Africa's contradicting claims for UNSC reform

UN's biggest bloc, the African Union, seeks two permanent seats in the UNSC but is embroiled in intra-continental rivalries.

Africa's contradicting claims for UNSC reform

African countries recently have reiterated their eight year claim for two permanent seats on the prestigious UN Security Council during the fırst few days of the 68th UN General Assembly session.

The biggest bloc in the UN, the 54 state African Union (AU), is one of the fiercest defenders of UN Security Council (UNSC) reform as they believe it still reflects the power balance of the colonial era.

They seek to turn their 3 non-permanent seats in the UNSC into 2 permanent and 2 non-permanent seats. 

"Africa in particular feels that their voice is not being heard on peace and security questions, which are predominantly focused on conflicts in Africa," said Lesley Masters, Senior Researcher for the Institute for Global Dialogue based in South Africa.

Ezulwini Consensus

During the last wave of reform debates under the leadership of Kofi Annan following the 2003 Iraq War, the AU met in Swaziland's Ezulwini city and reached a consensus on their demands.

The consensus was formalized in March 2005 and endorsed the AU demand of two permanent members with veto rights and two non-permanent members from the African continent being added to the UNSC.

While the AU is against veto rights in principle, the Ezulwini Consensus believes that, since the right exists, it must be granted to all permanent members.

Although the AU was authorized to select the members in the UNSC, the Ezulwini Consensus did not determine which two countries would be choosen.

South Africa vs Nigeria

The uncertainity created by the Ezulwini Consensus about the new members paved the way for a competition between the most favorable candidates, South Africa and Nigeria.

South Africa alone accounts for 40 percent of the continent's economy and has the diplomatic backing of major powers including the G-4 countries of Japan, Brazil and India.

Nigeria, on the other hand, stresses its large oil reserves but is known to struggle with around $ 35 billion in foreign debt.

Chances for success are low

Experts say the Ezulwini Consensus' chances for success are low since African nations are divided along regional rivalries.

"Pursuing reform will have to come from all countries in order to affect change, but Africa will have to do some careful consideration of what can be achieved as the Ezulwini Consensus has not proved particularly useful," said Lesley Masters.

Nigerian professor Atelhe said that countries with less credentials should support the advantaged ones in achieving the goal for Africa, rather than for individual states. 

Another reason for the lack of hope in African states acquiring their permanent seats in the UNSC results from political problems back at home.

"Looking into the responsibilities that it entails as a permanent member, no Africa state has attained the status because of economic underdevelopment, over-reliance on the developed states for economic development and political instability coupled with high levels of corruption," said Professor Lere Amusan from the Department of Politics and International Relations at South Africa's North-West University.

Amusan added that these were the issues worth addressing before any states on the continent can aspire for this post which comes with military responsibilities attached.

The Rev. Gabriel Odima, President of the Africa Center for Peace and Democracy, also said "You cannot have a voice at the UN when you cannot protect the lives of your citizens. Some of the African leaders have come to power through the use of guns and bloodshed and they have no morals to advocate for reforms at the UN."

"How do you expect African leaders to be respected by the UN when some of them are facing serious charges at the ICC?" asked Odima.

First and last UNSC reform facilitated by Africa

After the decolonization period, African states became UN members, raising the number of seats in the General Council from 50 to 118 in 1965.

They became popular thanks to the Cold War competition between the US and USSR, leading to the first and last UNSC reform so far. In the 63th UN General Assembly session, 4 more non-permanent members were added to the UNSC based on the "regional representation" principle as the AU had envisaged.

However afterwards the US and USSR ignored the continous reform proposals.

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Last Mod: 27 Eylül 2013, 15:34
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