In a first, Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), has urged for formalisation or “text-based negotiations” in relation to UN Security Council reforms (UNSC). No president of the UNGA has, to date, made such a clear mention of text-based talks when it comes to reforms at the important UN body, which underwent its last significant expansion in 1965. Abdulla Shahid said, “Would encourage all delegations to work relentlessly to further narrow down the divergences and progressively take the process towards text-based negotiations,” in his speech at the intergovernmental negotiations (ING) meeting on Tuesday.
It is noteworthy that his letter, for the first time since the beginning of the IGN, makes a heavy emphasis on the process to “gradually shift” to “text-based negotiations using the Co-Chairs Elements Paper and the Framework Document of 2015.” The Intergovernmental Negotiations Framework (IGN), a UN body that studies UNSC reforms, hasn’t made much headway since it was established in 2009. Due to the lack of a unified text, the group’s discussions are regarded as “informal” in nature, and as a result, UNGA norms of procedure do not apply. However, a framework paper for the change that can serve as the foundation for further discussions was agreed upon in 2015.
The UNGA President’s oral decision to roll the text over to the next session came to a unanimous conclusion during the IGN of the 76th session. In his speech, he emphasised that the Security Council must be made “efficient, effective, representative, and responsible” and those member nations have a “collective obligation to demonstrate that the IGN is working and not let the process degenerate into a Sisyphean exercise.” President Abdulla further emphasised the necessity for a “complete reference to the Common African Position” and noted that “no permanent representation for the entire African continent” existed.
The Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration both mention the Common African Position, which India has been supporting. At least two permanent seats and two to five non-permanent UNSC seats should be allocated to African nations, according to the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration. Naturally, the development is welcome news for India, which has long advocated for text-based negotiations to advance substantial reform discussion.
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India, one of the G4 nations together with Japan, Germany, and Brazil, has been urging urgent UN reforms. Pakistan and Turkey are members of the Uniting for Consensus (UFC) coffee group, which is led by Italy and seeks to fight G4 ambitions. It’s interesting to note that President Abdulla’s call for text-based negotiations was the focus of interventions from China, Pakistan, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. Ambassador Zhang Jun of China’s mission to the UN noted during his intervention that the letter disseminating the oral judgement marked a definite departure from the past. These delegations’ calculations appear to have been upset by the letter to the member states, as some of them explicitly say that the membership is not prepared for text-based discussion. It has effectively established who supports reforms and who opposes them.
India’s disappointment with UNSC-
The decision of the UN General Assembly to postpone the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform to the following UNGA session was criticised by India.
Our nation described it as a “wasted chance” to breathe new life into a process that hasn’t progressed or exhibited indications of life for more than 40 years. The 77th session of the UN General Assembly, which starts in September of this year, will now consider the Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) process after the 193-member body on Tuesday endorsed a draught oral decision on Security Council reform. The roll-over decision of the IGN cannot be reduced to a “mindless technical exercise,” according to India’s charge d’affaires at its permanent mission to the UN, Ambassador R Ravindra.
He said: “We view this technical roll-over judgement as just another missed opportunity to breathe new life into a process that has been dead for more than four decades.” He claimed that it is now obvious that the IGN “could well go on for yet another 75 years without any progress whatsoever in the direction of genuine reform” in its “current form and modalities, that is, without application of the GA Rules of Procedure, without an official record of proceedings, and without a single negotiating text.”
India emphasised that it will continue to participate in this process with “our reform-minded colleagues, and persist with our efforts to move beyond repeated speeches to text-based negotiations” as a responsible and constructive member of the UN. However, New Delhi issued a warning, saying that “reaching outside the IGN may now present the only realistic option for those of us who sincerely seek to honour our leaders’ pledge to early and substantial Security Council reforms.”