The General Assembly opened a plenary meeting on Thursday to review the annual report of the work of the 15-nation Security Council, and had an open debate on the reform of the Security Council.
The Security Council is currently comprised of five permanent members — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States — as well as 10 non-permanent, rotating members that are elected for two-year terms.
"We share the view that the council needs to ensure that its decisions largely reflect the concerns and aspirations of the general membership," said Chitsaka Chipaziwa, the Zimbabwean permanent representative to the UN. "In this regard, we call for the democratization of the existing order, increased transparency in action and the co-option of different ideas, interests and sensitivities."
Zimbabwe is one of many UN member states that have called for reform of the Security Council, the structure of which has not been altered since 1963, when its membership was expanded from 11 to 15.
Efforts to reform began 17 years ago and continue under Afghan UN Ambassador Zahir Tanin, who is the chairman of intergovernmental negotiations (IGN) on council reform. Tanin recently distributed a comprehensive paper to all member states that contains potential reform ideas.
Kok Li Peng, charge d’affaires of the Mission of Singapore to the UN, said that progress towards council reform of late has been mixed.
"We will soon embark on the sixth round of inter-governmental negotiations, with a compilation text in hand," she said. " However, there is little headway made in streamlining text, let alone embarking on substantive text-based negotiations. As we resume the negotiations, we hope that member states will demonstrate greater willingness to find common ground."
"We must persevere in these efforts, exploring options and alternatives in a process of constructive and pragmatic negotiations directed at obtaining results that will allow us to move closer to the desired reform," Chile’s ambassador to the UN, Octavio Errazuriz said when taking the floor at the General Assembly.
Different nations addressing the assembly on Security Council reform presented many ideas as to how reform should change the Council’s makeup.
"On the way forward, Zimbabwe is of the view that expansion in both categories is essential to meet the needs and accommodate the views of a vast majority of member states," said Chipaziwa. "It is also essential to maintain a balanced ratio between the two categories of the council’s membership."
Chipaziwa said that Zimbabwe endorsed the demand voiced by the African Union (AU) for two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats for Africa on an expanded Security Council.
"We feel that these are reasonable demands based on the principle of democratic representative on a proportional basis among the regions," he said, "Such new dispensation would also go some way in redressing the historic abuse to which the continent has been subjected."
Milos Koterec, permanent representative of Slovakia told the General Assembly that member states involved in IGN should concentrate only on those proposals that "stand a solid chance of garnering the widest possible agreement."
He recommended that any new candidates for permanent membership in the council undergo a 10 or 15 year trial period to "earn the trust" of member states before being democratically elected to a truly permanent position.
As for non-permanent members, Koterec said that more equitable regional representation is important, including the provision of one or more additional non-permanent seats for his group of Eastern European states and other regional groups.
Koterec warned however that too many new council members could have a negative impact on the efficacy of the international security body.
"Rather than make it ineffectively large for the sake of representation, we need to choose representatives in such a way that we can fully trust them to act on behalf of us all," he said.
Aside from the Council’s structure, several speakers at the General Assembly mentioned a need to reevaluate the veto power held by the P5. Any of the five currently has the ability veto a Security Council resolution, even if the resolution enjoys widespread support otherwise.
Koterec said that any state with the capability to become a permanent council member should be granted eligibility to serve as one "provided that the right of veto is not further extended."
"Rather the contrary, the veto also be subjected to a serious reform as to the scope and the manner it is being applied," he added.
Errazuriz voiced Chile’s outright opposition to the veto power.
"Allow me to reaffirm once again out historic position against the veto, which we have held since the creation of this organization and that is a consequences of the fundamental value we attach to the principle of equality of states and the democratization of international organizations," Errazuriz said.