UN Security Council reform dealt setback; negotiations shelved

United Nations (IANS) Negotiations for reforming the Security Council has been postponed indefinitely dealing the decades-long unproductive process a further setback.

Reem Abaza, the spokesperson for UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said on Thursday that the co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on Council reform had informed him of their decision to shelve meetings till further notice.

Muhammad-Bande was slow to reactive the IGN, appointing the co-chairs only in December, resulting in no meetings held during the current session last year and only two held this year before the COVID-19 pandemic intervened shutting down the UN meeting facilities in New York in March.

He reappointed Lana Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates as a co-chair and replaced Georgia's Kaha Imnadze with Joanna Wronecka of Poland.

India is heavily invested in the so-far elusive reform having staked its claim to a permanent seat on a reformed Council and receiving the backing of a large number of countries, including four of the five permanent members - Britain, France, Russia and the United States.

In a letter to Muhammad-Bande, the IGN co-chairs wrote that consultations with member nations showed "an overwhelming preference for in-person meetings."

"In light of this, and having considered the pros and cons of other options, we have decided to postpone our scheduled meetings until further notice," they wrote.

Because in-person meetings are not possible during the COVID-19 closure of the UN complex, the UNGA trying with major technology companies to develop an online mechanism where all 193 members can meaningfully participate in meetings, Abaza said.

The long-simmering demands for Council reform received the firm seal of approval of the heads of states and governments in 2000 when the Millenium Declaration was unanimously adopted.

The IGN was set up only in 2008 and has been going through cycles of activity and inactivity, rolling its incomplete work to the following UNGA sessions.

Former Permanent Representative of India, Syed Akbaruddin, said last year that the history of the reform process reads like the tale of Greek mythological figure Sisyphus, who was "cursed by the Gods to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down, dooming him to fruitless toil for eternity."

The hurdle for the reform process is the failure to even adopt a negotiating text.

A small group of countries under the banner of Uniting for Consensus (UfC) to oppose the adding of permanent members has blocked the adoption of the document to subvert the process.

The group that is led by Italy and includes Pakistan has trapped the process in a Catch-22 cycle demanding a consensus on reform before a negotiating text is adopted, while discussions cannot take place without the document setting the agenda.

India has suggested building on a framework document prepared in 2015 by then IGN chair Courtenay Rattray by polling members on reforms to create a negotiating text.

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