8 November 11
Security Council Reform: Statement by Ambassador Herman Schaper on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands
Statement by H.E. Ambassador Herman Schaper
Permanent Representative of the Netherlands Mission to the United Nations
on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands
to the General Assembly on the issue of ‘Security Council reform’
New York, 8 November 2011
I have the pleasure to speak on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands. Our subject today is the important issue of Security Council reform, an important issue for sure, but at the same time an issue that has been on the agenda of the General Assembly for a very long time.
Nearly twenty years ago, in a previous posting here in New York in the mid nineties, I represented my country in the ongoing discussions which were already taking place at that time on Security Council reform. As is the case at this moment, the issue which was discussed most of the time, was the enlargement of the Council. The different options for such an enlargement are still the same as were discussed then: enlargement in both categories of membership of the Council, enlargement only in the category of non-permanent members, and some sort of intermediary solution. And all the arguments and considerations which were used then, are still used nowadays.
While most of membership agrees on the objective of a Security Council which reflects not the world of 1945, but the world of today, there is little agreement on the road to take to reach that goal. The net result is that hardly any progress has been made in the many, many years we have discussed this question.
This cannot go on. Here we have an issue on which the great majority of the member states declares that a solution needs to be found, but the same member states are unable to come to an agreement for twenty years now. This not only undermines the legitimacy of the Security Council, it also undermines the credibility of the United Nations as an institution that is capable to solve problems and to act efficiently.
The real issue is not the danger of artificial deadlines, but whether the member states have sufficient political will to start a process of real negotiations. Belgium and the Netherlands have, over the last couple of years, been trying to stimulate a full discussion among member states about this issue, among other things by making concrete suggestions for a shorter and more focused text that can be the subject of negotiations. I am sorry to say that these efforts have not yet led to the desired result, despite our efforts that illustrate that technical progress can be made.
Belgium and the Netherlands share the goal of the vast majority of the membership of the United Nations, to reform the Security Council in such a way, that it better reflects today’s geopolitical realities. This is a very legitimate request, if only because it has a direct connection to the legitimacy of the Council. This is a time where we see emerging economies from different parts of the world, ready to step up the stage with global ambitions, and preparing to take on future global responsibilities. This has to be reflected in the composition of the world’s most important body in the field of peace and security : the Security Council.
In the view of our two countries, the way forward on this issue is first of all to find agreement that now is the time to start a serious process of negotiations on this issue. If we cannot even agree on this, we can better spend our precious time on other pressing issues and put an end to this increasingly irrelevant process of continuously repeating positions without coming to grips with the central issues.
Apart from that, we cannot expect the P5-members of the Security Council to take this issue seriously, as long as the membership does not start a process of real negotiations. In this sense, we have not given all P5-members an incentive to play an active role so far, although some P5-members have been showing a genuine interest in the issue. So what we need now, is a concrete proposal – or a couple of concrete proposals - on the basis of which we can start our negotiations.
At this moment, there is a very short proposal of the G4 floating around in the corridors of the General Assembly, that has the support of more than 80 member states. Let’s put this proposal on the agenda and let’s start a serious discussion about its content and implications: in particular about a moderate expansion of the Security Council in both categories of membership, permanent and non-permanent, respecting the necessary provisions for an efficient and effective Security Council. Let’s discuss for the first time in depth the various aspects of this proposal, and see whether the necessary support is really there. If this doesn’t work, let’s see if there are any other proposals that we can discuss in this context.
At this moment there are various groups with a stake in the discussion. We have the G4, the ‘uniting for consensus’ or L69, we have the African states and so on. As we can read in the statement of the G4-ministers, they are prepared to take a flexible approach to this matter. I appeal to the representatives of other groups to do the same.
Like other countries, Belgium and the Netherlands do not formally belong to one of the groups I just mentioned, but we are very much committed to finding a solution for this issue and willing to contribute constructively. Also, in this regard, we are looking forward to hearing ambassador Tanin’s ideas and initiatives on how to move the process forward during this GA session.
Finally, I want to thank Ambassador Tanin for his tireless efforts so far and his willingness to continue the good work on this issue. I also want to thank the PGA for his commitment to this issue, calling it one of the four important priorities of his presidency of the GA. I sincerely hope that with sufficient political will, combined with a minimum of flexibility among the membership, and with leadership of the PGA, we can finally make the necessary progress on this issue in the 66th General Assembly.