Praia do Forte, April 26, 2013
"It is both an honor and a privilege to extend to you all a very warm welcome, on behalf of the Minister of External Relations, Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, to the seminar "Current Challenges to International Peace and Security: the Need to Reform the United Nations Security Council", jointly organized by the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil and Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation (FUNAG).
On behalf of Minister Patriota, I would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation for your efforts to accept our invitation to join this debate, despite your very busy schedules. We are profoundly grateful for your participation in the event.
We are very honored by the presence of Ambassador Zahir Tanin, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Related Matters. Your deep knowledge about the process will certainly enrich our discussions today.
We are also honored by the presence of the Directors General for UNSC reform issues of our G-4 partners - Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sterberg from Germany, Ambassador Navtej Sarna from India - and also of Minister Kazutoshi Aikawa from Japan. Their presence here today reiterates the common vision our four countries have of a reformed Security Council and demonstrates the commitment of the group to keep the process moving forward.
Indeed, it was at a G-4 meeting that this seminar was initially conceived. In the margins of the opening of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in September last year, the Ministers of the group discussed, among other topics, the need for greater involvement of civil society in the debate about the reform of the Security Council and it was decided that the G-4 should seek to intensify dialogue with academia, research institutions and the media.
Following those discussions, Brazil organized this outreach initiative to provide the occasion for a vigorous and off-the record debate about the current main challenges to international peace and security and their relation to the need to reform global governance structures in this area.
The idea was to bring together people from various backgrounds with complementary perspectives on the reform of the UN Security Council from all over the world to exchange ideas on the issue in order to raise public awareness on the interlinkage between the promotion of international peace and security and the need of better global governance.
We expect that the seminar will help promote greater involvement of national and international public opinion in the reform process.
We believe this to be a necessary and urgent development. The international community, and civil society in particular, are already aware of the urgent need for greater general involvement and commitment by all to tackle present crises and growing challenges to international peace and security.
The situation of civilians in armed conflict, for one, is a clear example of an issue in need of careful consideration by the international community.
This matter has been the object of conceptual discussions, such as those related to the establishment of the principles of "Responsibility to Protect" and "Responsibility while Protecting". The issue has figured prominently not only in the global international agenda - and Minister Patriota took part recently (February 2013) on a Ministerial Meeting of the Security Council dedicated to the subject – but has also gained widespread repercussion amongst academia, NGOs and the press.
There is a general perception of the need for something to be done to ensure the protection of civilians threatened by armed conflict. As Minister Patriota stated recently in an article widely reproduced internationally, "there is an international consensus nowadays regarding the need for concerted action to deal with these circumstances".
This perception, however, has not resulted in a greater capacity to act effectively on the part of the international community. Indeed, as pointed out in the same article: "It must be recognized, however, that the international community has failed to take heed of fundamental issues for the protection of civilians, among which the following stand out:
1) The promotion of sustainable development with a focus on poverty eradication and on food security contributes to the promotion of peace. A lack of opportunities and perspectives is the seed of conflict, encouraging radicalism and weakening faith in institutions. It is regrettable that there is such high military expenditure, while the Official Development Assistance goals agreed in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002 still remain to be met;
2) the importance of reducing the availability of instruments of violence, particularly weapons of mass destruction. Progress on disarmament and non-proliferation continues to be an absolute necessity. The ease with which conventional weapons can be obtained, particularly through illegal trade, multiplies the damages caused by conflicts. The consequences for civilians of the indiscriminate use of technological innovations in the fight against insurgencies or terrorism, in turn, require a deeper debate;
3) the international community`s responsibility in the stagnant Israeli-Palestine peace process and the failure of the Quartet to contribute to an agreement. Unilateral measures are exacerbating tensions in the region. The Security Council must act decisively on this issue. The vulnerability of the civilian population in the occupied territories represents a situation of high risk, with associated dangers which must not be underestimated; and
4) Lack of progress regarding Security Council reform highlights a worrisome example of irresponsible global governance in the area of peace and security. The United Nations Security Council, frozen in an obsolete configuration of power, is the forum that debates and can authorize the use of force for the protection of civilians. A more legitimate and representative UNSC will be better equipped to implement preventive measures and diplomatic strategies that can avoid radicalization and solve conflicts."
Decision making problems at the global governance structure occur not only because often no possible agreement can be reached at the Security Council, though this is regularly the case.
They stem, also, from the fact that, in the instances in which the Council is capable of arriving at decisions, actions implemented on the basis of such agreements do not always contribute to more stable situations on the ground.
More than by an incapacity to act, the Council is burdened by an incapacity to act effectively, even when it manages to arrive at decisions.
It is possible to argue that a more balanced, legitimate and representative Security Council would be better equipped to act even before consideration is given to resting to coercive means, through diplomatic efforts and strategies. A more representative Security Council would be perceived as a more legitimate agent in the promotion of such objectives.
Acting in such manner, the Council could not only arrive at potentially more acceptable and stable solutions, but also reduce the suffering imposed by armed conflict on civilian populations. This, in turn, would not only have evident positive repercussions in the short run, but also contribute to reducing chronic instability in the long run.
Even in the exceptional cases in which preventive diplomatic action is not capable of averting massive violations of the human rights of civilian populations, a more inclusive and representative Council would be able to arrive at difficult decisions regarding the use of coercive measures which would be more easily endorsed by the international community, and, thus, more easily enforceable.
How can the Council be expected to take up the challenges of the 21st century, when it is so obviously constituted as a 20th century body, frozen in an old order?
Other questions, related to the very relevance of the Council and its work are also worth posing:
To what extent does a Security Council which is losing effectiveness and representativeness constitute an indirect stimulus to actions outside international law and the UN Charter?
Is the relationship between the Security Council and other principal organs of the UN, such as the General Assembly, a satisfactory one? How would a reformed UNSC contribute to more open, transparent and constructive interactions by the Council with other UN organs?
What is the best formula of governance, conducive to the dissemination and respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, in the field of peace and security?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is another aspect of this situation which I also would like to address, related to the very nature of this initiative. Few, if any, would question the need for greater effectiveness and efficiency of the international community in dealing with current global threats and challenges.
A similar consensus exists regarding the need for an updated structure for the Security Council; even those more staunchly opposed to the majority view in regard to the reform agree with the claim that it is not only necessary, but urgent.
It is rare, however, to see both situations (necessity and urgency) linked, as they undoubtedly are, in academic papers, in journalistic articles and in the initiatives and actions promoted by NGOs.
The argument for changes in the international peace and security structures is, generally, left to the United Nations Member States, and, in consequence, is frequently dismissed as the narrow pursuit of national interests or a search for international prestige.
This perspective misses the more important point that the Council's ability, or lack thereof, to adequately deal with current threats to international peace and security is of direct consequence to the lives of millions throughout the globe.
This is why the debate on the reform of the Security Council has to be expanded to include civil society in the broadest terms, and not be limited to the diplomatic negotiation halls.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Almost 70 years since the creation of the United Nations, and after the steep increase in its membership, the structure of the Security Council remains unchanged in its permanent category and has had only one limited update in its non-permanent one, in 1965. When the Organization was created, the ratio was of five permanent members to 51 (one permanent seat for 10 members). Today, we have the same five permanent members for 193 countries (therefore, at the ratio of one permanent seat for almost 40 countries).
A similar deficit of proportionality is observed among non-permanent members, despite the adjustment of 1965. Although the number of members of the United Nations has increased nearly four times, the increase of non-permanent seats was only four in total.
Besides, it is unacceptable that whole regions of the world, such as Latin America and Africa, stay out of the decision center of the system.
A governance structure that disregards the need for proportionality and diversity in its composition and excludes significant contributors and even whole regions of its core lays the ground for unmet demands, nourishing frustration and doubts about the impartiality, the representativeness and, ultimately, the legitimacy of its decisions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We witness a scenario of persistent difficulties in taking decisions regarding the most challenging situations on the Council´s agenda. Ascribing responsibility to one actor or another does not serve a constructive purpose. On the contrary, what is needed, with a sense of urgency, is an honest and committed appraisal of the factors leading to such difficulties. What is needed is openness to the creative and diverse contributions of new permanent and non-permanent members, in line with contemporary global dynamics and aspirations. As stated repeatedly over the last twenty years, what is lacking is more representativeness and legitimacy, which will lead to greater efficiency.
And only an increase in the number of seats in both categories with greater participation of developing countries in both can remedy the serious deficit of representativeness of the Council.
After nearly 20 years of debate, although there are still significant differences of opinion and interests regarding the reform process, no proposal gathers a support base as significant as the one that provides for a larger number of seats in both categories.
This is the position supported by the majority of member states. As a result, the strong support for an expansion in both categories must be reflected in the negotiation process among member states. Few countries who advocate absolute "consensus" for moving the reform process are actually unduly delaying the decision making. They should be reminded that, if that is the case, consensus is built upon the views of the majority. Not the views of a few.
In this context, Brazil continues to work in close cooperation with its partners to move the reform process towards a successful conclusion.
Global governance needs to be more inclusive, if it is to be effective. Inaction and failure to improve the workings of global governance will bring nothing but the growing discredit of international institutions, including the United Nations.
The UN, particularly in matters of peace and security, has reached the point where its functionality and legacy become increasingly dependent on a meaningful reform.
I look forward to hearing your valuable contributions.
Again, a very warm welcome to all of you and I hope that the Seminar will be fruitful and your next few hours here will be productive and also enjoyable. I wish you success in this seminar and a very pleasant stay in Bahia.