UN Watch

India suggests looking for alternatives for UNSC reform process

Frustrated by decades of delays, India has raised the possibility of looking for alternatives to the current negotiating process for Security Council reforms if it continues to fail to make progress.
By Arul Louis Jan 30, 2019
Frustrated by decades of delays, India has raised the possibility of looking for alternatives to the current negotiating process for Security Council reforms if it continues to fail to make progress.
“If despite our best efforts, credible progress evades us once again, then we should not shy away from reviewing how we engage on this very important issue,” India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said on Tuesday at a meeting of the negotiating process.
He added, “What we require are not the insurmountable 'No' as a response to every suggestion. We need to look at creative pathways to forge ahead.”
Tuesday's meeting of what is formally known as Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) was the first during the current session of the General Assembly that began four months ago. The delay highlights the barriers it faces.
The reform process was launched 25 years ago and the negotiations began ten years ago. 
India has been campaigning for  a permanent seat on an expanded Council.  
The IGN has been caught in a Catch-22 situation because a group of nations called United for Consensus (UfC) that is led by Italy and includes Pakistan has objected to the adoption of a negotiating text unless there is first a consensus, while in reality no meaningful negotiations for a consensus can take place without a basic document for the discussions.
UfC members are primarily against to adding permanent members to the Council and therefore stall the IGN.  
Akbaruddin said that the negotiations should pick up from where it left off last June during the previous Assembly session and “expect the new discussions to build on the past, not supplant the past” without again starting from scratch.
The IGN co-chairs of the last session, Permanent Representatives Lana Zaki Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates and Kaha Imnadze of Georgia, presented a document during the last session outlining the issues on which there were broad agreements and those that needed further discussions.
The document has been suggested as a negotiating text to moved the reform process forward.
Pakistan's Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi opposed using that document as a negotiating text.
She opposed finding alternatives to the IGN process if it fails to make progress – as Akbaruddin suggested.
Some have expressed cynicsm over the slow pace of negotiations, Lodhi said, and “there have been efforts by some to delegitimise the IGN" and raise "doubts over the integrity of the process.”
Nusseibeh said that she and Luxembourg's Permanent Representative Christian Braun, who are the IGN co-chairs for the current Assembly session aim to make “credible progress in a transparent and inclusive manner.”
Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces spoke of the primary role of the Council in ensuring international peace and security and warned, “When the Security Council fails, the United Nations fails – and people lose faith in multilateralism.”
She said that therefore “the question of Security Council reform is not a theoretical one. It must not become an exercise in going through the motions. Behind every item on the Council’s agenda there are lives at stake.”
“Progress is critical this year,” she declared.
Although the world has changed since then, “the composition of the Security Council continues broadly to reflect the world as it was in 1945, save for the increase in non-permanent seats agreed half a century ago,” she said, adding that for its legitimacy and effectiveness the Council has to be more representative.
Japan's Deputy Permanent Representative Yasuhisa Kawamura pointed out that more than 160 countries have expressed support for text-based negotiations.
“Let us take this step immediately,” he said.
“We should build on the final document of last year’s IGN, rather than starting over and re-exchanging the same statements year after year,” he added.
India, Japan, Germany and Brazil work together for reforms that include increasing the Council's permanent seats and mutually support each other for one of those seats. They are known as the G4.
To emphasise the urgency of reforming the Security Council, Akbaruddin drew attention to the exclusion of African nations from the ranks of the permanent members.
“We vociferously support the call for the reflection of the Common African Position” in the negotiations, he said.
The 55 African nations, which make up the single largest group in the UN, have demanded adding two permanent seats and two non-permanent seats to the two they now have in the Council and these have been codified in two documents, the Sirte Declaration going back to 1999 and the Ezulwini Consensus of 2005.
Akbaruddin said, “It is a call to address a long-standing injustice. Africa’s voice cannot be excluded.”

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