Razali completes term

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I will wager my last cent that these countries from the majority bloc will not support the American amendment to bring their "favourites" and "rich friends" unless Asia, Africa and Latin America are compensated quite adequately.

Presently the five permanent seats (or P5) are occupied by the US, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China. They were selected when much of the world was still under Western colonialism and imperialism. The enlargement of the Security Council should redress, not highlight the imbalance between the rich and the poor. As it is, with the exception of Russia and China, the other three nations are rich and Ghina is the only non-white nation.

Even if it is agreed that there will be at least three new permanent members from the developing world, which will that be? And how do we placate those left out? In Asia the most logical candidate is of course, India but Pakistan is already vigorously campaigning against the reform which may make India a permanent member of the Security Council, and going by their bitter history, Pakistan's objection is understandable.

In Latin America, if one goes by geography, it should be Brazil but unfortunately it is unrepresentative of the continent which speaks Spanish; Brazil verbalises in Portuguese. In Africa, if it were not for its poor human rights record and unrepresentative form of government, Nigeria has better claim than any other, but now almost everyone's favourite is Mandela's South Africa.

I know Italy strongly opposes the inclusion of Germany. My friend, Ambassador Paolo Fulci, swears that Italy will do all it can, and has and still is lobbying relentlessly to deny Germany to sit alongside Italy and France and the United Kingdom.

If one appreciates history, the permanent members were never meant to be a geographical balance. They are there because the allies won the Second world war. Simple as that.

The nine non-permanent members which change every two years provide the needed geographical representation. The P5 are meant to be world policemen, and no action will be taken unless there is a unanimous decision by them, hence the veto power.

The other alternative is from Razali who has proposed (and suffered some severe criticism as a result from Italy and Pakistan in particular) a two-stage process towards resolving this controversial restructuring. Firstly, let the General Assembly decide the size of the enlarged Security Council and secondly, after a decent period of consultation, elect the new permanent members.

Under Razali's plan, the membership would be increased from 15 to 24 with five new permanent members and four new non-permanent members. The non-permanent members are to represent Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe respectively. As for the five new permanent members it would be from the regional groups - one each from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and two from the industrialized nations. It is for Asia, Africa and Latin America to decide whether the same country should occupy the seat permanently or rotate among two or three from each of the groups.

The P5 have said they would oppose any reform which would take away their veto. I do not believe Japan and Germany, assuming they do become permanent members, would accept any less than whatever power is enjoyed by the P5 now. But who knows? They may well accept a second-class permanent membership without veto power. Many countries are opposed to giving them veto power.

Many diplomats think Razali's plan is workable. However, this would mean raising the membership from 15 at present to 24 and the US has said that it wanted the membership to be only between 20 or 21, and no more to make it "manageable and efficient", and "not unwieldy". I believe Razali's plan will meet much opposition regarding rotation.

India, I gather is uneasy and not supportive of the rotation, however, it may be acceptable to Africa and Latin America.

What would happen, an old hand at the UN told me, "the US, Japan and Germany with their largese and generosity will in the end get what they want.

"Simply realpolitik and money", he added.

Absolutely. It does appear that the US will get what it wants though paying less - unless, of course there is an open rebellion against Washington. What happens if the US, which thinks the UN is only relevant if it is a conduit for its foreign policy, decides to be more recalcitrant than it already is? Washington will support the UN, and pay up its obligatory dues, only if it becomes accountable to its Congress.

The UN may be a multilateral organisation, but it has to deal with an increasingly unipolar world in which the US rules, and rules supremely.

I shall be surprised if all the zeal and efforts of Razali and many others to restructure the Security Council will become a reality during the 52nd General Assembly. The UN is well known for moving slowly, and the reform will be complicated further by the lethargy and procrastination of member states which are not happy with one or two aspects of the restructuring formats.

In any event Razali finished his term with distinction. The Diplomatic World Bulletin a periodical which dedicates itself to serving the UN and the international community, in its August-September issue described Razali as "the most effective president the organisation has ever seen. It is a pity that the UN limits the presidency to a single term. In the UN, people like Razali are all too few and the organisation could use more of his wise counsel."

I agree. Absolutely.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )