Thursday, 16 November 2023 23:13

Security Council reform a must, to end ‘paralysis’

As wars rage in Ukraine and Gaza, never before has the issue of reform of the Security Council been more pressing, the President of the General Assembly said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Assembly’s annual debate assessing the UN’s premier forum for peace and security, Dennis Francis said that without structural reform, the Council’s performance and legitimacy will inevitably continue to suffer.

“Violence and war continue to spread in regions across the world, while the United Nations seems paralyzed due largely to the divisions in the Security Council,” he said.

With the world changing quickly, the Council is “dangerously falling short” of its mandate as the primary custodian for the maintenance of international peace and security, he said, adding:

“Absent structural reform, its performance and legitimacy will inevitably continue to suffer – and so too, the credibility and relevance of the UN itself.”

Renewed urgency

While the question of equitable representation has been on the Assembly’s agenda since 1979, the calls for reform have grown amid widening conflict worldwide.

At September’s annual high-level debate, Council reform was a common refrain from the podium, including expanding its membership.

Recent crises and the inability of the Security Council to agree on a unified position such as on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and the ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis, have further underscored that urgency.

For instance, the Security Council was only able to pass its first resolution on the Israel-Palestine crisis on Wednesday, after four failed attempts and over five weeks since the crisis erupted.

Stasis as dangerous as chaos

In his speech, Mr. Francis went on to warn the Assembly that gridlock on the Security Council can be just as challenging as dealing with chaos.

“I caution this august house that stasis can be as formidable a foe as chaos. We cannot usefully perpetuate positions that – while familiar – fail to bring us closer together,” he said, urging fresh, innovative thinking on reforms.

“One of the ways we can repair trust,” Mr. Francis said, is to strengthen solidarity and conciliation, highlighting the importance of the Summit of the Future next year.

He called on Member States to “grasp this opportunity” to break through ingrained positions, and to promote Security Council reform through practical steps that support effectiveness and represent the full diversity today’s world.

UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Security Council adopts a resolution calling for urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout Gaza Strip.

Urgent need for reform

In their statements, UN Member States reiterated that reform is more urgent than ever.

Speaking on behalf of the L.69 group of developing countries from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, together with Latin America and the Caribbean – Deputy Permanent Representative from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nedra P. Miguel – said it was a “stark reality” that the Council is “no longer fit for purpose.”

The over-representation of Western countries in the Council neither reflects the UN’s diverse composition, nor the current geopolitical realities, she said, stressing that reform is not only urgent, but also a precondition to international peace, stability, security and an effective multilateral order.

Similarly, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, Jamal Fares Alrowaiei, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bahrain, called for an urgent need for real reform of the Council, emphasizing that the use of veto in an arbitrary manner had challenged its credibility.

Highlighting the Council’s role in maintaining international peace and security, particularly during recent events in Gaza, he urged Member States to step up efforts to ensure conflict prevention efforts are more representative, transparent, neutral and credible.

In the same vein, Antje Leendertse, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan – which all aspire to become permanent members) said that the current composition of the Council means it can’t be as effective as it needs to be, to address contemporary challenges.

Thus, it is no surprise, that, time and again, the Security Council has been unable to live up to expectations in addressing some of the most serious threats to international peace and security in a timely and effective manner, she said.