Sunday, February 15, 2009

Africa Will Insist On Veto Power At United Nations Security Council Talks

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Africa Will Insist On Veto Power At UN Security Council Talks, Says Ogwu

From Laolu Akande New York
Nigerian Guardian

As the United Nations begins negotiation this Thursday on how to resolve the long-standing issue of the expansion of the membership of the world body's most powerful organ, the Security Council, Nigeria's Ambassador to the UN, Professor U. Joy Ogwu, has declared that the country will enter the talks insisting that Africa gets seats as permanent members of the Council with veto powers, just as the current five permanent members.

In an interview with The Guardian, Professor Ogwu said it was only fair that Africa joined the council as permanent members with veto powers. A few years ago, some other contenders for the permanent seat, including Japan, Germany and Brazil were willing to become permanent members without veto powers. But the Africa Union had insisted that even though on principle, the AU opposed veto powers, but since it had been in place, new permanent members of the Security Council must also wield such powers on grounds of equity and fairness.

According to Ogwu, "Africa insists that the new permanent seats should have veto powers, including the potential African seats. This is fair in our judgment, in the context of equity, fairness, justice and consistency."

When intense negotiations begin on Thursday, February 19, in New York, Ogwu, a well versed scholar in international politics and former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and External Affairs Minister, will be leading the Nigerian mission to the talks in New York.

But she hinted that "Africa is not likely to shift readily from the consensus of Ezulwini, but this does not in any way imply that Africa is unyielding or compromising." The Ezulwini declaration refers to the AU leaders' decision on the matter reached in 2005 in the Southern African resort valley of Ezulwini.

However, there is wide consensus among diplomats at the UN head office in New York, that new international and global realities have compelled a need to urgently review the membership of the United Nations Security Council, which currently has 15 members with only five being permanent members. The permanent members are the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. All of them have veto powers. Ten other members are elected to limited terms as non-permanent members on regional representation without any veto powers.

After over 15 years of the UN General Assembly trying to expand and democratise the Council, a firm decision was reached last year that UN member-states should resume negotiations this month to conclude the matter.

Africa is the only continent right now without a permanent member of the Security Council at the UN. And there is widespread belief at the UN that granting Africa representation in the Council's permanent membership is likely going to be less contentious in the negotiations.

According to Ogwu, Nigeria's role in the negotiation is to restate President Umaru Yar'adua's call in 2007 when he spoke at the UN General Assembly in New York, renewing Nigeria's support for the expansion of the Security Council.

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