Statement by Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, on behalf of the “Uniting For Consensus” Group, at the Informal meeting of the General Assembly on the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council—
On behalf of the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) group, I wish to thank you for convening this second meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on Security Council reform, focusing on the core principles of the reform and the interlinkages between the reform clusters. We are confident that our discussions will help the membership to agree on new shared elements and bring us closer to consensual reform.
Last year’s Co-chair document affirms that building on the work done in previous years, “convergence will increase gradually with a view to garner the widest possible political acceptance”. Progress towards reform has become more visible in recent years as IGN Chairs produced outcome documents reflecting the results attained over their mandates.
This is the undeniable added value of this IGN process: it provides a space for constructive engagement by all Member States in a transparent manner, and leads to incremental, consensus-based progress. The UfC group is pleased to see that the approach chosen for the current session of work is in keeping with the consensual nature of the IGN process and reiterates its commitment to substantive progress also this year.
Following the suggestions contained in your letter dated February 15, today I will touch upon a set of arguments and open questions relating to the core principles underlying Security Council reform, in the attempt of demonstrating the concrete impact these have on the reform clusters and their interlinkages.
All Member States seem to share the goal of a more representative, democratic, accountable, transparent and effective Council. These principles are meant to underpin a reform leading to a new Security Council that will enjoy greater legitimacy and authority. Therefore, each of these principles should be thoroughly taken into account when we think about how we are willing to shape our new Security Council.
Last year’s document affirms that “More discussions are needed on how to take into account the principles of democracy and representation in pursuing the objective of a more democratic Council”. This paragraph suggests that we agree to have a more democratic Council, but we need to jointly define “more representative” and “more democratic”. Let me then start by touching upon these two concepts:
What do we mean by a more representative Council?
The enlargement of the Security Council is intended to make it more representative. But a more representative Council requires more than an increase in seats; representativeness entails much more than a merely quantitative issue. The UfC group is firmly convinced that “more representative” means more inclusive, offering increased opportunities for all Member States to be seated periodically in the Council.
According to the UN Charter, and in their own words, permanent members represent themselves alone. Expansion in the number of such members would thus do nothing to increase the representation of all others.
In this regard, let me add that the UfC acknowledges the clear difference between the pursuit of new national permanent seats and the African call for enhanced regional representation. Our response is equally clear: Africa should become the best represented regional group through a democratic reform of the Security Council. UfC distributed details of its compromise proposal to the IGN last year: they show that our support for an increased African representation is clear and on the record.
In tomorrow’s discussion we would be interested to hear how adding more of the current variety of permanent seats – excluding access to other Member States – could possibly produce a more representative Council. How would adding permanent seats make the Council more accountable to the regional groups and how would the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly be strengthened?
This leads me to the second principle:
What do we mean by a more democratic Council?
While we all agree that we deserve a more democratic Council, there seems to be disagreement on to what extent. The UfC answer is unequivocal: we want a more democratic Council, consistent with the spirit of our times. This applies not only to the principle of democracy, but to all five principles we have recalled.
In our view, a democratic reform would further enhance the legitimacy and authority of the Council. And since periodic elections and rotation are key elements of any democratic system, we are convinced that a reform centered on non-permanent elective seats is the only formula that can have a positive and credible impact on the legitimacy and authority of the Security Council.
Can we agree that more permanent members – not subject to periodic elections – would not make the Council more democratic? Is the UN membership ready to recognize the legitimacy of new Council members without requiring periodic accountability? Speaking of accountability:
What do we mean by a more accountable Council?
We believe it is essential to have a Council that is more accountable to the wider membership, and that the new members of a reformed Council should earn their seat as a responsibility and not as a granted privilege. Accountability can only be enhanced with all new Council members being held to account for their performance through periodic elections by the General Assembly. This is the definition of accountability.
While many of the arguments and questions related to this principle overlap the principles of representation and democracy, I wish to focus on a specific point: the right to vote of all Member States. Can we agree that elections are the primary instrument through which all Member States, especially smaller and developing Countries, can be heard on an equal footing and with equal dignity? Are Member States ready to give up their right to vote in this vital domain of the maintenance of international peace and security? And if members come to regret relinquishing their say in such a vital domain, what recourse would they then have?
Let me now move to the fourth principle:
What do we mean by a more transparent Council?
Here, I’d rather go straight to our questions: can we agree on the key role that has been traditionally played by the ten elected members to improve the transparency of the Council’s work and decision-making? If so, we should concur that a more favorable ratio of non-permanent to permanent members would improve the Council’s working methods, increase the transparency of its decision-making, and present a democratic challenge to the veto. How would new veto powers improve the Council’s transparency?
What do we mean by a more effective Council?
We are convinced that a reform centered on non-permanent members would foster a new dynamic between elected and existing permanent members within the Council, contributing to improved decision-making, transparency, working methods and, ultimately, to the effectiveness of the Council.
However, one of the main arguments often evoked in favor of expanding the category of permanent seats is that the Council’s effectiveness would increase. The UfC strongly disagrees with this view, for at least two reasons: first, we believe that a Council more adaptable to the constant changes in the world’s political and economic landscape would also be a more effective Council; thus, enhancing the right of the membership to decide and adjust the Council’s composition on a regular basis would increase the Council’s effectiveness.
Second, we fail to see how, after more than 70 years of experience, adding new vetoes can still be considered the right solution for a more effective response of the Council to the threats to international peace and security.
Why should a more democratic and representative Council be considered less effective in carrying out its tasks? Would the expansion of permanent seats truly make the Council more adaptable to a changing global scenario? How would a larger number of vetoes and a higher ratio of permanent versus non-permanent members make the Council more responsive to international crises?
These are only a few of the thoughts and questions that our group considers important to discuss jointly to find new convergences within the membership. We are convinced that the UfC proposal is the only one that fully integrates all five principles, and we look forward to tomorrow’s interactive session to provide further inputs for our collective work. Meanwhile, let me reiterate our support for your efforts in trying to narrow the gaps between negotiating groups, and find further commonalities that can help us agree on a consensual reform of the Security Council.