UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has once again called for permanent representation of Africa at the United Nations Security Council, even as he criticized the exclusion.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Guterres asked how acceptable it is for Africa, a continent of 54-states, to lack a single permanent member in the UNSC to date.
“How can we accept that Africa still lacks a single Permanent Member in the Security Council? Institutions must reflect today’s world, not that of 80 years ago. September’s Summit of the Future will be an opportunity to consider global governance reforms and re-build trust,” the UN chief said.
The UN Security Council, the United Nations’ principal crisis-management body, is empowered to impose binding obligations on the 193 UN member states to maintain peace. It is composed of 15 members, with five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US, and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
The five members have veto powers and any of them can veto a resolution.
The permanent membership in the Security Council, one of the most debated issues in the UN, was granted to the five states based on their importance in the aftermath of World War II.
According to Council on Foreign Relations, the P5 came about following the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) winning the war, alongside the United Kingdom, and became the shapers of post-war political order.
“As their plans for what would become the United Nations took shape, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted on the inclusion of the Republic of China (Taiwan), envisioning international security presided over by “four global policemen.” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill saw in France a European buffer against potential German or Soviet aggression and so sponsored its bid for restored great-power status,” CFR explains.
Among the sticky issues has been the question of equitable geographic representation and how to apportion the available seats among regional groups. At the time of its formation, there were 51 states, which have since grown to 193.
According to the UN website, from 1994-2009, the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council was the main UN body charged with discussing this matter.
In February 2023 at the 36th Ordinary session of the Assembly of the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Guterres joined other African leaders in calling for the continental bloc to be granted a permanent seat on the UNSC.
Again in September 2023, Guterres at the 78th General Assembly called on world leaders to reform multilateral institutions, including the Security Council and international financial architecture, based on current economic and political realities.
“Global governance is stuck in time. Look no further than the United Nations Security Council and the Bretton Woods system. They reflect the political and economic realities of 1945. The world has changed. Our institutions have not. We cannot effectively address problems as they are if institutions don’t reflect the world as it is,” he said at the UN headquarters in New York.
African leaders have also pushed for the reform of the UNSC and have a permament representative from Africa.
In September 2020, then Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan said the exclusion of Africa from the permanent member category of the Security Council can no longer be justified.
“We urge the UN to quicken the pace of its reforms. Not only to better reflect the current global realities but also to ensure that it enjoys genuine legitimacy,” Goodluck told the UN General Assembly.
Then presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Ali Bongo of Gabon also called for African representation on the Security Council.
Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (now deceased) was a huge advocate of the reform agenda, delivering the electrifying “Reform the UN” speech in 2016 at the opening of the 26th African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
UN says the Summit of the Future on September 22-24 will bring world leaders together to forge a new international consensus on how to deliver a better present and safeguard the future.
“We already have the “what” in the form of many existing agreements and commitments, starting with the UN Charter and including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and many others. The Summit of the Future will look at the “how” – how do we cooperate better to deliver on the above aspiration and goals? How do we better meet the needs of the present while also preparing for the challenges of the future?” UN says.
The summit is a product of the Common Agenda report, which called for a renewal of trust and solidarity at all levels – between peoples, countries and generations, calling for reforms in the multilateral system
“”It made the case for a fundamental rethink of our political, economic and social systems so that they deliver more fairly and effectively for everyone. It also recommended a corresponding renewal of the multilateral system, with the Summit of the Future as a defining moment to agree on the most critical improvements necessary,” UN says.