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Swiss push for UN Security Council reform

The veto powers of security council members could be limited Keystone

Switzerland – along with four other countries – has tabled a United Nations resolution, urging the Security Council to become more "transparent and accountable".

This content was published on March 20, 2006 - 22:12

The resolution, which calls for reform of how the UN's most powerful body works, includes limiting the use of the veto held by its "permanent five" members.

The resolution, jointly signed by Switzerland, Singapore, Liechtenstein, Jordan and Costa Rica, was presented to the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.

"The aim is not to limit the power of the Security Council but to improve the collaboration of the Security Council with the membership at large," Ruedi Christen, spokesman at the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York, told swissinfo.

Diplomats say the reform package has the support of the bulk of UN members but is likely to get a rough ride from some of the 15-strong Security Council's five permanent members – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

In November Russia and the US dismissed a first draft, fearing the reforms would weaken their influence.

The resolution calls on the Security Council to consider 19 measures designed to enhance its "legitimacy and effectiveness".

Raft of measures

Proposed improvements include closer cooperation with all UN members and greater transparency over sanctions and peacekeeping operations.

"Around 70 per cent of the work of the Security Council is dealing with security issues, mainly peacekeeping operations," said Christen.

"Both financial- and troop-contributing countries have the right to more accurate and quick information."

The resolution also calls for the use of the veto to be restricted in cases of serious human rights violations, such as genocide and ethnic cleansing. The permanent five should also have to explain at the time their reasons for using the veto.

The reform package, however, fails to address the issue of Security Council enlargement. India, Japan, Germany and Brazil have been campaigning for a permanent seat, and African nations say there is a need for permanent African representation on the body. But nothing has been decided.

"We are in a situation where we feel the enlargement issue is not really moving ahead. But what we can push ahead with – and we see support from a large part of the membership – is the question of working methods to improve the transparency and accountability of the Security Council," explained Christen.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in Geneva

Key facts

The UN Security Council is made up of 15 countries – the permanent five and ten other members elected for two-year terms.
It has the authority to send UN peacekeeping forces to conflict zones.
The council can also authorise enforcement measures, economic sanctions or collective military action.
Switzerland joined the UN in September 2002 following a nationwide vote. It does not have a seat on the Security Council.

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In brief

Since joining the UN in September 2002, Switzerland has made reform of the Security Council one of its priorities.

It says the number of seats should be increased to better represent the regions, and countries with the right of veto should only exert it in exceptional cases.

In June last year Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey outlined the country's plans for reforming the UN during a meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York.

One of the Swiss proposals – a new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission – was adopted by the General Assembly last week.

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