UN Reforms: Towards a Common African Position on Africa's Involvement

Published on 19th July 2016

Ten years on, the Committee of ten States (C-10) with the mandate to present, advocate and canvass support for the Common African Position set out to engage all the other regions of the world as well as interested groups to make the case for support of Africa’s aspirations under the provisions of the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.

It is also seven years since the UN General Assembly decided to move the debate on the reform of the UN Security Council from the Open Ended Working Group to the present intergovernmental negotiations. A lot of water has passed under the bridge. My remarks are therefore intended to provide an update on the present state of play as well as underscore the dynamics of Security Council reform process.

Through the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, we have sought a comprehensive reform that will assure Africa of its rightful place at the UN Security Council in maintaining international peace and security. In our day-to-day interaction on the global arena, the modus operandi is essentially based on regional groupings or bloc alliances. This explains why the African group position has continued to enjoy greater moral authority. Thus, our argument for Regional Representation continues to provide a sound basis for our demand for reform as enunciated in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration; to address the continual glaring imbalance in the composition of the Security Council. Our status quo that is in direct conflict with the principles and purposes of the UN Charter and which therefore undermines the legitimacy of the Council’s decisions.

We have made tremendous progress in raising the visibility and legitimacy of the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration. We have undertaken a number of consultative meetings including the Summit of C-10 Heads of State, Foreign Ministers and the Permanent Representatives and experts in New York and Addis Ababa hosted by the C-10 Member States outside the margins of the AU Assembly Summits. I recently embarked upon consultations with my Peers and colleagues of Chad, Egypt, Zimbabwe and South Africa. I intend to continue with these consultations in line with emerging issues and progress made.  We had also undertaken intensive outreach consultations with other stakeholders including; the P-5, the G-4, the L-69 and other interest groups.

Visibility is not the ultimate outcome that the C – 10 was set up to raise. The C – 10 did not set out to engage in consultations forever. Our ultimate objective is to build the consensus required for Africa to demand its rightful place on the global stage. It is an aspiration that we all share; an aspiration we must all therefore work together to achieve. The C – 10 only takes the lead but ultimately, it requires every single nation in Africa to recognize and accept the reality that Africa’s aspirations of the UN could only be achieved when everyone is truly on board.

Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent. We cannot, we must not continue to undercut our influence in the world stage. For seven decades, we have allowed our voices to be muffled, for seventy years we have accommodated the underrepresentation of Africa. We must put an end to this. We owe it to our 1.2 billion people to ensure that Africa takes its rightful position on global matters but we can only do this when we stand together; when we are united and when we speak with one voice in pushing a common agenda. We are only as strong as we are united because unity is strength only where there is teamwork and collaboration. This has not been an easy task, it will be a long and tedious journey; but in the end, if we are together, we shall march through triumphantly to our goal.

The challenge that the intergovernmental negotiations continue to face is the difficulty of narrowing down on the differences of the various proposals submitted by Member States as well as procedural matters related to the reform process.

The L-69 group, with Saint Lucia as its spokesperson, has within its membership eleven African countries, thirteen Caribbean countries, and two G-4 members. This means that, out of 42 members that the L-69 alludes to, only about fifteen countries are core members.

The Arab Group often represented by the State of Kuwait, participates in the intergovernmental negotiations, advocating and demanding a Permanent seat for Arab States. This Group also has African countries within its membership.                  

In addition to the above, there is also the challenge of moving beyond procedural matters including the present Framework Document introduced by the Chair of the IGN during the 69thSession. 

The dual membership of African countries in the L-69 continues to raise questions about the cohesiveness and unity of Africa around its Common Position. We have to work harder to address this situation in the face of other challenges to the reform process posed by other blocks.

The positions of the P-5 (China, France, the Russian Federation, the UK and the USA), the G-4 (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan), and to a large extent, the Uniting for Consensus group (UfC) are excellent examples of this challenge. Some are opposed to regional representation and enlarging the Security Council in the Permanent category along its present Veto power structure.

The G-4 share similar position with Africa on enlargement in both the Permanent and Non-permanent categories but differ on size, the question of the Veto, and some aspects of the working methods of the Security Council. On size, the G-4 is proposing an enlargement from the present 15 to 25 while Ezulwini is proposing 26. On the Veto, the G-4 proposes that discussion of this crucial issue should be differed to a period of 15 years after the reform would have taken place. This means that the new Permanent Members should not be accorded the same status as the current P-5 until the issue is re-opened for discussion at a later date to determine whether to extend the Veto to new Permanent Members or not. Furthermore, the G-4 participates in the deliberations on the basis of their national interest seeking Permanent Membership for their respective countries. 

The Uniting for Consensus with Italy and the CARICOM and L-69 all have peculiar demands different from Africa even when they tend to be supportive of the African position in some aspects. Also, even though all interest groups continue to call for an early reform, in reality, they all remain strongly attached to their respective positions.

In particular, the two last clusters which include the Size and Working Methods of the Security Council and the Relationship between the General Assembly and Security Council are not as contentious as the Veto. However, the question of Regional Representation and the Categories of Membership continue to be the sticky points on the negotiations. The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, a successor of the former Small Five, has as its main focus and interest the issue of improving the working methods of the Security Council. The group does not participate in the intergovernmental negotiations on enlargement issues. This Group also has African countries among its membership.

Even in the face of these challenges, Ezulwini remains unchallenged, strong and viable to pursue as the best means of addressing the historical injustice but only if we stick together and speak with one voice.

In an effort to guide the C-10 on the way forward, we may wish to exchange views on the following:

  1. Regional representation as opposed to individual Member States admission to the Permanent category;
  2. Restate our position on the Veto and resist the creation of a third category of membership of the Security Council;
  3. Resist an intermediate/transitional arrangement;
  4. Encourage other African countries to delink membership of other interest groups which creates the impression of a divided Africa;
  5. All AU Member States should continue to defend, promote and advocate the Common African Position on all aspects of the reform at every opportunity; and finally

Allow me to state that the recognition and legitimacy of the African demand to take its rightful place in global governance, can only translate into concrete achievements if we continue to work together in articulating our aspirations and goals as a continent. We therefore have to take strong decisions on where our true allegiance and support on this issue lie. We must resist the temptation and efforts by other Member States and interest groups to divide and distract Africa from its Common Position.

Africa should stay the course, continue to speak with one voice and remain united on all aspects of the UN Security Council reform process.

By His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma,

President Of The Republic Of Sierra Leone And Coordinator Of The AU C-10 On UN Reforms.

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