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African Perspective On Proposed UN Reforms

As tough negotiations continue on UN reforms, many African nations are concerned about how those reforms will affect the continent. The negotiations are being held just two weeks before the UN summit, which will be the largest gathering of world leaders in history.

Irungu Houghton is the Pan-African policy advisor for the international aid group OXFAM. From Nairobi, he spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about the UN reform issues of concern to Africa.

He says, “There are three broad issues that have been raised by Africa, both officially through our governments and also through non-governmental organizations. The first is the reform of the UN system, and most of the discussion here has focused on the expansion of the Security Council. The second main issue has been expressed around the issue of ensuring that the declaration includes language that would compel them to have a shared responsibility to protect the world’s citizens in times of armed conflict or genocide or crimes against humanity. And the third broad issue has been around the implications of the last five years of the Millennium Declaration in terms of how far we have reached meeting the Millennium Development Goals.”

The UN reforms call for adding seats to the Security Council. Mr. Houghton says, “The broader proposal is to expand the Security Council by six seats and it is understood that Africa would take two of those seats. There has been an attempt by the so-called G4 countries – Brazil, Germany, India and Japan – to broker an agreement with the African Union on those seats not necessarily having veto capacity.”

That could ease concerns of the more powerful members of the Security Council, but African nations have rejected that plan.

The on-going debate also concerns an agreement that calls for international intervention to stop genocide and crimes against humanity if a country was unable or unwilling to stop such acts within their borders.

The OXFAM official says, “First of all, we should say that this debate is taking place in an environment where there is intense suspicion that the multi-lateral institutions and their policies would be manipulated by individual, powerful countries to be able to, either under the pretext of a pre-emptive strike, come in and ensure regime change. And I think the concerns that a number of the non-aligned movement countries have raised have come from that source. The argument for a greater kind of responsibility on world governments to intervene comes really from the experience we saw in Rwanda, more recently in Darfur, Sudan, where national governments have failed to take action.”