General Assembly: Statement by Ambassador Wittig on Security Council Reform

Feb 21, 2012

(Statement as delivered by Ambassador Wittig at the Informal Plenary of the General Assembly on Security Council Reform)

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I also thank the colleagues from the Uniting for Consensus Group (UfC) for the presentation given today.  Allow me to now provide some comments and raise some questions. I do this in aligning myself with the statements made by my G4-colleagues.  

I welcome that the UfC was given the opportunity today to provide some more clarity on what the UfC-Initiative actually entails. From the UfC response to the letter by Chairman Tanin of September last year, one had to get the impression that the UfC initiative was the holding of the Rome Conference. Germany, like many other delegations, participated in the meeting. We have done so in Mexico, and we have done so in Tokyo. We will continue to do so in future meetings should these promise to bring the reform efforts forward.

However, let me make this point very clear: The oral conclusions issued after the Rome meeting are not an outcome document, as it is often referred to. The conclusions were not negotiated during the meeting by the participants. They were drafted and subsequently issued by the host of the meeting, the Italian Foreign Ministry. They reflect a subjective assessment made by the host. They do not necessarily represent the shared view of all participants let alone can they be described as an endorsement of this assessment. I would also like to mention that to my knowledge, our G4 partners were not invited to the Rome meeting.

We have heard today that the UfC position is reflected in the so-called “Italy-Colombia” conference room paper, first circulated in January 2010. Since then, however, we have heard other ideas from UfC members. The esteemed Foreign Minister of Mexico, at the Rome Conference last year, suggested an extension of the term of normal non-permanent seats to 4 years plus a new category of non-permanent members to be elected for 8 to 10 years with the possibility of immediate re-election. Against this background: I would like to know what the UfC position is on these proposals made by Mexico last year?

Mr. Chairman,

On a more general note, I think that it is fair to say that there is a fundamental difference in position between the UfC and the majority of member states on one central question: that of new permanent members.

This is what it boils down to: On the one hand, we have the principled position of the UfC against any new permanent membership in the Security Council.

On the other hand, you have the 54 African member states, numerous additional members of the L.69 group and of course the G4 and even some of the current permanent members.

All these Member States have  – in one form or another – spoken out in support of a reform that would include new permanent members. They have done so in writing, during General Assembly debates or during the intergovernmental negotiations, most recently on 26 January.

What all these Member States share, is the conviction that only a real, structural reform of the Security Council can make it more effective and responsive to the realities of the 21st Century. Merely adding a few years to non-permanent membership is a “band-aid” approach to a problem that requires structural reform.

Mr. Chairman,

clearly, the UfC idea of expansion in non-permanent membership only is opposed to the stated preference of the majority of the Member States. To speak of “flexibility” by simply increasing by a year or two the years that non-permanent members could serve on the Council is thus, we believe, besides the point. 

In fact, the short resolution, proposed by the G4 and supported by a large cross-regional group, shows great flexibility: Its seeks agreement on two key principles – an expansion in both permanent and non-permanent seats and an improvement in working methods - while leaving questions on specific modalities for subsequent negotiations.

Mr. Chairman,

You have asked the very valid question of how the various initiatives may take the reform process forward towards decisive progress; how these initiatives can be operationalized. Here, I would like to make two points:

First, we have noted the request by the UfC not to use the number of speakers during the intergovernmental negotiations as a yardstick to quantify overall support. This, it was claimed, would be misleading and unproductive.

I ask you, Mr. Chairman, does this not defeat the main purpose of the intergovernmental negotiations? Does this not run counter to the very objective that you stated in your letter of 29 December 2011, namely to have member states weigh in on the merits of the various initiatives and indicate whether they support them? How can one go into negotiations declaring from the start that the amount of support received during these negotiations is in fact not representative?

Secondly, Mr. Chairman, we have also taken note of the position taken by the UfC against any streamlining of the Rev.3 document. In fact, it was not even mentioned in the introduction by Italy today. The argument is that streamlining would not entail the whole range of opinions raised by all member states. But insisting that negotiations are conducted on the basis of a 30 pages document will simply lead us nowhere.

It has become clear again during today’s presentation that there are two very different camps on the matter: One camp that seeks to preserve the status quo, and one camp that wants to achieve progress towards real reform.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman,

I took careful note of the position taken by the UfC on Africa and their legitimate demands for adequate representation in the Security Council.

The UfC, we have learned again today, is granting Africa “a special case-status” in its proposal. The UfC also sees great areas of convergence between the Common African Position and that of the UfC.  Allow me to make two comments:  

Firstly: I think the Africa Group can very well speak for itself. The Africa group knows best what its demands are, what its position is on the various proposals on the table and what it deems best for the African continent.

Secondly, I do not want to imply that there is full convergence between the G4 initiative, as entailed also in the Short Resolution, and the African Common Position. However, there is actually quite some commonality between the G-4 and the African positions. As mentioned before, the Short Resolution is in fact taken from the text of the Common African Position. Again, the G4 has always and clearly underlined that Africa should be represented in the Council with permanent seats.

I have heard with interest the questions raised today by the Representative of Sierra Leone and Chairman of the C-10 group on how the UfC wants to reconcile its rejection of new permanent seats with the Common African Position. I look forward to the answers by my colleagues from the UfC to these and the other questions raised.

Thank you Mr. Chairman

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