NEW YORK, 4 DECEMBER 1997
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR TADEU SOARES, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL, TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 52nd SESSION (Agenda item: question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council)
The reform of the Security Council, as evidenced by the adoption of resolution 48/26 and the establishment of the Open-ended Working Group, is one of the most important aspects of the comprehensive process of reform of the United Nations, to which we are devoting particular attention during this session of the General Assembly. Each and every Member State seems to agree on the need to enlarge the Security Council in order to enable that body to reflect properly todays world and the evolution of the international community. During the last four years, many creative ideas have been put forward. We feel we now have a global picture of the options available and their implications. It is important to recognize at this stage that the presentation last March by your predecessor, Mr. President Ambassador Razali of a comprehensive proposal on the reform of the Security Council, along with the co-Vice-Chairmens consultations, demonstrated that our discussions have moved in a more concrete direction in the search for a broadly supported decision. For the first time since we began our work it seems that we are in position to see what the large majority of Member States want or do not want.
The position of Portugal on the reform of the Security Council was generally reflected in a document that we submitted to the Working Group together with a number of other Member States. However, I would like to offer some additional comments.
Portugal concurs with others that the enlargement of the Security Council should contemplate both the permanent and the non-permanent categories. This enlargement must take into account new political and economic realities and ensure equitable geographical representation reflecting the increased general membership, particularly from the developing world. A balance should be struck between the categories of permanent and non-permanent members. The Portuguese Foreign Minister had the opportunity to address this question in detail during the general debate of the fifty-second session of the General Assembly.
We also share the general concern regarding the veto power and the distortion of the principles and aims of the Charter it might entail. However, assuming that it would be unrealistic at this time to eliminate the veto power, we see no reason why the new permanent members should be deprived of it. They will have democratic legitimacy on the basis of their election. However, in this respect we see merit in the proposals to establish a list of matters that will not be subject to veto and to institute some form of collective veto applicable to all permanent members. Another element that in our view should constitute an essential condition to be met by all permanent members is their acceptance in full of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
But in discussing the size and shape of the Security Council we should not lose sight of the need to enhance the transparency of its work. Portugal believes particular emphasis should be given to the review of the working methods of the Security Council, not only in order to strengthen the transparency of its decision-making process, but also to create conditions that will improve non-members ability to follow the work of the Council.
We have been a member of the Council for the last 12 months. Our experience there has led us to believe that most of the discussions we have had inside that small room could have been held before all interested Member States. The transparency and accountability of the Council would thus be substantially improved.
We understand the arguments of those Member States that are in favour of more time being given to consultations. But we may have explored almost all possible ideas for making the reform of the Security Council happen. A consensus solution on this issue is obviously the desirable outcome of our work. We therefore welcome the decision that no action will be taken at this stage.
But, in our view, the reform of the Security Council cannot be held hostage ad aeternum pending such a consensus. We will probably end up needing to vote. In that case, we recognize the need to respect the requirements of Article 108 in a resolution adopting amendments to the Charter. We believe that we should start our work next January, with a view to broadening the trend that now seems to have the support of the vast majority of Member States.
For our part, we are ready to engage in efforts to reconcile the views of the greatest possible number. We are also ready to start narrowing the scope of our work. That means we should look at a number of questions, and we should try to find appropriate answers. It also means that we should identify which measures are achievable, or at least which measures have the support of a large majority of the membership of the United Nations. As I have already said, it is time to move forward. It is time to identify and to adopt specific recommendations on the reform of the Security Council.