The Advisory Group's Non-Paper: Will it Facilitate Security Council reform?

UPDATED On 12 and 16 December 2013, an informal meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform took place, with the Non-Paper faxed to Member States just a few days earlier.

During the last 20 years, reform of the Security Council has been paralyzed because of a wide variety of entrenched positions on process as well as substance. None of the much heralded changes - such as the move from the Working Group to Intergovernmental Negotiations (ING) in 2009; the establishment of a compilation/negotiations text in 2010; or draft resolutions circulated during the last few years intended to create momentum or stimulate convergence - brought about genuine negotiations or meaningful compromise. [For a detailed overview of this reform process, see the Center’s publication from September 2013.]

Broad support for a specific outcome encompassing all aspects of Security Council reform (the “negotiables” are enlargement, veto, regional representation, size & working methods, and the relationship between the Security Council and General Assembly) has been hard to achieve, though some proponents of enlargement with new permanent seats regularly claim to have “overwhelming majorities” on their side, glossing over key issues that complicate negotiations, such as the question on whether new permanent members should also enjoy veto rights. Moreover, how many - if any - and which countries exactly would obtain new permanent seats is far from resolved either.

Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Chair of the ING, proposed in July 2012 that he could be tasked by Member States to draft a “concise working document” to move the slow-going negotiations along. The latest version of the compilation/negotiation text remains 30 pages long and continues to meet resistance. The negotiations are clearly stuck with meetings mostly consisting of the reiteration of well-known positions. His proposal to create a concise text was welcomed by the G4, L69, CARICOM, and SIDS (these groupings have overlapping memberships, see the note below for details on their composition and stances.) The G4 and L69 had called for a shorter or streamlined text for years. But Tanin’s proposal was opposed by the C10/African Group, UfC, and 3 permanent members.

The President of the General Assembly (PGA) of the previous session, Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, clearly was not pushing for such a concise text and even appeared reluctant to agree with Tanin’s proposals to organize meetings during the 67th session. Jeremic simply stated that there was no agreement among Member States on how to proceed. Suspicions that he was too much under the influence of Russia and the UfC were rife at the time. (See the Center’s updates from May and June 2013 at

With the new PGA of the 68th session - John Ashe from Antigua and Barbuda, a member of CARICOM - those in favor of new permanent seats undoubtedly expect more meetings to take place and for new initiatives to go their way. In October 2013, Ashe announced that he had established an Advisory Group to provide “the basis” for the negotiations. His Advisory Group seemed favorably stacked with Permanent Representatives who had expressed support for a concise text in the previous session. At the plenary meeting held on 7 and 8 November, however, Ashe started the meeting with stating that the Advisory Group “does not have a mandate to draft any resolution or declaration or document of any kind.” This apparently after complaints had been received from the UfC as well as other Member States about the composition and mandate of the Advisory Group.

In spite of Ashe’s assurances, the Advisory Group produced a text that clearly looks like a concise/shorter/streamlined document. One of the six members of the advisory group dissented, however. The Permanent Representative of San Marino, Daniele Bodini, a core member of UfC, produced a memo explaining his stance. The Non-Paper and memo was distributed by the PGA to Tanin and Member States on 10 December 2013. Ashe wrote: “... as per my request, members of the AG have provided me with a set of ideas pertaining to the negotiations ... These ideas ... are intended to be an instrument to assist in the organization of the IGN, while ensuring that GA decision 62/557 remains the continued basis for the IGN process. As such, the attached Non-Paper is neither a negotiating text nor a replacement of any existing document.”

The date for the first informal meeting of the ING during this session kept changing, probably due to pressure exerted on the PGA from various sides. While some countries apparently had tried to delay the meeting on 12 December, arguing that they needed more time to consider the Non-Paper and check back with their capitals, the ING’s first informal meeting of the 68th session did start on 12 December, as announced in a letter from the PGA on 10 December. In a letter dated 11 December 2013, Tanin confirmed the start of the 10th round of negotiations on the following day, saying that the meeting “will be an opportunity for Member States to consider the ways in which they can benefit from the Non-Paper as a tool to lead us towards genuine give and take, which is essential to taking the process forward."

Insiders were especially keen to find out what the position of the C10/African group would be towards the Non-Paper. The African Group as a whole typically agrees with the procedural stances of the UfC and had opposed a streamlined text in the past. As the recently appointed Ambassador of Sierra Leone, Vandi Chidi Minah, who chairs the C10 in New York, is a member of the Advisory Group, it was expected that the C10 would express full support for the Non-Paper. The statement of the C10, however, merely “took note” of the Non-Paper, explaining that revision 2 (see appendix IX of the Center’s latest publication) of the compilation/negotiation text should be used to create an abridged version. The lack of outright support for the non-paper must hearten the UfC, but be disappointing for the G4 and its allies.

The Non-Paper was welcomed by the following Member States, though some qualified their support: Guyana on behalf of CARICOM, Nicaragua (L69), India (G4, referring to the text as the “PGA’s Non-Paper”), Netherlands and Belgium (“to inform our discussions, but not limit the scope”); United Kingdom (did not agree with some parts of the Non-Paper, nevertheless hopes that it will be used as a basis for negotiations); Brazil (we can move to a text-based approach, we have a text now); Japan (paper should be the basis of the negotiations); France (paper could guide the discussions); United States (paper could be a basis but expansion in permanent category should be country specific - in other words, the US first wants to know who those new permanent members would be); Germany (the paper reflects core proposals and should be used as a guide); and South Africa. Presumably, the difference between "guide" and "basis" is a significant one.

Unsurprisingly, UfC members did not welcome the Non-Paper, and Kuwait (on behalf of Arab States) joined their chorus. Kuwait noted that the paper did not reflect all proposals in the existing compilation/negotiation text. Kuwait reiterated the ambition of a permanent seat for Arab states. The coordinator of the UfC, Italy, stated that the mandate and composition of the Advisory Group was of concern. Italy felt that the paper did not constitute a set of ideas on how to move the process along, as Ashe had announced earlier, producing a summary of proposals instead. Italy added that any working document must be produced by the IGN as a whole so that nuances of the existing proposals won’t be lost. Mexico argued that an Advisory Group’s Non-Paper would not really contribute to the negotiation process and that only flexibility would bring about results. South Korea felt that a text produced outside the IGN could jeopardize the membership-driven nature of the process. Pakistan noted that the Advisory Group’s membership reflected mostly one position (presumably that of those in favor of a concise text). Turkey too stated that any document produced outside the IGN could not be used as a basis for negotiations. Spain felt that the paper causes more uncertainties and does not resolve anything. Argentina remarked that it had not been appropriate for the Advisory Group to draft the paper and did not understand why it was distributed. The Non-Paper could not form the basis for the negotiations, Costa Rica added, and any document produced by all Member States should have preference.

Besides the above UfC members and the Arab States, Russia and China also expressed reservations. Russia felt that the paper was just a selective list of proposals, with some existing ideas being ignored. Especially the language about veto rights is objectionable, Russia said, rejecting the paper as a basis for further negotiations. China too felt that the paper did not accurately or fully reflect proposals of Member States and would therefore not be useful.

Results in 2015?
Many of those in favor of new permanent seats are regularly calling for an outcome in 2015: the 70th anniversary of the UN, and the 15th and 10th anniversary of the Millennium Summit and World Summit respectively. Considering where negotiations stand right now, this seems rather optimistic. The UfC and China believe that there should not be any artificial deadlines for the negotiations.

Some NGOs are increasingly concerned that if the politically highly sensitive and controversial issue of Security Council reform would be added to negotiations about the post-2015 development goals, this would divert attention from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make the 2015 summit even harder to manage.

The date for the resumption of the informal meeting seemed to be changing day by day, possibly causing some confusion. In total, almost 40 Member States spoke on the 12th and 16th. Nigeria was on the list, but did not actually make a statement.

Three additional African countries spoke: two members of the C10 (Benin, hopes paper will lead to a consolidated text, and Zambia which was against), while Congo was vague ("take note of the Non-Paper, hope it can facilitate process"). This confirms the widespread notion that in spite of Africa's common position, similar divisions exist within the African Group as in other regions.

Interestingly, a few countries felt that the Chair could produce his own draft: Hungary (if none of the documents available right now are acceptable), Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia.

Support - some of it qualified - for the Non-Paper from non-African countries came from Malaysia (Non-Paper could be a useful guide, but could also use Rev. 3 or Rev. 2 as basis for negotiations), Bhutan (could be another useful tool), and Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea felt that the Non-Paper did reflect the substance of decision 62/557, and that any omissions could be added.

Statements expressing reservations about the Non-Paper came from Indonesia (there is no consensus on its role in the IGN process, any initiative will need broad support), Colombia (Non-Paper cannot be a basis for negotiations), Iran (Non-Paper should not be a negotiating text), North Korea (process should be membership-driven and ING should not be led by a small group of countries).

The statements from New Zealand and Cuba did not seem to specifically refer to the Non-Paper, though both are in favor of expansion in both categories.

Towards the end of the meeting, India made another statement (this time in its national capacity), saying that the status of the non-paper is clear: it was circulated by the PGA, and a result of the transparent establishment of the AG. India hoped that the Non-Paper will be shown on a screen in the meeting room next time, inviting comments from the floor, which could then be added. Italy felt a need to respond, saying that a number of UfC members have actually been perplexed about the AG's establishment and the production of the Non-Paper. Italy added that there are differences on the way forward.

Tanin apparently closed the meeting saying that "most" speakers saw a benefit from using the ideas contained in the non-paper as a way forward but that others had reservations. In his opinion, the conversation should not be about accepting or rejecting the paper.

Working Methods and French proposal

On the 12th, France recalled its initiative that would have the P5 members voluntarily refrain from using their veto in cases of mass atrocities. France explained that the framework of this new code of conduct would have to be formulated by the permanent members themselves, and that mass crimes would need to be defined and a warning mechanism established. Such an adjustment of veto rights could make them more palatable to those Member States and NGOs concerned about the Security Council's effectiveness. The UK supports this initiative, but whether China, Russia, and the US will concur seems unclear at this time.

On the 16th, Malaysia stated that the meetings could start with working methods as these do not require Charter amendments, an idea that Solomon Islands also espoused. The notion that the issue of working methods is keeping the expansion process hostage has often been heard in the past. Yet, the opposite is probably equally true; that in fact the expansion debate is preventing progress on working methods, which may partially explain why the group ACT promotes working methods' reform outside the ING. Iran was the most vocal about working methods: no veto in case of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and even would like the crime of aggression added to any proposal, in line with the Rome Statute of the ICC. Cuba said that the veto should be eliminated but that if it remains, it should be confined to Chapter VII of the Charter.

The G4 clearly wants to use the Non-Paper to start "real" negotiations. In the words of Brazil, a “heading-by-heading approach” should take place: delegations should be asked in future meetings to indicate their preferences under each heading in the Non-Paper, building consensus on majority views.

The UfC - and probably also the African Group as a whole and the Arab States - are unlikely to agree. The UfC will note that decision 62/557 (See Appendix II of the Center's latest publication) already guides the negotiations; that the negotiables cannot be agreed on separately as they are interlinked; that there already is a text; and that there has to be consensus on how to proceed. At this meeting, UfC members noted that lack of flexibility and compromise is hindering progress, and that an AG or new working documents cannot overcome this.

Egypt asked a few pointed questions, among them the following: If the Non-Paper does not replace any existing document, what is the status of Revision 2? Who is the owner of the Non-Paper: PGA, AG, certainly not the whole membership?

It seems that the latest informal meeting of the IGN has not brought Member States any closer to an agreement on how to proceed. The C10 said that there should be consensus on the way the membership will negotiate before positions can be merged. Presumably, the African Group does not want to have negotiations that separate negotiables such as expansion, veto, and regional representation. This stance, together with the expressed reservations and somewhat qualified support in regards to the Non-Paper thus far, makes it unlikely that the PGA and Chair can push for using the Non-Paper along the lines as proposed by Brazil without seeming partial. A cluster by cluster negotiation based on the Non-Paper does not seem to have broad support. How else the Non-Paper can be useful as a "tool" or "guide" seems somewhat unclear.

Tanin is expected to communicate a schedule of meetings for 2014. It is likely that Member States in the meantime will send him letters to explain their positions further, which Tanin probably will pass on to all Member States.

One source suggested that the PGA may want to reconvene the AG in the future, but according to others, it is unlikely that the Advisory Group will continue its role.

At first glance, the Non-Paper in itself seems a clear and well-written document. The Center will post a comparison between the Non-Paper and Revisions 2 & 3 of the compilation/negotiation text later this month.

G4/Group of 4: Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. In favor of new permanent seats for themselves as well as two such seats for Africa. The G4 is willing to forgo veto rights, at least for now. Brazil and India are also part of L69.
L69: A group of 43 developing countries in favor of new permanent seats. According to a draft resolution from 2012, in favor of adding veto rights for new permanent seats. Also in favor of a dedicated non-permanent seat for small island states.
C10/African Union: 53 African countries (Egypt’s membership in the AU has been suspended). According to the Ezulwini Consensus, in favor of two permanent seats for Africa, including veto rights. 14 African countries are also part of L69, while at times South Africa and Nigeria have aligned themselves with the G4 position. The C10 coordinates the African Union's position and consists of Algeria, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia.
UfC: 12 core members (Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Spain, and Turkey). Indonesia and China take part in meetings at the expert level as well. An unclear number of other countries are thought to sympathize with the UfC's positions on substance. Against new permanent seats. In favor of adding non-permanents seats and/or longer-term and renewable seats.
Arab Group: In favor of a new permanent seat for Arab states. Recently aligning themselves with the UfC on matters of procedure.
ACT (Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency): 22 countries actively working on reforming the working methods of the existing Security Council: Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Hungary, Ireland, Jordan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, and Uruguay. As a group, ACT does not engage in the expansion debate.
CARICOM: group aligned with the L69's position. Some of CARICOM’s members are also part of L69.
Pacific SIDS (Small Island Developing States): Aligned with L69 and some of its members are also part of L69. In favor of a dedicated non-permanent seat for small island developing states.