Global Policy Forum

Third Meeting on Security Council Reform Looks at Regional Representation

 In 2009, member states of the United Nations discussed the possibility of regional representation on the Security Council, but most decided that regional organizations would not be effective. Critics of regional representation spoke out against it as potentially misleading and too complicated. Furthermore, the argument was made that only states can be members of the United Nations, which excludes regional organizations. 

April 2, 2009

Member States met on 24 and 31 March to discuss 'regional representation' in the framework of Security Council reform. The two-day long meeting revealed that countries seriously disagree on the applicability of regional representation in the Security Council.

After extensive meetings on new categories of membership of a reformed Council and the veto, Member States turned their attention to the issue of regional representation.

Regional representation, and the idea that regional organizations could fill permanent seats, has long been promoted by Italy and its allies in the Uniting for Consensus faction (UfC). National representation on the other hand has been supported by Brazil, Germany, India and Japan in the Group of Four (G4) as well as by the African group, with the latter advocating that it should be left to the African Union to decide on what countries get African seats.

The aim of the meeting was not to reach a definite solution to the issue at hand, but simply to give all states an opportunity to present their respective views and perspectives.

All five meetings on new categories of membership, veto, regional representation, size of an enlarged Council and its working methods, the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly are expected to end in late April, with a second and more focused round expected to follow.

The Meeting

During the closed meeting, almost half of the membership spoke. Among others, Italy argued that the five regional groups of the United Nations must be reformed along with a change in the composition of the Security Council. “It is clear,” the Italian Ambassador said, “that the five UN regional groups, an expression of the post-World War II period, are vastly outdated. The EU is not WEOG [Western European and Other Group]. The AU, ECOWAS [Economic Community Of West African States], or SADC [South African Development Community] are not the African Group. The OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] does not coincide with the WEOG and East European Group. The Andean Pact and Mercosur [Mercado Común del Sur] are not GRULAC [Group of Latin American And Caribbean group]. ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] is not the Asian group.” And the ambassador added that the goal of Italy is “to negotiate ‘constitutional engineering’ modalities – through a review of the required majority for a decision – that could involve the regional dimension. In particular, we could envisage that the adoption of decisions on specific regional crises should not be approved if Council members from that region, for instance Africa, express their unanimous negative vote on such a decision.”

Reportedly, some ten to fifteen countries in the UfC faction supported these sentiments, including Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Malta.

India, seeking a permanent seat in a national capacity, replied that countries only represent themselves at the United Nations. “How do you represent something that does not exist? What is the regional interest of Asia (the regional group does not discuss any political or economic issue), GRULAC, WEOG? There is not even a regional interest or support for regional seats,” the Indian Ambassador noted.

These opinions were apparently echoed by more than 50 countries, including the rest of the G4 and African countries.

France reiterated their support for national seats for Brazil, Germany, India and Japan. Iceland noted that “The concept [of regional representation] is arguably both confusing and misleading. The United Nations Charter makes no reference to it and member countries are in any case not held accountable to regional groups or organizations.” Norway said that “We maintain that only States can be members of the United Nations.”


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