Africa ‘holds key to UN reform’

18 May 2006

Any hope for reform of the United Nations Security Council depends on movement in Africa’s position on veto powers for proposed new seats on the all-important UN organ, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said in Cape Town on Wednesday.

With the G3 group of Germany, Brazil and India – called the G4 before Japan pulled out – calling for two non-veto-wielding permanent seats to be added to the five-member Security Council, and with the AU sticking to its position of two new veto-wielding permanent seats, progress towards reform now revolved largely around movement in the African position, Pahad said.

Briefing reporters on progress made by the Cabinet’s international relations, peace and security cluster, Pahad said the South African government was not sure how much support the AU would get for its resolution when it came to a vote in the UN General Assembly.

A committee of 10 heads of state tasked by the AU with looking into the matter had reported that there was “massive support” for Africa’s position, but this support would be tested when the matter went to the 191-member General Assembly, Pahad said.

Whatever the outcome, reform of the UN organ tasked with ensuring global peace and security was “absolutely necessary”, Pahad said, “whether there is any commitment by any real players to a veto for the new members”.

He said he doubted that there was any commitment from the five current permanent members – Russia, the US, the UK, France and China (the G5) – to giving new members veto powers.

This was why the G3 had adopted an incremental approach, proposing that the matter of veto powers for new members be raised in 15 years’ time, along with only one extra non-permanent seat.

But until the G3 had African support, it would be difficult for their proposal to pass through the UN, Pahad said, adding that if the G3 felt they could get at least some African support they would put it to a vote in July.

“So everything now … depends on Africa at that July summit coming up with a position that can take the process forward – that’s the view of many countries, that unless Africa moves on the issue of the veto, there is no chance of this debate going forward.”

The African position currently remains that any new members must have the same powers as the G5, a position which South Africa is adhering to but which is on the agenda for the forthcoming African Union summit in Gambia in July.

Africa wants to have at least one permanent seat on the Security Council; it currently has three non-permanent seats, held by Ghana, Congo Brazzaville and Tanzania.

The issue remained of serious concern to South Africa, Pahad said, because “unless there is reform of the UN Security Council we won’t get this body to be transparent enough, representative enough”.

Better news for South Africa is that it was elected to be a member of the UN’s new Human Rights Council, with 179 members of the 191 countries that make up the UN voting for South Africa’s membership of the 45-member revamped, more powerful UN organ.

Pahad said he hoped the new council would give greater attention to the concept of development as a human right.

Source: BuaNews