A desperate move by the aspirants of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council — India, Brazil, Germany and Japan — to scuttle the UN process to reform the 15-member body appears to be heading towards a collapse.
The move by the four countries, together known as the Group of Four (G4), followed their consistent failure to mobilise enough support among the UN's 193 members to make a formal bid for securing seats for themselves at UN's high table, reflecting significant opposition to adding more permanent members to the council.
The Italy and Pakistan led Uniting for Consensus (UfC) has been at the forefront of opposing the expansion of the council on grounds that it would become dysfunctional. Instead, the UfC advocates for more non-permanent seats to make the council more effective and accountable.
The Security Council, which is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, has 15 seats. It includes 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms that come from all regions of the world, and there are five permanent members with veto power whose support is essential for any reform to be adopted. These five members are the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.
The process to restructure the Security Council has been under way since 2009 in the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN), a forum established by the UN General Assembly which operates on the basis of consensus. However, negotiations have made little progress because of G4's refusal to show any flexibility.
The new situation arose on Wednesday when the General Assembly president, Volkan Bozkir, circulated a proposal to roll over the IGN process on Security Council reform to the next assembly session and forward the paper on elements of convergence and divergence, based on the negotiations held during the current session, along with the more comprehensive Framework Document of 2015, which lists the positions of various groups and countries.
As in previous years, the assembly president's proposal was expected to be adopted by consensus. However, it has been learnt that G4 submitted amendments to the proposal to make the elements paper, which was prepared by the IGN's co-chairs, the sole basis for future negotiations.
Throughout the past year, India and the other G4 countries have insisted that negotiations should be held on the basis of a "single consolidated text". This call for text-based negotiations has not been accepted, having been opposed by a majority of member states in the General Assembly.
In a display of desperation, some of the G4 countries are believed to have made personal attacks on the assembly's president, who hails from Turkey, and this has further alienated them.
Some diplomats at the UN believe that G4's objective is to do away with the current IGN process on Security Council reforms so that the next General Assembly president, Abdulla Shahid of Maldives, whose election was actively promoted by India and other G4 members, can start a new process aligned with their objectives to secure support for their persistent bid for permanent membership.
During Wednesday's IGN meeting, Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, stoutly defended President Bozkir's proposal, saying it was consistent with precedent and similar decisions had been adopted in the past.
“It is, therefore, most regrettable that some delegations have chosen to continue their divisive efforts in the IGN, to carry them forward into the General Assembly,” he said, adding they were promoting partisan objectives. “These are not procedural amendments; they touch on substance in this process of the IGN itself, and this process of the IGN should not be reopened since we have the co-chairs' paper.”
Ambassador Akram called on G4 to withdraw their amendments and not divide the assembly further, saying they were ultra-vires.
“They [the amendments] do not enjoy wide support and if we are pushed to a vote, it will erode the objective of Security Council reform, and set it back by many years,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“It will not give new life to the process, it will be its death knell,” he added.
The issue will be considered again next Tuesday in the General Assembly when diplomatic observers expect G4's bid to fail.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts are reported to be under way to avoid the continuation of the bruising confrontation on the issue.