H.E. Ambassador Kim Sam-hoon, Permanent Representative, at Informal Thematic Consultations of the General Assembly
On behalf of the delegation of the Republic of Korea, I would like to begin by reiterating our firm support for United Nations reform in order to strengthen its effectiveness and relevancy in the face of the new challenges of the 21st century. The complex nature of these challenges requires comprehensive reform that can only be achieved through common understanding and consensus among Member States as a whole.
Revitalization of the General Assembly
The General Assembly must reclaim its status as “the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations.” We agree that the General Assembly must strengthen its role by addressing the major issues of the day, such as migration and terrorism, while also streamlining its agenda. The only way to stem the decreasing relevance of the General Assembly within the UN system is to empower it to react swiftly to today’s pressing agenda through a focused approach. In this regard, my delegation shares the concern of the general membership over the lack of progress in the reform of General Assembly, and urges all Member States to discard parochial interests with a view to revamping the work of General Assembly in an efficient and effective way. Without concrete result-oriented actions, we will confront a growingly irrelevant General Assembly.
One vital element in General Assembly reform could be greater interaction with the Security Council. The primary responsibility of the Security Council over the maintenance of international peace and security does not prevent General Assembly from increasing its political role in this arena by discussing these issues in accordance with the UN Charter. Indeed, broadening the debate and allowing more voices to be heard on the most crucial issues of international peace and security will strongly increase the democratic nature of the UN and enhance its ability to carry out one of its fundamental mandates.
Reform of the Security Council
Today, I would not like to delve into the position of the Republic of Korea on the issue of Security Council reform, because my delegation has already made it clear on several occasions before. Instead, my delegation would like to reiterate its firm conviction that a hasty decision on this critical issue by way of deadlines and votes would end up with deep division to the United Nations and serious consequences to its future. We also cannot but register our serious concern that inevitable wrangling amid rush to a decision on the Security Council reform would divert our attention away from other important reform issues and derail the entire reform process.
On April 11, 116 Member States and three international organizations participated in a meeting entitled “Uniting for Consensus,” the goal of which was to explore ways to achieve consensus on Security Council reform. In this informal exchange, all participants shared their belief in the importance of reforming the Security Council in a consensual and non-divisive manner and agreed to seek a solution that would meet those requirements.
Given that neither Model A nor Model B enjoys broad support among Member States, the Republic of Korea, together with a group of like-minded countries, is exploring and developing alternative models. These models are based on several common elements as follows:
1. Only elected seats will be increased.
2. Ten new seats will be added, bringing the total Security Council membership to 25.
3. The term for the new elected seats will be two, three or four years.
4. Some or all of the 20 elected seats will be eligible for re-election.
5. While maintaining the existing regional groups, a fair and equitable distribution of seats will be ensured.
We will present these models soon and look forward to a candid and constructive exchange of views among all Member States. The Republic of Korea is willing to redouble its efforts to work with other countries in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to come up with a formula that can command the broadest possible support among the general membership.
Reform of the ECOSOC
As the principal organ in charge of social and economic affairs, ECOSOC’s role should be further strengthened so that it may better coordinate major economic and social policies and more effectively implement the outcomes of major UN conferences and summits. In this regard, we support an annual ministerial-level meeting of ECOSOC to assess progress and promote further progress towards the internationally agreed development goals, in addition to a high-level development cooperation forum. Furthermore, the ECOSOC should reconsider its meeting schedule to better cope with emergency situations such as natural disasters. We are also supportive of the expanded role of ECOSOC in post-conflict management.
However, proposals to expand the ECOSOC bureau or to establish an Executive Committee require more careful examination, because they will not necessarily address its current deficiencies.
The establishment of a Human Rights Council
The growing importance of human rights in development and security calls for a fresh look at the current human rights mechanism with a view to rationalizing and reinforcing its overall work. In this vein, the Republic of Korea supports the Secretary-General’s proposal to replace the current Commission on Human Rights with a new Human Rights Council in principle.
With regard to a peer review system, my delegation views that it will allow us to better tackle the problems of politicization and selectivity on the basis of universal scrutiny. However, establishment of fair and transparent criteria and procedures for adjudication are essential for a viable and workable peer review system. Such criteria should be based on existing universal norms and agreements, including, inter alia, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
As for the mandate and other functions of the Council, we are generally receptive to the Secretary-General’s recommendations. In our view, election by the entire General Assembly membership is necessary to ensure both the accountability of Member States and the representativeness of the Council. Given the link with the existing human rights bodies, the Council needs to be situated in Geneva.
The size of the Council should be determined so as to ensure representativeness and effectiveness in a balanced manner. In our view, a “medium-sized” Council consisting of 25-30 members, a figure somewhat larger than the current proposal, along with election by a two-thirds majority, will meet both ends.
Finally, we are still wondering about the future course of action as suggested by the Secretary-General. Certainly there is no need for Member states to agree on every detail of the Council at this time. However, the Council’s main elements, including mandate, functions, composition and status, should be identified and agreed upon before we take the decision to set up such a Council.
Reform of the Secretariat
My delegation welcomes efforts to enhance the competence and accountability of the Secretariat and its staff, and eagerly anticipates more detailed plans from the Secretary-General.
Overall, the proposals for Secretariat reform are sensible and forward-looking. Nevertheless, further concrete action is required in order to strengthen confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of UN civil servants.
Repeated incidents of misconduct by UN personnel, including incidents revealed during the Oil-for-Food Program investigation, have demonstrated all too clearly that the Secretariat’s current levels of transparency and accountability leave much to be desired. The Secretary-General has rightly asked that the independence, authority, expertise and capacity of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) be enhanced. That should be the minimum. It is imperative that the UN oversight system as a whole be reviewed, with the goal of significantly improving transparency and accountability throughout the Organization.
There is a ever-growing need for greater system coherence to better coordinate and integrate all of the various UN Funds, Programs, and specialized agencies. We appreciate the Secretary-General’s ongoing efforts to this end, including, in particular, the idea of strengthening the resident coordinator system to improve UN performance at the country level.
Finally, regional organizations have a unique ability by virtue of their proximity and local knowledge to contribute to the work of the United Nations beyond their regional scope. My delegation supports closer interaction and cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in facing the challenges to international peace and security. Along the same line, we welcome the Secretary-General’s plan to invite regional organizations to meetings of UN system coordinating bodies when issues are particularly relevant to regional organizations.