H.E. Ambassador Choi Young-jin, Permanent Representative, at 112th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly
I thank you for convening this meeting to discuss the issue of Security Council reform, which we believe is one of the most important issues for the upcoming September summit.
The Republic of Korea supports reform of the Security Council that adequately reflects the changed international environment since the adoption of the UN Charter 60 years ago. A reformed Security Council should be more representative, democratic, transparent, accountable and effective than it is today.
The expansion of permanent seats in the Security Council runs counter to the goals of Security Council reform and to the fundamental principles of the United Nations. In this regard, it is with regret that we note the submission by the Group of Four (G-4) of a draft resolution that provides for six new permanent members in addition to the existing five.
I would like to explain in detail some of the most important reasons why the addition of six new permanent members under the G-4 resolution would be to the detriment of the international community.
First and foremost, the concept of permanent membership is contrary to the fundamental reality that the world is in constant flux. History has taught us that nothing made by human hands is ever truly permanent. Given the vicissitudes of the modern world, it would be a great folly to accord permanent special status to a handful of states, because whatever decision is made now will inevitably be out of synch with changed realities in decades to come. We should not repeat the same mistakes that were made six decades ago.
Second, the addition of new permanent members is inequitable and unfair. The predominance of 11 permanent members in the Security Council would alienate the other 180 states, depriving them of the opportunity and political will to make substantial contributions to international peace and security. Most member states will have no choice but to sit on the sidelines while an oligarchy of eleven wields a monopoly of power over international peace and security.
Third, an increase in permanent members would heavily impair the accountability of the Security Council. Once selected, the six new permanent members would hold on to their privileged status in perpetuity, regardless of how well they carried out their responsibilities on behalf of the general membership. Without periodic elections, the international community would have no means to seek accountability for what these 11 permanent members did in the Council. We should not forget that absolute power is apt to spoil itself.
Fourth, the creation of six new permanent members would also seriously undercut the effectiveness of the Security Council. It would, of course, be quite difficult for the Council to address any significant issues that bore directly on one or more of its 11 permanent members. Even in cases that did not affect these 11 permanent members directly, the long process of bargaining and horse-trading among the expanded permanent membership would impede the effective and efficient functioning of the Council.
Fifth, the addition of new permanent members would create a cascade effect within the UN system, adversely affecting the fair and equitable distribution of membership in other bodies. Permanent members of the Security Council have enjoyed the right to be present permanently at the General Committee of the General Assembly and have had the de facto privilege of maintaining a judge permanently at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and occupying key positions throughout the UN system. The more than doubling of permanent members would strip other member states of opportunities to be represented in important UN bodies.
Last but not least, we must consider the matter of regional representation, taking as a guide the records of the existing permanent members. To put it plainly, no permanent member has represented the interests of the region to which it belongs. If regions are to be represented adequately, each regional group should be given a fair share in the Security Council that enables states in the region to gain a presence in a fair and equitable manner, with accountability ensured through election or rotation.
My delegation is deeply concerned that the complex four-stage process envisaged by the G-4 will lead us nowhere. We are quite sceptical about the passage of the first stage, but if it does come to pass, it would be followed by the much more complicated and difficult second and third stages: the selection of the six new permanent members and the amendment of the related provisions of the Charter. The pursuit of this mission impossible would inevitably plunge member states into a morass of bitter debate for an unpredictable period of time, taking other critical reforms hostage, including those that affect development, human rights, management of the Secretariat and collective international security. Nor, given the known positions of some of the P-5, is there any guarantee that agreement in the General Assembly would be followed by successful ratification of amendments to the Charter, the fourth and final stage on this long journey. The stark reality is that the G-4’s multistage approach risks derailing the whole process of UN in general and the UN reform in particular.
Let me now turn to a real, workable alternative. The Uniting for Consensus proposal that was circulated last Friday does not contain any increase of permanent seats, but at the same time demonstrates that equitable, fair and democratic reform is possible. States that seek frequent or even continuous representation would have to act responsibly in order to sustain the support of the general membership at periodic elections. Moreover, the Uniting for Consensus proposal is a simpler yet complete package for Security Council reform that can be achieved without any complicated multistage processes.
The Republic of Korea places a high value on the successful reform of the Security Council. I remain hopeful that in our collective wisdom, we can avoid a divisive and costly process and achieve our goals for reform through the building of a genuine consensus on this vital matter.