Africa: Guterres Calls for UN Security Council Reform, Makes Case for Africa

“How can we accept that Africa still lacks a single Permanent Member in the Security Council?”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday questioned the lopsided representation at the UN Security Council. He also made a case for Africa to have a permanent seat on the council.

“How can we accept that Africa still lacks a single Permanent Member in the Security Council?” he asked in a post on X.

There has been increased questioning of the structure of the United Nations Security Council, arguably the most powerful multilateral institution in the world. Countries of the world especially in Africa and Latin America have questioned the lopsided representation.

Mr Guterres said that institutions must reflect today’s world, not that of 80 years ago, adding that September’s Summit of the Future will be an opportunity to consider global governance reforms and rebuild trust.

He said this after attending the just concluded Non-Aligned Movement summit in Uganda.

The African Union and its members over the years have questioned the composition of the Security Council while demanding at least one permanent seat for an African country.

At the UN General Assembly in 2022, the President of the African Union, Macky Sall, reiterated the call for Africa’s place in the Council.

“It is time to overcome the reluctance and deconstruct the narratives that persist in confining Africa to the margins of decision-making circles,” he told the General Assembly.

Mr Sall said it is time to do justice to Africa’s just and legitimate demand for Security Council reform, as reflected in the Ezulwini Consensus. Two years later, no progress has been made on how to make the Council more inclusive.

The Ezulwini Consensus is a position on international relations and reform of the United Nations, agreed by the African Union. It calls for a more representative and democratic Security Council, in which Africa, like all other world regions, is represented.

Germany in March 2023 said it would support AU’s demand for permanent seats at the Council.

“Germany therefore supports the efforts for permanent African seats on the UN Security Council and we also support a formal seat for the African Union within the G20,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a visit to Kenya.

In September 2023, AU’s membership of the G-20 was announced with India announcing that its membership will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South.

The Security Council consists of five permanent members and 10 elected members who are elected for two years. China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation are permanent members.

Although all members of the Council have one vote, permanent members have special voting power known as the “right to veto” exemplifying the central theme in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm -“all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The Case for Nigeria

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, speaking in a panel at the Word Economic Forum in Davos last week also made a similar case for Nigeria when he said the only way to breach the trust gap between the North and the South was for the world to practice what it preaches – democracy and the rule of law. He said such should start with decision-making bodies like the Security Council.

“To begin with, the UN Security Council needs to democratise. It is not fit for purpose. Nigeria… is the most populous country on the African continent… it belongs in the UN Security Council,” Mr Tuggar said.

He proposed that the Council cancel the idea of veto power because it is ‘clumsy’ and does not work, adding that it impacts global security.

“We have a situation where, in the past, during the bipolar world, there was neutral ground for diplomats to engage, allowing diplomacy to resolve issues, preempt conflicts, and diffuse them. Unfortunately, we do not have that anymore,” he said.

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