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India seeks drastic reforms, transparency in election of UN Secretary-General

United Nations: India has called for drastic reforms in the election of the secretary-general to introduce transparency and choice in the process of picking a successor to Ban Ki-moon next year, saying it should not be a prerogative of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

India’s delegate Bhartruhari Mahtab told the Security Council on Tuesday that the secret straw polls in the Council should be done away with and discussions should be held in open sessions with the secretary-general providing a summary of the proceedings. Moreover, the Security Council should recommend a slate of two or more candidates on whom the General Assembly can vote, he said.

The UN Charter only says that the secretary-general should be appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council and a 1946 General Assembly resolution added a provision that only one candidate should be recommended and a debate should be avoided.

This has morphed into an arcane process in which the Security Council members vote on the candidate with colour-coded ballots — one colour for permanent members and another for the others. A ballot in the colour of the permanent members automatically results in a veto of a candidate while it won’t be known who cast the veto.

The candidate who gets a majority with the colour-coded ballots of all the five permanent members is recommended to the General Assembly and its vote to approve the candidate is a given.

To make the election transparent, “an important step would also be to do away with secret straw polls using different coloured slips that allow the P5 (five permanent members) to exercise the veto without even taking ownership of it”, Mahtab said.

“My delegation has pressed for the Council to recommend two or more names to the General Assembly,” he added. “While the pronouncements of the General Assembly do not specifically provide for this, there is — in our view — no legal impediment for the Council to do so.”

Mahtab appealed to the non-permanent members of the Security Council to push for changes in the way the secretary-general is elected.

Under the system of rotating the presidency of the Security Council, except for three months next year, the non-permanent will preside over the Security Council next year and it will be for them to decide on whether the selection of the secretary-general will remain the sole preserve of the P5 or not, he said.

Mahtab, a Biju Janata Dal member of the Lok Sabha representing Cuttack in Orissa, is one of the five members of parliament who are currently in India’s UN delegation.

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft had told reporters after his inauguration last month that the secretary-general candidates will be presented to the UN members in a timely fashion and they will interact with them. “This will something happening for the first time in the history of the United Nations and I see that as a major step forward,” he added.

However, he sounded tentative on Tuesday only saying that he would work with the Security Council President to begin the process of soliciting candidates and acknowledged that there was “widespread calls for increased transparency, inclusivity and a more rigorous process in selecting the next chief of this Organization”.

On the issue of transparency, Mahtab said, “The most non-transparent of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council is the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee.” Named for the number of the Security Council resolution setting it up, the committee imposes sanctions on terrorists and terrorism supporters.

“No information is shared on the criteria of listing or not listing individuals and organizations on whom sanctions are applied,” Mahtab said. “It is our apprehension that there may, in fact, be no criteria at all. And that any of the 15 members may be allowed to exercise a veto without assigning any reason and without the wider membership being informed of their having done so.”

Earlier this year, China vetoed India’s demand for taking action under Security Council’s anti-terrorism resolution 1267 against Pakistan for releasing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack.

“In April this year, the new Chair of the 1267 Committee organised a briefing for the wider membership of the UN and said that he would do so periodically,” Mahtab said. “No meeting has, however, since been held. His predecessor had also kept the work of the Committee cloaked in secrecy.” The current chair of the committee is Gerard van Bohemen, the Permanent Representative of New Zealand.

(Arul Louis, IANS)

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