Reasons for the South African Government’s call for the reform of the United Nations organs - the Security Council, and the details of the structural changes that the Government is calling for




QUESTION NO: 3128 (NW3954E)



What are the (a) reasons for the Government’s call for the reform of the United Nations organs, particularly the Security Council, and (b) details of the structural changes that the Government is calling for?


A) When the United Nations was established in 1945 with 51 Member States, not many African countries were independent.  Today the UN has 193 Member States, of which 54 are from Africa.  Although the General Assembly’s membership is universal, the UN Security Council’s membership is made-up of 15 Member States, of which 5 are Permanent Members and 10 are elected Non-Permanent members. Its membership is not representative of geo-political realities.

Africa has no representation in the Permanent Category and only 3 seats in the Non-Permanent category of membership, which is insufficient given that approximately 70% of the Security Council’s agenda addresses conflict areas on the African Continent.  Increased representation for Africa, especially in the Permanent Category ensures that Africa has a say on its fate and enable it to champion its priority areas. Moreover, the current representation of the Security Council as well as its working methods have resulted in the Council becoming ineffective in the execution of its primary mandate of the maintenance of international peace and security – thus affecting its legitimacy.

The need for the reform of the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, was agreed by all world leaders, including the Permanent Five, in the World Summit Outcome Document of 2005– the outcome document was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly (A/60/1). The primary aim of the reform is to make the Council more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and to enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions.

With regard to the General Assembly, the main focus for developing countries is to make it more effective in addressing global issues in a manner that reflects the needs and priorities of the South.   For example the process has resulted in the President of the General Assembly being able to convene special sessions regarding critical issues on the global agenda that affects all UN Member States, such as the special session on the Financial Crises (2009). 

B) Some structural changes regarding the reform of the UN have already been affected, such as the replacement of the Human Rights Commission by a more effective Human Rights Council, as well as the establishment of the Peace-building Commission.

Intergovernmental negotiations on the reform of the Security Council are focused on key areas, namely, the veto, regional representation and the number of seats per region. Africa’s position is governed by the Ezulwini Consensus which calls for an expansion in both the Permanent and Non-Permanent categories of membership.  This expansion should include two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats for Africa.  With regard to the veto, Africa is in principle against the veto, however, should it not be abolished it is Africa’s view that so long as it exists, and as a matter of common justice, it should be made available to all Permanent Members of the Security Council.  Africa is against the establishment of a third category of membership which will discriminate against new Permanent Members.

Efforts will continue to make the General Assembly, as the only organ with universal membership, more effective in areas such as the selection and appointment of the Secretary General with the aim of making the developing world’s voice heard.  The strengthening of ECOSOC is also a continuing process.






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