Sunday, September 21, 2014

Global Governance and Security Council Reform Conference in Rome

On Monday 16 May the Italian Foreign Ministry held a conference on Global Governance and Security Council Reform with 123 countries represented by ministers and representatives to share their views. The aim of the conference is the backdrop of a quickly changing world and a need to adapt the United Nations Security Council accordingly in the name of good global governance.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, H.E. Franco Frattini, chaired the Forum in Rome, and gave remarks in which he pointed out the motivation of the meeting, noting that, “dialogue and a spirit of compromise are the only way to arrive at a reform.” He then presented the three issues of the conference: Regional Dimension, Methods and Procedures, and Principles for Representation.

President of the General Assembly, H.E. Joseph Deiss gave introductory remarks about the urgent need for reform, describing the key concepts that in his view should underlie the process as, “Broadest possible support, Respect for the fundamental values of the UN, Simplicity, Efficiency, and Flexibility.”

“I am not pleading for a specific solution,” President Deiss said “…the decision to forge a solution lies with you. But be assured…I am determined that progress on this issue can be made during my presidency.”

H.E. Frattini then asked H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, to share his views.  Ambassador Tanin spoke about the Security Council reform process and its current developments as well as the necessary principles to guide the way forward.

In its 6th round, the intergovernmental negotiations, which began in 2009 have been the forum for developing a text, “a well-assorted ensemble of positions,” that has become the basis for negotiations. “This is in itself a historic achievement,” said Ambassador Tanin, and “can be a jumping off point for bigger things.” He reiterated his position as chair, “impartial to any position but partial to progress,” and explained the guiding principles on the way forward and for maintaining the integrity of the process, “Flexibility, Compromise, Courage and Transparency.”  While he recognized that early reform is the noble objective for all, he noted that rushing the process would be a mistake and that it is the will of member states that will drive the process. “We are operating on the heart of the organization,” he said, “One slip of the hand and we will attenuate the patient.”

Others spoke generally giving their countries’ positions on the process and reform.

Just days earlier, on the Margins of the Doha Forum in Qatar, the Foreign Ministry of Qatar hosted a workshop on Security Council Reform on 12-13 May. Nearly 40 diplomats as well as experts from academia and NGOs participated. H.E. Mr. Muhammad A.M. Al-Rumaihi, Assistant Foreign Minister of Qatar gave opening remarks in which he highlighted the importance of Security Council Reform for international stability. He then gave the floor to H.E. Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the UN, who highlighted the purpose of the day and a half long workshop, to be an informal exchange of ideas between different positions on Security Council Reform and the way forward. Ambassador Tanin shared his perspective before chairing the meeting. He recognized that the meeting was unique in that there was a combination of representatives from Missions and capitals as well as members of NGOs and Academia.  In that regard, he expressed optimism about the open-minded nature of the debate that would ensue.

Throughout the course of the next day and a half, participants shared their perspectives.  It was repeatedly expressed by diplomats that it was refreshing to hear the perspectives of “outsiders” from NGOs and academia, who were able to speak candidly about their views without the limitations of diplomacy. Several workshop participants also expressed that the event allowed them to better understand each others’ views.

“It was important for the diplomats involved in the process in the formal track of the Security Council Reform to have a very informal and friendly forum to brainstorm, to take a breath, and create a friendly atmosphere to discover some of the gaps and commonalities in order to inform their work going forward,” said Tariq Al-Ansari, Counselor of the Qatar Mission to the UN, and the coordinator of the workshop.

Both events represented Member State efforts to discuss the reform process, but it was overtly recognized at both that the only forum in which real negotiations about Security Council Reform and in which decisions can be made on the issue remains in the General Assembly.