NEW YORK, 31 OCTOBER 2001
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA, AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE PLENARY MEETING OF THE 56th SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Agenda item 49: Equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters)
The reform of the Security Council is once again on the agenda of the General Assembly, for the 22nd consecutive year. We have before us, as framework for the debate, the report of the open-ended working group. Report, that reflects, with its Annexes, almost a decade of intense discussion on the reform of the Security Council. With meager results, however.
The reform of the Council is, surely, a complex issue. The objective, nevertheless, remains clear: review the membership of the Security Council in view of the substantial increase in the membership of the UN, as well as the changes in international relations.
This is the mandate of the open-ended working group, as set out by the General Assembly in 1993.
We were, then, at the early stage of a new era of the international relations, triggered by the end of the cold war. Also by that time, the UN had increased in almost 40% its membership, since the last reform of the Security Council.
Nevertheless, today, almost a decade later, these significant changes have yet to be reflected in the composition of the Council.
I must recognize, however, that important efforts have been undertaken to move the process forward.
The mobilization of this Assembly, in 1998, was one of them and resulted in the unanimous adoption of resolution 53/30. This resolution was crucial to clarify the two-thirds majority rule necessary for decisions pertaining to the reform.
On the other side, the commitment of your predecessor, President Holkeri, and the other members of the bureau, were of the utmost importance to help to distil the main elements under discussion, on both clusters.
My delegation commends, particularly, their efforts in preparing the set of useful documents that are now attached to the report. They will enable us to better focus our discussions in the future.
On a higher political level, the process of the reform of the Security Council was given a particular boost during the Millenium Summit. There, our Heads of States and Governments gathered to adopt the Millenium declaration and expressed the commitment to intensify the efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Council in all its aspects.
The main elements for a reform are on the table. With the political will thus expressed, our delegations should now be able to build an appropriate solution.
The Security Council has been confronted in the last decade with an increasing number of situations and conflicts in different parts of the world. The latest terrorist attacks constitute an unprecedented challenge to the international community, calling for concerted action in which the Security Council plays a central role.
To better deal with such complex situations, the Security Council, as the primary responsible for the maintenance of peace and security, has to be regarded as a legitimate body, acting on behalf of the whole international community and in full transparency.
Enhancing its representative nature and improving its methods of work are, therefore, the crucial elements for reinforcing Council authority and the effectiveness of its decisions. Today, more than ever, we must conclude the process of the reform of the Security Council, as we need to have a strong body, really representative of the international community.
Your predecessor, President Holkeri, in his statement to the General Assembly alluded precisely to this. Encouraged by the clear support received from our Ministers for Foreign Affairs for the continuation of the efforts on the Security Council reform, he highlighted the need to consider all the avenues that would advance the process through and put forward suggestions to that effect.
Portugal supports this thrust and is open to the suggestions that may be useful to move forward the process of the reform of the Security Council. It could be helpful, for example, to take this subject to a higher political level of debate if we continue to experience serious difficulties in advancing the negotiations in the working group. This could, in our view, help to streamline the discussions and to regain the political momentum created by the millenium declaration.
On our part, we remain ready to engage actively in the next steps of negotiations. However, Mr. President, we must bear in mind the need to address the question of the reform in all its aspects. We should remind ourselves that we must tackle this question as a package to achieve what we were asked to do: a "comprehensive reform of the Council in all its aspects", not a reform in certain aspects only of its work.
This is a particular time in which we all must show flexibility to reach a solution that gathers the general support of the membership. We must do so, in the interest of the international community.
This should apply to all issues, from the question of numbers, to the question of veto.
Indeed, to achieve a comprehensive solution, the question of veto must be addressed in the light of the overwhelming support of the general membership for its reform. The fact is, Mr. President, that, while used formally very moderately in recent times, the veto, or its "threat", continue to be present in every aspect of the Councils decision making process.
Portugal, together with other countries, submitted to the working group a number of very concrete proposals with regard to the restriction of the use of veto. These proposals remain valid, realistic and worth to be considered. We hope we will be able to find the necessary flexibility in the consideration of this matter, as we are capturing new positive signals, coming from within the permanent members, regarding some degree of openness to consider restrictions to the use of this power.
With your commitment, we are confident that it will be possible to keep the subject of the Security Council reform a high priority on the international agenda and allow the United Nations general membership to move the process to the next step.
The United Nations needs urgently to adapt to the realities of the new century. Its role as a vital instrument for the political regulation of the globalization process and as an indispensable tool to organize common efforts to face new challenges, requires a set of new and constructive ideas to revitalize the Organization.
We very much count on your contribution to that aim.
Thank you, Mr. President.