Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Security Council reform

The Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Security Council reform is meeting again today. The United Nations, as I've said before, is perhaps the only place where a group intentially calls itself "Open-Ended" or "Ad Hoc." It's never a good sign when this happens. The Group -- which some privately call the Never Ending Working Group -- has been laboring over this issue for 15 open-ended years, with nary a result.

Currently, they are trying to decide whether to continue to have "consultations" in the OEWG, or to decide they are done with this phase and move on to "intergovernmental negotiations." This is hugely controversial. As in, they've been debating it for about a year now, and still can't get consensus. The main issue is that the different factions are split and until they can join forces, there will be no agreement.

For those who don't know who the factions are on this, they are:

- THE GROUP OF 4! Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil, and friends. They want to expand the Council from its current 15 members to 26, with permanent seats for themselves plus two African countries, and nonpermanent seats for some other countries.

- THE AFRICAN GROUP! This group makes up for its lack of clout by making completely unreasonable demands, like having multiple permanent seats on the Security Council with veto power. With over 1/4 of the General Assembly membership, though, no Council reform proposal can succeed without African support. Thus, the G4 has been trying to buy them off for a long time, but with no success.

- THE UNITING FOR CONSENSUS GROUP! A group that is about as accurately named as President Bush's Clear Skies Act or his No Child Left Behind act. The UFC (it rather hilariously shares its acronym with Ultimate Fighting Championship) is actually designed solely to submarine the G4 and prevent any kind of consensus whatsoever. Its primary members are regional mid-major powers who don't want to see their powerful neighbors get permanent seats on the Council. So Argentina is in the group to stop Brazil, Italy to stop Germany, Pakistan to stop India, and South Korea to stop Japan.

- THE UNITED STATES, which actually wants the Council to have LESS members, and probably won't accept any more than a 4 to 6 member increase, which will satisfy nobody.

Currently, several small states have put forward many reasonable proposals, such as one to make the Council's working methods more open and inclusive to the rest of the membership, or another compromise plan that gives "semi-permanent seats" that can satisfy the demands of the G4, UFC, and Africans. They are all ignored.

Which means that I can report to you in advance that today's session of the OEWG shall accomplish exactly what its predecessors did: nothing. But of course, I'm covering it anyway.

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