NEW YORK – The U.N. General Assembly decided Wednesday to continue negotiations on Security Council reform at the next session, eyeing a possibly enlarged body with a membership “in the mid-20s.”
Debate has raged for decades over how to restructure the council, which currently comprises five permanent veto-wielding members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 elected members that serve two-year terms.
The assembly’s unanimous decision says member states should continue reform negotiations in the next session beginning in mid-September.
The text says that “building on the informal meetings” held over the last year and “using the elements of convergence,” which were circulated on July 12, the negotiations should continue with the aim of “early comprehensive reform.”
“An enlarged council should consist of a total of members in the mid-20s, within an overall range of 21-27 seats, with the exact number to emerge from the discussions,” according to the July 12 document.
The most controversial issues — the veto, geographical representation and categories of membership — were not included in the document, which also neglects to specify whether the new members would be permanent or nonpermanent, nor the regions they would represent.
The “Group of Four,” comprising Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, envision being among six new permanent members on an enlarged council with 25 or 26 members.
An opposing group, called Uniting for Consensus, which includes South Korea, Italy and Pakistan, supports up to 26 council members. However, it is opposed to adding any new permanent members, envisioning 21 nonpermanent members in all. Nine of them, though, would be eligible to serve for longer than the current two-year term.
It is generally understood that some permanent members, such as the United States, prefer to keep the number on an expanded council to a minimum to maintain maximum efficiency.
Last year, the president of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, appointed Luxembourg Ambassador Sylvie Lucas to chair the intergovernmental negotiations. In an effort to take the contested process forward, Lucas broke discussions down to address five separate issues. The ultimate objective was to find points of “convergence.”
Despite divergent viewpoints, the July document reflected progress in two of those areas: the size of an enlarged council and the working methods and relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly.
“Much remains to be done to achieve Security Council reform,” Lucas said at the plenary session. “Much is at stake but if member states engage in negotiating in good faith, reform is not impossible, reform is possible and reform is more needed than ever for the credibility and for the effectiveness of the United Nations.”
Lucas steps down as chair to take up a new position with her government next month in Washington. As president-elect of the General Assembly, Fiji’s Peter Thomson will be tasked with selecting her successor.