Twitter Facebook Flickr Youtube RSS Share

Security Council Reform



“I would like to get progress made on Security Council reform to allow there to be seats for new permanent and non-permanent members alike.”

François Hollande, President of the French Republic, 27 August 2012


1. Overview Retour à la table des matières

The Security Council, which has five permanent members (United States, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia) and ten non-permanent members elected for two years, was only reformed once in 1963 when four new non-permanent seats were created. Reforming the Security Council requires the consent of at least two-thirds of the members of the United Nations and of all the permanent members of the Security Council (who each have veto power). This procedure is very constraining and it is therefore important to plan out a reform that can garner support from a vast majority of Member States.


- There have been several attempts at reform in the past few years

After a first proposal in 1997 by the President of the General Assembly, the “Panyarachun report” in 2004, requested by Kofi Annan, suggested expanding the Council to 24 members.

In 2005, the G4 (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) suggested creating six new permanent seats (the four members of the G4 plus two African countries) without veto power and four new non-permanent seats. This option was supported by France, yet it remained blocked, mainly due to the opposition of two sizeable groups:

— the “United for Consensus” group led by Italy, Argentina, Pakistan and Mexico want the Council to be expanded only to non-permanent members. They suggested expanding the Council with 10 non permanent members.

— all the African countries have gathered around the “Ezulwini consensus”, advocating the creation of two permanent seats with veto power and two additional non-permanent seats for Africa.

Reform of the Security Council is a necessity within the reform of international institutions. It requires a political commitment from member states at the highest level.

Regarding the use of veto, France has issued a veto 18 times since 1945. France last used the right of veto in December 1989 (on the issue of Panama). The last time it used a lone veto was in 1976 (on the issue of Mayotte).

- French Position

France wants the Security Council to adapt to the realities of the 21st century. It should remain the decision-making organ responsible for “the maintenance of international peace and security,” ensuring the Organization’s "prompt and effective action”, in accordance with the United Nations Charter (Article 24-1). It should better represent today’s world, while remaining capable of taking the necessary measures to confront the security challenges of the 21st century.

France is in favour of an expanded number of permanent and non-permanent seats in the Security Council, so that its composition takes into account the emergence of new powers that possess the willingness and capacity to assume significant responsibilities.

— France supports the accession of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan to permanent member status.

— France also supports an increased presence of African countries within the Security Council, in particular among its permanent members.

— There is also the question of the presence of an Arab State as part of the permanent members of the Security Council.

- Launch of new negotiations in 2009 and French-UK proposal for an intermediate reform

Reform of the Security Council gathered new momentum with the launch of new negotiations at the General Assembly in February 2009.

Acknowledging the difficulties to bridge the gap between the different positions, France and the United Kingdom proposed the option of an intermediate reform at the UK-France Summit on 27 March 2008. This could include a new category of seats, with a longer term than that of the members currently elected. On completion of this intermediate period, a review should take place to convert these new seats into permanent seats. France and the United Kingdom renewed their proposal at the UK-France Summit on 6 July 2009.


6 July 2009 - UK-French Summit


Excerpts from the Declaration on global governance and development

The United Kingdom and France intend to cooperate closely to confront the political, economic and security issues of the 21st century. Pursuit of the reform of the governance of international institutions is a necessity if they are to be made more capable of meeting the challenges raised by international security and responding to the global economic crisis and under-development.

Reform of the United Nations Security Council

We wish to pursue our efforts to ensure that the Security Council is more representative of today’s world while at the same time preserving its capacity to take the steps required to cope with the problems of security posed by the 21st century.

We supported the launch by the General Assembly on 19 February 2009 of intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, this being an essential stage to take the discussions of Security Council reform out of the impasse in which it has found itself for all too long now.

We reaffirm the support of our two countries for the candidacy of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan for new permanent seats, along with representation for Africa among the permanent members of the Security Council.

We support the pragmatic intermediate solution that could provide for a new category of seats with a longer mandate than that of the members currently elected. On completion of this intermediate period, a review should be taken to convert these new seats into permanent seats.

We are pleased to note that the intermediate approach gained increasing support from United Nations Member States, as has been shown by the first meetings of the General Assembly to be held within the framework of the intergovernmental negotiations.

It is therefore our belief that the intermediate solution should be considered in the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2009-2010 where we look for meaningful progress. We are ready and willing to work with all our partners to define the parameters of such intermediate reform.

27 March 2008 - UK-French Summit : Reform of the Security Council

Excerpts from the chapter on international institutions

The UK and France will act:

(...) To reform the UNSC, which has primary responsibility for maintenance of international peace and security. In the same spirit of adapting institutions to the new realities of the world, the UNSC should be reformed to ensure that it better represents the world of today, while remaining capable of taking the effective action necessary to confront today’s security challenges.

— Reform of the UNSC, both its enlargement and the improvement of its working methods, must therefore succeed. We reaffirm the support of our two countries for the candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan for permanent membership, as well as for permanent representation for Africa on the Council.

— We regret that negotiations towards this goal remain in deadlock and are therefore ready to consider an intermediate solution. This could include a new category of seats, with a longer term than those of the current elected members and those terms would be renewable; at the end of an initial phase, it could be decided to turn these new types of seats into permanent ones.

— We will work with all our partners to define the parameters of such a reform.

— UNSC reform requires a political commitment from the member states at the highest level. We will work in this direction in the coming months with a view to achieving effective reform.


The negotiations which started in February 2009 at the General Assembly have been organized around five main themes:
— Categories of members;
— Right of veto;
— Regional representation;
— Size of an enlarged Security Council and the Council’s working methods;
— Relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly.

On 1 March 2010, France and the UK made a joint contribution underlining the need for an intermediate reform. This contribution was reflected in a document prepared by the Chair of the negotiations, the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, in May 2010, which brought together the different contributions of Member States. Negotiations are ongoing within the 65th session of the General Assembly.


Statements by Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, on Security Council Reform

30 January 2011 - Speech delivered by Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic: African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Excerpt on the reform of the Security Council


"I have been convinced for a long time now that Africa hasn’t had its rightful place in international governance. So, since the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Secretary-General are here, I want to say to them: Reform the Security Council this year. Don’t wait. France will support you. Don’t make speeches, make decisions. Expand the number of Security Council members; acknowledge the rightful place of a billion Africans and France will support you.

We have been talking about the reform for 30 years now. I propose that we do it this year, in 2011. The elements are on the table. We know that we need to increase the number of Security Council members, no doubt with an interim reform phase. Let’s not create a working group, let’s engage in debate and fulfill the promise of allowing Africa, the Latin American continent and other partners to join the Security Council. And at that point, Mr. Chairman, there will be no more rival organizations. If the Security Council represents the world in all its diversity, then we won’t need other organizations. And if other organizations have been created, it’s because we did not manage to end the deadlock with respect to Security Council reform."

23 October 2010 - Speech delivered by Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic: 13th Francophonie Summit, Montreux (Switzerland)

Excerpt on the reform of the Security Council


"Is it normal that there are no permanent Security Council members from Africa? A billion inhabitants - 2 billion in 30 years time - that are not permanently represented. That’s a scandal.

Is it normal that there are no permanent representatives from the South American continent in the Security Council? Not one! Is it normal that a country like India, which will soon be the most populous country in the world, isn’t represented? And is it normal that there are countries that are not represented but which play a decisive role in the global economy – I’m thinking of Japan and Germany – because their leaders made poor decisions during the Second World War? This is the 21st Century, it’s not the 20th Century any more.

Mrs. President, I noted your concerns with respect to the fact that a small number of States would be responsible for resolving issues that concern – you’re right - all States in the world. But let’s now have the courage to see things through. I believe in the G192 provided it has the courage to make decisions! And the system of “not making a decision unless everyone is in agreement” is doomed to failure since it’s a system that will pave the way for inaction, conservatism and thus to the emergence of those who want to do nothing. We don’t have any choice. If we want to keep this system, we need to reform it and the interim reform of the Security Council, I’m telling you, is vital. "


27 June 2010 - Press conference of M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic: G-8 Summit

Excerpt on the reform of the Security Council

"We cannot wait to start reforming the UN system any longer. It concerns first the Security Council, whose reform has been totally blocked for twenty years. It concerns also agencies or specialized agencies of the UN galaxy.

Regarding the Security Council, France and the United Kingdom have proposed an intermediate reform. This is the best way - actually probably the only way - to break the current deadlock. Chancellor Merkel supports this intermediate reform process. It will be a priority of the french presidency of the G8 and G20 in 2011 and Stephen Harper, by the end of his presidency, will try to bring together the different points of view on the issue of an intermediate reform of the Security Council. Things have progressed well, at least within the G8."

1 June 2010 - Speech by M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, delivered at the closing session of the Africa-France Summit

Excerpt on the reform of the Security Council

"How can we accept a world where 25% of the members of the UN General Assembly are Africans, and where not a single member of Africa is a permanent member of UN Security Council? How can we accept a world where 60% of peacekeeping operations decided by the UN Security Council are in Africa and where the Council does not have an African permanent member! It is an anomaly, it is an injustice, it is a source of imbalance, and together Africa, France and Europe, we will remedy this situation and we will fight to make sure that global governance is in line with the twenty-first century and not the twentieth."

29 March 2010 - Speech by the President of the Republic - Columbia University (New York)

Excerpts on the reform of the UN Security Council

"We have a UN Security Council that has a certain number of permanent members with veto powers. But the Council was defined in the wake of World War II. Do you young students at Columbia know that not a single African country is a permanent member of the Security Council? [And yet the continent has] a billion inhabitants! Do you know that not a single Arab country—[although the Arab world has] about a hundred million inhabitants—is a permanent member of the Security Council? Do you know that India—with a billion inhabitants, and becoming the world’s most populous nation in 30 years’ time—is not a permanent member of the Security Council? That Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, is not a permanent member of the Security Council? Why? Because 60 years ago they lost the war. Is that reasonable? Do you know that not a single Latin American country is a permanent member of the Security Council? How can anyone expect us to resolve major crises, major wars and major conflicts within the framework of the UN without Africa, without three-quarters of Asia, without Latin America, without a single Arab country? Is that reasonable? Is that sensible? Is it even imaginable? Who can believe that?"

22 January 2010 - Speech by the President of the Republic:New Year’s Greetings to the Foreign Diplomatic Corps (Elysée Palace)


Excerpts on the reform of the UN Security Council

"I want to emphasize the need—one that is more urgent than ever—to expand the Security Council through the interim reform proposed by France and the United Kingdom. France asks the Security Council to finally adapt to the realities of the 21st century by welcoming new permanent members: India, Japan, Brazil, Germany, and no doubt one or two African countries. How can it be considered natural for a continent of a billion inhabitants to have no permanent member on the Security Council? Or that not a single Latin American country has a permanent seat on the Security Council? What are we waiting for to lay the groundwork of this interim reform?)"



(Janvier 2012)

2. French statements Retour à la table des matières

- 29 October 2013 - Security Council Working Methods - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 30 November 2011 - Security Council - Working methods - Statement by Mr Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 11 November 2010 - General Assembly - Security Council Reform: Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 21 October 2010 - General Assembly - Security Council Reform - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 2 June 2010 - General Assembly - Security Council Reform - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 19 January 2010 - General Assembly - Intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council Reform: Speech by Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 8 December 2009 – General Assembly: Security Council Reform – Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 12 November 2009 – General Assembly: Security Council Report – Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 3 September 2009 - General Assembly - Intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council Reform:Intermediate Reform - Statement made by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 2 September 2009 - General Assembly - Intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform: Expansion in the two categories of members – Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 1 September 2009 - General Assembly : Security Council Reform - Debate on the five key issues - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 22 June 2009 - Security Council reform: relationship between UNGA and the UNSC, the right of veto and working methods - Statement by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 11 June 2009 - Security Council reform: Composition - Statement at the General Assembly by Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 22 May 2009 - Security Council reform : General nature, agenda, timing and frequency of any review or challenge - Statement at the General Assembly by Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 20 April 2009 - Security Council Reform : Relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly - Statement at the General Assembly by Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 7 April 2009 - Security Council Reform : Size of the Council and working methods - Statement at the General Assembly by Mr. Hubert Renié, Counsellor at the French Permanent Mission to the United Nations

- 24 March 2009 – General Assembly meeting on Security Council reform: Regional representation – Statement by M. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 16 March 2009 - General Assembly meeting on Security Council reform: Right of Veto - Statement by Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent representative of France to the United Nations

- 4 March 2009 - General Assembly meeting on Security Council reform: Categories of membership - Statement by H.E. Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 19 February 2009 - Opening of the Intergovernmental Negotiations onf the Reform of the Security Council - Press statement by Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations



-  Some statements are available only in French

3. Reference documents Retour à la table des matières

- 1 March 2010 - Intergovernmental Negotiations - Security Council Reform - UK/French position

- Letters by the Chair of the negotiations on Security Council reform to member States:
— 2010 correspondence
— 2009 correspondence

4. Useful links Retour à la table des matières

- Read our file on the Security Council



Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share
Rss
Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU