UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – For three days in mid-November the UN General Assembly again debated Security Council reform–a debate that has raged for the past 14 years–without any light at the end of the tunnel and Africa again demanded permanent seats on the council.
Angolan Ambassador Ismael A. Gaspar-Martins argued it was time to redress the “historical injustice” of the African continent not having permanent representation. “We must move forward in the search for collective security by working together in a more inclusive, transparent manner,” said Amb. Gaspar-Martins.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, the Angolan ambassador reiterated the Motherland’s position: “Africa is asking for not less than two permanent seats with all the privileges of permanent membership, including the right of veto, and five non-permanent seats,” Amb. Gaspar-Martins said.
The Security Council is responsible for maintaining world peace and security. It usually recommends negotiations to end conflicts, it may investigate or mediate troubles between hostile countries and it suggests peaceful settlements. The council may also initiate punitive actions, such as economic sanctions and collective military action. Security Council resolutions were used by the U.S. as the guise for invading Iraq in 1991. The council has five permanent members, the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France, with veto power over any resolution. Ten temporary members serve two-year terms and are voted on by the UN General Assembly. The president of the Security Council rotates monthly among Security Council members.
African leaders have argued the current configuration of the Security Council is undemocratic. Some complain that the council has shown an inability to protect weaker states against the U.S. and other major powers. Africa is also the only continent without a permanent seat and veto power in the Security Council. According to Amb. Gaspar-Martins, the African Union would be responsible for selecting African representatives to the Security Council.
Maged A. Abdelaziz, Egypt’s permanent ambassador, surprised many in the General Assembly by saying “arduous attempts” were made to have African states abandon their quest. “Some corners had expressed a need to send a message to the most recent African Union Summit in Accra, Ghana, to convince African leaders to amend the continent’s position,” he said.
“The Accra Summit held their ground and backed the full letter and spirit of the Ezulwini Consensus as the framework for what has and will continue to represent the just demands capable of rectifying the injustice against Africa,” Amb. Abdelaziz said.
The Ezulwini Consensus, named after the town in Swaziland where it was adopted in July 2005, set out Africa’s common position on UN reform. Membership on the Security Council was a major point for the group.
Wang Guangya, China’s permanent ambassador, voiced support for Africa’s position. “Reform must accommodate the interests of all sides, and increase representation of developing nations, especially African nations.
Any formula that does not address Africa’s concerns would not have China’s backing,” he said.
A British representative, speaking Nov. 12, backed extending permanent Security Council membership to Germany, Japan, India, Brazil and Africa. The issue was debated Nov. 12-14.
Of the remaining three permanent members, Russia refrained from supporting a specific nation, while France favors India. The U.S. has endorsed Japan.
“Reform of the Security Council is absolutely overdue,” said Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies. “The Security Council is for sure the major decision-making body at the UN, so, Africa needs to have its views and its voice heard in that chamber,” Ms. Woods told The Final Call. She stated emphatically that “racism” was the reason Africa was denied a permanent seat on the council. There is “a sense that those dark people over there cannot navigate through the difficult issues facing the world,” said Ms. Woods.
James Paul, director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, told The Final Call the Security Council was a very important institution that was “way out of synch.”
“The world needs something a little different nowadays,” said Mr. Paul. It may be necessary to see the world through regional groupings, rather than individual member states, he said. “If the African Union were given a permanent seat on the Security Council, that would imply (something) more,” he said.