Statement by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, 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 on Security Council reform, focusing on three reform clusters: “categories of membership,” “the question of the veto,” and “regional representation.” I also wish to thank you for the timeline you indicated for the next meetings. We believe that in-depth discussions on the connections and interlinkages between all five clusters, included the three above mentioned, will bring us closer to a consensual reform. We encourage you to continue this discussion also in the forthcoming meetings.
“Categories of membership”
Starting with the “categories of membership”, according to Article 23 of the UN Charter there are only two categories of membership: permanent and non-permanent. So far, as a result of previous discussions, we can affirm that the expansion of the category of non-permanent members is accepted by all Member States. The UfC position is quite simple: we support an expansion of the Council ONLY in the non-permanent category.
The new Security Council we have in mind would be composed of 26 seats, adding eleven non-permanent members, for a total of twenty-one elected members. Nine of these additional eleven seats would have a longer term, and be elected from the regional groups to ensure a more balanced and equitable representation, mainly of the developing world. At the same time, Eastern European countries would be guaranteed increased representation in the Council. The UfC also supports the creation of an additional rotating seat for SIDS and Small States.
Both longer-term seats and two-years seats will be subject to election and rotation, which are key-elements of any democratic system. We are convinced that a reform centered on non-permanent elective seats would lead to a more democratic and representative Council, consistent both with the spirit of our times and with the need, underlined also by the PGA, to strengthen the legitimacy of the Security Council, thus reinforcing multilateralism.
The issue of the expansion of the category of permanent members is, on the contrary, the reason why this reform is taking so much longer than the previous SC expansion, in the 1960s. One of the main arguments often evoked in favor of expanding the category of permanent seats is that the Council’s effectiveness would increase. Another reason to justify new permanent members is that the Council would be more representative, “reflecting the reality of the twenty-first century”. But how a SC enlarged to few States self-proclaiming having the right to be permanent members would reflect the reality of the 21st century?
Let me be clear: the UfC fully shares the objective of a more efficient and representative Council. However, we fail to understand how more permanent members – not subject to periodic elections – would make the Council more representative or effective. A more democratic Council would be more legitimate and would avoid the inaction – even paralysis – too often resulting from veto power.
Moreover, we believe it is essential to have a Council that is more accountable to the wider membership. New members of a reformed Council should earn their seat as a responsibility and not as a granted privilege.
Let me remind also that only the election of non-permanent members of the SC gives all Member States, especially smaller and developing countries the possibility to make their voice heard on an equal footing and with equal dignity. This will strengthen the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly and – most importantly – member States will not be requested, once and for ever, to give up their right to vote those who will represent them in a vital domain such as the maintenance of international peace and security.
“The question of the veto”
On the question of existing veto power, while it would be ideal to consider abolishing it, the UfC recognize the need to take a gradual approach. Thus, our discussions should address how best to limit the use of veto. Along these lines, the French-Mexican initiative and the Code of Conduct put forward by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparent (ACT) Group deserve our full attention. Many Member States have openly supported both initiatives.
Speaking also on the basis of Italy’s recent experience in the Security Council, we believe that the elected members have a big potential as drivers for a more transparent and efficient Security Council. During our mandate, E10 coordination and action have proved to be a useful tools to overcome stalemates in the Council, to foster participation of civil society, and to shine a spotlight on crosscutting issues.
The UfC position is therefore clear and consistent: we support an expansion on the Council only in the non-permanent category because we are convinced 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 create more room for dialogue and interaction, thus reducing the use of the veto.
The same clarity and consistency we cannot find in the positions of all other negotiating groups or partners. For example, we still have to fully understand the position of those who advocate for an expansion of the Council with more permanent seats, but do not specify whether these additional permanent seats will have the right of veto, or not, leaving this issue to a later stage. Also, some member States, who declared themselves in favor of an extension of both categories of members of the Security Council, at the same time stated that they are against any alteration of the existing veto power.
It is therefore unclear to us which is the kind of reform they are asking for, whether an expansion of the SC to new permanent members with all the privileges the actual permanent members have, or to have new permanent members without the right of veto.
Concerning the question of regional representation, the UfC group is firmly convinced that a “more representative” Security Council means a more inclusive one, offering increased opportunities for all Member States, from all the regions, to be seated periodically in the Council. The need to be elected requires candidates to take heed of the interests of others and to present themselves as legitimate spokes persons of regional perspectives. That’s why we support the expansion in the category of non-permanent seats only.
It is also worth noting that the Charter makes no reference to regional or equitable representation in its definition of the permanent members. For the non-permanent category, on the contrary, explicit mention is made in Article 23 of elections and geographical distribution as characteristics of “equitable representation.” In fact, permanent members represent themselves ALONE. Expansion in the number of such members would thus do nothing to increase regional representation.
In this regard, also answering to a question that have been raised, let me add that the UfC fully acknowledges the African call for an enhanced regional representation in the SC, which is totally different from the pursuit of new national permanent seats. UfC believes that Africa should become the best represented regional group through a democratic reform of the Security Council. Last November we distributed the details of UfC proposal to the IGN: they show that our support for an increased African representation is clear and on the record. Let me also add that if more seats are available to regional groups, it will become easier and more feasible to ensure representation for cross-regional groups, such as the Arab Countries.
We believe that fairer regional representation means that all regions should be represented in a more equitable manner, and that Council members – “the representatives” – should be more accountable to the UN membership – “the represented.”
In tomorrow’s discussion we would therefore be interested to hear how adding more permanent seats – thus excluding access to other Member States – could possibly make the Council more accountable to the regional groups and produce a more representative Council. We would also like to hear the views of proponents of other models as to the future role of non-permanent members in a Council where permanent members would make up nearly half of the total membership.
These are only a few of the thoughts and questions that our group considers important to discuss to find new convergences within the membership. 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.
We believe this is the right approach to continue our work. As we were reminded by the PGA, this is an “intergovernmental process”, based on the Decision 62/557 and 72/557 of the GA. There are no procedural “short cuts” that can replace the hard work of forging a broad political consensus. No drafting, or merging of texts, as the one proposed today, can fix what currently divides the membership. The UfC Countries are ready to engage with other negotiating groups willing to show flexibility and to search for a solution that will finally unlock this reform process.
I thank you.