Negotiations on UN reforms to begin in March

February 20th, 2011 - 3:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Shubha Singh
New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) The next round of inter-governmental negotiations on UN Security Council reforms, in which India has a major stake, is to take place in the first week of March on a new condensed document of three pages.Zahir Tanin, chair of the inter-governmental negotiations, said the dialogue would begin on the “small text” — a new, narrowed down document representing the positions and suggestions of all 192 member countries.

Tanin, Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said that a key fact to emerge from the negotiations was that all member states were agreed on the need for a “more representative and more democratic” body for the UN.

“No one is against reforms”, said Tanin, who is in New Delhi to attend the Conference of Least Developed Countries, a group of 48.
But he warned that it was a complicated negotiation because it related to global governance and also to the balance of power.

Member states want a correction of the anachronisms and the historical injustice to regions which are not represented in the Security Council, he said.

“Today, it is a post-colonial, post-cold war, post-9/11 world. The essence of the debate is for an efficient, democratic, relevant and legitimate body,” Tanin told IANS.

Many people thought it was an impossible task to put all the country positions together, according to Tanin, but they were compiled into a 37-page document.

“Through editorial engagement, the large document could be reduced to a more linear arrangement. Now it has been narrowed down (and) condensed to a three page document, reflecting the positions and suggestions of member states.”

The short text was introduced Jan 31 - a significant step forward as the previous round of negotiation had resulted in an agreement to use the text as the basis for continued negotiations.

The UN Security Council is a 15-member body, with five permanent members who hold the right to veto, and 10 members elected for two-year terms on a regional basis.

The UN Security Council was last expanded in 1965 when the non-permanent membership was increased from six to 10 seats.

The UN had a membership of 51 in the 1960s; there are now 192 member states in the UN. India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, who form the G-4 grouping, are seeking permanent seats in the Security Council, the powerful body empowered to take decisions on global strategic issues.

The key issues in the UN reforms are the size of the Security Council, categories of expansion, the power to veto, regional representation, and the relationship between the General Assembly and Security Council.

Among the suggested categories of expansion are expanding the non-permanent membership; increasing both the number of permanent and non-permanent members; and an intermediate solution of increasing the number and term of non-permanent members.

There are, however, major differences among member countries.

Tanin said he was optimistic about the process because the “ground was ready for reforms”. He said he saw no reason why the reforms should not happen. But he added that if the reforms do not happen, it would mean there was no political will for reforms.

(Shubha Singh can be contacted at

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