South Africa has made a firm call for the United Nations General Assembly to move the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on Security Council reform to text-based negotiations, referring to the current composition of the Council as antiquated and one that risks its future legitimacy.
The statement was made as member states who took a consensus position in endorsing an oral decision by the President of the Assembly to continue the IGN process into the 76th session which commences in September under new leadership.
Some members, led by Germany, earlier raised objections to the technical rollover decision over concerns that it did not explicitly move the process to text-based negotiations which have been a key demand of certain member states.
The decision to move the IGN process began as far back as 2007. The next session includes a commitment endorsed by Heads of State last year, to instill new life in the discussions on the reform of the Security Council. But frustration at the lack of progress was palpable.
“Genuine text-based negotiations should commence, as this is the only way to achieve the commitments made in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. Furthermore, in our view, for the fulfillment of the Common African Position we have no choice but to commence with text-based negotiations. We believe that the African Heads of State would not provide us with a common position if their intention was not for us to find the means to realise it within the processes provided for in the General Assembly,“ said South Africa’s Ambassador Mathu Joyini.
The technical rollover is an annual decision taken through consensus by member states that essentially moves the negotiations from one session to the next , in this case from the 75th session to the 76th, which starts in September.
But diplomats – speaking on background – have pointed to China and Russia in the main as seeking to block efforts to move the negotiations, which have dragged for more than 13 years, to a text-based phase which could lead to an outcome that actually reforms the Council.
“South Africa’s experience of having served on the Security Council has strengthened our conviction that the lack of permanent African representation and under-representation in the non-permanent category of Africa adversely affects the Council’s ability to adequately address matters of peace and security on the continent. It is, therefore of fundamental importance that we address this historical injustice.”
The frustration over the lack of text-based negotiations was spearheaded Germany among a group called the G4 which includes Brazil, Japan, and India that all seek permanent representation in a reformed Council.
“I have to admit we didn’t get what the South African colleague said that we want to have text-based negotiations. Several countries that ask for consensus that ask that everybody agrees, if you ask that it is clear that you don’t want to have a result because when you change, when you reform of course those who have right now a privileged position may have to cede that position, there will be others also represented and there are some who don’t like it but the provisions are that in the end you have to vote, you have a two-thirds majority and we have to get this notion of open-debate, this notion of the possibility to vote, into the discussions of the IGN and to have these discussion out in the open,”said German Ambassador Christoph Huesgen.
Support for the African common position of two permanent seats and five additional non-permanent seats has grown but the consensus driven approach received a fair amount of scrutiny.
“Consensus should not be taken as the only goal, justice is at times even more important. We should try to work harder to get consensus that is also substantive so that progress can be made. This is where Nigeria stands. We want to join consensus but also urge colleagues to appreciate that consensus cannot be the end in itself,” said Nigeria’s Ambassador Tijjani Muhammed-Bande.
The 76th session of the General Assembly commences on 14 September, with the credibility of a Council, last expanded in 1963, at stake.
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