Ambassador Chowdhury chairs a Security Council meeting. Credit: United Nations United Nations, Dec 7 (IPS) – Will four strong candidates for permanent seats on the UN Security Council (UNSC) – Germany, India, Japan and Brazil – help break the monopoly of the Big Five? namely the USA, Great Britain, France, China and Russia?
But if they do succeed at some point – after more than 20 years of foot-dragging – they will have to come to terms with what can best be described as “second class citizenship” because the five permanent members with veto influence (P5) have none Indications given that newcomers in their ranks are offered veto rights.
Nevertheless, African leaders have long insisted that they will not accept permanent membership in the UN Security Council, the only UN body with the power to declare war and peace without veto powers.
And rightly so, for it anchors political discrimination at the highest level in a world body that preaches the virtues of equality with the outside world but refuses to practice them in its own backyard.
The representative of Sierra Leone spoke on behalf of the 54-member African Union and spoke about a debate at the General Assembly in November 2018. He made it very clear: “Africa is asking for no less than two permanent seats, including the right of veto if it persists. and five non-permanent seats ”.
However, that position has not changed – and the deadlock in reforming the United Nations Security Council continues – and may well continue for the remainder of the life of the 75-year-old United Nations.
With the appointment of two new ambassadors – Ambassador Joanna Wronecka from Poland and Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani from Qatar as co-chairmen – an attempt is being made again to resume the stalled intergovernmental negotiations on reforms of the United Nations Security Council.
In an interview with IPS, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, a former President of the Security Council (March 2000 and June 2001), expressed a dire prospect: “As a pragmatic, realistic UN observer and practitioner for nearly 50 years, I believe the diligent effort to do so the reform of the supervisory board have no prospect of any significant achievement, and the status quo ante is doomed to continue. ”
When asked if the current attempt was just another exercise in political futility, he said that any worthwhile initiative to revive the repeatedly stalled “Security Council reform” efforts would generally create a comfortable, expectant and hopeful atmosphere most of the others creates achievable success, full of preparations to finally overcome the impasse.
Such an ambience was perceived at every such resumption opportunity, but unfortunately it came to a standstill with the formal conclusion of this exercise, said Chowdhury, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations (1996-2001) and UN Under-Secretary-General (2002-2007) ).
In the true UN tradition, he emphasized, the agenda item remains and every President of the General Assembly (PGA) hopes against hope for a breakthrough.
Indeed, resuming those hours of effort for a quarter of a century has given subsequent PGAs a sense of glory and aura of leadership – and a sense of déjà vu to many of us, too.
Excerpts from the interview:
IPS: Why do you think the exercise is doomed to fail?
Ambassador Chowdhury: What is the rationale for examining “the possibility of intergovernmental negotiations starting in early 2021 and increasing the number of meetings in this meeting …”? Just for the cosmetic of the exercise, because the “reform of the Security Council” is on the agenda of the General Assembly? It is understood that the general membership of the United Nations and all well-meaning, peace-loving people who are aware of global realities are not interested in the so-called reform of the Security Council.
There are greater challenges facing humanity that require greater engagement from the United Nations. The eagerly anticipated change in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic has bypassed the necessary change in the divisive negotiating atmosphere at the United Nations. It still works as usual.
IPS: What do you think of expanding membership in the Security Council?
Ambassador Chowdhury: If the trends in reform exercises of the United Nations Security Council so far are any indication, the reform provides for four levels of Security Council membership – one, five permanent vetoed members (known as P-5); two new permanent members without veto; three 2-year-old non-permanent members, both 10 plus the new ones; and four, the rest of the UN membership who are not the council members.
Such an expansion would in no way help other than add to the one-sidedness of the work of the United Nations Security Council and satisfy the nationalist aspirations of new permanent members. The reform exercise’s lofty goal of reflecting the realities of the current expanded UN membership of 193 would lose all credibility if that were the intended outcome.
It is also perfectly fair to assign two permanent seats to Africa as it is the largest regional group and has not had a permanent seat since the creation of the United Nations.
IPS: Do you think that the closed, opaque decision-making of the Security Council is a central concern of the reform?
Ambassador Chowdhury: In itself, the current decision-making of the Supervisory Committee is not what the Charter intended. The role of the P-5, which is occasionally joined by its “friendly” non-permanent members, mocks its responsibility as the SC members for maintaining international peace and security.
The history of the Council’s decision-making makes it clear that its membership was essentially used to reflect national perspectives and to advance the geostrategic goals of the P-5. Like many, I believe that any meaningful reform of the Council must begin with the abolition of the veto.
All avid UN observers are aware of how the veto – or in most cases the threat of a veto – has been used and abused in the 75 years of the UN’s existence to undermine the best interests of global peace and security.
IPS: In addition to the issue of expansion, the reform of working methods is also addressed. How can this problem be properly addressed?
Ambassador Chowdhury: The reform of working methods would not only serve to readjust the procedural functions – without changing the political considerations, without getting out of the failed state-oriented security strategies and replacing them with more human-centered strategies for human security.
Reforming working methods without changing policy would be robotic in nature, without focusing on the human dimension of the Council’s actions.
IPS: Civil society has repeatedly called for an opportunity to express its thoughts on SC reform. Is this considered useful and necessary?
Ambassador Chowdhury: Although the “process is intergovernmental and therefore steered by the Member States”, as the PGA has affirmed, the lack of civil society participation would seriously undermine the role and contribution of “We the Peoples …”.
If civil society in general feels that it doesn’t matter and has no opportunity to share its views, I believe that such a narrow, non-inclusive, non-participatory exercise is doomed to fail. PGA itself has also claimed that “civil society is the pillar of democracy and after a while we will have to find a way in which civil society is (re) presented here”.
IPS: What are some of the United Nations Security Council’s biggest failures over the years?
Ambassador Chowdhury: I would not go into the cases where the Security Council failed large – the global peace and security situation testifies to that. I’d rather identify the reasons that caused these errors and keep doing so in the future.
Structural problems and leadership opportunities within the council are a major obstacle. P-5 is happy with the status quo – the way the council works – because they have shaped it to their advantage over the years. All major change initiatives stem from the two-year term of office of non-permanent members.
The Secretary-General’s proactive role and guidance in the Security Council, without undue consideration of the “sensitivities” of P-5, can significantly change the direction of the Council’s work. PGA stated that “the secretary general is the engine and transmission system”. After all, the Secretary General has the moral authority and the full mandate of the high office that he holds.
IPS: Is the rivalry between great powers and the protection of customer states one of the reasons for the frequent blockades in the United Nations Security Council over the years?
Ambassador Chowdhury: Not only has the rivalry between the great powers led to blockades, the “cooperation” of the great powers has also resulted in a positive initiative by the non-permanent members being halted in the best interests of the Security Council. My own experience as President of the Security Council in March 2000 explains this situation at length when I initiated the political and conceptual changes in the Council to recognize the equal participation and centuries-old contributions of women to global peace and security that ultimately led to adoption the most celebrated UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
Here I would like to add that the only silver lining I can find in the resumption of reform negotiations is the fact that the two co-chairs (Ambassadors of Poland and Qatar) are both outstanding Permanent Representatives to the United Nations and, of course, wholeheartedly qualified for this burdensome and complicated responsibility.
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