Africa united at UN on Security Council reform (FCN, 04-28-2005)

UNITED NATIONS ( – African leaders say they are speaking with one voice and they will not retreat from their demand that Africa get two permanent seats on the Security Council.

A high-level ministerial meeting between the African Union (AU), and the nations known as the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany, Japan and India) was held in New York at the Indian mission ended on July 17.


“The issue of the veto and the extra non-permanent seat are the sticky points,” admitted Oluyemi Adeniji, Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs. He said they agreed to meet again on July 25. The mechanism for the next meeting is to focus on those two issues, Mr. Adeniji said.

When asked what hope he had that the differences could be resolved, he said, “very high.”

On July 13, the AU tabled a resolution in the General Assembly concerning their formula for reforming the UN Security Council. The AU Fifth Summit of Heads of State and Governments drafted a consensus document that proposes two permanent seats with veto power for Africa and five non-permanent seats on the Security Council. The AU resolution also proposes a total expansion of the Security Council to 26 members.

The Group of Four proposed expansion of the council from 15 to 25, without the veto for the new permanent members. The Group of Four tabled their reform proposal on July 11 and they say they support Africa having two of the new permanent seats.

“Africa is a vital member of the international community and, thus, its participation is crucial for realizing Security Council reform,” Japanese UN Ambassador Kenzo Oshima told the 191-member General Assembly on July 11 during the opening session of the three-day debate over UN reform.

The AU resolution states that the Security Council needs to reflect present world realities and become “more responsive” to the aspirations of all UN member states. African leaders have also agreed not to nominate now the two nations for the permanent seats.

“Instead, African Union foreign ministers have agreed to concentrate their energies on securing the seats,” according to an story published on July 3.

The bitter debate over the Security Council portion of his reform package caused Secretary-General Kofi Annan to ask the members of the General Assembly to “calm down.” The world press gave a vivid account of the acrimonious debate.

An editorialist in Austria’s Der Standard wrote: “In the debate on reforms, there is nothing left for Kofi Annan but to watch how the United Nations are behaving rather as enemy nations.”

Observers say that the talk in the corridors of the UN was that the only proposal that had any chance of getting the two-thirds support (128 nations) needed for its passing was the one offered by the G-4.

“Everybody in New York knows that only the G-4 plan has a chance to find a two-third majority in the assembly,” stated an editorialist in the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

But African representatives disagree. “You don’t submit a draft to 191 nations and say take it or leave it,” Mr. Adeniji told reporters at a July 14 press conference. The Nigerian minister called the press conference to explain that the AU knew full well their proposal needed a consensus; and that reports circulating in the corridors that the Africans would not negotiate were erroneous.

“We have to listen to others, their concerns, and see how best to realize our desires,” Mr. Adeniji stressed. Zimbabwean Ambassador B. G. Chidyausiku gave his appraisal of the state of the negotiations: “We, as Africans, have a saying: As long as the fruit is not ripe, we do not have to eat it.”

“The African common position on Security Council expansion is that Africa must be fully represented in all decision-making organs of the United Nations,” Mauritius Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul, spokesman for the African Group during the month of July, told the General Assembly.

However, the way the UN Charter is presently written, each of the five permanent Security Council members (U.S., China, Russia, U.K., France) can put the reform on hold.

And on July 12, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, senior adviser on UN reform to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, did just that, when she told the General Assembly that the G-4 plan should be voted down.

“Let me be as clear as possible, the U.S. does not think any proposal to expand the Security Council, including one based on our own ideas, should be voted upon at this stage,” she said.

The G-4 resolution is co-sponsored by 23 nations, including France.

According to observers, the U.S. has advocated a limited expansion of the Security Council permanent membership to include Japan and possibly one other nation.

“The U.S. apparently does not want a strong UN, but an ailing international club, which can serve as an assistant and a scapegoat,” commented the editorial in Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

(Jerry Muhammad contributed to this article.)