UN hears calls for reform

September 24, 2008 12:00 am

, NEW YORK, September 24  – Leaders of France, Brazil, Germany and Tanzania appealed Tuesday for a sweeping reform of what they view as outdated multilateral institutions, including the powerful Security Council, in remarks to the UN General Assembly.

"The 21st-century world cannot be governed with the institutions of the 20th century," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a keynote address to the assembly’s annual summit.

"Let today’s major powers and the powers of tomorrow unite to shoulder together the responsibilities their influence gives them in world affairs," the French president said.

He said enlarging the 15-member UN Security Council as well as the G8 club of leading industrialized nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia — was not "just a matter of fairness, (but) also the necessary condition for being able to act effectively."

"We cannot wait any longer to enlarge the Security Council," Sarkozy said. "We cannot wait any longer to turn the G8 into the G13 or G14 and to bring in China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil."

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made a similar point, noting that "only legitimate and effective instruments can assure collective security."

"The United Nations has spent 15 years discussing the reform of the Security Council," he noted. "Today’s structure has been frozen for six decades and does not relate to the challenges of today’s world."

Lula welcomed the General Assembly’s decision last week to begin inter-governmental talks on expanding the powerful Security Council no later than February 28.

The thorny issue of how to enlarge the 15-member Security Council to ensure it better reflect today’s world has for years divided the UN membership.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, during a luncheon with his African counterparts here, sought support for his country’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2011-2012.

"We will be able to cope with tomorrow’s threats if and only if the Security Council reflects the world adequately," he said. "That is why it is in our common interest to continue the reform process."

He noted that when Germany last sat on the Council in 2003-2004, it showed that it was "prepared for a true partnership with Africa."

"That is another reason why we strongly hope that you (African countries) will support our candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2011-20012," he said.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who currently chairs the 53-member African Union, restated the Pan-African bloc’s insistence on securing two permanent seats with veto rights on the council along with two non-permanent seats.

"Our demand should be seen against the reality that Africa is the only continent without a permanent seat in the Security Council despite our large (UN) membership," Kikwete told the assembly.

The Council currently has 10 rotating, non-permanent members and five veto-wielding permanent ones (China, United States, France, Britain and Russia).

Its makeup has remained largely unchanged since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.

In 2005, a so-called Group of Four — Germany, Brazil, India and Japan — made a strong push to join the council as permanent members, along with two African countries, but without veto rights.

But their bid failed to get enough support as it ran into strong opposition from China and the United States as well as from regional rivals such as Italy, Pakistan and Argentina.

Both Lula and his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner urged a reform of multilateral financial institutions to enable them to head off future crises such as the one sparked by Wall Street’s speculation-driven meltdown.

"The economic international institutions today have neither the authority nor the instruments they need to stop the anarchy of speculation," said the Brazilian leader.

"We must rebuild them on an entirely new basis," he added.

In her address to the assembly, the Argentine president also demanded an overhaul of multilateral bodies, including the United Nations, but particularly financial institutions.

She called for measures to prevent a "jazz (contagion) effect" from Wall Street turmoil.


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