Albion Monitor /News

U.S. Warns UN: Hands Off Our Privileges

by Thalif Deen

(IPS) UNITED NATIONS, Mar. 11 -- The United States has warned that it will not tolerate any attempts to tinker with the rights and veto powers of the "Big Five" in the United Nations Security Council.

"There should be no change in the status, obligations, or privileges of the current permanent members of the Security Council," U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said March 11th, referring to the veto powers held by the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China.

In a defiant speech before a U.N. Working Group on Security Council Reform, the newly appointed U.S. envoy said: "We cannot and will not accept any Charter changes that affect our status and prerogatives."

Existing Council is heavily weighted in favor of industrial nations and is not representative of the world body
Any radical restructuring of the Council would necessitate an amendment to the U.N. charter which could be vetoed by any of the five permanent members. Aside from the five powerful members, the 15-member Council also has 10 non-permanent members. These mostly developing countries are elected every two years on the basis of geographical rotation and have no veto powers.

Richardson's speech was intended as a warning to Third World nations who are not only seeking to restrict the use of the veto but derail any moves by the West to sneak in Japan and Germany as two new permanent members, leaving developing nations out in the cold.

He said Washington supported the expansion of the Council to include both permanent and non-permanent members, adding that the United States would oppose any expansion that will only bring in new, non-permanent members from developing nations. "For the Council to work effectively, it needs countries with a global role and which make a global contribution. This means new, permanent members."

Richardson singled out Japan and Germany as countries that would "strongly enhance the Council's role at the centre of negotiations concerning threats to international peace and security."

The need for restructuring has been prompted by the fact that the existing Council is heavily weighted in favor of industrial nations and is not representative of the world body where an overwhelming majority is from developing nations.

Under one proposal, three seats would go to Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean
After nearly three years of closed-door sessions, the 185-member Working Group has failed to reached agreement on how the politically important U.N. body should be expanded and restructured.

The Working Group has generally agreed that there should be about five new permanent seats in a revamped Council. Under one proposal, three seats would go to Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, while the remaining two would go to Germany and Japan.

But at least seven countries have indicated an interest in the proposed regional Third World seats: India and Indonesia (for Asia), Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt (Africa) and Brazil and Argentina (Latin America and the Caribbean).

Speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries -- Denmark, Norway, Sweden, eland, and Finland -- Ambassador Jaaken Biorn Lian of Norway told the Working Group "it is our view that these new, permanent seats should be allocated with the aim of having the Security Council better reflect present political and economic realities."

This, he said, should include improved representation from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

European Union increasingly taking a collective stance on numerous issues
Pakistan voiced strong opposition last year to a permanent seat to Germany because there would be an "over-representation" of the European Union (EU) in the Security Council. Two EU members -- France and Britain -- already hold permanent seats.

Ambassador Ahmad Kamal of Pakistan pointed out that the EU was increasingly taking a collective stance on numerous issues, harmonizing laws, members' foreign policy, and even seeking to create a common currency.

"How then, does such a single, coordinated Union justify its two permanent seats on the Security Council, and the desire of some of its members for a possible third?" he asked.

India points to suggestions that Third World nations could be deprived of permanent seats in the Security Council on the grounds that they are unable to decide on which countries should be candidates.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor March 14, 1997 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to reproduce.

Front Page