India's Security Council permanent seat hope receives setback

By Arul Louis

United Nations, Jul 28 (IANS): India's hopes for a permanent seat on the Security Council were dampened as the General Assembly decided to push further negotiations on reforms to the next session after discussions this year failed to make headway.

The Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved the decision to roll over further action and to set up an "open-ended working group" on Council reforms.

"It is unfortunate that the 70th anniversary of the United Nations was not able to build up momentum with a view to reaching an agreement on this important item of the agenda of the General Assembly," India and its reforms allies, Brazil, Japan and Germany, said in a joint statement.

Speaking on behalf of the four nations, Brazil's Permanent Antonio Patriota told the Assembly: "The longer we postpone a decision on the reform of the Security Council, the greater discredit brought upon the United Nations in its core function of promoting peace and security."

The four countries jointly work for expanding the Council's permanent membership and mutually support each other for permanent seats and are known as G4.

After more than 20 years of stalling, the Council reform process gained momentum last year when a negotiating text was adopted by the General Assembly overcoming sustained opposition to it from a determined small group of countries like Pakistan and Italy.

The adoption of the text was a breakthrough as meaningful negotiations could not be held without such a document.

It had been expected that the momentum would continue and the reforms would be adopted in the current year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the world body.

The negotiating text was created on the basis of a survey carried out by Courtenay Rattray of Jamaica, the previous chair of the Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) on Council reform, and it was adopted by the Assembly due to the insistence of Sam Kutesa, the president of the last session of the Assembly.

Luxembourg's Permanent Representative Sylvie Lucas, who heads the IGN now, said the discussions held this year produced elements of convergence on two of the five issues -- the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly and the size of an enlarged Council and its working methods.

Most members supported increasing the total number of Council members from 15 to the mid-20s and for making the Council's working more transparent and involving non-member countries in its activities.

Patriota contested Lucas's contention that there was no "convergence" on the other three issues, the most crucial of which is expanding the permanent membership.

"We regret, however, that other important patterns on the remaining three clusters were not reflected as leading towards convergence," he said. "It is obvious to any observer that a growing majority of Member-States supports expansion of the Security Council in both categories (of permanent and non-permanent). Yet we failed to register such an evident and quantifiable convergence in writing.

"Member-States also argued that the issue of under-representation of developing countries in the current format of the Security Council should be addressed. Such a suggestion was not captured either," he added.

"We would have preferred to see Elements that reflected the positions of participants in a comprehensive manner."

In May, India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the negotiations that of the 122 countries that made written submissions for Rattray's survey, 113 - or more than 90 percent - supported expanding both categories of Council membership.

They include the 54 members of the African Union, 42 from the L.69, which is a group supporting reforms, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members, the G4 and 21 others, in addition to two permanent members, Britain and France, he said.

The 13-member group known as Uniting for Consensus (UfC), which included Pakistan and is led by Italy, is opposed to adding permanent members.

The current 15-member Council has five permanent members with veto powers and none of them are from Africa or Latin America.

The UN began in 1945 with five permanent and six elected members on Security Council when the world population was 2.35 billion and the organisation had 51 member nations.

Four more non-permanent members were added in 1965 and there has been no further changes, except for replacing Taiwan with China as a permanent member in 1971.

Meanwhile, the wave of independence that followed the collapse of colonialism took UN's membership to 193 countries. The global population is now more than 7.3 billion.


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