Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters

New York, October 2003


Fifty-eight Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations


Item 40 - Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters


Mr. President,

Having not taken part in the debate earlier this week on the Report of the Security Council I would like to use this opportunity, with your permission Mr. President, to thank the President of the Security Council for the month of October, Ambassador Negroponte of the United States, for his introduction to the report of the Security Council.

I noticed many speakers in that debate referred on the one hand to the report of the Security Council and on the other to the item now under consideration, question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council. In my first draft for this statement I intended to welcome a decision to convene a joint debate, as it would be a manifestation of the streamlining of the General Assembly, to which Iceland attaches importance. I fully agree with the views expressed by the Permanent Representative of Canada at the outset of his statement on Monday that we could have made do with one debate on these issues.

Mr. President,

Iceland's views on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council has been on record for years. It is essential that the composition of the Council better reflect the membership of the United Nations as a whole. Developments since 1945 include the UN membership growing from the original 51 to 191 states. The decision in 1963 to increase the number of non-permanent seats from six to ten, which took effect in 1965, was in response to demands based on the fact that member states had greatly increased in numbers. By 1965 they totalled 117. Since that year seventy-four new states have become members of the United Nations. This should be reflected in the composition of the Security Council. We must safeguard the credibility of the UN Security Council and at the same time secure its efficiency. We realize that there is no easy balance between equitable representation and the performance of the Council. However, no stone should be left unturned in our efforts to achieve this goal.

The growing practice of open Security Council meetings is to be welcomed. I agree with the Permanent Representative of Guatemala who in last year's debate stated that this "has contributed to the closer involvement of all States in the Council's work by providing the opportunity to express their views on subjects that the Council considers". Further measures should be taken, however, to increase transparency in the decision-making process and thus add on to the welcomed steps already taken by the Council, without weakening its capabilities.

Iceland supports an increase in both permanent and non-permanent seats on the Council. New permanent members should have the same rights and obligations as the current permanent members. The veto right should be restricted and an obligation to state the reason for its use should be established, including why a permanent member considers a matter to be of vital importance, as was stated recently by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland Halldór Ásgrímsson in the general debate of the General Assembly, or as my colleague from Singapore stated here so eloquently a few minutes ago, we should attach responsibilty to the veto.

Mr. President,

I suspect that my statement today will not mark a significant development or change in the debate on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council. In truth, I doubt, with full respect for my colleagues, if any of the statements in this debate will be such a landmark. The declared aim regarding this issue is clear to every delegation, for in September 2000 at the largest-ever gathering of world leaders, they agreed to "intensify efforts for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council in all its aspects". That agreement was a landmark. The positions of the UN members are mostly known. We have been working hard and long hours in the Open-ended Working Group to reach our common target but with very limited results as regards the major issue, the expansion of the Council and the question of the veto. Reform options have been narrowed down and are on the table. We should not, however, underestimate the differences among us on the way to reach our common goals of reform, democratization, and strengthened legitimacy of the Security Council. We believe that the Open-ended Working Group is still the most appropriate forum for negotiation on this important issue and we urge all member states to show flexibility and a willingness to compromise in order to realize the aims of our leaders stated so clearly three years ago.

Let us heed the Millenium Decleration of our leaders and the recent challenge by the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to agree on concret reforms by 2005.

Thank you Mr. President



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