By Arul Louis
United Nations, Oct 1 | UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid said on Monday that he will appoint the leaders of the negotiating process for Security Council reforms, before the Assembly debate next month on the topic, to begin work early on the process.
“I intend to appoint them before the Security Council reform agenda debate – I think it is scheduled for November. And I will be appointing them before the debate so that work could begin,” he said at a news conference.
About speeding up the reform, he said: “I wish I had the magic wand to fix it. But then, the United Nations Security Council reform is a membership-driven issue.”
But what he said that what he could do is appoint the co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN), as the process is called.
Shahid, who is the Foreign Minister of the Maldives, acknowledged that Council reform has been “on the plate of the General Assembly for far too long”.
“In 1979, the Maldives was one of the countries who initially signed on to a group of ten countries to initiate the Security Council reform,” he said.
“And I was only 17 years then,” he said, and pointing to himself, he added, amidst laughter, “And look at what has happened to me since, and (it) is still there”.
The IGN met only in January his year, giving it little time for substantive work and in May, the Assembly decided to roll it over to the current session that began this month.
India has asked for starting the IGN meetings early in the session and holding more meetings.
The IGN was led at the last session by Permanent Representatives Joanna Wronecka of Poland and Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani of Qatar, who were appointed as co-chairs by former Assembly President Volkan Bozkir of Turkey.
The negotiations have been sabotaged by a small group of countries known as United for Consensus (UfC) that has blocked the IGN from adopting a negotiating text to allow the reform process to proceed. UfC is led by Italy and includes Pakistan.
India and a large number of countries have been demanding that the IGN adopt a negotiating text that would set up the framework for discussions, which have been mired in speech-making in an endless loop.
On the sidelines of the Assembly’s high-level meeting last week, India, Brazil, Japan and Germany, which together are known as G4 and jointly lobby for reforms and mutually support each other for a permanent seat on an expanded Council, “expressed their strong determination to work towards launching text-based negotiations without further delay in the IGN on the basis of a single document, with a view to its adoption in the General Assembly”.
India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Ministers Foreign Ministers Carlos Alberto Franco Franca of Brazil, Heiko Maas of Germany and Motegi Toshimitsu of Japan, said, in their joint statement after their meeting, that they “decided to intensify dialogue with all interested Member States, including other reform-minded countries and groups, in order to seek concrete outcomes in a definite time-frame”.
The G4 had in May forced an amendment to the roll-over resolution to make it acknowledge “the commitment of the Heads of State and Government representing the people of the world to ‘instil new life in the discussion on the reform of the Security Council'” to add a sense of urgency to the process.
China, along with Pakistan and Italy and their allies, had opposed the amendment.
The amendment marks a significant development in the IGN process at the text-drive UN where what may seem simple-sounding words can have major impact.
India’s Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti declared after the amendment was adopted, that “IGN can no longer be used as a smokescreen today with this amended rollover decision” to delay reforms.
“By agreeing to include our leaders promise to instil new life in our role or decision, we are reaffirming once more that what we are engaged in in the IGN is not simply a series of academic debates. Our mandate is to deliver on Security Council reform, not just to discuss it ad infinitum,” he added.
Bozkir, whose country Turkey is a member of the UfC, had tried to get an innocuous measure – an “oral decision” in UN parlance – that would have swept the topic under the rug adopted without discussion.
“This is not the task of the President of the General Assembly to represent the position of one group,” Germany’s Permanent Representative at that time, Christoph Heusgen said.
He added that he was “shocked” that Bozkir had not held consultations “in contradiction to the practice of your predecessors” and that there was no mention of the mandate given by the 193 world leaders for reforms.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @arulouis)