G4 Joint Statement at the annual GA Debate on UN Security Council Reform, November 16

17.11.2020 - Speech

Delivered by Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President,

            Thank you very much for convening this debate. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the G4 countries – Germany, India, Japan and my own country, Brazil. It is a pleasure to be back in the General Assembly to exchange views on Security Council Reform and we trust that under your leadership this will be a fruitful session.

Allow me to congratulate you on the appointment of Ambassadors Joanna Wronecka, Permanent Representative of Poland, and Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar, as co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform. Your decision to nominate the co-chairs early in the session is a positive sign, which we hope will be translated into immediately restarting meetings, in whatever format deemed appropriate and safe under current circumstances, meaningful engagement and effective negotiations. 

In your letter dated 30 October 2020, you also encouraged Member States to consider increasing the number of meetings and reminded us that the General Assembly should be ready to meet under any given circumstance. We share both of these calls, especially after the frustrating experience we had in the last session, when our discussions were interrupted after only two meetings. We count on your skills as facilitators, including your creativity. We cannot allow COVID-19 to cut the IGN process short. We are ready to hold physical or virtual meetings or engage in a written process any time. We are in your hands to steer the IGN towards an actual outcome. The G4 is confident that the co-chairs will guide the Member States to actually “instill new life” in the process on UNSC reform, as pledged by all our heads of state and government on 21stSeptember and to finally make the IGN live up to its original mandate, in which real negotiations on the basis of a text will pave the way for the “early reform of the Security Council” called for more than 15 years ago. Rest assured that we stand ready to lend our full support to you and the co-chairs in this endeavour.

Mr. President,

The item on equitable representation in the Security Council was included on the General Assembly agenda more than forty years ago, in 1979. It is regrettable that intergovernmental work on the issue has yielded preciously little to show after four decades. Consequently, the Council still does not reflect the current geopolitical landscape. In contrast, many other major international institutions have made strides to change and adapt. There is simply no reason to leave the Security Council out of this process.

It is also important to bear in mind that during the General Debate of the 75th General Assembly, more than 60 Heads of State and Government underlined that reforming the Security Council should be one of our priorities during this session, confirming the relevance and urgency of this topic. And this happened in spite of the lack of meaningful results in the past years.

The longer the Security Council reform is stalled, the greater its deficit in representativeness – an inescapable precondition for its legitimacy and effectiveness. It is high time to bring the Council in line with its Charter responsibility to act on behalf of the entire Membership, which will not be achieved without relevant actors being able to offer meaningful contributions to its deliberations and decisions and help it manage the ever-growing and complex challenges it faces today. The Council is slowly losing its credibility, authority and legitimacy. The only way we can change this is by reforming it.

Many lessons can be drawn from the 74th General Assembly session. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our calendar and changed our way of working. Nevertheless, most United Nations bodies managed to adapt to the new scenario and to continue their deliberations, including on entirely new issues, such as negotiations on COVID-19 resolutions – themselves also very complex issues, yet still possible to be agreed within weeks rather than decades. This General Assembly showed the world that it works. It continued to function. Unfortunately this was not the case of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform. It is hard to accept the fact that our last IGN session was held in the beginning of March, more than eight months ago. We allowed the IGN to sit idle for months while the rest of the UN family was actively engaged in coping with the many challenges the world and the UN are facing.

Such disruption of the IGN activities came at a moment when our discussions seemed to be gaining some traction. Let me recall two main issues that were at the center of our debates. First, an unequivocal and growing support from a majority of Member States, including the G4, to the Common African Position, as stipulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration. It is unfortunate that this wide support for the Common African Position was not duly reflected in the roll-over Decision adopted during the last session.

            Secondly, a diverse number of Member States voiced their concern with the lack of openness and transparency in the IGN, underlining the need for enhanced working methods and the definition of the applicable rules of procedure to the process. This demand was not properly recognized in the roll-over Decision either.

Not acknowledging even those gradual signs of progress is a risk to the IGN themselves. It is an indication that the IGN are not being used to enable real negotiations, but to prevent any concrete outcome. The very purpose of its creation twelve years ago – to launch actual negotiations – is being voided by the lack of activity, by the absence of a negotiating text and by the unwillingness of some to truly engage in substantive discussions.

In light of those setbacks, the intergovernmental negotiations need to change, and to change quickly. We have been consistently asking for a single consolidated text and for renewed working methods, so as to bring about an open, inclusive and transparent process, with webcasting, record-keeping and the application of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly. Some argue that the IGN are an informal process. But this does not mean we should operate in the shadows, losing track of what we discuss here year after year. Informal and inconsequential are not synonymous.

We risk that the IGN will be seen as a convenient smokescreen to block any effective reform in the Security Council, which would in turn lead pro-reform countries and groups to seek alternative and legitimate solutions in other settings, including in the plenary of the General Assembly.

            A single consolidated text, preferably with attribution, is the only means to move away from the cycle of repetition of well-known positions that have been the trademark of the IGN in the recent past. It is also the best way to identify commonalities and promote a give-and-take that may ultimately result in proposals that garner ample support from Member States. As we know very well, other negotiations in the United Nations go about their business exactly in this way: starting with a draft and moving gradually to a final text.

            Since we had only two meetings last session, we must make up for the lost time. The IGN should therefore start as a direct continuation of the previous session before the end of this year, make full use of the General Assembly calendar and hold as many meetings as necessary to reach an acceptable result. We are ready to start right now.


Mr. President,

            The position of the G4 on the substance of the reform is well-known. We uphold the need for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council, with the expansion of seats in both categories of membership, equitable regional representation, more transparent and inclusive working methods and an enhanced relationship with other UN bodies, including the General Assembly. Our support to the Common African Position has also been clearly voiced. We are aware that other Member States have different proposals and diverging perspectives on how to reform the Security Council. But we are convinced that almost everybody would agree that the Security Council is in dire need of reform. This is why the Intergovernmental Negotiations were set up in the first place: to allow us to sit down and discuss how to bridge the gaps in our positions. Reaching consensus before negotiating was simply never the plan. It cannot be a plan, because this would be an attempt to start the process from the end-point: any agreement on contentious issues can only emerge after in-depth text-based negotiations. The time is ripe now!

            Please rest assured that the G4 is eager to collaborate with you and the co-Chairs in bringing about a result-oriented process, as mandated by the General Assembly. Being faithful to the original purpose and mandate of the IGN is the only way to ensure the ownership of this process by all Member States and its preservation as the adequate setting for our efforts. In this regard, and depending on the results of our work, the G4 also reserves the right to revert to this item of the General Assembly agenda during the current session.

            Thank you very much.

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