NAM Security Council Reform

Here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place

Statement by

Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin

Permanent Representative


An informal meeting of the Plenary on the Intergovernmental negotiations on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council

United Nations General Assembly

01 May 2018



Thank you, Co-Chairs,
I align myself with the statements delivered by the Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and Grenadines on behalf of L 69 and the Permanent Representative of Japan on behalf of G 4. 
2.    We have, at the last meeting, provided our detailed views on the paper under discussion two times. Further, six interventions have been made on the same paper, thus far, by the groups we belong to. Cumulatively, we have articulated eight times our support for normalisation of the process and harmonisation of documentation; we have eight times called for attribution of proposals and reflection of the Common African Position; similarly eight more times supported expansion in both categories and opposed restriction of options; finally eight more times suggested restructuring of the paper & accepted expansion of the listed principles to include democracy.    
3.    Hence, while preparing for my current intervention, which will be the ninth statement that we are associated with on the document entitled “Revised Elements of Commonality and Issues for Further Consideration”, I realised, perhaps belatedly, why ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and its sequel ‘Through the Looking Glass’ are perennial favourites at the UN. The sage advice of the Red Queen to Alice should surely be familiar to each of us; if not let me quote:

“here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
4.    Consequently, in responding to your letter of 25 April 2018, rather than reiterating views that we have expressed earlier, we intend to address 5 specific issues in our national capacity. The intention is to seek clarifications and provide comments in the hope that these will contribute to moving ahead, rather than staying still.
5.    First, we note that your letter asks us to address “Issues for Further Consideration” in three interconnected clusters. We agree with your proposition that the focus, in the current phase of proto-negotiations, is on “Issues for Further Consideration”.  Therefore, we are not addressing issues in the “Elements of Commonality” section. 
6.    However, we notice references made by some to deleting some aspects of Commonalities. We would be ready, and in fact eager, to provide a range of suggestions on deletions too, if you indicate that we are in the phase of political give and take on the Commonalities section in its entirety or in its parts. We await your response and stand ready to abide by your choice on the way forward.
7.    Second, since you have referred to interlinkages I would like to draw your attention to Categories of Membership. Under section 4 on page 5 of the Commonalities Section a reference is made to “transitional options”. 
8.    Could you kindly indicate why no transitional option is listed in either section 4 or section 5 or section 6 of the Issues for Further Consideration? 
9.    The logical corollary of a reference in the commonalities section is that an option exists. The absence in the subsequent sections is therefore a bit perplexing. Is it because this option is no longer on the table? If so, it is understandable. We can all, of course, accept the proposition that it is the choice of anyone to not pursue an option after initially suggesting it. But, if it is an oversight, then we need to rectify it. We would, therefore, appreciate your clarification so that we can consider an appropriate updating in the next version of the document.  
10.    Third, in the Issues for Further Consideration Section, under Categories of Membership, under Section (b) on page 6, could you kindly clarify which State or Group of States has put forth the option of “Enlargement of the Security Council with 2-year term non-permanent members only? 
11.    Since you have listed this as an option, perhaps this meeting would be the occasion for all of us to understand this interesting proposal. Could you, or those who have floated this proposal, please explain how this proposal fits in terms of total size and composition of the reformed Council and regarding the regional distribution of such 2-year term non-permanent seats only? 
12.    As there is no attribution of who made this proposal, my delegation is at a loss as to who to seek clarity from. Perhaps you, Co-Chairs, can provide it to us, since you have listed this in the paper under discussion and may have insights about it. 
13.    Fourth, we welcome your suggestion to explore how the veto impacts work and effectiveness of an enlarged Council. In this context, we would like to highlight a little explored practice of the ‘hidden’ veto exercised in the subsidiary organs of the Council. 
Let me try and explain what this hidden veto is.
14.    There are more than a dozen subsidiary organs of the Council, each pronouncing numerous decisions annually. For example, the variety of Sanctions Committees. In each of them, the veto is exercised with none of us even being informed about it. Those who cast the ‘hidden’ veto are not required to provide a public explanation. Such a veto is neither recorded nor made public. In fact, even the proposal, which is denied by the use of the ‘hidden’ veto, is never made public, as it is considered ‘blocked’. 
15.    In the subterranean universe of subsidiary organs of the Security Council, the expansion of the practice of veto, where it was never meant to be exercised, is impacting the work and effectiveness in ways none of us is aware of. Making public the use of such vetoes and explanation for their use can perhaps be a first step in fostering transparency and enhancing the work of the Council.  
16.    Our submission, therefore, is that this subject could also be an issue for further consideration among various other suggestions in the section on veto. 
17.    Fifth, by definition, regional groups evolve in accordance with regional needs to meet regional situations. Yet, all regional groups have always been respectful of the larger whole - the General Assembly.  Regional uniqueness has never impeded the broader collectivity from acting on behalf of all of us in choosing Security Council members. While we need to be respectful to regional specificities, final decision making from the UN Charter’s perspective is the prerogative of all of us. This has never been contested either in any proposal now or before.    
18.    Since we started this year’s proceedings on Groundhog Day, the change of seasons has been a perennial theme in my interventions in the hope that change is in the air in our deliberations too.
19.    As we meet today, on a day that confirms the belief that “No winter lasts forever”, the issue of the weather is now settled. What is left now is whether, to seek recourse to paraphrasing the perpetual UN favorite - Lewis Carroll, we know which way we ought to go. 
20.    In the words of wisdom told to Alice by the Cheshire cat, “that depends a good deal on where we want to get to from here.”
21.  We hope, by the end of this meeting, we are able to understand where we are going to and the road that we are taking will take us there, under your stewardship. For our part, we are ready to spring forward, even if it takes the whole of summer. 
I thank you Co-Chairs.