29 July 2005

UN reform: G-4 remains focussed on the African Union

29 July 2005
The Hindu

G-4 remains focussed on the African Union

Siddharth Varadarajan

NEW DELHI: With the 60th anniversary summit of the United Nations fast approaching, the G-4 group of countries comprising India, Brazil, Japan and Germany are battening down the hatches for the final stages of their united push for the reform of the U.N. Security Council.

"The whole world now realises this game is for real," a senior official told The Hindu on Thursday. "The time for holding one's cards has gone." Countries that had remained silent till now have suddenly found their voice. In the process, the G-4 has discovered new friends and supporters like Nigeria. And it also has a very clear idea of who the "wreckers" are, apart from already vocal opponents like Italy, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico and South Korea. Principal among them is the U.S.

Landmark agreement

Fresh from the landmark agreement with a number of African countries in London on July 26, Indian officials involved in the campaign are planning to ratchet up their efforts. A fresh round of demarches — requests to co-sponsor and vote for the G-4 draft resolution — is being readied. In addition, India is asking its friends and supporters to take a stand against the draft resolution tabled by the Uniting for Consensus group led by Italy and Pakistan, which envisages no increase in the permanent category of seats in the Security Council.

For the present, all eyes are on the African Union, which is to hold a summit level meeting in Addis Ababa on August 4 — its second in less than a month. Under the terms of the compromise struck between the G-4 Foreign Ministers and the African Ministers and officials present in London, the African Union will drop its demand for the immediate grant of veto power for the six new permanent members proposed to be inducted. The Africans had also wanted an extra non-permanent seat, taking the size of the enlarged Council to 26, but have agreed to share that seat on a rotational basis with Latin America and Asia.

The meeting in London went down to the wire because a number of African countries refused to accept Nigeria's acceptance of the compromise. Among the "wreckers" were Egypt, Algeria, Libya and Kenya. Djibouti and Seychelles, which were initially opposed, later agreed. . External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh made an impassioned plea to the Africans not to let this historic opportunity to win representation for their continent on the Security Council pass by. "The meeting went on for 12 hours, but at the end, we had a deal", an official said.

Since the AU works by consensus, the agreement now has to be ratified by all members at the summit level.

This consensus may well break down, say Indian officials. These officials think those African countries which want to see their continent get two permanent seats will endorse the G-4 text. The estimate is that at least 40 if not more African states will vote in favour, which will bring the G-4 closer to the magic figure of 128 needed to pass their resolution. "If all goes well," said an official, "we will go for a vote in the General Assembly at the end of August."

"At the end of the day," said Natwar Singh, "victory is still not certain. If the G-4 resolution is not accepted, it will be a big tragedy for the U.N. and the world. But the four of us will remain united." What the G-4 has done is no small thing, he added. "We have firmly placed the issue of Security Council reform on to the international agenda and that cannot now be undone by anybody."

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