Intergovernmental Negotiations Meeting on Security Council Reform
As delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 3 April 2017.
I thank the Permanent Representatives of Tunisia and Romania for co-Chairing the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform and we wish them well in this important task.
I thank the Co-chairs too for their “Food for Thought” paper. It builds usefully on the progress captured by the “Elements of convergence” circulated on 11 July 2016. Like many others, New Zealand is eager for a text-based conversation.
During our recent term as an Elected Member of the Security Council, we were acutely aware of the challenges which too often result in poor performance by the Council.
Some of these challenges flow directly from the framework set out for the Council in 1945. New Zealand opposed the veto at the San Francisco conference. The experience of the ensuing 70 years, in particular, the last two, has reinforced our view that the veto is a major impediment to the effective functioning of the Council.
But the veto is not the only structural problem of the Council. It is also clear that the membership arrangement established in 1945, and adjusted in 1965, does not adequately represent today’s geographic realities.
We are pleased that a clear point of convergence is that the Council should be expanded to include new members to address the current membership imbalance.
As the “Food for Thought” paper acknowledges “equitable geographic distribution” is one of the considerations set out in Article 23. So too is the contribution of Member States to the maintenance of international peace and security.
This is why New Zealand has been ready to see a small expansion in the number of Permanent Members, if there were to be agreement for an expansion.
However, it is obvious from the many years of discussions that we are a long way from agreement on the number and identity of new Permanent Members.
That is why New Zealand has pledged support to an intermediate solution, which we believe provides an achievable pathway for a more representative Council that can command the respect of the wider UN membership.
We support an expansion in the number of the existing non-permanent seats to 14, alongside six new “intermediate” seats without the veto. These positions would enjoy an extended term of up to five years.
Longer term seats would be open to contest by a self-selected group of larger countries wanting to serve longer than a two year term, with the possibility of immediate re-election.
Structural reform is important. At the same time, New Zealand’s experience is that the Council can and should make changes in the way it conducts its business day to day.
During our term, we encouraged the Council to adopt a more results-based, transparent and effective approach. We pushed to enhance the quality of informal discussions in the Council, and challenged members to adopt a problem-solving approach to considering issues.
We worked with the Secretariat and Council members to establish monthly situational awareness briefings to give all Council members higher quality information. We hosted informal “triangular” TCC consultations on specific Peacekeeping Operations, to ensure more effective consultation between the Council, the Secretariat and Troop Contributing Countries.
We worked also to ensure the voices of small states, including Small Island Developing States. Although not a geographic region, small countries are an important constituency, the views of which are too often overlooked in a Council dominated by large members.
We think there is more work that can be done along these lines.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight one aspect of current Council practice that we believe needs urgent attention. It does not need to await agreement on structural reform.
The fact of the veto is a problem in itself. So too are the way permanence and the veto have been leveraged to exert influence extending well beyond the protection of vital security interests – the avowed justification for the veto.
The veto confers no right to control appointments to the Secretariat – be they the senior appointments the Permanent Members seek for their nationals or the myriad of other positions over which the Permanent Member have presumed to exercise a controlling voice.
This level of influence was not part of the Charter compact and needs to be redressed.