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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


UN Security Council Aspirants Offer Expansion Plan

17 May 2005

Four nations campaigning for permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council have put forward a draft resolution on expanding the council's membership from 15 to 25. The four sponsors hope to bring the expansion issue to a vote in the General Assembly as early as next month.

Brazil, Japan, India and Germany Monday circulated the text of a proposal that would create six new permanent Security Council seats and four new non-permanent seats.

The text does not specify who the new permanent members would be, but the four have each laid claim to one of the seats. The other two would go to African countries.

After a decade of debate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in March that he wants the General Assembly to decide on the expansion issue by September, when world leaders gather in New York for a summit.

"I urge member states to make the Security Council more broadly representative of the international community as a whole, as well as of the realities of today. This important issue has been discussed for too long. I believe member states should agree to take a decision on it, preferably by consensus, but in any case before the summit," he said.

Several of the permanent five have reacted coolly to the expansion proposal. The United States has said it favors any enlargement proposal, so long as it makes the Council more efficient, while China has said addition of new permanent members should only be done by consensus.

The United States has endorsed Japan's candidacy, noting that Tokyo contributes nearly 20 percent of the entire U.N. operating budget, second only to Washington.

U.S. adviser on reform issues Thomas Repasch told a recent General Assembly meeting those who finance the world body's operation should have greater influence. "Membership in UN bodies, especially the Security Council, should go to those that shoulder the burdens. Those nations with fiscal responsibility should have a greater say in establishing programs and budget priorities," he said.

There are still a number of contentious issues standing in the way of any expansion. One is the veto power. The Brazilian, German, Indian, Japanese draft introduced Monday calls for new permanent members to enjoy the same veto power as the original permanent five, the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.

The New York Times newspaper reported Sunday that the United States had quietly informed the aspiring permanent members it would not support their candidacies unless they gave up their veto demand.

Then there is the question of which countries would represent Africa as permanent members. Two of the six new seats would be reserved for African nations, but at least three - Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria - have served notice they expect to be included.

A timetable submitted by sponsors of the new draft calls for debate and adoption by the U.N. General Assembly next month, election of new permanent members in July, and a vote soon after that on amending the U.N. charter.

Each step would require approval by two-thirds of the assembly, or 128 votes.

Algeria's Ambassador Abdallah Baali said with so many issues outstanding, forcing votes prematurely could backfire on the sponsors, damaging the prospects for other important U.N. reform proposals. "My fear is if there is an early vote on the draft resolution, that could have an adverse effect on the whole reform process. That's the real fear, that's why I have been telling them it is important for them to take into account the fact that reform is global process and we cannot just dissociate Security Council reform from the rest if they do they might jeopardize the whole process," he said.

Brazil, India, Germany and Japan say they have 120 of the 128 votes needed for adoption of the Council expansion. But they also have some powerful opposition. In addition to China's concern about Japanese membership, Italy opposes Germany's candidacy, Pakistan is staunchly opposed to membership for its arch rival India, and several other middle-sized countries, such as Mexico, Canada and South Korea, say they prefer a system of semi-permanent rather than permanent seats.

If the reforms do win approval by the General Assembly, changing the U.N. charter would still require ratification by all five permanent Council members.

Even the most hopeful U.N. diplomats admit reforming the world body is a daunting challenge. British academic Jonathan Eyal, in a recent article, wrote that the reform debate had gotten off to an awful start. He suggested that the project be postponed.

Change, Mr. Eyal argued, is necessary and inevitable. But, he said, it can come only when governments reach a compromise, calmly and in private, not when they are being goaded by the secretary-general.

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