Remarks at Intergovernmental Negotiations on UNSC equitable representation and membership increase
Speech04 April 2019
Statement by Ireland at the informal meeting of the plenary on Intergovernmental Negotiations on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council
Thank you, Co Chairs, for convening this session of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform during the 73rd session of the General Assembly. Ireland firmly supports your leadership of this process, and your determination to make tangible progress towards the shared and needed goal of a comprehensive reform of the Security Council.
You have asked us today Co Chairs to focus in particular on two clusters of the reform – the size of an enlarged Security Council and its working methods; and the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.
I would state at the outset, as others have today and previously, that the five elements of Council reform which guide our work are inextricably linked. The eventual reform will have to be comprehensive and address all aspects. This does not mean however, that we cannot discuss and make progress on individual items.
Ireland sees a strong degree of consensus around the future size of an enlarged Security Council. As we and others have pointed out previously, the size of the Council has not grown in parallel with the growth in the numbers of member states of the United Nations. We feel there is broad agreement that a Council of around 26 members would strike the right balance between representativeness and efficiency.
Such an enlarged Council would allow us to correct the severe and damaging underrepresentation of certain regions. It would allow us in particular to meet the demands of the African group to correct the historic injustice which has deprived that region of its appropriate level of representation. It would also ensure that smaller states could continue to serve at reasonable intervals on the Council, and help make the Council reflective of the world as it is today.
As with all other aspects of this process, Ireland is ready and willing to discuss and negotiate on this issue, and assist in finding an outcome that is acceptable to the widest possible number of member states.
As regards the Council’s working methods, Ireland is a very active member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency or ‘ACT’ Group, which works to improve the functioning of the Council in its current composition.
The ongoing efforts by those both inside and outside the Council to improve the Council’s transparency and accountability to the wider membership have produced many tangible results, including, for example, the process of selection for the UN’s Secretary General, and the more regular interaction with civil society, with the media, and with other UN bodies. There has also been important improvements in the operation of the Council’s subsidiary bodies, including with regard to the allocation of Committee Chairs. More can be done now, for example to increase ‘penholderships’ available to elected members. Naturally, other changes would be required in an enlarged Council, including with regard to the Presidency. But we do not foresee any insurmountable problems in what should be, in any case, a dynamic and evolving process.
As I have said, Ireland sees the issue of the Council’s working methods as closely tied with the question of its relationship with the wider membership in the General Assembly. Again, many improvements are possible within current structures, for example with regard to enhancing the Council’s annual report to the General Assembly. Progress has already been made, including the earlier scheduling of elections to the Council and a greater lead-in time to Council membership, the holding of formal and informal ‘wrap-up’ debriefing sessions at the end of each Council Presidency, and an increasing number of Open Debates at which all members can speak.
A comprehensive reform of the Council, meanwhile, will have to make further reforms to its relationship with the General Assembly. For Ireland, a critical point always to bear in mind is that the Charter specifically requires the Council to “act on behalf” of the entire UN membership in carrying out its duties.
Ireland has repeatedly stated its desire for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council so that its composition reflects the world as it is today. As we stated in the first IGN meeting this year, the longer a reform is postponed, the greater the threat to the legitimacy of the Council in the eyes of the world.
At a time when multilateralism is under threat, we have a responsibility to ensure the legitimacy and relevance of global institutions. We can achieve this here by seriously engaging in negotiations on Security Council reform. We need urgently to move beyond the repetition of talking points and begin shaping an outcome that works for the entire membership. Ireland stands ready to support all efforts in this direction.