UNSC reform: Negotiations to begin anew

By Arul Louis,

United Nations : General Assembly President Sam K. Kutesa said Thursday a diplomat appointed by him is working with UN members to produce a document that will be the basis of negotiations on reforming the Security Council and make a “qualitative difference” to the long-delayed process.

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Reforming the Council to raise the number of permanent members is a diplomatic priority for India, which striving to win a permanent seat on an expanded Council.

The current initiative to reform the Council has been deadlocked over the text that would form the basis for the negotiations. Some countries have been against introducing such a document as they feel it may give some nations an edge in finding a permanent spot in an expanded Council, even though negotiations cannot take place without a framework text for it.

“For the last ten years every side, every group has been repeating the oppositions and repeating and repeating,” Kutesa told reporters here. Jamaica’s Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, whom he appointed as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on the reforms, “is taking a step forward” and is now working “with member states and will be coming out with a negotiation text, a text that has the positions” of the various UN members, he said.

Rattray’s informal consultations “are critical to finding a way toward text-based negotiations, with the next round of negotiations scheduled to begin in February,” Kutesa said.

“We know the positions,” he said, “so let us negotiate and see how to move forward.” He added, “That will be the qualitative difference between the past and his (Rattray’s) role now. Bring the text forward and begin the negotiations on it.”

Since he took over as UNGA president last September, Kutesa, who is Uganda’s Foreign Minister, has pushed the stalled Council reform in his agenda as a priority, especially this year when the UN turns 70.

When the UN was founded in 1945 with 51 members, the Council was set up with five veto-wielding permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia, and the US, who were then the leading powers of the winning side in World War II, and six elected non-permanent members. In 1965, the number of non-permanent members was raised to 10. There have been no changes since then even though UN’s membership has risen to 193.

“The world has changed completely since the UN was formed and we must change,” Kutesa said to meet “the challenges the world faces.”

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected])