Informal meeting of the General Assembly
“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”
9 March 2023
Statement by H.E. Ambassador Maurizio Massari, Permanent Representative of Italy,
on behalf of the Uniting for Consensus Group
On behalf of the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) group, I wish to thank you for convening this third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform (IGN), focusing on the clusters of “The size of an enlarged Security Council and Working methods of the Council” and “The relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly”. UfC is happy to share its point of view on these clusters and their interlinkages in the perspective of finding new convergences within the membership on these relevant topics.
As today’s session is the first where the IGN will start webcasting the official statements’ segment, UfC stresses the importance that this feature is not used to cement unmovable positions, rather a chance to show progress in the long-sought convergences, accommodate those Member States that have smaller missions, and enhance the transparency of this process overall.
On the question of the size of an enlarged Council, first of all we should note that the ratio of Member States to elected seats within the Security Council has worsened dramatically along the decades: in 1945, with only six elected members and 51 United Nations members, that ratio was 1 to 8, meaning that fewer than 8 countries competed for one seat. Today, with 193 Member States, the ratio is 1 to 19. It means fewer opportunities to serve on the Council for each Member State and a harsher competition to be elected. A competition that quite inevitably impacts on smaller States.
In the UfC proposal, which is well known, the Security Council would consist of twenty-six members, out of which 21 would be elected. Such an increase would simply mean a better accessibility for all. In our view, an expansion of the Council must necessarily imply an enhanced presence of the currently under-represented regions. I am referring to Africa, to the Asia Pacific region, to the Arab Countries, to Latin America and the Caribbean, to the Eastern European Group and to the SIDS. Member States from these regions must play their rightful role in a reformed Council. Their increased presence would provide a real added value to the work of the Security Council, especially on new challenges to peace and security including from their regional specificities. We should all look forward to hearing their voices and integrating their contributions.
The ratio of Member States to elected seats under the UfC proposal would become 1 to 9, almost the same ratio we had in 1945 when this Organization was created. Our proposal would definitely enhance not only the representativeness of the Council, but also its legitimacy and accountability towards the General Assembly and the whole membership.
In the UfC’s view, any expansion in the category of permanent members would result in an even greater gap than it exists today between Security Council representation and the General Assembly membership and be detrimental overall. With 5 or 6 additional new Permanent members of the Security Council on top of the current 5, in an enlarged Council of 26 members, permanent members would account for more than 40% of the Council. Today, permanent members, which account for 30%, rule the game. With 11 Permanent Members, it would be rather difficult, to say the least, for the elected members to contribute effectively to the works of the Council or even have their weight felt in decision-making.
UfC proposal stems from the understanding that any reform of the Council, and especially its enlargement, should take into thorough consideration the impact on its working methods. Our proposal aims at having a Security Council truly fit for purpose. That means a Council that performs better and is more efficient.
UfC is convinced that a Security Council enlarged with elected members can actually improve its effectiveness and efficiency. It is a fact that in the last decades the vast majority of proposals, suggestions and practices to improve the working methods of the Security Council came from the elected members (commonly referred to as the E10). We believe that not having any position of advantage or privilege to defend, the elected members are naturally inclined to improve procedures and working methods as a guarantee of efficiency, transparency and inclusiveness for all Member States. Would new permanent members have the same interest? Allow us to share our doubts. In the last years we have had clear examples on how elected members can contribute to the works of the Council, perform efficiently as innovators and bridge-builders.
How could we really improve the working methods of a reformed Security Council? Starting from the assumption that an improvement is seriously needed, we are of the opinion that we should, first and foremost, aim at ensuring accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness. This would translate in the need to strive for a democratization of the Council itself. A desirable outcome of this democratization would be that all members of the SC consistently act together on an equal footing. For that to happen, first of all elected members should take on a more active role in the drafting and consultation process of Council products and secondly, a fair burden-sharing and equal distribution of penholderships and co-penholderships and chairing of subsidiary bodies among permanent members and elected members should be implemented.
As regards the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly, UfC is convinced that the relationship between the two main organs of the United Nations can be enhanced to make them both complementary and mutually reinforcing.
It is true that the Council is a highly undemocratic institution when compared to the General Assembly, the only UN body with a universal representation. That is why it is of paramount importance to have a Council accountable to the wider membership. How can we enhance that accountability? Only through periodic elections in the General Assembly of Security Council Members.
The active participation of elected members in the decision-making of the Security Council is indeed an exercise of democracy. Adding new permanent members that would sit in the Council in perpetuity would deprive that organ of the innovative diplomacy of a larger, thus more impactful, group of elected members.
As regards the mechanism of consultation between the Council and the broader UN membership, I think we all agree that there is room for improvement. We should primarily foster transparency, which, by the way, ought to be considered a key principle for a truly democratic reform of the SC.
In that framework, we need to ensure that the views and interests of Member States affected or concerned by any matter on the agenda of the Security Council are heard and taken into account.
In defining, renewing or reviewing mandates of peacekeeping operations, due consideration should be given to the views of the Troop and Police Contributing Countries, whose men and women are actually risking their lives on the ground.
On the increased cooperation between Security Council with other UN bodies, the UfC supports a closer cooperation with the Peace Building Commission and is looking forward to seeing the Council regularly request, deliberate and draw upon the PBC’s specific, strategic and targeted advice. This should evolve to become a standing cross-feed to ensure the original intention of the PBC as the hinge between the Security Council and the General Assembly.
Therefore, the reform of the Security Council must incorporate mechanisms that enhance the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in the long term and, at the same time, complement it, strengthening collective action with concrete results on the ground and for the population.
Moreover, we believe the Council should further engage in timely consultations with regional organizations, including with the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and ECOWAS. As many African States remind us during the IGN meeting, most of the activity of the Security Council concerns Africa and African States are among the biggest Troop-and Police-Contributing Countries. A stronger partnership between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council is the natural path towards a greater ownership and responsibility of Africa for the challenges of the Continent.
On these aspects, we fail to understand how adding permanent seats would make the Council more transparent and accountable to the whole membership and how the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly would be strengthened.
These are some of the main thoughts and ideas of the UfC on these three important clusters of the UNSC reform. We look forward to tomorrow’s interactive session to get reactions on our proposals and to provide further inputs for our collective work here. We remain convinced that pragmatism should lead us all when we approach an issue as delicate as the Security Council reform. We should all be ready to compromise and aim at a reform for all. A reform truly beneficial for all Member States and the UN itself. A reform that only serves a few is not only undemocratic and anachronistic: it is a reform with no future.
I thank you.