UN chief says adding permanent members to Security Council ‘now seriously on the table’

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PM Narendra Modi meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during visit to India starting Oct. 18, 2022. Photo: Twitter @narendramodi

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, December 19. 2022, sounded a note of optimism on stalled Security Council reforms saying that adding permanent members is now being taken “seriously”.

He noted that four of the five permanent members of the Council were in favor of adding members to the Council and said, “I think that the possibility of enlarging the Security Council is now seriously on the table”.

Russia, the US, Britain and France are in favor of the expansion of the Security Council. However, the other permanent member, China, has so far been against reforms.

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“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 the permanent members of the Security Council”, he said.

“There was (support also) from France and UK (United Kingdom) some time ago”, he added, while speaking at a news conference here.

India is pressing for Council reforms, which have stalled for decades, and lobbying for a permanent seat. As its president this month, India convened a ministerial-level meeting of the Council on reforming the UN which put a spotlight on the Council’s basic architecture of permanent membership mired in post-World War II geopolitics which has changed dramatically in 75 years.

The meeting heard broad support for reforms from across the world, with only a small number of countries opposing all or most of it.

Council reforms have been sabotaged by a small group of countries led by Italy and which includes Pakistan which has blocked the adoption of a negotiating document on which the reform process, known as Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN), to proceed.

Guterres said, “I think that there is now space for a much more serious discussion”.

But he also said, “Let’s not forget that we need to reform the Security Council, two-thirds of the votes of the General Assembly plus the five positive votes of the five members of the Security Council”.

A solid impetus for reforms has come from the 55-member African countries that do not have a permanent seat on the Council where the bulk of its peacekeeping agenda is about the continent. This poses a challenge to China’s stance of opposing reforms.

On another aspect of the Council reforms, Guterres doubted that there would be a challenge to the right of veto enjoyed by the current permanent members.

“I remain pessimistic about the possibility of the right of veto to be seriously put into question”, he said.

But he said that even here some accountability has been introduced by the General Assembly.

“Let’s not forget that now, any veto in the Security Council leads to a discussion in the General Assembly and to the explanation of the reasons of the veto”, he said.

“This is a very important change in the relation between the two bodies”, he added.

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