"Opaque, Non-inclusive' Security Council Must Pursue Lasting, Candid Interaction
with Entire United Nations Membership, General Assembly Delegations Say
Calling for expansion of the Security Council and effective negotiations on Council reform, as well as greater input from non-members and transparency in reporting on its deliberations, the General Assembly in two meetings today took up the Council's annual report and began its debate on reform of that 15-nation body.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Calling for expansion of the Security Council and effective negotiations on Council reform, as well as greater input from non-members and transparency in reporting on its deliberations, the General Assembly in two meetings today took up the Council’s annual report and began its debate on reform of that 15-nation body.
Opening the debate, Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser said that he was devoting an entire meeting to the examination of the report — separating the item from discussions on Security Council reform so that each issue might be considered thoroughly. On certain matters, including peacekeeping, post-conflict peacebuilding and counter-terrorism, it was crucial that the Council and Assembly work together to ensure success of the Organization’s endeavours. It was also crucial to ensure that the Council and the entire United Nations system were working in the same direction on such cross-cutting issues as the protection of civilians in armed conflict, children and armed conflict, and women and peace and security.
Taking the floor to introduce the report, current Security Council President José Filipe Morales Cabral of Portugal described efforts to enhance the participation of the wider membership and the international community in the work of the Council, as well as to improve its working methods. He noted region-specific work detailed in the report and said that new topics and their impacts on peace and security — such as HIV/AIDS, climate change and transnational crime — had also been discussed.
When delegations took the floor, speakers called for greater transparency in Council deliberations, noting that it was not enough for the report to present the results of deliberations. One speaker said the report was a manifestation of the underlying problems surrounding the Council’s representation and working methods, which remained “opaque and non-inclusive”. Switzerland’s representative noted that in a corporate environment, most shareholders would expect some analysis in a company’s report on how management had navigated recent turbulence. As stakeholders in the United Nations, Member States had the same expectation. However, those expectations were not met by the current report.
Similarly, the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for a more explanatory, comprehensive and analytical annual report which included cases where the Council had failed to act on the views expressed by its members. He further called on the Council to elaborate the circumstances under which it adopted its different outcomes. Indeed, the Assembly must understand the rationale behind decisions taken, he said.
Transparency was also critical to countries whose national policy was affected by Council decisions, such as extending the mandate of peacekeeping operations, as noted by the delegate of Ukraine. He also sought effective ways to channel the contributions of the Council’s non-permanent members, as did many other speakers. Further, numerous delegates said that thematic debates should provide essential input for country situations. Many speakers also expressed differences of opinion on the Council’s decision to integrate the principle of the “responsibility to protect” into some decisions it had taken during the past year.
Zimbabwe’s representative said that the Security Council had been most effective in recent years, in addressing internal conflicts, mostly in Africa. Peacekeeping efforts had been deployed to good use in several complex crises, but other situations had been “grossly neglected”. The ability of the Council to act effectively and responsibly in the future would provide important reassurances for the international community.
That not only called for political will, but also for enhancing the perception that the Council’s decisions reflected the concerns of the United Nations general membership. He called for the views of the Organization’s wider membership to be heard on important issues and for greater democratization as reflected in a reformed Council membership, increased transparency and incorporation of different ideas.
In the afternoon, President Al-Nasser said Security Council reform was central to reform of the United Nations. There was international consensus on the need for the Organization, and particularly for the Council, to adapt to changes that had been taking place continuously since 1945. “I am sure that we all agree on the urgent need to bring the United Nations closer to the realities of the twenty-first century,” he said, stressing that it was reform that would make the Council more efficient, transparent, universal and democratic.
The responsibility for that reform lay with Member States, he said. Chances for success would be improved by collective will and by putting to good use the points on which agreement had been reached during intergovernmental negotiations. Recognizing “genuine differences” in the positions of different parties, he hoped that those negotiations would lead to the crystallization of well-defined steps in the reform process that would garner the broadest possible acceptance by Member States.
During the ensuing debate, delegates recognized the need for flexibility and compromise if the nearly 20-year effort towards reform was to bear fruit. Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Sierra Leone’s representative, Coordinator of the African Union Committee of 10 said: “After nearly two decades of debate, we seem to be gradually approaching a point where the United Nations will lose its credibility if we fail to generate the necessary political will to advance progress on this very crucial issue.” He urged Member States to be flexible in the quest for a global governance system that was more representative and democratic.
A representative of India said that his delegation, as part of the Uniting for Consensus Movement, had helped originate a recent resolution calling for expanding both the Security Council’s permanent and non-permanent members and improving the Council’s working methods. Over 80 delegations had expressed support for that same approach, which should be considered as a basis for further negotiations. He further pointed out that there were a number of commonalities among groups and Member States and that those convergences, particularly with the African Group, should be enhanced during the current General Assembly session.
Of permanent Council members speaking today, the representative of the United States said her Government was open “in principle” to a “modest” expansion of both permanent and non-permanent members, but that expansion must be “country-specific”. In assessing which countries would be allowed to participate, the ability of the country to contribute to the activities of the Security Council, to preserve international peace and security, and to provide financial support must be considered. She added that her delegation was not in favour of any proposal that changed the current veto structure.
China, too, supported a “reasonable” reform. Noting that the five core issues of Security Council reform were interrelated, its representative stressed that a “step-by-step, or piecemeal, approach” to reform would not work, while the delegate of France supported permanent membership for the so-called “G-4” nations, Germany, Brazil, India and Japan.
Many delegates called for underrepresented groups to receive a place on the Security Council, including developing countries and small island developing States, and suggested a variety of configurations for enlarging both permanent and non-permanent membership. A number supported abolition of the veto.
Liechtenstein had advocated a compromise enlargement model — six members serving well beyond the current two-year term, with eligibility for re-election. That approach could lead to some States serving permanently on the Council — but without the privilege of permanent members — and to the rotation of powerful States. Those rotating States could divide new seats among themselves with consent from their respective regions. In his view, that approach would safeguard the interests of small States and avoid difficulties associated with expanding the permanent member category “which is the core conundrum of Security Council reform”.
With so many alternatives being put forward, Singapore’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Small Five Group”, recognized the difficulty in finding the perfect solution. There were, however, efforts that could be undertaken now to make the Council more inclusive, transparent, accountable and effective, including changes to its working methods. “In the absence of agreement on comprehensive Council reform, we should not shy away from picking the low-hanging fruit”, he said, warning Member States not to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
The Assembly took note of the annual report on the work of the Security Council.
Also speaking today on the subject of the report of the Security Council were representatives of Costa Rica ( on behalf of the Small Five Group ), India, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Spain, Ireland, Chile, Venezuela, Tunisia, Liechtenstein, Pakistan and Singapore.
Participating in the debate on equitable representation in and increase in membership of the Security Council, where representatives of Egypt ( also on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement ), Jamaica ( on behalf of the “L69” Group ), Barbados ( on behalf of the Caribbean Community ), Netherlands ( also on behalf Belgium ), Mongolia, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, Germany, Spain, Dominican Republic, Japan, Algeria, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Venezuela, Tunisia and Cuba.
The Assembly will reconvene on Wednesday, 9 November at 10 a.m. to continue its debate on Security Council reform.
Before the Assembly today was a note from the Secretary-General ( document A/66/300 ) which notified it of a wide range of matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security that were being dealt with by the Security Council.
Also before the Assembly in advance of its annual joint debate on the “Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters”, was the Report of the Security Council ( document A/66/2 ). It is divided into six parts. Parts I and II cover activities relating to all questions considered by the Council under its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, while part III enumerates other matters that it had considered. Part IV describes the work of the Military Staff Committee. Part V of the report covers matters that had been brought to the attention of the Security Council but that had not been discussed at its meetings during the period under review, and Part VI discussed the work of the Council’s subsidiary bodies.
During the reporting period, the report states, the trend towards an increase in the workload of the Security Council continued. The Council held 231 formal meetings, of which 204 were public. It adopted 68 resolutions and 30 presidential statements, and issued 67 statements to the press. Many of the 15 nation body’s activities and efforts focused on Africa. It conducted two missions to Africa, in October 2010 and May 2011; it remained engaged in the situation in Sudan while focusing on the referendum on the independence of South Sudan in January 2011. The situation in Darfur remained a reason for concern. The Council also reacted to the post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.
The developments in North Africa and the Arab world since January 2011 also figured prominently on the Council’s agenda, the report says. The Council reacted to the situation in Libya through the unanimous adoption of resolution 1970 ( 2011 ) and the subsequent adoption of resolution 1973 ( 2011 ). It also followed the situations in Syria and Yemen.
The Council regularly considered post-conflict situations such as those in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. For the first time, the Chairs of the country-specific configurations of the Peacebuilding Commission delivered a joint statement to the Council, suggesting closer cooperation between it and the country configurations. The Council adjusted several peacekeeping mandates and sanctions regimes. Also, the United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic and Chad ( MINURCAT ) and in Sudan ( UNMIS ) were terminated.
The Council continued to consider the Palestinian question on a monthly basis, and to monitor the situations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal and Timor-Leste. The United Nations Mission in Nepal ( UNMIN ) ended on 15 January 2011. The Council paid close attention to the post-earthquake stabilization efforts and the presidential elections in Haiti. The Council also followed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cyprus, and received quarterly reports of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo ( UNMIK ) — a territory on whose status the Council members held varying views.
Thematic, general and cross-cutting issues, including on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, children and armed conflict, women and peace, and security and peacebuilding, constituted another priority in the Council’s work. The issue of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction also figured prominently on its agenda.
The Council continued to improve its working methods, in particular by making its debates and consultations more interactive, and engaged in efforts to increase the transparency of its work. Council members also agreed to enhance the body’s engagement in conflict prevention by establishing a monthly briefing by the Department of Political Affairs, among other efforts.
Annual Report on Work of Security Council
Opening the debate, NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, President of the General Assembly, said that genuine efforts had been undertaken to strengthen the relationship between the Assembly and the Security Council. During his Presidency, he wanted to continue and accelerate that process. The Security Council’s report was one of the main instruments for cooperation between the two bodies. Therefore, he was devoting an entire meeting of the Assembly to the examination of the report — separating the item from discussions on Security Council reform so that each issue might be considered thoroughly.
The Council had faced tremendous challenges during the reporting period, among them, the post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the declaration of the State of South Sudan, and developments in the Arab world, particularly in Libya, Yemen and Syria. On certain issues, including peacekeeping, post-conflict peacebuilding and counter-terrorism, it was crucial that the two bodies work together to ensure success of the Organization’s endeavours. It was of crucial importance to ensure that the Council and the entire United Nations system were working in the same direction on such cross-cutting issues as the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, children and armed conflict, and women, peace and security.
He had met, he said, with each Council President since having taken office as President of the General Assembly, to better coordinate and improve cooperation between the Council and the Assembly to ensure the smooth conduct of work in both organs, prevent conflicting agendas and find ways to work in the same direction, and intended to continue that practice.
Taking the floor to introduce the report of the Security Council ( document A/66/2 ), JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal ) the body’s current President, said today’s discussion marked one of the most important moments in the relationship between the two principal organs of the United Nations. The report before the Assembly — which covered the period between August 2010 and July 2011 — contained statistical and other data useful to the Assembly.
During that period, the Council had undertaken efforts to enhance the participation of the wider membership and the international community in its work, he said. It had held a considerable number of its meetings in public and held monthly briefings, as well as meetings with troop-contributing countries to collect input. He encouraged Member States to contribute to such interactions.
The Council had also worked to improve its working methods, and had continued to streamline its work with an eye towards improving efficiency. He said that the Council’s work had become more interactive and more flexible, with a reduced emphasis on speakers lists and more interactive dialogues. Conflict prevention was also an increasing focus of the Council’s work.
He went on to describe the region-specific work of the Council throughout the reporting period, which was detailed in the report, as well as work conducted in a number of thematic areas. Among others, those included including post-conflict peacebuilding, non-proliferation and threats to international peace and security caused by terrorism.
Continuing, he said that new topics, such as the impact of HIV/AIDS on peace and security, the impact of climate change on peace and security, and transnational organized crime, had also been discussed. In addition, an open debate had been held marking the tenth anniversary of resolution 1325 ( 2000 ) on “women, peace and security”. “I could go on and on”, he said, emphasizing the Council’s heavy workload over the period under review. “There is obviously always room for improvement,” he concluded, adding that he would be pleased to bring any ideas or suggestions back to the Council.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt ), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed that while the Security Council had primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, under the Charter, it was acting on behalf of the general Membership. He welcomed the informal meeting, regarding preparation and presentation of the report, convened by the Council President for July 2011, with the general Membership, as had been done for four years, and encouraged Council Members to continue that practice. It was important to allow sufficient time between the Council’s adoption of the report and the Assembly’s debate on the matter, to give Member States the time to thoroughly analyze it.
He also noted the Council’s increasing workload, which reflected increasing challenges, on most continents, but with Africa representing over 70 per cent of situations considered. The report’s introduction should be analytical and seek to capture the most important deliberations in the period under review and assess the Council’s ability to deal with problems at hand and identify areas for improvement. The Non-Aligned Movement continued to call for a more explanatory, comprehensive and analytical annual report, including cases in which the Council had failed to act on the views expressed by its Members, and called on the Council to elaborate the circumstances under which it adopted its different outcomes. The Assembly must understand the rationale behind decisions taken.
Comprehensive monthly assessments would improve the quality of the annual report. The report should also contain concise, analytical information on the Council’s subsidiary bodies. Further, he said that in future reports, the Movement expected a more detailed presentation on measures taken to improve the Council’s working methods. Noting the increase in quantity of public meetings, he said their quality should also be improved by taking into account the views of non-Council Members, particularly those whose interests were affected. Those views should also appear in the report. Welcoming continued briefings and consultations by the Council with
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