25 September 2012
South African President Jacob Zuma has raised concerns about what he described as the “undemocratic and unrepresentative” nature of the UN Security Council, saying this would lead to the council’s decisions coming under attack for lack of legitimacy.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, Zuma said it was “common cause that the current configuration of the council is unfair. It does not reflect the contemporary geo-political realities, especially with respect to Africa.”
Speaking at a session that focused on the rule of law at national and international level, Zuma criticised the UN for failing to ensure that Africa had enough representation on issues on international peace and security.
The African continent was both generally under-represented and specifically unrepresented in the permanent category of the UN Security Council (UNSC), he said.
“Adherence to the international rule of law will continue to elude us as long as the organ with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security is unrepresentative and undemocratic.”
He said the assembly needed to ask whether the content of the decisions of the UNSC were fair.
“Over the past year we have seen both inspiring improvements and spectacular disappointments in the promotion of the rule of law through the council’s work,” Zuma said.
He added that the adoption of Resolution 1989, “bringing the Al Qaida regime closer to human rights” and due process standards was a noteworthy illustration of the council’s willingness to adhere to the rule of law.
The UN had been severely criticised for lack of due process in the listing and delisting of individuals. The resolution was an improvement in that it provided individuals with recourse to challenge unfounded listings.
“However, as we noted during the Security Council’s debate on the rule of law in January 2012, there is a need to ensure greater accountability for actions taken in the name of the Security Council.”
Africa would continue to encourage the organs of the United Nations, including the council, to make greater use of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, by making requests for advisory opinions when confronted with complex legal questions.
The continent was also of the view that while exerting efforts to promote the rule of law at the national level, including the promotion of accountability mechanisms, equal attention also had to be paid to the rule of law at international level.
“If not, the United Nations runs the risk of being accused of double standards and hypocrisy,” Zuma said.