Wednesday, April 23, 2014

United Nation’s Security Council Reforms

Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the question of equitable representation and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

1. “The Untied Nations” – that is how the name of the newborn organization was spelled in one of the San Francisco documents. Accidentally misspelled, for the objective of the UN was exactly the opposite of untying nations. The world body was brought into the world in 1945 to strengthen the mutual ties between countries and to tie their behavior to international law. In order to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, the UN Charter endowed in particular the Security Council with sweeping powers. Yet it is said that its real impact derives not just from such legal provisions but to a large extent also from its perceived legitimacy. Let me quote for example Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who said: “What the UN can convey that is particularly important is legitimacy, an important part of soft power.” End of quote. For the UN Security Council, remaining relevant therefore requires retaining legitimacy. Yet it is here that we have a lot of work on our hands. Just look at the UN logo. It was approved back in 1946 and depicts the world surrounded by olive branches – by now, that world has changed so profoundly, that the profoundly unchanged organization’s ability to bear the olive branch of peace is severely at risk. Peace and security cannot be maintained by a Security Council that is out of date and out of touch. A young and charismatic American president led the way when he said, and I quote: “The United Nations cannot survive as a static organization. Its obligations are increasing as well as its size. Its Charter must be changed as well as its customs. The authors of that Charter did not intend that it be frozen in perpetuity.” End of quote. That was John F. Kennedy at the opening of the 18th GA session in 1963, the last and only time the Council’s composition was updated. Now we are in GA session number 63 and once more face the responsibility to reform.

2. This chance for change has been three decades in the making. It was India together with Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Guyana, Maldives, Nepal, Nigeria and Sri Lanka that in 1979 planted the seed by asking the General Assembly to include a new item on its agenda: “Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters”. It was September 11 and its aftermath that laid bare the urgent need to adapt the Security Council to the come-back of international insecurity, propelling the item towards the top of the UN’s agenda. At the 2005 World Summit, our leaders rallied behind the objective of, and I quote, “an early reform, of the Security Council – an essential element of our overall effort to reform the United Nations – in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions,” end of quote. Our leaders thus already spelled out what the objective of Security Council reform is. What they did not tell us, of course, was their definition of “early reform”. However, as the President of the General Assembly has asserted, it would seem safe to say, that they did not mean to see another World Summit pass us by with the status quo intact. There is no reason why we should fail them, for today we at long last leave the antechamber of reform and walk into the negotiation room. Landmark Decision 62/557 opened that door on 15 September 2008. On this historic day, we should be thankful to all who worked hard to create this opportunity and, at the same time, we should be mindful of the responsibility not to squander it. Outside the negotiation room, the world finds itself in a state of flux. With the economic dominoes falling, some even augur a new Great Depression. And as we all know, that crisis set the stage for a war that brought untold sorrow to mankind – a history the UN is supposed to stop us from repeating. In these dangerous days, we cannot stop at repairing our economic institutions, our system of collective security must be reformed along with it. We don’t have the luxury of leaving one the two for another day. Coming from where I come from, I know first-hand how intimately peace and prosperity are related and that both deserve first-tier priority. Coming from where I come from, I know how crucial the Council’s work is to peace on Earth, to peace on the ground. Security Council reform forms a centerpiece of today’s Herculean effort to reshape global governance.

3. Fortunately, as the last couple of months have also shown, the fire in which Decision 62/557 was forged still burns. We must keep that fire of collective commitment going, because if we let narrow self-interest prevail, we might miss the narrow opportunity for decisive progress. While the onus is mostly on Member States, the President of the General Assembly and I, as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on his behalf, will do everything in our power to prevent that from happening. At the successful first meeting of this informal plenary, the President vowed to very soon undertake his responsibility to take the process forward. That time has now come. Yesterday morning, delegations already received the work plan announced on January 29. The plan is the result of a painstaking and diligent exercise of deduction. From that exercise, while guided by the authoritative sources the President identified in his 29 January address, we concluded that this is the work plan that emanates from Decision 62/557. What is more, the plan, setting out how to negotiate and when to negotiate, also does justice to the overwhelming and across-the-board appetite among Member States to get started – not with negotiations on the negotiations, but with negotiations on the substance. For too long, we have been dipping our toes in the water. Now, at long last, we finally dive into these negotiations. If we rush the process and swim back to the surface too quickly, we might not survive because of decompression sickness. But on the other hand, if we stay under too long, we will run out of air and surely succumb. I don’t believe that either fate will befall us, because I believe that you will rise to the challenge. Let us now take a deep breath before we dive into the deep end on March 4, commencing the implementation of our work plan. Every day, every way possible, I will help you with that, as described in the letter of the President. We are of course impartial to any of the positions, but partial to progress.

Thank you.

Rome Ministerial Conference on Security Council Reform

Statement of Ambassador Tanin at Rome Ministerial Conference on Security Council Reform

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

* It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with you today. I want to thank Minister Frattini for his hospitality, for opening his door to us. In the new phase of the Security Council reform process, all involved will have to open the door to compromise. All initiatives to that end are considered welcome by yours truly, as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on behalf of the President of the UN General Assembly. After wrapping up the previous phase of the reform process to everybody’s satisfaction, the President and I look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the entire UN Membership in New York . Let me now direct a few words to the delegations gathered here in Rome .

* I was always told: when speaking in Rome , quote a classical author. Sorry, it’s not a Roman author but a Greek one, Thucydides. His seminal work “The History of the Peloponnesian War” was the book that launched a thousand debates about the relationship between power and legitimacy. In the battle between Athens and Melos , the Melians were completely overpowered, but appealed to the higher power of international law to argue for their survival. “In our view,” they said, “it is at any rate useful that you should not destroy a principle that is to the general good of all men – namely, that in the case of all who fall into danger there should be such a thing as fair play and just dealing,” end of quote. That assertion that might does not make right, started off mankind’s odyssey towards finding a balance between power and legitimacy. The current effort at the United Nations in New York to reform the Security Council is a part of that journey.

* As an observer to today’s meeting, what I first and foremost observe is the will to reform. The will to achieve the objective set at the 2005 World Summit, when our leaders called for, and I quote, “an early reform of the Security Council – an essential element of our overall effort to reform the United Nations – in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions,” end of quote.

* As you all know, the President of the General Assembly last week announced that on February 19, we will finally sit down at the negotiating table. At the same time, he assured Member States that these negotiations will be conducted strictly according to the principles set forth by the Membership in General Assembly decision 62/557, and I quote: “in good faith, with mutual respect and in an open, inclusive and transparent manner” and “seeking a solution that can garner the widest possible political acceptance by Member States,” end of quote.

* The President of the General Assembly also let it be known, that on February 19 we will present a work plan for the negotiations. A crystal clear plan on how to negotiate and when to negotiate – beginning shortly with meetings on the five key issues: categories of membership, the question of the veto, regional representation, size of an enlarged Council and working methods of the Security Council, and the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly. The President and I will do everything in our power to safeguard the integrity of the process and the achievement of progress. Decisive progress. Our lodestar will of course be decision 62/557, and we will be guided by the UN Charter, the World Summit Outcome Document, the relevant UN rules and procedures, legal advice, past practice and input from Member States through the Open-ended Working Group.

* Nothing would do more to stir up cynicism about the United Nations than us wasting this historic opportunity for change. We have to rise to the occasion and not get bogged down. We decided – now we must follow through. I would almost quote Julius Caesar and say: “The die is cast.” There’s no turning back. But we all know that when he said those words, when he crossed the Rubicon, Caesar started a war against Rome . So in that sense, the quote is inappropriate – the effort to reform the Council is not about combat but about cooperation. We’re all on the same side here. The side fighting for a reformed Security Council and a renewed United Nations.

Thank you.

Plenary meeting of The 10th Emergency Special Session on the Illegal Israeli Actions

Plenary meeting of  The 10th Emergency Special Session on the Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,
We thank you, Mr. President, for giving us the opportunity to speak today. We commend your decision to reconvene the 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Certainly, what we are facing now in Gaza is an emergency of serious magnitude. Afghanistan and the Afghan people share Gaza’s pain, and we stand in solidarity with those in Palestine dying, suffering and mourning.

Mr. President,
It has been three weeks since Israel launched their air and missile attacks in Gaza, but the violence has only continued to escalate. The fighting has been terrible in its ferocity, particularly towards innocent civilians. So far, over a thousand Palestinians lost their lives, and around four hundred of those were children. An additional five thousand people have been injured, many seriously, and again women and children are the majority. Israel has, in fact, systematically disregarded human rights throughout the conflict, in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Despite these terrible casualties, humanitarian aid has been denied, supplies are not permitted to enter, and humanitarian workers are at constant risk of attack. Safe zones and civilian areas such as schools, mosques, and hospitals have been directly targeted.  We join all member states in condemning the Israeli attack on the UNRWA compound yesterday, which demonstrates a fundamental lack of regard for the international obligations that bind Israel as a member of the United Nations. We commend the extraordinary efforts and dedication of UN agencies and staff under such deplorable conditions.
The impossibility of assistance has pushed an already severe humanitarian crisis to the limit. UN agencies report that basic necessities such as food, water, and cooking gas are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The terrified population of over 40,000 internally displaced persons is not permitted to leave, unable to find refuge.
But the current casualties do not even tell the full story. The ramifications of the fighting in Gaza are far-reaching. Each additional day of violence means more desperation, and the prospects for reconciliation and peace are fading.
For all these reasons, the situation in Gaza demands our immediate dedication. Common human decency demands no less.

Mr. President,
Afghanistan stands with the Security Council in condemning all violence directed against civilians, and in calling for the instantaneous implementation of Resolution 1860 and an immediate, fully-respected ceasefire leading to the full withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza strip
and a durable negotiated peace. In addition, humanitarian assistance and aid agencies must be allowed to reach those in need.
The resolution of this crisis must respect and abide by international human rights and humanitarian law.  The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party, requires that civilians be protected during conflict, and Israel, in the position of occupying force, must respect its duties towards the civilian population of Gaza. The United Nations, in turn, must seek a solution that is in accordance to the Charter and consider the counsel and work of our own judicial entities: the International Court of Justice, the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteurs.
Afghanistan stands by member states in agreeing that the durable solution must be one in which two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognized borders. This is the only way to address the security concerns of all parties and allow peaceful coexistence.
Once a ceasefire is achieved, the effort to achieve a durable solution will require all of our efforts, especially the regional countries who are directly impacted by the conflict. We appreciate and commend the tireless efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States to successfully mediate and push forward negotiations. In addition, the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas should have a central role in any process. The solution, like the problem, will need to include regional actors and international partners.

Mr. President,
We offer our full support to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and call for all parties to cooperate fully with him as he works to stop the tragedy unfolding before us. We join his call for “a unilateral declaration of ceasefire by Israel” to put an immediate end to the violence.
Today we can wait no longer; we must all act, and swiftly.  Until a cease-fire is declared, there will be no end to the suffering of the people of Gaza. And once a cease-fire is declared, we must ensure that we have the political will to create a lasting, peaceful two-state solution.
I thank you, Mr. President.