Global Policy Forum

General Assembly Launches New Effort to Tackle

Associated Press
April 20, 2007

The U.N. General Assembly launched a new effort Friday to tackle the divisive issue of Security Council reform, issuing a report proposing that the 192 member states consider a temporary expansion of the U.N.'s most powerful body. The report was prepared by five "facilitators" who spent three months surveying members' views on ways to reshape the council currently which has 10 members elected for two-year terms and five permanent members with veto power - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

There is strong support for enlarging the Security Council to reflect the world today rather than the global power structure after World War II when the United Nations was created. But all previous attempts, starting in 1979, have failed because national and regional rivalries blocked agreement on the size and composition of an expanded council. The ambassadors of Tunisia, Cyprus, Croatia, Chile and the Netherlands who served as the facilitators reported that these rivalries still exist, but they said "a transitional approach" to Security Council reform, with a mandatory review on a predetermined date, offered the possibility of breaking the deadlock.

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, in a letter submitting the report to members, said she shares the facilitators' view "that there is a path forward that member states can build on taking advantage of the current momentum." She scheduled an informal meeting to discuss the report on May 3. The deep divisions forced the General Assembly to shelve three rival resolutions to expand the council in 2005 and there has been no serious effort to tackle the issue since then. The so-called Group of Four - Germany, Japan, Brazil and India - aspire to permanent seats without veto rights on an expanded council with 25 members. A group of middle-ranking countries, including Italy and Pakistan, who call themselves Uniting for Consensus, want a 25-member council with 10 new non-permanent seats.

The African Union, whose 53 members argue that their continent is the only one without a permanent seat on the council, wants to add 11 new seats - six permanent seats including two for Africa with veto power, and five non-permanent seats. The facilitators' report emphasizes that Security Council reform is crucial to overall reform of the United Nations, that an overwhelming majority of members believe "the status quo" is unacceptable, and that flexibility is key to tangible results. "Any achievable solution must address the concerns of the wide majority of United Nations member states aimed at enhancing their access, both in terms of increasing their chances to serve as members of the council and by being more intensively involved with its work while not a member," the report said. "A significant number of member states tend to agree that their ideal solution may not be possible at this stage, and believe that it may be more reasonable to consider the best possible solution for now," the report noted.

Any expansion of the council must be based on a country's contribution to international peace and security, equitable geographical distribution, and address "the under-representation of developing countries as well as small states," it said. The facilitators said the veto issue is so contentious that it should be put aside until the mandatory review. During a transitional period, they said, members could explore creating new non-permanent seats - possibly for the entire intermediate period, possibly for extended but limited periods, with the length of terms and the method of reelection to be decided in negotiations. The facilitators also suggested that member states consider whether to support a limited, medium-size, or large expansion; whether to limit the use of the veto; ways to enhance access to the council for countries not on it; and the "notion of accountability" for regional representatives.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Security Council Membership Including Expansion and Representation
More Information on Security Council Reform


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