General Assembly Adopts Decision to Continue Intergovernmental Talks on Security Council Reform, as Member States Raise Concern over Negotiating Process
The General Assembly today unanimously adopted an oral decision deciding to immediately continue informal intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform during its seventy-fourth session.
In doing so, the Assembly recognized that forthcoming negotiations on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council would build on the five informal meetings held during its seventy-third session and on revised elements of commonality and issues for further consideration and on proposals made by Member States. The Assembly also decided to convene an open-ended working group on the issue and to include the topic on its agenda of its seventy-fourth session.
We have come a long way, said Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces (Ecuador), General Assembly President. If we are to continue to make further progress and reach agreements for the reform of an essential organ of the United Nations and for the multilateral system, we must continue to collectively build trust among ourselves. I encourage you to build upon the work of this session and explore ways to move the process towards the much-needed reform of the Security Council.
In explaining their positions after the vote, delegations raised concerns about the negotiating process moving into its tenth year and underlined the urgency of reforming the Organization's main organ charged with maintaining international peace and security.
Some delegates reflected on progress made during the current session, including consideration of reform measures to restrict or eliminate veto power held exclusively by the 15-member organ's five permanent members (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States) and to expand membership.
However, many voiced concerns about the outcome document's lack of strong language, including in support of the permanent representation of African States, particularly since most of the issues the Council considers relate to the continent.
Victoria MangaySulimani (Sierra Leone), speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed hope for further progress in advancing the common African position, notably the allocation of two permanent and two additional non-permanent seats. While noting that the issue of the veto has been addressed, with its extension being categorical instead of conditional, she highlighted several shortcomings. Among them were that references to the African demand for more seats are vague and not precise enough in acknowledging representation in the permanent category.
Mauro Vieira (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany, India, Japan), agreed. Pointing out that his Group's recommendations for a better reflection of the common African position were not incorporated into the final outcome document, he said: The conduct of the work  in this session was perhaps symptomatic of all that is wrong with this process. Listing several examples, he said the outcome document was presented late, excluded the Group of Four's requests and included proposals that were not clearly supported by any Member State. More broadly, no tangible progress has been made in a decade, as the process has yet to fulfill its goal to starting real negotiations. Indeed, if the negotiations are a member-driven process, Member States must be afforded an opportunity to debate and convey views on the document, he said, offering several suggestions that would foster future progress, including open, transparent meetings, an early appointment of co-chairs and focused and result-oriented discussions.
Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the L-69 Group, regretted to note the absence of positions of all Member States in the working documents under discussion. Going forward, she renewed her Group's call to table a text for negotiations, which will normalize the process.
Rudolph Michael Ten-Pow (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the Community, which is made up of small island and low-lying coastal developing States, attaches the greatest importance to strengthening the rule of law. He welcomed the decision to move forward with intergovernmental negotiations, adding that it will build on the series of informal meetings held during the Assembly's seventy-third session. The Community looked forward to Member States consolidating their commitment to early reform so that greater progress can be achieved at the next session through the demonstration of necessary political will and flexibility.
Maria Angela Zappia (Italy), speaking on behalf of the Uniting for Consensus Group, welcomed the decision to continue intergovernmental negotiations on Council reform. Divergent positions among Member States and negotiating groups on key aspects of Council reform, such as the veto and the categories of membership, can be overcome through an agreement on the principles underpinning the reform itself. The Council must become truly representative, accountable, democratic, transparent and effective. We need such a Council to foster the trust of public opinion in this institution and strengthen multilateralism, he continued. Increasing the 15-nation organ's legitimacy would enhance its authority and effectiveness.
Bader Abdullah N. M. Almunayekh (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the intergovernmental negotiations are the only forum to lead Member States to success in regard to Security Council reform. He underscored the importance of reaching a compromise that could be acceptable to all Member States. He also stressed the importance of guaranteeing a flexible position between this session and the next one so that Member States can reach a real consensus which can guarantee a shared basis for real reform of the Council.
Eduard Fesko (Ukraine) said that mentioning in the roll over decision of revised elements of commonality and issues for further consideration should not be considered as a consensual endorsement of that document. He expressed deep regret that only a handful of proposals made by Member States during the session were incorporated in the final revised text. The criteria for taking on board some suggestions while overlooking the others remain utterly unclear for us, he said. The Eastern European Group remains one of the least represented among non-permanent members in the Council with just one seat for 22 States. Ukraine believes that an additional non-permanent seat for this group is fair. It is absolutely untenable that a permanent member has a privilege to exercise veto right during consideration of situations in which that member is directly involved. Ukraine along with Georgia brought to the attention of the Co-Chairs the need to consider the matter of limiting in relevant situations the ability of a party to a conflict to exercise its veto right. Unfortunately, this information is not to be found in the Co-Chairs document. For this reason, Ukraine does not consider the circulated revised elements as being representative of all views and opinions expressed during the session.
DaovyVongxay (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that reform discussions should be pursued in a comprehensive, balanced, inclusive and transparent manner considering the interests of all Member States. Such momentum should be carried on as the spirit of this intergovernmental negotiation, he stressed, expressing support for today's decision. The intergovernmental negotiations should continue in a more constructive and open manner to reach consensus. All views and proposals of Member States should be considered with the aim of attaining an outcome that is acceptable to all Member States.
Christian Braun (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of United Arab Emirates and his country � the Co-Chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform � said that some turbulence is to be expected on an issue so protracted, complex and vital to the future of this Organization. However, a reform that enjoys the widest possible political acceptance will only be achieved through greater dialogue, exchanges and genuine political will, he said. While the intergovernmental negotiations process certainly has inherent flaws, only increased engagement will create the necessary conditions to build convergence among all States. Commending the efforts made by many groups to reach out to each other outside of negotiations, he said these kinds of informal interactions and discussions are vital to continued success. The document revised elements of commonality and issues for further consideration directly builds on the work of the last session. Member States managed to forge consensus by taking the documents from 2018 forward, clearly demonstrating political will. While the document is not perfect, it does represent progress. Emphasizing the need to build bridges on the remaining key issues, he noted that the document now reflects the African position in a more nuanced manner than before. He also emphasized the importance of establishing formalized continuity mechanisms and institutional memory for the intergovernmental negotiations to improve its work. We cannot afford to disengage from our work, he stressed.
Many agreed that deep differences have continued over the years and efforts must urgently be made to overcome the decade-long deadlock.
Jerry Matthews Matjila (South Africa) said that to overcome deep-seated divergences, the Assembly must demonstrate the required leadership to conclude the agenda item as soon as possible. As an example of such divergence, he said some delegations also believe that the time is not right for Council reform. Going forward, the intergovernmental process must now move towards text-based negotiations to break the stalemate.
Kim Song (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) shared a different view, saying that due to such deep divides, it may be too early to rush into text-based negotiations. Instead, States should demonstrate the political will to reach agreements on outstanding issues. Indeed, negotiations have advanced the principle of increasing the representation of developing countries, including African States.
Permanent Council members shared their perspectives. Vassily A. Nebenzia (Russian Federation), agreeing that divergent views persist, said Council reform is among the most important issues for the Organization. While the dense, fruitful negotiations have enabled the consideration of a wide range of issues, further work must be taken for transparency of the process.
Ma Zhaoxu (China), noting that the five negotiation meetings held during the Assembly's current session have succeeded in building mutual trust among parties, said it was clear that the reform process should include some of the proposals under discussion, from working methods to the geographical allocation of seats. However, the revised elements document for further consideration is neither a working document nor a negotiating text. Enormous differences remain about the approach to Council reform, with no single method garnering wide support. Going forward, he said China stands ready to support broad consultations to steadily build up consensus.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 27 June to consider the latest report of the Secretary-General on the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and act on two draft resolutions related to its agenda items on human rights questions and on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Source: United Nations