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Swiss want to "democratise" UN Security Council

Read my lips: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after a Security Council meeting in New York Keystone

Switzerland and four other states have submitted a draft resolution with proposals for improving the working methods of the United Nations’ most powerful organ.

This content was published on March 29, 2012 - 08:46
Rita Emch in New York, swissinfo.ch

The aim of the reforms submitted to the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday by the “Small 5” group (S5) – Switzerland, Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein and Singapore – is to make the Security Council more open, transparent and efficient.

The Security Council should also include those UN member states that are not part of the Council more closely in its deliberations, it said.

The vast majority of UN member states are not represented on the Security Council. Nevertheless, all member States are obliged to implement the Council’s decisions.

More transparency and a better inclusion of non-members in the whole decision-making process would result in greater political acceptance and lead to better implementation of the Council’s decisions, said Paul Seger, Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York.

Referring to the S5 initiative, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said in a press statement there was “a legitimate concern to be better informed about the Council’s decision-making process and to have the possibility to be involved in it. This demand is in line with Swiss policy on the UN, which gives priority to institutional reforms and human security for the coming years”.

More accessible

The draft resolution proposes that the Security Council make more of its meetings public and thus accessible to non-members. In particular, those states affected by conflict and those that provide troops for peacekeeping operations should be more closely involved in the Council’s decision-making.

It also asks for limits to be placed on the use of the veto in the Security Council. Specifically, the five permanent members with veto power – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – should renounce the use of the veto in cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Various UN member states were consulted on an informal level on the S5 reform proposals. Having received mostly positive responses, the proposals were submitted in the form of an official draft resolution to the General Assembly.

In the coming weeks the draft resolution will be debated and decided upon – “we hope sometime in May”, Seger said.

Not legally binding

A resolution adopted by the General Assembly is not legally binding on the Security Council. It can, however, create political pressure.

It is not the first time the S5 group is taking up the issue. A previous draft resolution submitted in 2006 led to a number of improvements in the Security Council’s working methods. For example, more open debates were introduced and a more intensive exchange was developed with other UN bodies such as the Peacebuilding Commission.

“Our reform proposals are concrete and pragmatic steps designed to improve the work of the Security Council and its cooperation with the General Assembly. They can be implemented today without the need for any amendment of the UN Charter,” Seger said.

This is in contrast to the “major” reform proposals on the composition and enlargement of the Security Council, which have been the subject of debate for 20 years but so far have failed to produce results.

Switzerland – UN

Geneva is the main seat of the United Nations, after New York. The Swiss city is host to 7 UN agencies and 242 missions and permanent representatives.

Around 1,500 Swiss work for the UN, with around 70 in top posts.

As a member country, Switzerland contributes around SFr130 million -140 million ($144 million- 155 million) to the UN annually and is the 16th highest contributor to the organisation.

Switzerland also pays in around SFr500 million a year to UN agencies of which it is a member. This contribution dates from before joining the UN.

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