By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek – African presidents who spoke at the United Nations General Assembly this week have reiterated calls for the reform of the United Nations Security Council.
They also called for sustainable development, the need to tackle climate change and to end terrorism.
Africa’s common position on the UN Security Council reforms is clearly contained in the Ezulwini Consensus made in Swaziland in 2005 and adopted the same year at an Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU in Ethiopia.
The consensus calls for the need to expand the size of the council from 15 to 26 members, with fair representation of Africa.
Africa’s goal is to be fully represented in all the decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the Security Council, which is the principal decision-making organ of the UN in matters relating to international peace and security.
Full representation of Africa in the Security Council means not less than two permanent seats with all the prerogatives and privileges of permanent membership, including the right of veto, and five non-permanent seats.
Even though Africa is opposed in principle to the veto provision, the continent is of the view that so long as it exists and as a matter of common justice, veto power should be made available to all permanent members of the council.
The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 10 permanent members and five permanent members but none of those permanent members are from Africa, although Africa provides the largest membership countries to the UN.
The five permanent members are Britain, France, Russia, the United States of America, and China. Three of these countries (Britain, France and Russia) are from one continent, Europe. The permanent members enjoy veto power which means that the council cannot implement any decision if one of the five permanent members objects to it. It basically means that five countries are ruling the world.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly, African leaders expressed their frustration that since 1945 the UN Security Council has still not been reformed. They also spoke about multiple challenges that are threatening human and wildlife existence such as climate change, sustainable development, HIV/Aids and terrorism.
Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu said the reform of the UN would not be complete without meaningful reform of the Security Council, which must become more representative, democratic and accountable to all member states, irrespective of status.
As Africa constituted the secondlargest bloc of the United Nations membership, he said, the reform proposals should “heed Africa’s legitimate call” and “move away from the deliberate attempts to create a maze of an otherwise clear question”.
“Given that Africa constitutes the second largest bloc of the UN membership, proposals to reform the Security Council should heed Africa’s legitimate call. Africa is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in the Security Council negotiation process and it is time to move away from the deliberate attempts to create a maze of an otherwise clear question,” he said.
Lungu said the UN General Assembly’s session presented an opportunity to evaluate multilateral approaches to the challenges affecting the world’s people.
These included threats to socio-economic development and international peace and security, as well as those posed by terrorism, climate change, nuclear weapons, and HIV/Aids,” he said.
He said the effects of climate change were also frustrating efforts to raise living standards for the world’s poor and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
Guinea president Alpha Condé said Africa must no longer be left on the side-lines of decisions affecting it.
“It is high time to fix that injustice, which has gone on too long. I call for the enlargement of the Security Council,” he said, underscoring that if it was not possible to abolish the veto entirely, the new Security Council members must have the same prerogatives and privileges as the current members.
Liberian president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said the work of the United Nations has never been more important to the search for peace and the sustenance for global stability than it is today. She said there was also commitment to the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, as progress was inextricably linked to ending conflict and sustaining peace.
She, however, said the lingering efforts to reform the Security Council had been elusive to make it more responsive to current realities, and that the call for reform must be pursued more robustly towards an early conclusion.
Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said the realities and requirements of today’s world required the long-awaited reform of the Security Council.
He reaffirmed Mali’s commitment to the common African position on that issue.
He also voiced concern about efforts to reduce peacekeeping budgets at the United Nations at a time when they were needed more than ever.
“Mali is also concerned about the effects of climate change and is committed to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Among other challenges, is that the world also continued to face public health threats, including pandemics such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, which must be addressed, and expressed support for the proposed adoption of a global compact on migration in 2018.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined several grave challenges facing humanity, emphasising that the world is in trouble; people are hurting and angry. He said insecurity was rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and the climate changing.
Citing climate change as another threat placing humanity’s hopes in jeopardy, he said millions of people and trillions of assets were at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.