United Nations, Feb 23 (IANS) India has said the need to justly and fairly represent the developing countries and all regions must determine the size of the Security council and pointed out that although the world’s population and the number of member countries has more than trebled since the world body’s founding, the council’s membership has not kept pace.
Countering the forces opposed to making the Security Council more representative of the people in the 21st century by limiting its size, India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told a meeting negotiating council reforms Monday, “The case for optimal size of the expanded Council needs to be built on contemporary realities, as well as the need to ensure that the under-represented and unrepresented regions, including the developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Caribbean and the vast majority of Asia and Pacific, find their due place in this long overdue expansion of the size of the Council.”
He said that invoking “efficiency” to limit the size of the council’s membership to the low 20s was not logical. “I fail to understand that if since 1945 the total population of the UN’s membership has increased more than three times, the number of countries members of the UN has increased more than three times, yet we are hearing voices saying that increase of the size to less than three times what it was in 1945 is too much,” he said.
“Efficiency is not merely an issue of numbers but stems from a broader set of factors such as credibility, equitability, legitimacy and representativeness,” he said at the meeting of the Inter-governmental Negotiations (IGN) on Council reforms that took up the contentious issue of size of an enlarged Security Council and its working methods.
The UN began in 1945 with five permanent and six elected members on the Security Council when the world population wasonly 2.35 billion and the organisation had 51 member-nations. Four more non-permanent members were added in 1965 and there has been no further changes, except for replacing Taiwan with China as a permanent member in 1971. Meanwhile, the wave of independence that followed the collapse of colonialism took UN’s membership to 193 countries. The global population is now more than 7.3 billion.
In 1945, “there was one Council member for every five Member-States and one permanent member for every ten members of the General Assembly,” Akbaruddin said. “Today the membership of the UN has increased more than three times.”
With the current membership of 193, it works out to one council member for about 13 members and one permanent member for about 38 countries. In 1945 there was one council member for every 213 million people and now there is one for every 490 million people.
“The argument we have heard is that the low 20s is compact and efficient while the mid 20s or 27 seats results in undermining the efficiency and effectiveness of the Council,” he said.
“If that is so, are we to accept that in 1945 we agreed to an inefficient size to represent 2.35 billion ‘peoples’ and the 51 countries that were UN members then? On the other hand, one can well make the case that a Council of 11 Members in the phase of the Cold War was infinitely less effective than the larger Council” of today.
Akbaruddin added that Menissa Rambally, the Permanent Representative of St. Lucia, had pointed out that “‘efficiency’ is not an arithmetical or managerial concept, it is a function of optimal and just decisions perceived to be fair and just”. She had spoken earlier on behalf of the group of 42 nations advocating council reforms that is known as L69.
Monday’s meeting was the second session of the IGN held with the negotiating text that was adopted last September, overcoming decades of opposition from a group of nations determined to hobble the reforms.
It was time travel to the past for Akbaruddin, who as a first secretary in the Indian mission to the UN from 1995 to 1998 had worked on council reform.
“I may have the dubious distinction of taking the floor on the same subject without any movement on it 20 years apart,” he joked. “Today is my fate to face every diplomat’s nightmare scenario of the recurrence of ‘Groundhog Day,’ that too, 20 years later,” he added referring to the movie about a character caught in a time loop.
Turning away from the divisive issue of the size and composition of an enlarged council, Akbaruddin spoke of the areas of “significant convergence” on its working methods backed by many nations. These, he said, were that the enlarged council should:
— “Try to resolve problems under Charter provisions for conciliation and mediation and utilising regional organisations before resorting to military force;
— “Ensure a more transparent, efficient, effective and accountable functioning;
— “Ensure equal and effective participation by elected members in the decision making process and better access for non-council members to the work of the Council;
— “Give non-permanent members a chance to hold the presidency at least once during their tenure;
— “Enhance cooperation and coordination with regional and sub-regional organizations, particularly with the African Union.”
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)