Today's Challenges Require More Effective and Inclusive Global Cooperation, Secretary-General Tells Security Council Debate on Multilateralism

Published date15 December 2022
Publication titleASEAN Tribune

15 December 2022 (United Nations) Speakers Press Their Case to Expand Council Membership, Restrict Veto Use

Today's global challenges require a revitalized international cooperation that is effective, representative and inclusive, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today during a day-long open debate on a new orientation for reformed multilateralism.

Calling strengthening multilateralism his highest priority since assuming office, he said that his report Our Common Agenda and the process it initiated are aimed at reinvigorating multilateralism to deal with today's interconnected threats. Despite an imperfect system of collective security, United Nations peacemaking and peacekeeping has helped to end conflicts, saving millions of lives, he added.

'Notwithstanding this important progress, we are still grappling with many of the same challenges we have faced for 76 years: inter-State wars, limits to our peacekeeping ability, terrorism, and a divided collective security system,' he said. His proposed New Agenda for Peace will speak to all Member States and call for new norms, regulations and accountability mechanisms to strengthen the multilateral system in areas where gaps have emerged, he explained.

'We have the opportunity and the obligation to remember the promise of the United Nations Charter: To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. We must keep this promise with the help of a revitalized, effective, representative and inclusive multilateralism,' he said. Most Member States now recognize that the Council should be reformed to reflect contemporary geopolitical realities, he pointed out, voicing hope that regional groups and Member States can achieve greater consensus on the way forward.

Csaba Korösi (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, noting that 193 Member States have placed their trust in the 15-member Council, pointed out that 10 months into the war in Ukraine, not a single Council resolution has been adopted to mitigate the exact type of crisis the Organization was created to prevent. The veto initiative has opened an important door for a new form of collaboration and accountability, he said, as the Assembly now is obliged to step up when Council decisions are blocked by permanent member wielding their veto.

For the United Nations to prove its relevance, and for it to survive, it must deliver solutions for its 8 billion end-users, he continued, adding that collaboration across bodies, organs and processes is needed to respond to that complexity. Spotlighting the intergovernmental negotiations on a Council reform framework, he emphasized that deadlock among Member States means a dead end for the millions of people who suffer the consequences.

In the ensuing debate, over 60 ministers, senior officials and representatives voiced broad support for Council reform. Many speakers called for limited use of the veto power, as well as greater representation for underrepresented regions, with the representatives of France and the United Kingdom voicing support for permanent seats for Brazil, Germany, India and Japan. Delegates differed, however, on the way forward for membership expansion and intergovernmental negotiations on Council reform.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs of India, Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, said that those negotiations are being conducted with no time frame, text or record-keeping. This moment of crisis must 'capture the sense of change and not remain the prisoner of past,' he said, noting that Member States from Latin America and Asia, as well as small island developing States, should have ongoing representation in the Council.

Brazil's representative, in a similar vein, said the Council cannot be effective if Latin America and Africa are not represented as permanent members. Noting that intergovernmental negotiations have run their course, he said that Member States must negotiate reform in good faith and with a sense of urgency. Underscoring the deadlock in the Council resulting from the conflict in Ukraine and its destabilizing effects on the world, he voiced support for initiatives to regulate the use of the veto, which should only be used once diplomacy has failed.

China's representative also touched on the Council's working methods and suggested the creation of co-penholder systems with a regular rotation among permanent and non-permanent members, thus enhancing the voice of small and medium-sized countries. Underscoring the need to correct the imbalance of the Council's composition, he said that increasing the number of members from developing and independent countries must be a priority.

The Russian Federation's representative, pointing to exclusively Western-controlled partnerships in the United Nations, said the Council can be democratized exclusively through expanded representation for African, Asian and Latin American countries. Western States' desire to preserve their monopolistic, privileged position in the world is undermining confidence in international institutions and international law, he said.

Yamada Kenji, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, countering that claim, said the credibility of the United Nations is in jeopardy due to the Russian Federation's aggression, which the 15-member organ has not been able yet to stop. Reform is achievable, and the time is ripe, he emphasized, adding that negotiations can be immediately launched, with a text on the table, in the intergovernmental negotiations for Member States to narrow the differences in their positions.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said States must turn their attention away from pursuing national ambitions and the Council must seek to resolve conflicts and disputes, and not merely manage them. On Council expansion, he warned that adding new permanent members would numerically reduce the opportunities for States to be represented and contribute to the paralysis of the Council.

Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of the United Arab Emirates, United States, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Albania, Norway, Gabon, Armenia, Poland, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Philippines, Slovenia, Singapore, Egypt, Guatemala, Estonia, Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Argentina, South Africa, Malta, Saint Lucia, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Trkiye, Spain, Germany, Thailand, Venezuela, Chile, Iran, Nepal, Latvia, Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Morocco, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Lebanon, Australia, Cuba, Romania, Lithuania, Georgia, Nigeria and Ukraine, as well as the European Union.

The representative of India took the floor a second time.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m., suspended at 1:14 p.m., resumed at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 6:56 p.m.


ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that strengthening multilateralism has been his highest priority since assuming office as Secretary-General. His report Our Common Agenda and the process it initiated are aimed at reinvigorating multilateralism to deal with today's interconnected threats. Even during the darkest periods of the cold war, collective decision-making and continuous dialogue in the Security Council maintained a functioning albeit imperfect system of collective security. States armed with nuclear weapons cooperated to cut their numbers, prevent proliferation and avert a nuclear catastrophe. Peacemaking and peacekeeping by the United Nations helped to end conflicts, saving millions of lives.

'Notwithstanding this important progress, we are still grappling with many of the same challenges we have faced for 76 years: inter-State wars, limits to our peacekeeping ability, terrorism, and a divided collective security system,' he said. Conflict has dramatically evolved in how it is fought, by whom, and where, while the climate crisis is contributing to conflict in a host of ways. Misinformation and hate speech online are poisoning democratic debate and fuelling social instability, and many elements of modern life - including cyberspace and migration - are weaponized. However, frameworks for global cooperation have failed to keep pace, he said, emphasizing that the international community's toolbox, norms, and approaches need upgrading.

As part of his report Our Common Agenda, he proposed a New Agenda for Peace, which he hopes to submit to Member States in 2023, he said. It will speak to all Member States and address the full range of new and old security challenges. It will examine ways to update existing tools for mediation, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and counterterrorism, and consider how the United Nations can adapt its efforts vis-à-vis cyberthreats, information warfare and other forms of conflict. It will look to Member States for new frameworks to reinforce multilateral solutions and to manage intense geopolitical competition. The New Agenda for Peace will, among other things, call for new norms, regulations and accountability mechanisms to strengthen the multilateral system in areas where gaps have emerged, he explained.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative shows that the United Nations still has a unique and important role in brokering solutions to global challenges, he said, urging Member States to build on such innovative approaches. 'Our existing tools and operations also have enormous value and have contributed to saving many lives. We must do everything we can to invest in them and adapt them to new realities.' Where they fail, it is often because they are asked to do the impossible, he pointed out, adding that he looks forward to further discussions with Member States on this process.

Member States are working hard to ensure that intergovernmental bodies evolve to meet today's needs and realities, he continued, welcoming relevant negotiations in the General Assembly since 2008. A majority of Member...

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