For UN to stay legitimate, we need a Council seat, German envoy says

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Germany’s outgoing United Nations envoy called for his country to join the Security Council as a permanent member, warning that it risked losing its legitimacy if its composition did not change to reflect the world’s shifting power balance.

The envoy, Christoph Heusgen, was unusually forthright in his criticism of China and Russia, who he said were the key obstacles to bringing about the governance reforms that the United Nations’ highest forum so badly needed.

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“It’s primarily down to countries like China and Russia that no reform attempts have succeeded,” he told Reuters on his final day at UN headquarters. “China has no qualms about using any and all levers to block reform. It wants to secure its special status as the only Asian Security Council member.”

The Security Council still largely reflects the balance of power at the end of World War Two. Of its five permanent members, who can veto UN actions, two are in Western Europe, only one is in Asia, the most populous continent, and more than 1.2 billion Africans are wholly unrepresented.

Germany had a legitimate claim as the United Nations’ second-largest funder, Heusgen added. He was lukewarm on proposals for a joint European Union seat, saying there was no precedent for a multinational organization to be so represented.

Several permanent members, Britain and France in particular, are far less globally influential than they were when the body first met in 1946, while Russia, which inherited the Soviet Union’s seat, is half as populous as its predecessor.

The Council, with five permanent and 10 temporarily elected members, can pass resolutions that are - at least formally - binding in international law. It can also refer cases to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

“We are working with similarly-minded states like India, Brasil and Japan,” Heusgen said, adding that, by working with Africa’s 54 states, Germany hoped to be able to build a two-thirds supermajority in favor in the UN General Assembly.

All the current Security Council members are nuclear powers, unlike Germany, though more recent nuclear powers like India and Pakistan, are also not represented. German was a temporary member for two years from 2019.

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