Nations opposing Security Council reforms will be isolated, UNGA president warns

United Nations, Sep 15 (IANS) General Assembly President Sam Kahamba Kutesa, who steered the body past its first major hurdle in expanding the UN Security Council, has warned countries opposing reforms that they risk becoming “more isolated.”

After Assembly in a landmark decision unanimously endorsed his document for negotiating Council reforms Monday, Kutesa told reporters “the message from the (UN) membership is loud and clear” and those who oppose the reforms “sooner than later they will find themselves more isolated.”

India’s hopes of a permanent membership in the Council hinges on reform process which had been crippled for more than a decade by the procedural wranglings that bedevil the UN. Negotiations on reforms could not proceed because there wasn’t a negotiating text on which to base the reform discussions and a group had opposed having such a text without a consensus.

In July, Kutesa circulated a draft negotiating text based on a survey of member states on Council reforms that laid out different options for expanding the Council, different categories of membership, geographic representation and use of veto powers. That was included in his decision on continuing the reform process that adopted unanimously by the Assembly.

India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji called the development “truly historic and path-breaking” and told the Assembly earlier, “This is as clear and explicit as any mandate could ever be.”

About 120 countries participated in the survey that was conducted by Jamaican Permanent Representative Courtenay Rattray, who was appointed by Kutesa to head the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) process for Council reform.

Kutesa, whose term as Assembly president ended Monday with the official closing of the 69th session, piloted the breakthrough decision using skilfull diplomacy, hard-nosed negotiations and bridge-building among diverse groups in the face of sustained opposition from China and a caucus known as United for Consensus (UfC) that was led by Italy with Pakistan’s backing.

So powerful was the support for reform he rallied that those opposing the reforms dropped their open opposition to the negotiating text and ensuring its unanimous adoption.

Asked at his news conference about China’s opposition, Kutesa said that besides Beijing there were also others like the UfC and countries “who don’t talk but share the same mental framework” which opposed the negotiating text. “There needs to be a change of attitude. It is not taking away from some people and giving to some people,” he said. “It is increasing the capacity for implementing international peace and security.”

Some of the opposition, he added, was based on longstanding rivalries between nation.

Although the summit of world leaders in 2005 gave the mandate for “early reform” of the Council, it was languishing and, therefore, Kutesa said that he made it his priority. Moreover, there has been a “historical failure to maintain peace and security” on the Council’s part, he said.

Earlier during the Assembly discussions, Mukerji praised Kutesa’s role saying, “It becomes especially memorable taking into account the stiff challenges and pressures that were brought upon you and your office to step back from this issue, which has been on the agenda of the UNGA for nearly 23 years.”

Although China, Pakistan, Russia and Italy and the UfC dropped their opposition and joined in the consensus, they continued to attack Kutesa, the way the document was framed and its validity as a negotiating text.

Pakistan’s Permanent Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi called the reform process flawed and accused Kuteas of arbitariness. In a veiled reference to India’s quest for a permanent seat, she threw a challenge saying that those who sought to use procedural manoeuvers to advance their efforts would not succeed.

Trying to undercut the decision endorsed by the Assembly, Lodhi said it was only a “technical rollover” to the next session for continuing the process. This was echoed by China’s Permanent Representative Liu Jieyi, who said it was “a technical decision” similar to texts adopted in previous years to keep reform moves alive.

Mukerji, however, countered, “It is not a technical decision, nor is it a rollover but highly substantive.” He noted that the Kutesa’s letter incorporated in the decision said it “represents a sound basis upon which Member States can engage in text-based negotiations through the next phase of IGN.”

He added, “This is the first time in the history of the Inter-Governmental Negotiation process” that a decision on Council reform has been adopted through an “official formal” document of the Assembly and this “changes the dynamics of the IGN completely.”

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