More Talk without Real Action Akin to Titanic Going Down, One Delegate Warns
The General Assembly opened its annual debate on Security Council reform today, with speakers once again renewing their appeals for enlarging the 15-member organ and updating its working methods to make it more transparent, inclusive, representative, accountable and effective in a world gripped by a cascade of interlocking crises.
As in years past, however, they put forward divergent views on how to achieve that goal, even as the representatives of Slovakia and Kuwait were named Co-Chairs of intergovernmental negotiations which aim to take forward a process that has been on the Assembly’s agenda for 43 years.
“A choice is at hand: Does the Assembly continue its annual repetition of well-known positions or, moved by these crises, does it swing into action to find common ground and achieve breakthroughs?” said Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), President of the Assembly, who emphasized in opening remarks that success rests squarely in the hands of all 193 Member States.
The representative of the Bahamas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that both the permanent and non-permanent categories of Council membership must be expanded, with a guaranteed presence for small island developing States. The urgency of the challenges before the Organization demands movement beyond rhetoric in search of greater common ground, he added.
India’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Four, which also comprises Brazil, Germany and Japan, said representation is an inescapable precondition for legitimacy and effectiveness. The longer Council reform is stalled, she added, the greater its deficiency in representation.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the L.69 group of developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific, said substantive text-based negotiations, with clearly attributed positions, is the best way forward.
Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said Member States must correct an historical injustice by providing Africa with five non-permanent and two permanent Council seats. “We will not compromise the integrity of the African position for the sake of having just any kind of reform that will not stand the test of time,” he said.
Bahrain’s representative, meanwhile, reiterated the Arab Group’s demand for a permanent Arab seat, as well as proportionate Arab representation among non-permanent Council members.
Italy’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Uniting for Consensus group, proposed nine long-term non-permanent elected seats distributed among regional groups, plus two additional non-permanent seats with two-year terms — one for Eastern Europe and another for small island developing States and small States.
The representative of the United States, one of three permanent Council members taking the floor today, said the question before the Assembly is whether we will defend an outdated status quo or reform the Council and empower the United Nations to take on the challenges of the twenty-first century.
China’s representative said the Council must not become a club for big and rich nations, and that failure to redress the overrepresentation of developed countries will make decision-making more undemocratic.
The United Kingdom’s representative advocated for a modest expansion of Council membership to “somewhere in the mid-twenties”, including permanent representation for India, Germany, Japan, Brazil and the African continent.
Brazil’s representative said that, with so much at stake, more of the same is irresponsibility at best. “To propose that the intergovernmental negotiations continue as they have over the last 14 years would be similar to asking the orchestra on the Titanic to continue playing music as the ship has started to sink,” he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the Benelux countries), Maldives, Singapore, Thailand, Ecuador, Mexico, Türkiye, Switzerland, Germany, Egypt, Colombia, Australia, Malaysia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Cuba, Pakistan, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Japan, Argentina, Malta, Chile, Guyana, Uruguay, Canada, Spain, Estonia, Portugal, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Liechtenstein, Viet Nam and Algeria.
Representatives of India and Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 18 November, to continue its debate on the question of equitable representation on, and an increase in the membership of, the Security Council.