US president to present proposals at UNGA for expanding Security Council membership

President Biden speaking at the UNGA on Sept. 11, 2021. Photo: videograb from YouTube CNN

US President Joe Biden will present at the high-level General Assembly meeting next week ideas for moving forward the long-delayed UN Security Council reform process that includes expanding it, according to US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Giving a basic outline of US plans for “moving the needle forward” on reforms, she said on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, “The president will present a bit more on this in his speech”.

“We will advance efforts to reform the UN Security Council that includes forging consensus around sensible and credible proposals to expand Security Council membership”, Thomas-Greenfield, who is a member of Biden’s cabinet, said while briefing reporters about the US priorities for the Assembly session, which will draw leaders from several countries.

“We will be having discussions with our P3 colleagues as well as others on the way forward”, she said using the acronym “P3” for the three Western permanent members, the US, Britain and France.

While the US – along with Britain and France – supports India getting a permanent seat on the Council, Washington’s agenda for reforms is broader.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken “will also be engaging this week on the commitments we’ve made and how we see the process moving forward”, she said.

“And we will have further discussions with other member states on how we can just move the needle on this so that we can make some progress on UN reform and Security Council reform”, she added.

She confirmed that Biden would address the Assembly on Wednesday – a break with the tradition of the US president as the second speaker after Brazil at the opening of the annual high-level session known as the general debate that starts on Tuesday.

This is because Biden is scheduled to be in London on Monday for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is staying away from the UN meeting this year, as are Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, who all met this week in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, this week at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

France’s President Emmanuel Macron will be in New York at the UN meeting and Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss will make her debut there on the world stage following her election last week.

Thomas-Greenfield laid out what she said were six new principles for the Council, one of which is expanding its membership.

Another relates to Russia blocking the Council from acting on its invasion of Ukraine and its fallout by using its veto power.

“Bilateral disputes must never be an excuse for obstructing the Council’s mandate or forgoing one’s responsibilities”, she said.

She proposed drastically cutting down the use of vetoes, tagging on the assurance that “we will refrain from the use of the veto except in rare, extraordinary circumstances”.

She pointed out that since 2009, Russia has cast 26 vetoes, in 12 of which China joined it, while the US had only used it only four times during that period.

Another principle Thomas-Greenfield proposed was bringing transparency to the Council while enhancing cooperation.

“Council members should engage frequently and substantively with the General Assembly and other UN bodies and UN member states”, she said.

“These principles are the start of a dialogue, one that President Biden, Secretary Blinken, and myself and so many others will pick up and take into our conversations during High-Level Week and in the weeks ahead”, Thomas-Greenfield said.

“Our hope is to rally the world behind the Charter that we all committed to 77 years ago in San Francisco, and together, we will work to shape and reform it and the system it has created for the future” she said.

Her adding the key qualifiers “sensible and credible” to the Council expansion proposal opens it to several suggestions.

The ideas for reform that have been proposed by several countries and groups include adding permanent members with veto power or without it (which India is amenable to); instead only giving extended terms beyond the current two years to some elected members, and expanding only non-permanent membership under present terms.

The other issue is which countries get permanent memberships.

It is a touchy matter for the US which is uneasy about certain countries from the African or Arab block getting permanent seats just as China and Russia are leery about the possible elevation of some countries.



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