Permanent Representative of Canada to the United NationsAt the General Assembly on "Question of equitable representation on and
increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters"
July 12, 2005
Canada welcomes this opportunity to express its views about proposed changes in the membership and the working methods of the Security Council. These issues arise as we are discussing a wide range of proposals that leaders will take up when they meet here in September.
Let me say at the outset that while Canada regards Security Council enlargement as a worthy objective, we urge member states not to allow this single issue to distract us unduly from the many other crucial subjects with which we want leaders to deal decisively in September. Those subjects include concrete measures to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; practical steps to protect the safety and security of our citizens, wherever they may live; renewed efforts to achieve recognition and enforcement of human rights; and proposals to render the management of the United Nations more effective, more transparent and more accountable. I speak frankly, Mr. President, in saying that this bundle of bold and broad proposals is more urgent than changes to the composition of the Security Council. We therefore urge colleagues, as we debate and decide the pending resolution, not to lose sight of the world's true priorities, which are found on that pressing agenda that our citizens are counting on us to address and to deliver on in September.
With that as my starting point, let me turn to the matter at hand.
Canada agrees that the Security Council should be enlarged. We agree that the world's regions should be more fairly represented on the Council: that there should be better and more frequent participation of medium-sized and small states; that the duration of mandates should be examined and the possibility of consecutive re-election should be introduced. We agree also that the Council's working methods should be modernized, so they are more open, more inclusive and more responsive.
But there is one feature of the pending resolution with which Canada cannot agree. We are steadfastly opposed to the addition of new permanent members to the Security Council.
Now, I must not be taken as questioning the worthiness of the nations who seek these permanent seats, nor the sincerity and the good faith of their efforts and those of their co-sponsors. Each of the aspirants has demonstrated a real and profound commitment to this institution. Each has served with great distinction in this Assembly and, indeed, as an elected member of the Security Council. And Canada is proud to call each of them friend.
However, Mr. President, I speak in support of principles that Canada believes in strongly, that we believe must govern the way in which we renew and improve the Security Council and its method of working.
The permanent members of the present Council took their seats in a distant and very different age. The forces that shaped the post-war creation of the United Nations were unique to that time. Circumstances have changed. Regional balances have shifted. The world's needs and its challenges have evolved. And whatever the merits of the formula devised in 1945 may have been at that time, the vast differences in today's reality must be reflected in the approach we take to Security Council reform today.
I speak here not only of shifts in population and relative power. I refer also, Mr. President, to the emergence of values that are now fostered and cherished here and around the world. Values like democracy. And accountability. And flexibility. And fairness. Values that do not favour a widened notion of two-tiered privileges in the world's only institution of global reach and universal membership. In that context, Mr. President, the Council of 1945 must be seen as an anomaly to be accommodated, and not as a model to be emulated.
Canada believes as a matter of principle that the accession of additional permanent members to the Security Council would not be in the best interests of this institution, and would not be in the long-term best interests of the overwhelming majority of its member states. It would betray the values that member states have developed over time. It would deny a fair and a flexible allocation of seats. It would diminish the accountability of the Council at a time when that virtue is most needed. It would deprive the world's regions of a democratic and orderly way to determine for themselves their representation on this institution's most significant body.
Now, speaking of democracy Mr. President, supporters of the resolution have suggested in debate that the process they propose is democratic. Mr. President, I know of no democracy in which a single election is sufficient to entitle the winner to remain in office in perpetuity. Indeed, had that option been available in Canada, I wouldn't be here today.
And Mr. President, the situation is scarcely improved by including a provision that foresees an illusory and meaningless "review" in the very distant future.
Additionally, Mr. President, the formula proposed in the pending resolution would eliminate the possibility that a member state could truly represent the interests of its region on the Council. The addition of permanent members would also have significant and adverse indirect consequences through what is known as "the cascade effect". Since permanent members of the Council expect dedicated seats on a wide variety of subsidiary and related bodies, adding new permanent members will reduce the opportunities for the rest of the member states to serve on those bodies.
Perhaps most important, from the point of view of the interests of this institution, Mr. President, the designation of some of our member states as additional permanent members would lock into place forevermore a rigid regime unsuited to a dynamic world. Who can say what our circumstances will require in 20 years, or in 40, or in 60 more? We have seen and we have lived with the limitations inherent in a freeze-frame format that favours a fixed over a fluid formula. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Canada favours an approach to Council enlargement that would reflect the values that we all seek to promote. On Friday last, Italy circulated a draft resolution on behalf of a group of member states including Canada, that have united in support of a broadly-based consensus. That proposalâ€”instead of adding additional permanent membersâ€”would add seats that would be permanently allocated to regions, while leaving the member states in those regions to decide, from time to time, which of their number is best suited to serve and for how long. The Uniting for Consensus proposal is flexible in leaving it to the regions to determine the duration of each regional mandate. Its approach is democratic and accountable in providing for periodic elections and re-elections at intervals that each region would determine. In that way, there would always be an opportunity to adjust to changing circumstances and to evolving needs.
It would also, Mr. President, spare us the damaging and divisive decision which the pending resolution would force on us now, of choosing among candidatesâ€”each of them worthy in its own rightâ€”who seek special status in a permanent seat that they will hold into the future, no matter what the future may hold.
And so, Mr. President, Canada will vote against the pending resolution. For all the reasons we have given, in the interest of this institution and for the sake of its capacity to confront the future with flexibility and with fairness, we urge other member states to do the same.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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