To view updates from the IGN from the current session, see below.
Reform of the Security Council has been a subject of interest for many Member States since the early days of the UN. Member States have consistently voiced concerns over permanent representation on the Council and the power of the veto, especially since the end of the Cold War, by which point global geopolitical realities had clearly shifted since 1945. Formal discussion about reforming the UN Security Council began with the 1993 establishment of 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.
After more than a decade of the Working Group, Member States decided in September 2007 to move discussions to an Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) process. According to decision 62/557 of 2008, which laid out the parameters of the IGN, the five key issues under consideration in these negotiations are: 1) categories of membership to the Council (i.e. permanent, non-permanent, or a third option), 2) the question of the veto, 3) regional representation, 4) size of an enlarged council and working methods, and 5) the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.
While all five of these issues are routinely addressed, the IGN have been dominated by the discussion of specific views on categories of membership, regional representation, and size of an enlarged council. There are a few key groups that routinely promote specific positions on exactly how the Council should be reformed. One of the most active of these groups is the Group of Four, or G4 (consisting of Germany, Japan, India, and Brazil) who are primarily seeking their own permanent membership on the Council, as well as backing the African Group’s bid for two permanent African seats. India and Brazil often support their bid with a focus on their roles as leaders of the “global south.” The G4 has been willing to forgo immediate veto rights, suggesting that they could be withheld until a review.
The African Group, whose common position is stated in the Ezulwini Consensus, calls for two permanent seats for Africa with the right to veto, and five non-permanent African seats. The group argues that Africa is the only continent with no permanent representation on the Council, and that as long as the veto exists, it should be extended to new permanent members. Ultimately, the group supports an end to the veto. Key to their position is that the African Union should choose the two states that would occupy the permanent seats, with some African states arguing that those seats should rotate between countries as decided by the African Union. Currently, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt are the primary contenders for the two proposed permanent seats.
Similar to the African Group, the Arab group calls for the allocation of at least two non-permanent seats for Arab states, as well as the inclusion of a permanent Arab seat in the event of any expansion of permanent membership.
In contrast to both the G4 and the African group, Uniting for Consensus (UfC) is the principal group that opposes the expansion of permanent membership and veto power, calling only for expanded non-permanent representation. Originally known as the Coffee-Club, the membership of UfC has varied over time. Some have observed that its key members are regional rivals of those seeking permanent membership, including Italy, Pakistan, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Colombia.
There is also the L69 group, named after draft resolution A/61/L69, which called for the transition to an Intergovernmental Negotiations process. The L69 group’s members are predominately developing and small island states, including an unknown number of African states as well as two G4 members, India and Brazil. Their position calls for the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent membership to the Council, including better representation for developing and small island states.
Through the several rounds of the IGN, these key views have been repeatedly expressed by their supporters, yet the issue of expansion is more complex than these key positions. Not every state falls squarely under one group, with some, such as certain P5 states, supporting aspects of certain proposals. Still others subscribe to more than one group. For more specific statements and positions, visit Global Policy Forum’s resource. Due to the variety of positions, negotiations on Security Council reform have been ongoing and slow-moving.
In the 69th session, up to 120 Member States contributed to a populated framework document expressing their views on reform and expansion. A revised, shorter version of this framework document was then circulated by IGN Chair Ambassador Rattray at the end of the session, which he hoped would guide the next phase of the negotiations. The most recent progress in the IGN was the decision in September 2015 to continue with the populated framework document into the 70th session, despite many Member States’ expressing dissatisfaction with the document. For the 70th session, President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft has appointed Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg as the new Chair of the IGN.
For a more in-depth and analytical account of the history and progress of Security Council reform, see our timeline on Security Council reform, and our publication Security Council Reform from 1945 to September 2013.