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UN Reform Requires Patience and Wisdom

Reforming the UN requires a comprehensive diagnosis of the challenges facing the world's largest multilateral organization. 

The reason for rethinking the structure of the world body, particularly the expansion of the Security Council, is the UN's failure to reflect today's global picture, which is vastly different to that of 1945 when it was created.


Each proponent of reform has an agenda when it comes to expressing the shifts of the past 60 years and what changes should be made, in terms of structure and substance.


It thus comes as no surprise that the African Union rejected a compromise deal on Security Council reform proposed by Japan, Germany, India and Brazil, known as the G4.


Leaders of the union voted to ratify their own plan for reforming the council rather than endorse an alternative proposal from the G4 at a summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Thursday.


Under a draft resolution tabled by the four nations, six permanent seats are to be added to the council -- four for themselves and two for Africa -- and four non-permanent seats rotating for two-year terms.


To make their proposal a little more palatable, the G4 pledged a freeze on veto power for at least 15 years.


The G4 proposal is unpopular among UN members as it would change the council's fundamental structure.


If adopted, the proposal would create new sources of discrimination among council members because the proposed semi-permanent or permanent seats would not hold veto power.


Without the backing of the 53-member African Union, the G4 has no chance of mustering the two-thirds majority in the 191-nation General Assembly required for the adoption of its council expansion proposal.


The G4 had been pushing for a vote on its resolution before the end of July. But the date for such a vote has been repeatedly postponed in part because of the strong opposition from the Uniting for Consensus group, which includes more than 20 countries.


But the four nations still think there is a chance they will be able to strike a deal with the African Union before September, when world leaders will gather in New York for a UN summit to decide what they will do with the reform package.


A range of moral, legal and political questions need to be pondered before then.


UN reform will definitely have a huge impact on the future of the world.


There is, to say the least, a need to patiently push ahead with the process to maintain solidarity among member states.


Still, schisms remain over such thorny matters as which nations deserve permanent seats, how far the council should be expanded and whether new permanent members should be granted veto power.


Given the huge divisions that have come to define the Herculean task of reforming the UN, the G4's proposal, if implemented, would only widen rifts, split the body and even derail the whole process of discussions about reform.


Broad consensus will not be reached overnight.


Coercive deadlines for reform must not be set. To keep the wheels of the UN running, leaving time and room for full deliberation of areas of divergence is a must. Reform may be painful. But what is the point of UN reform if its members fail to agree on the topics that are of the greatest concern to them?


The broadest consensus possible on important matters where divisions exist will provide the UN with a comprehensive blueprint with which to better meet the challenges of the present day, as well as the future.


(China Daily August 8, 2005)

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