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Report UN Reform

In the second briefing of this day, Mr. Sebastian von Einsiedel gave us the chance to get involved in the ongoing debate about the recommendations brought forward by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. Mr. von Einsiedel, having assisted the High-Level Panel as a Research Officer, was able to deliver an interesting and detailed first hand account of its work and its closing report. His briefing coincided with the presentation of the In Larger Freedom report of the Secretary General, responding to the recommendations of the High-Level Panel, which was simultaneously introduced to the General Assembly on that very day.

The High-Level Panel consisting of 16 international high ranking members was set up by the Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the fall of 2003 as a response to the Iraq intervention and the growing divisions within the United Nations. The three main tasks of the High-Level Panel were to examine today’s security threats, assess how these threats have been responded to in the past, and to propose new actions to address these and future threats to peace and security. During the first sessions it became evident that perceptions concerning the nature of threats differed dramatically between the South, i.e. the developing world and the North, i.e. the industrial nations. While the developing world is primarily concerned about socio-economic, environmental and health threats, the industrial nations consider these as development issues and not security threats and focus on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) instead.

Those different perceptions were, however, bridged by stating that all threats are closely interlinked. By agreeing on a broad definition of “threats to peace and security”, events producing large-scale death, such as poverty and diseases, were also included in the definition.

Mr. von Einsiedel told us that altogether 101 recommendations were agreed upon in the closing report of the High-Level Panel. All recommendations are in accordance with the following four principles which provided the essential guidelines for reaching a common agreement on collective action: (1) The United Nations do not always hold the key to solutions and are themselves just a part of a larger cluster of organizations. (2) Policy reforms are more important than institutional reforms. (3) Proposals should include bold but still realistic reforms, therefore no abolition of the veto right. (4) All proposals should be aimed at strengthening the preventive framework.

With regard to the final report of the High-Level Panel Mr. von Einsiedel highlighted selected recommendations such as those concerning peacekeeping, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Concluding his briefing Mr. von Einsiedel elaborately answered questions concerning the two proposals for the Security Council reform. Such a reform has been on the international agenda since the beginning of the 1990s. Accordingly a subcommittee was established in 1993. This subcommittee – informally named the “never-ending working group on the Security Council Reform” – finally proved to be ineffective even though a proposal – the Rasali-Proposal – was drafted.

The two new proposals by the High-Level Panel concerning the Security Council form a new approach. They envisage 24 Security Council members. The first recommendation proposes six new permanent members (two from Latin America, two from Africa, two from Asia and one additional from the European Union). In case of the second proposal a new kind of membership, the so called semi-permanent membership, is to be created. These semi-permanent members should serve a 4 year term with the possibility of re-election, which is designed to fulfil an incentive function for Member States to increase their involvement. In addition the High-Level Panel underlines in its recommendations the need to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Security Council. Furthermore the High-Level Panel stressed that the Security Council should not shift its priorities towards questions of development, and thus gradually reduce the authority of the ECOSOC.

To summarize, the briefing by Mr. von Einsiedel was characterized by his profound knowledge of the matter, and thus proved to be another unique opportunity to obtain a deeper insight into the work of the United Nations Secretariat.

Patrick Uhrmeister