Making a strong case against creating new permanent seats in the UN Security Council, Pakistan has reaffirmed its stand for an increase in the number of non-permanent members as the “best” method to make the 15-member body more representative and democratic.
“We believe that the best, and the only way, to accommodate legitimate regional and political aspirations, is to enlarge the Security Council in the non-permanent category,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said as the long-running Inter-Governmental Negotiations aimed at reforming the Council resumed the process on Tuesday.
India, Brazil, Japan and Germany—known as the Group of four—have been pushing for permanent seats on the Security Council. But the Italy/Pakistan-lead Uniting for Consensus (UfC) stands for creating a new category of members—not permanent members — with longer duration and a possibility to get re-elected once.
The Security Council is currently composed of five permanent members—Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, and 10 non-permanent members that are elected in groups of five to two-year terms.
In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi argued that any expansion of the unelected, or permanent category of seats would not make the Security Council more democratic and representative.
“The only acceptable democratic method for political representation known to the modern era is periodic elections on a fixed tenure of a term,” she told delegates.
Full-scale negotiations to restructure the Security Council began in the General Assembly in February 2009 on five key areas—the categories of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Security Council, and working methods of the council and its relationship with the General Assembly.
Despite a general agreement on enlarging the Council, as part of the UN reform process, member states remain sharply divided over the details.
Noting that no position on restructuring the Council has been able to garner requisite support so far, the Pakistani envoy called for flexibility and compromise to make any headway.
While the argument that the “realities of the 21st century” justified expansion in the unelected category of seats was “worth considering,” Ambassador Lodhi said this was precisely why the Security Council needed to be enlarged in the elected category.
“Will a Council expanded in the permanent category be adaptable to a changing global scenario?” she posed the question while pointing out the amendment to the U.N. Charter was a complicated process.
As regards the call for expanding the permanent membership to include the concept of “regional representation” in this category, she asked, “if a permanent member is not accountable to the region, can such a member claim any ‘representative status’.”
“Even if the permanent category is expanded, will we ever be able to achieve an equitable distribution, much less equitable representation, in this category?” Noting that there was then no proposal on the table that seeks equitable distribution of permanent members of the Council, the Pakistani envoy asked the reason for not doing so.
“The fact is that regional representation, based on periodic elections and equitable geographic distribution, can only be enhanced in the category of elected seats,” Ambassador Lodhi said.
“This not only allows more countries from respective regions to serve on the Council but also affords space to work out a rotation of seats among cross-regional groups, such as the OIC and the Arab Group.”
Pointing out that every seat added to the Council has a premium, she said it was extremely important to assess how each additional seat enhances “equitable and regional representation”. “Would it then not be true that any additional permanent seat will benefit one country at the cost of equal and fair opportunity for all the countries of a region?”
The Pakistani envoy said the key issue of veto also needed to addressed as it has a serious bearing on effectiveness, transparency and accountability of the Council. In this regard, she argued, “If today the Council remains paralysed to accommodate the interests of the five permanent members, how will it cope with the interest of more such members and still be effective?”
She added, “Merely possessing veto power, even without its use, has a telling impact on the Council’s working methods. But some of us propose more veto-wielding members in the Council while calling for improved working methods of the Council. How can this dichotomy be justified”
The veto, she said, could be counterbalanced in the Council is by strengthening the voice of elected members. “This is why Pakistan and the UfC call for expansion only in the non-permanent category, leading to an improved ratio of non-permanent members to permanent members. Only this can realistically, change the nature of decision-making in the Council.”