UNITED NATIONS: A desperate move by the aspirants of permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, to scuttle the UN process to reform the 15-member body appears to be heading toward a collapse.
The move by the four countries, known as the Group of Four, followed their consistent failure to mobilize enough support among U.N.’s 193 members to make a formal bid to secure seats for themselves at UN’s high table, reflecting significant opposition to adding more permanent members to the council.
The Italy/Pakistan-led Uniting for Consensus (UfC) has been in the forefront of opposing the enlargement of “centres of privilege” on the ground that the Security Council would become dysfunctional. Instead, UfC advocates for more elected (non-permanent) seats to make it more effective, representative and accountable.
The Security Council, which is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, has 15 seats. It includes 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms that come from all regions of the world, and there are five permanent members with veto power whose support is essential for any reform to be adopted — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France.
The process to restructure the Security Council is being conducted since 2009 in the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN), a forum established by the UN General Assembly, which operates on the basis of consensus. The negotiations have made little progress because of G-4’s refusal to show any flexibility.
The new situation arose on Wednesday when the General Assembly President, Volkan Bozkir, circulated an oral proposal to “ rollover” the IGN process on Security Council reform to the next Assembly session and forward the paper on elements of “convergence and divergence”, based on the negotiations held during the current session, along with the more comprehensive “Framework Document” of 2015 which lists the positions of various groups and countries.
As in previous years, the assembly president’s proposal was expected to be adopted by consensus. However, it is learned, the G-4 submitted amendments to the proposal to make the elements paper, which was prepared by IGN’s co-chairs, the sole basis for future negotiations.
Throughout the past year, India and the other G-4 countries have insisted that negotiations should be held on a single text. This call for “text based negotiations” was not accepted in the IGN process, having been opposed by a wide majority of member states, including the African, Arab and UfC groups in the General Assembly. China and Russia also spoke out against the G-4 amendments.
In a display of its desperation, some of the G-4 countries understood to have made personal attacks on the assembly president, who hails from Turkey, and this factor further alienated the assembly’s members.
Some diplomats at the UN believe that the G-4’s objective is to do away the current intergovernmental negotiating process on Security Council reform so that the next General Assembly president, Abdulla Shahid pf Maldives, whose election was actively promoted by India and other G-4 members, can start a new process aligned with their objectives to secure support for their persistent bid for permanent membership.
During Wednesday’s IGN meeting, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, stoutly defended President Bozkir’s proposal, saying it was consistent with precedent – in the past similar decisions have been adopted.
“It is therefore most regrettable that some delegations have chosen to continue their divisive efforts in the IGN, to carry them forward into the General Assembly,” he said, saying they were promoting partisan objectives.
“These are not procedural amendments; they touch on substance in this process of the IGN itself; and this process of the IGN should not be reopened since we have the co-chairs’ paper.”
Ambassador Akram called on G-4 to withdraw their amendments and not divide the assembly further, saying they are ultra-vires.
“They (the amendments) do not enjoy wide support and if we are pushed to a vote, it will erode the objective of Security Council reform, and set it back by many years,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“It will not give new life to the process; it will be its death knell,” he added.
The issue will come considered again next Tuesday in the General Assembly when diplomatic observers expect G-4’s bid to fail.
Meanwhile, hectic diplomacy is reported to be underway to avoid continuation of the bruising confrontation on the issue.–APP