H.E. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Informal Thematic Consultation of the General Assembly
On Cluster IV
(The Imperative for Collective Action: Strengthening the United Nations)
28 April 2005
The Secretary-General’s report and the clusters-based debate since last week on development, peace and security and human rights have identified challenges facing today’s world. They have highlighted the way forward for achieving the ideals and objectives of the UN Charter in these important areas. It is clear that if our organization is to rise to the challenge and tackle these critical tasks effectively, institutional reform is indispensable, and some bold decisions are needed. We all know that our Secretary-General Kofi Annan has demonstrated deep commitment to reform of the Secretariat since his assumption of office. We commend the positive results he has achieved, and, while we expect him to continue on with his vigorous efforts, member states should also lend him their utmost support.
At the same time, it is clear that intergovernmental organs of the organization also require reform and change to better reflect the realities of the world, to modernize and become more effective and responsive to the needs of the contemporary world.
First, regarding the General Assembly, we believe that the first important step should be to rationalize its agenda, which now suffers from a certain degree of inflexibility. More focused and timely debate on the problems of highest priority and urgency should be our objective. We should strive to reach agreement on concrete measures for revitalization of the General Assembly during the sixtieth session.
ECOSOC also requires change in order to make this important body more strengthened and focused, and more responsive to issues of high concern to member states, particularly developing countries, in the economic and social areas. It should strive to become a body that can provide answers, guidance and direction for the international community. We therefore support the concrete proposal of the Secretary-General to establish within ECOSOC, in the form of a coordinating body, a mechanism to monitor progress in the achievement of the MDGs and provide peer reviews of trends and performances in development cooperation. We also support the proposal to convene timely meetings to deal with threats that affect large numbers of people, such as famines, epidemics and natural disasters.
In the establishment of the proposed Peacebuilding Commission which Japan supports, ECOSOC should not be sidelined. The adequate involvement of ECOSOC, together with the Security Council, should be ensured in terms of the Commission’s composition and mandate. Close involvement of ECOSOC in the work of the Commission would not only be beneficial for the Commission but would also contribute to the strengthening of ECOSOC itself. We therefore welcome the Secretary-General’s additional note on the specifics of the proposed Commission as a useful basis for reaching broad agreement on this issue.
Human Rights Council
Japan supports the establishment of a Human Rights Council to replace the Human Rights Commission, as proposed by the Secretary-General. The proposed inclusion of a peer review function in its mandate is one possible option. With all countries’ performance equally assessed, such a measure could help restore credibility in debates on human rights. Further discussions are needed, however, on the details of the Council’s implementation. We should avoid placing an additional burden on member states that already have obligations to submit reports to treaty bodies. Furthermore, the peer review should be conducted in a cooperative, rather than confrontational, spirit.
On the reform of the Security Council, we have expressed our views on earlier occasions, but let me make a few points concerning procedure as well as substance.
Past and current debate on Security Council reform has clearly shown that there is a widely shared view on several important points. Among them are that the membership of the Council should be expanded in the permanent and non-permanent categories, so as to modernize its structure, improve its representativeness, including that of developing countries, and reflect the realities of today’s world, which has radically changed in the 60 years since the Council’s inception. In enlarging the Council, consideration also needs to be given to improving its global effectiveness. The Council’s working methods should be improved in terms of transparency and inclusiveness.
The Secretary-General stated in his report that “no reform of the United Nations would be complete without reform of the Security Council”. He urges member states to agree to take a decision before the summit in September. He further states that, while consensus would be preferable, if member states are unable to reach consensus, “this must not become an excuse for postponing action”. We fully support these views as justified, realistic and feasible.
Some members have expressed their reservations about voting, or warned against an “artificial deadline” for a decision. Let us hope that such caution is not actually advocacy for delay or no action at all, and hence a call for maintaining the status quo, which of course is a position not acceptable to a large majority of member states. Consensus should be respected to the greatest extent possible. But adherence to consensus, if pushed to the extreme, begins to partake of veto by a small minority. This must not be allowed to happen. Decisions on some important issues, such as those needed for Security Council reform, should not be held hostage forever to the call for consensus, in the name of unanimity.
There are, in fact, clear rules already enshrined in the Charter and a General Assembly resolution. These existing rules must be followed unless the General Assembly decides to adopt different rules.
- First, a Charter amendment will be required for any change in the composition of the Security Council. The provisions of Article 108 of the Charter state that such a decision will be taken “by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly”, followed by ratification “by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council”.
- Second, in resolution 53/30 of 1998, the General Assembly decided that “any resolution or decision on question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters” is to be adopted with the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of member states.
In this connection, I wish to remind the members of the fact that the decision of the General Assembly in 1963 to expand the non-permanent membership of the Security Council from six to ten was indeed taken by a vote, and not through a consensus decision. Had the consensus argument prevailed then, the Council might still have been operating today with eleven members, instead of fifteen.
It has been suggested that no “artificial deadline” should be set for a decision on Security Council reform. This would appear to contradict the recommendation of the Secretary-General to take a decision before the September Summit.
The timing for any important decision must be carefully considered. And we are not arguing for any undue haste. However, it is important to remember the following.
- First, Discussions on reform of the Security Council have been going on in earnest for well over a decade, since the early nineties. In 1997 the so-called Razali reform paper was presented to the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG), and member states had thorough discussions in the General Assembly for years, but without being able to reach agreement.
- In addition, world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000 resolved “to intensify ... efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Security Council in all its aspects”, thus declaring their political intention to achieve results. Subsequently, the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change was established in 2003, and its report prompted further discussion, particularly on the two specific models, A and B. This led to accelerated discussions among individual member countries, in regional groups and in New York and in capitals around the world. For example, the African Union adopted a common position, referred to as the “Ezulwini Consensus”, at the special session of its Executive Council in March. Other regional groups also began to engage themselves, including the Eastern European Group, which presented a position on this issue earlier on.
It is clear from this long process that the time for some decision on Security Council reform as part of the institutional reform of our organization is approaching. The momentum for it is building, and it must be seized. Further intensive discussions and detailed consultations will be necessary in the next several weeks, but at an appropriate time before summer, a decision should be taken in accordance with the rules set out in the Charter and the relevant General Assembly resolution. This will create the further momentum needed to tackle other important issues for the September Summit.
In moving the process forward, Japan has been working with other aspirants, Brazil, Germany, India and those from Africa, together with like-minded countries, based on the concept contained in Model A in terms of the expansion of the membership. Current regional groupings should remain the same. And there are other important aspects that will need to be addressed adequately. Very soon, the aspirant countries intend to engage in wider consultations with member states and various groups through an open and interactive process in an effort to reach a broad-based agreement for a decision. In this process, we will also continue close consultations with President Ping and his Facilitators.
Since joining the United Nations almost 50 years ago, as a peace-loving nation and with total commitment to the ideals and objectives of the organization, Japan firmly believes that it has some important role to play in and can contribute significantly to the maintenance of international peace and security and to advancing the agenda of security and development, by being a new permanent member in an expanded and reformed Security Council. And on that basis we are ready to submit our aspirations to the general membership for its judgment.
Finally, concerning the Secretariat, we support the proposal to strengthen the Secretary-General’s management authority, so that he can better manage the system and its staff and implement the necessary reform of this indispensable arm of the organization as a “CEO”-type chief administrative officer. We welcome the various proposals put forward, including those that would allow reallocation of existing resources for more flexibility and review of old mandates. My delegation intends to submit specific suggestions in this regard in consultation with other interested member states at a later date.
Humanitarian Response System
We have already expressed in the Cluster III session our support for measures to strengthen the UN’s humanitarian response system, including elevating the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to the level of international norm and their incorporation in national legislation insofar as possible. We look forward to further discussions on proposals to improve and strengthen the Central Emergency Revolving Fund managed by OCHA.
We support the Secretary-General’s proposal to delete the articles on the Military Staff Committee and the Chapter on the Trusteeship Council. We also support the deletion of the “enemy State” clauses from Articles 53, 77 and 107 of the Charter, as decided in a past General Assembly resolution (50/52).
In conclusion, let me reiterate what I have said in my earlier statements. My delegation will not falter in its determination to work closely with the President, with you as the Facilitators for Cluster IV issues and with other Facilitators in the coming weeks on the critically important issues before us.
Thank you very much.