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Inclusive UN reform urged
(China Daily/Xinhua)
Updated: 2004-12-01 23:32

Improving the representation of developing countries should be the priority of United Nations' reform, a Chinese expert said yesterday.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan addresses a forum of Wall Street workers on World AIDS Day in New York, December 1, 2004. [Reuters]
Yang Chengxu, a senior research fellow of the China Institute of International Studies, made the comment after a high-level panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made more than 100 proposals to reform the international body, including an expansion of the Security Council, which would be the most comprehensive UN reform since its founding in 1945.

The panel's report, released on Tuesday, has recommended the Security Council be enlarged from 15 seats to 24 seats, but veto power would only be limited to the current five permanent council members.

Yang said the UN needs to have a "sense of urgency in accelerating its reform."

He added: "The priority of the reform should be to find an effective solution to the underepresentation of developing countries in accordance with the principle of equitable geographical distribution."

Wu Miaofa, a former councillor of China's Permanent Mission to the UN, said reform of the Security Council reform lies at the heart of UN reform, saying the enlargement of the body will strengthen the transparency of the its work.

The panel offered two options for enlargement in its 95-page report. Annan will submit the report today to the 191-nation General Assembly.

Under option one, six new permanent council seats and three new two-year term non-permanent seats would be created. Asia and the Asia-Pacific region would each get two new permanent seats, while Europe and the Americas would each obtain one new permanent seat.

Option two proposes the creation of eight so-called "semi-permanent" seats, which have four-year renewable terms, and one new two-year non-permanent seat. Africa and the three other regional groupings would each gain two "semi-permanent" seats, with the single new non-permanent seat going to Africa.

"We recommend that under any reform proposal, there should be no extension of the veto," said the 16-member panel.

Currently, only the five permanent members: China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France, have veto powers.

A number of developed and developing countries from different regions have shown their strong wish in applying for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

"The Security Council is after all an organ of fairly high authority and moderate size, and its expansion should not go without ceiling or restriction," said Wu.

Yang said that extending of the veto will lead to disputes on more questions and reduce the UN's efficiency and authority.

Yang believed the two options of the reform of the council, although they still cannot be accepted by some countries, offer "very constructive" choices.

It has been more than 10 years since the UN General Assembly started to debate on the Security Council reform. Given the current situation, the report, on one hand shows the political will of most countries and on the other hand reflects the wisdom of compromise.

Two-thirds of the 191 UN member nations would have to approve any change to the council membership, which would then take effect if none of the permanent members uses its veto power to block the move.

Expressing worries that quickly choosing any proposal may result in a confrontation between UN members, Wu said significant difference still exist over the specific details of the reform proposal and there should be greater consultation in a democratic atmosphere.

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