Global Policy Forum

Press Conference by General Assembly Facilitator on Security Council Reform

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Zahir Tanin has presented an overview of the negotiations.
July 20, 2009

Security Council reform had come a long way since the beginning a new intergovernmental negotiation process in February, the facilitator on that issue in the General Assembly said at a Headquarters press conference today, announcing a third round of talks to begin on 27 August.

"This GA presidency has turned a pipe dream into a real possibility," said Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations and Chairman of the Assembly forum that succeeded the Open-Ended Working Group on ways to make the Council more representative. "Now it depends on the membership to exploit the situation."

The Open-Ended Working Group has discussed Security Council reform for some 15 years, considering such key issues as membership -- the organ has five permanent, veto-holding members and 10 elected members each serving two-year terms -- the veto question, regional representation, the organ's present working methods and its relationship with the General Assembly.

"We're still mired in disputes about the rules of the game, but with the President of the GA's work plan we cleared all the procedural hurdles on day one," Mr. Tanin recalled, adding that, since the beginning of negotiations under the new process there had been a surge of interest from up to two thirds of the 192-member Assembly.

He said that, at the beginning of the second round of negotiations, he had provided "a shot in the arm" by presenting an overview of the models and "negotiables" under discussion. A solid process had been put in place and some flexibility had been shown by the membership, but not enough. For that reason, it was still hard to predict what the outcome would be. As in any negotiation, the outcome would only be known at the very end, and it was hard to predict when that outcome would be produced.

The model that had attracted the most support so far called for the expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent membership, he said, adding that the idea of an intermediate, provisional arrangement had also drawn much interest. In the period before the next session, the Chair was encouraging delegations to reflect on those concepts and other proposals, as well as possible areas of flexibility in positions. It was particularly important to consider the many questions raised by the proposed temporary arrangement, including how long it would be in place before a review and what the terms of the new membership category would be.

Asked whether the momentum of the negotiations would be sustained by the successor to Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, whose one-year term ends in September, Mr. Tanin said he had no personal knowledge of the intensions of the incoming President, Ali Abdessalam Treki of Libya, but did not doubt his dedication to continuing the negotiations.

He added that, if there was agreement on nothing else, there was a consensus on continuing the process, and the process would therefore continue. Regarding a date for completing the process, however, that was up to the Member States. Different groups had different time lines in mind, and it was the responsibility of all concerned to take advantage of the moment.

The Assembly presidency had done its part by leaving no stone unturned and ensuring that all the key issues had been examined from every possible angle, he said. Meeting themes had been arranged to try and prevent delegations from merely repeating themselves. Second thoughts on all issues had been encouraged.

He went on to state that there was "a light at the end of tunnel" after the first two sessions, but there was still a long way to go. "After 15 years of stalemate, we could not be expected to untie the Gordian Knot within just the past five months."


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