Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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.

President Karzai Meets with Secretary-General

President Karzai Meets with Secretary-General Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with H.E. Hâmid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Istanbul.

Doha Forum Addresses UN Security Council Reform and International Stability

The Doha Forum in tandem with “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future Conference” are currently underway in Doha, Qatar. On 10 May, the second day of the three day event, the session entitled “International Stability,” featured panelists from Foreign Ministries and Government, academics and experts from around the globe including Afghanistan, France, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, the UK, and the US. The panelists discussed the future of peace in the Middle East including recent revolutions in the region and their strategic implications. Other topics included the escalation of Islamophobia in Europe, the development of the G20, the growing role of regional powers, and the reform of the United Nations Security Council.

His Excellency Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations and Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform, spoke on the panel, delivering a statement entitled “ The Call for Reform: The UN and the Security Council in a Changing World.” In his discussion he gave a rich analysis of historical and current shifts in the global landscape that have led to the need for reform for the United Nations Security Council.  “International bodies, such as the United Nations, must adapt… in order to remain effective, efficient, and relevant in our dynamic world,” he said. He expressed optimism about the potential of facing the challenge of change, saying “although adjusting to change is a constant challenge, it is also a chance to progress.”

Ambassador Tanin traced the historical context of the United Nations from its founding in 1945 through the Cold War era, the Post-Cold War era, the post 9-11 era, and what he referred to as “the Post-Bin Laded time.”  He explains that in this current period, “we are witnessing new countries being born, and we are seeing a blossoming movement towards democracy – in the Arab world and elsewhere. What I think we are all witness to is a general reshaping of global alliances and new international constellations.”

Pointing out that it a time of increasing expectancy for the Council to reaffirm itself as a leader of enforcing peace and security on the global stage, Ambassador Tanin recognized that, “with no reform we risk losing the legitimacy of the Security Council.”

Other panelists addressed a range of issues related to international stability including: the Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Professor at UC Berkeley and Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs in the US, a French researcher at CNRS, a former Delegate Minister for Equal Opportunities of France, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Romania, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Mexico, and a Shadow Secretary of State of Transport from the UK.

Later in the day Ambassador Tanin led a workshop on the topic of Security Council Reform in which he gave a more in depth perspective on the historical and current context for Security Council Reform.  Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations who will be President of the General Assembly in the 66th Session beginning in September, also spoke at the workshop.  He talked about the importance of the issue of Security Council Reform for the next General Assembly Session and welcomed the day’s “gathering of ideas” which he believes will be useful for the process.  He also showed support for the current process, saying “I am confident in the wisdom of Ambassador Tanin as we face this challenge.”

A lively question and answer session with the diplomats and experts in the room followed in which questions ranged from discussing the stances of various nation states to speculations about how positions will progress to analysis of the UN’s increased role in today’s global climate to inquiring about the legitimacy of the Security Council.  Ambassador Tanin responded with a final argument for reform of the Council, pointing out that the Security Council “is working for the people.”  “In the streets,” he said, “there’s very little belief in the legitimacy of its decisions if the Security Council is not more inclusive, more representative, more democratic. We have to listen to the streets.”

On 12-13 May, on the margins of the Doha Forum, there will be an informal and in depth two day workshop of diplomats and experts discussing the issue of Security Council Reform.  Ambassador Al-Nasser and Ambassador Tanin will speak at the event as well.

The Call for Reform The UN and the Security Council in a Changing World by Ambassador Zahir Tanin