected to review the proposal and guide States toward the next steps to intergovernmental negotiations on Council expansion and improvements in working methods.

On Tuesday, 18 March, the core delegations who assembled the new proposal (Germany reportedly in the leading role, along with Cyprus, Malaysia, Netherlands, Romania, and the UK) in what has been referred to as the "Overarching Process," presented the draft to a group of 43 countries at a meeting hosted by the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN. Reactions to the draft were mixed, resulting in slight revisions reportedly being made. The text was then submitted to President Kerim on Thursday, March 20. Currently the final proposal is confidential.

The proposal continues the efforts begun in the first half of 2007 (Report of Facilitators, April 2007) to engage in "alternative thinking" on the major groups' stated positions (see chart in "Background"). The positions are described in the proposal as legitimate but currently impossible to realize. For this reason, it says, Member States have shown an "apparent willingness to negotiate on the basis of achieving intermediate reform," striving for "the highest common denominator at this stage." Alternative thinking on reform includes an "intermediary approach" as explored by the Open-ended Working Group in the 61st Session.

In their letter to President Kerim on 20 March the drafting delegations wrote, "It has been our experience that the traditional U. N. method of conducting negotiations in various configurations, both formal and informal, as required, would be the best way to achieve a compromise." In the future, the groups' ideal positions could still be pursued, the proposal implies.

The proposal is now being considered by President Kerim and his task force on Council reform. The Uniting for Consensus group reportedly has expressed serious reservations about this initiative by the six States.

Contents of New Proposal


In laying out options for expansion, the 18 March proposal leaves much open for negotiation, including the size of an expanded Council, the term length of the new seats, and how many years the Council would follow the intermediate formula before conducting a review. Half of the document is devoted to proposed changes in Council working methods.

More so than previous proposals, this one recommends a narrow scope for negotiations. The negotiations would focus only on "points of convergence" and leave for later the "divisive elements." The question of veto power, for example, is left to future negotiations. In this way the intermediate period of reform is distinguished from longer-term reform.

Stated broadly, the previous demands by various groups of Member States were for either new permanent seats with veto power, new permanent seats without veto power, or new elected (non-permanent) seats only. This proposal begins to break the positions down into more specific modalities, although the exact details of each would be set out in negotiations.

According to Ambassador Thomas Matussek of Germany, who was closely involved in drafting the proposal, the goal was to bring as many countries as possible together in agreeing on this initial document, which only forms a basis for negotiations and leaves the "real tough talking and the dealing" for the negotiations themselves. This seems to be the reason for leaving so many variables open-ended.

In negotiations, Member States would decide how for how long the new seats would be held. In elections, Member States would decide who will fill the seats.

Membership Enlargement

Size: The March 18 document suggests that the membership of the Council grow from 15 seats to 22. (This number is placed in brackets, however, meaning that it remains negotiable.)

The seven new seats would be assigned to:

? Africa – 2 seats
? Asia – 2 seats
? Latin America and Caribbean – 1 seat
? Western Europe and Others – 1 seat
? Eastern Europe – 1 seat
(The ten elected seats on the current Council also follow regional designations.)

The new seats would be filled through the regular General Assembly election process.

Term: The length of the membership term for the seven new seats is left open for negotiation. Options provided:

? Two years, non-renewable (same as current elected seats)
? Semi-permanent – term limited to a specific number of years and non-renewable (the text suggests five years)
? Semi-permanent – term limited to a specific number of years and renewable (the text suggests five years)
? Long-term, for as long as the intermediate reform period (until the review)
? Long-term, but with the prospect of the incumbent being removed upon a "challenge" from another member of the region and subsequent vote. Challenges could be made at specific intervals (the text suggests five years). (Option to remove the restriction that the challenge must be directed at a state from one's own region.)
? Permanent

Another option is for a mixture of types of seats, keeping at least half of each region's seats on the Council as two-year elected seats. For example, if Latin America and the Caribbean gained two seats through reform, the region would have a total of four seats on the Council. Two of those would have to be two-year elected seats. The other two seats could be of a different length.

Review: The text proposes a mandatory conference to review any changes made, after a fixed period (suggestion: 15 years after the provisions here enter into force).

Working Methods

The second part of the proposal suggests that the General Assembly recommend greater openness of the Security Council through "concrete improvements" to its working methods, including:

? Implement the Security Council's Presidential Statement of July 2006, which committed to increasing transparency and cooperation with non-members;
? Make more information available on Council's meeting schedule;
? Designate a contact point for non-members of the Council;
? Establish mechanisms to receive input of non-members;
? Appeal to permanent members "to ascertain that war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity would not be committed ... as a result of blocking Security Council action";
? Expand consultation/cooperation with regional organizations and countries in the region being discussed;
? Invite troop-contributing countries to private meetings on peacekeeping operations; and
? Upon casting a veto, permanent member should explain reason to all Member States.

Reactions to Proposal

Reportedly India has criticized the proposal for being too ambiguous, not reflecting all view points, and lacking an explicit formula to increase the representation of developing countries on the Council. It also was reported this week that Russia and US have serious reservations about the draft.

The Permanent Representative of Italy sent a letter to President Kerim on 5 March from the Uniting for Consensus group, seemingly in anticipation of the submitted proposal. The letter reportedly implied that the proposal of the six Member States was "unilateral" and suggested that any proposal on membership expansion from a group of States undermined transparency. As an alternative, the letter recommends that a framework for further consultations and eventual intergovernmental negotiations be established by the President and his task force through meetings of the Open-ended Working Group. Only after such a process would the Uniting for Consensus group participate in identifying elements to be negotiated and assembling a basis text for negotiations.

President Kerim received a letter on 20 March from the Permanent Representative of Cape Verde, on behalf of the African Group, with "proposed next steps" in the process towards Council reform.

Also last week, the Organization of the Islamic Conference held high-level meetings in Dakar, Senegal, at which it adopted resolutions stating that any model of Security Council reform must give "adequate representation" to Islamic countries; anything else would be unacceptable.


The initiative by Member States to draft a basis text for negotiations emerged from meetings in the General Assembly in November and December 2007. The hope in producing such a draft was to reignite the prospect of intergovernmental negotiations, without needing additional consultations in the Working Group.

The membership was in disagreement over that approach – several delegations spoke in the November and December meetings against negotiations as the next step. They preferred continuing to work within the Open-ended Working Group to refine positions and elements for negotiation.

However, after additional consultations with delegations, the President of the General Assembly determined that it was time "to move forward by identifying and reaching agreement on the various elements" for negotiations. He urged Member States to take a strong leadership role and embrace "primary ownership and responsibility" over the process. He asked for substantive proposals for achieving concrete results in the 62nd Session – in other words, a framework for intergovernmental negotiations. The framework should be based on the decision on negotiations adopted in the GA in September 2007 (A/61/47), he said. That decision implied that an "intermediary approach" to reform could be the most feasible path.

On 14 December President Kerim announced the establishment of a Task Force on Security Council reform. He had appointed the Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Chile and Portugal as vice-chairs of the Open-ended Working Group (Ambassadors Ismat Jahan, Heraldo Muñoz, and Joao Manuel Guerra Salgueiro, respectively). In that capacity they would form a task force to provide a focal point for communication with Member States, as they worked to identify elements for negotiation. They would also work to ensure that the process was conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner. Kerim called on the membership to begin conducting consultations among themselves and assemble a draft text for intergovernmental negotiations.

President Kerim also has outlined seven principles that would be necessary for successful negotiations – "the pillars of the edifice called intergovernmental negotiations" – which he believed had emerged from discussion to date:

- Security Council reform must "go hand in hand with the transformation of the wider United Nations system;"
- The President of the GA must provide "prudent and principle oriented guidance" along with efforts from Member States "in good faith and mutual respect;"
- An objective, transparent process should be used to 1) identify "negotiables," and then 2) commence intergovernmental negotiations.
- The OEWG should conduct consultations "on the framework and modalities" for negotiations
- The next steps "must contain components and notions that will allow the membership to reach a general agreement on all aspects of Security Council reform ... on both the composition of the Council and its working methods;"
- Reform "must accommodate the interests and concerns of all sides, especially those who are currently underrepresented"
- "Member States should refrain from steps which could serve to undermine the current momentum and consensus to continue a process with the intention of achieving result oriented solutions." According to President Kerim, these principles "have been widely accepted by Member States."

Previous Proposals on Security Council Reform

Membership Enlargement - Tabled in 2005

Group of Four (G-4)

India, Brazil, Germany and Japan

Increase membership from 15 to 25 members, including four new permanent seats for themselves and 2 for African states. New permanent members would not hold veto power.

Ezulwini Consensus

Group of African States (53 members)

Increase membership to 26 seats, with six new permanent seats, including 2 for African states. New permanent members would hold veto power.

Uniting for Consensus

Led by Italy and Pakistan (core group of 12, plus additional supporters)

Increase membership to 25 members, with all new seats being 2-year, elected seats, with possibility of re-election. (No new permanent seats)

Working Methods Reform – Tabled in March 2006 Petite 5 (S-5)

Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore, Switzerland

Detailed recommendations for increased openness and accountability by the Security Council and greater interaction between Security Council and non-members.

Next Steps

GA President Srgjam Kerim and the 3-member task force are reviewing the proposals and letters submitted last week and will decide how to proceed, said the spokesperson this week.

In December President Kerim provided a tentative timetable for work that included "focused meetings" on Security Council reform within the Open-ended Working Group in February, April, and June. The timetable would depend on progress in between.

There has been no further announcement regarding these plans.

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on Membership including Expansion and Representation
More Information on Security Council Reform
More Information on UN Reform


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