Security Council expansion was last on the list presented in an address to a closed meeting of the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday by U.S. Deputy Ambassador Anne Patterson, who is serving as the chief envoy to the United Nations. The fact her speech was presented behind closed doors, but copies distributed to reporters, was confusing in itself.
Reporters were told members of the UNGA in their quest for reform elected to have the session closed, in the face of calls for openness and transparency by so many as part of reform.
The meeting was to prepare for the High Level Summit set for September, preceding the annual general debate in the assembly.
Patterson told her colleagues Washington "has invested much time and effort to analyze what ails the United Nations and what can be done to fix it," citing release last week of the report from the congressionally mandated Task Force chaired by former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
"U.N. reform must be viewed and dealt with as a whole," she said in her remarks. "Thus, and I must emphasize this point, reform of the Security Council cannot become the exclusive focus of attention by member states or the (U.N.) Secretariat.
"My Government seeks reforms in seven areas," she said, listing nine areas of concern.
She ignored the draft resolution presented earlier in the month by the four governments considering their countries the lead for four of six new permanent seats on the council they propose. The council now numbers only five permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, known as the P5.
The G4, as they have come to be known are Brazil, Germany, India and Japan.
Increasing the exclusive permanent club to 11 would involve candidates for the new seats drawn as two from African states, two from Asian states, one from Latin America and the Caribbean and one from the Western European and Others Group of the United Nations. They would not have veto power as do the present P5.
The G4 also wants membership of the entire council increased from 15 to 25, with the additional four members drawn one each from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Washington has gone on record as only supporting Japan for a permanent seat, largely ignoring what the G4 proposed.
The G4 plan was not without opposition. China objects to Japan, Pakistan to India and Italy to Germany. Washington previously only said it wanted "two or so" more new permanent members to the panel.
"The United States is open to Security Council reform and expansion, including the addition of new permanent members," Patterson told the assembly. "We continue to support Japan for a permanent seat; with its significant contributions to all aspects of the United Nations, Japan has clearly earned it.
"We recognize that the world of 2005 is not that of 1945," Washington's envoy continued. "Security Council reform, therefore, should take account of the challenges likely to face the international community in the 21st century and look at how the council should be reconfigured to meet those challenges.
"Because Security Council expansion will have far-reaching implications, we believe that a criteria-based approach is the best way to measure a country's readiness for membership," she continued on the topic. "Criteria might include gross domestic product, population, military capacity, contributions to peacekeeping, commitment to democracy and human rights, financial contributions to the UN, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism record, and geographic balance."
Patterson was open to hearing the views of others on suggestions of criteria.
"On the basis of such criteria, we would consider supporting the addition of two or so new permanent members and two or three additional nonpermanent seats, allocated by region, to expand the council to 19 or 20," she said. "These seats would ensure geographic balance. We are also prepared to consider longer-term renewable seats."
That has been considered as a kind of trade-off, a third class of semi-permanent members.
The other reform topics Patterson discussed, ranged through U.N. management, a must in light of the U.N. Iraq Oil-for-Food Program scandal; human rights, because of the tainted membership of the U.N. Human Rights Commission; a Peacebuilding Commission, to coordinate between military and political actions; terrorism, to find a legal definition and to forbid attacks on civilians; a Democracy Fund, for promoting democratic values; the responsibility of nations to protect its citizens and preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
On the responsibility to protect, the U.S. ambassador said, "In cases involving genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and other large-scale atrocities in which national authorities are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens, the international community should be prepared to use diplomatic, humanitarian and other methods to protect civilian populations.
"If such methods appear insufficient, the Security Council may, out of necessity, decide to take action under the (U.N.) Charter to restore international peace and security."