New UNGA president pledges to continue Security Council reform process

United Nations: Mogens Lykketoft, who took over Tuesday as the president of the General Assembly, pledged to continue the Security Council reform efforts carried out by his predecessor Sam Kahamba Kutesa, who broke through the first major hurdle by having a negotiating document accepted by the Assembly.

Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of his presidency, Lykketoft, who was the speaker of Denmark’s parliament, said, “On Security Council reform, I will follow the track laid out by my predecessor Sam Kutesa and the work done by the Jamaican Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, which was rolled over yesterday to this General Assembly session.”

While giving an assurance that he will not stake out a specific position or move it in a particular direction, he said, “I will certainly try to help the process that started in the 69th session will continue on the basis of the work done there.”

Last month after his election as Assembly president, Lykketoft visited New Delhi and met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who urged him to press ahead with the Council reform process.

In the final hours of his presidency Monday, Kutesa had the Assembly adopt by consensus his decision that included a negotiating text that would for the first time form the basis of future discussions on Council reforms that was mandated by a summit of world leaders in 2005.

The reform process had been crippled by the absence of a framework text for negotiating reforms because of concerted opposition from China, Pakistan and a group of countries led by Italy. India’s efforts to get a permanent seat on the Council hinged on the negotiations proceeding with a basic document and this was achieved by Kutesa with help from Rattray, whom he appointed to head the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on the reform process.

Lykketoft, however, veered off from the position taken by Kutesa and India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji that the Security Council as it was no composed was failing in its primary mandate of maintaining peace and security and needed to be reformed to become effective.

“It is obvious that at present that there are important issues which are not handled by the Security Council,” Lykketoft said. “We cannot know if any kind of reform in the composition would make that different.”

He added, “But what we can say not predicting the specific outcome-that is not my job to do-but certainly many years ago already the UN decided that we should have the reform so that the Security Council would reflect much better the realities of the 21st Century.”

The election of the successor to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be the major task for the Assembly’s 70th session. Lykketoft promised that in a break from the past it would be conducted openly and transparently.

The candidates will be presented to the members in a timely fashion and they will interact with the UN members, he said. “This will something happening for the first time in the history of the united nations and I see that as a major step forward.”

So far, Secretary Generals picked by the five permanent members of the Council in backroom deals and the election by the Assembly was more of a formality.

Lykketoft is an economist who has been a minister and the leader of Denmark’s Social Democrat Party.