UN Security Council caught in ‘concerning state of paralysis’: UNGA President Francis

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The UN Security Council is caught in a “concerning state of paralysis” and aims to serve the predominance of Global North countries, UNGA President Dennis Francis has said, underlining the need for representation and equitable participation of developing nations in decision-making in a reformed Council. Underlining that “reform is our collective task and responsibility”, Francis said that as the President of the 78th session of the General Assembly, he believes that “we need a Council” that is more balanced, representative, responsive, democratic and transparent.

As conflicts “seem to be spreading across the globe, the Security Council whose primary responsibility is to maintain international peace and security, however, seems caught in a concerning state of paralysis,” Francis said. “With its unsatisfactory discharge of its crucial mandate, the Council is perceived as falling short of its mandate, consequently, compromising the credibility of the entire UN itself,” he said. Francis was addressing a special event titled ‘Shifting the Balance: Perspectives on United Nations Security Council Reform from Global South Think Tanks’ hosted at the UN headquarters by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN and The Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said that the existing structure of the Security Council is an “anachronism” failing to adapt to the seismic shifts in international relations over the past decades. “As we stand in the third decade of the 21st century, it is evident that the Council’s current form is no longer reflecting the global landscape it aims to serve. The predominance of Global North countries in its permanent membership overlooks the rich and varied tapestry of our world today, especially the voices and perspectives of regions such as Latin America, Africa, the Small Island States and large parts of Asia,” she said.

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The Indian envoy underlined that “as we represent the Global South, our demand is not merely for representation but for equitable participation in decisions that directly impact our regions,” and added that the symbolic representation of the Security Council, “a vestige of a colonial past”, must evolve. ORF President Samir Saran said the Security Council “remains the last colonial institution” and the global community must consider whether that is “the multilateral organisation we are comfortable with.” Referring to the issue of veto, Saran said the international community must question whether the veto is an important instrument that delivers global peace and global public goods “or is it a perverse privilege that protects bad behaviour.

“We’ve seen the misuse of the veto and we have not seen veto deliver peace and stability,” he said. Saran also voiced concern over the relationship of the Security Council with the General Assembly. “The subordinate relationship where the board of directors of a company have the shareholders report to them. It’s a very curious corporation. If it was an enterprise, it would fail in its design.” Saran expressed hope that the ambitious Summit of the Future, scheduled to be held next year in September, sees some bold statements from member states and “more importantly” timelines “that we should thereafter adhere to in terms of moving the needle” on UNSC reform.

Kamboj further said that the L69 Group of developing countries has been at the forefront of advocating for an expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories of the Security Council. “Our stance is clear, the Council must not only expand but also democratise ensuring that non-permanent members have a substantive role in decision-making processes,” she said. Francis thanked India for its “exemplary leadership” in addressing global challenges, for its continued championing of matters of interest to the Global South and for remaining a critical voice and seeking solutions to the major multilateral challenges facing the international community. “These strengths have been on full display, particularly during the pandemic, as well as more recently during India’s G20 Presidency,” he said.

Citing the G20 presidencies of Indonesia and India, Saran said that it’s a “new moment” where countries from the Global South are beginning to bear the responsibility of leading some of the multilateral processes. “It would be fair to say that what Indonesia achieved during its G20 presidency at a time when the world was in division” and the mission that “India injected into the G20 process at a time when consensus building is impossible in any other institution, tells you that a different set of managers can perhaps build coalitions and can create pathways where all can work together,” Saran said.