United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the possibility of enlarging the UN Security Council is now “seriously on the table” but expressed pessimism that the right of veto would be put into question.
Mr. Guterres made the remarks while speaking to reporters during his annual end-of-year conference in New York on December 19.
He was responding to a question on UN Security Council reform to make the powerful world body more fit for purpose to deal with crises such as the Ukraine war.
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“The central questions are related to the composition of the Security Council and to the right of veto. Now this is a matter for member states, the Secretariat has no influence in these negotiations,” Mr. Guterres said.
“I think that the during our General Assembly session in September, for the first time, I heard from the United States and from Russia clearly the indication that they were in favour of an enlargement of the number of permanent members of the Security Council,” he said.
He added that there was a proposal from France and the U.K. some time ago for some restrictions in the use of the right of veto. “But I remain pessimistic about the possibility of the right of veto to be seriously put into question,” he said .
The UN chief added that reform of the Security Council needs two-thirds of the votes of the General Assembly plus the five positive votes of the permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.
“So, I think that there is now space for a much more serious discussion in relation to the Security Council reform. I think that the possibility of enlarging the Security Council is now seriously on the table. I'm still not optimistic about the right of veto,” he said.
Last week, Mr. Guterres had tweeted that “A majority of @UN member countries now acknowledge that the Security Council should be reformed to reflect today’s geopolitical realities. I hope regional groups & countries can work together to achieve greater consensus on the way forward and the modalities of reform.”
Last week, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar presided over a signature event in the Security Council on reformed multilateralism, asserting that while the debate on reforms has meandered aimlessly, the real world in the meantime has changed dramatically and that reform is the need of the day.
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A concept note circulated by India ahead of the UNSC meeting said that UN reform has been left open-ended without a set timeline and the Security Council far from reflects true diversity.
“The world is not the same as it was 77 years ago. The 193 States Members of the United Nations are more than triple the 55 Member States that it had in 1945. However, the composition of the Security Council, responsible for global peace and security, was last fixed in 1965 and is far from reflecting the true diversity of the wider membership of the United Nations,” the concept note had said.
India on December 1 assumed the monthly rotating Presidency of the Security Council, the second time after August 2021 that India is presiding over the Council during its two-year tenure as elected UNSC member.
India, whose 2021-2022 term on the Council ends on December 31, has been at the forefront of efforts calling for urgent reform of the Security Council, which has remained deeply divisive in dealing with current challenges.
India has asserted that the Council, in its current form, does not reflect today’s geo-political realities and its credibility is at risk if nations such developing powers such as India do not have a permanent seat at the horse-shoe table.
During the press conference, Mr. Guterres said, “We have done many reforms in the areas of responsibility of the Secretariat and the UN agencies. And I think that the effectiveness of the response in relation to the humanitarian consequences of the war demonstrates that those reforms were positive”.
He said UN country teams are working today in a much better and more effective way than just a few years ago.
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“There are reforms of the UN that are taking place. But of course, the crucial aspect being discussed is in relation to the reform of the Security Council. And I will say, the revitalisation of the General Assembly and the strengthening of ECOSOC.
“Now, we have witnessed some important progress in the revitalisation of the General Assembly. Let's not forget that now any veto in the Security Council leads to discussion in the General Assembly and to the explanation of the reasons of the veto. This is a very important change in relation between the two bodies,” he said.