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China says UN Security Council should give smaller nations a greater say

and ‘redress historical injustices’ against Africa

By Laura Zhou

May 1, 2023

There have been growing calls for reform to the UN Security Council. Photo: AFP

Developing countries should be given a greater say in the United Nations Security Council, China’s foreign policy chief has said.

The call by Wang Yi comes as Beijing courts support from the so-called global south amid its growing rivalry with the West.

“The reform of the Security Council should uphold fairness and justice, increase the representation and voice of developing countries, allowing more small and medium-sized countries to have more opportunities to participate in the decision-making of the council.” Wang Yi said on Saturday

“In particular, [it should] redress historical injustices against Africa,” he said, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

UN member states are preparing for talks on reforming the Security Council next month, and Wang made the comments during a meeting with Kuwait and Austria’s ambassadors, Tareq Albanai and Alexander Marschik, who are co-chairing the negotiations.

Wang urged the pair to lead “all parties to eliminate interferences and forge consensus, so that the Security Council reform process will be widely recognised … and the results will stand the test of history”. Japan, India, Brazil and Germany have been pushing for permanent seats on the Security Council, which currently has 15 members.

There are currently five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, representing the victor nations in the Second World War, which have the power to veto resolutions – and 10 others elected on a rotating basis.

Beijing has said it supports reforms to the UN Security Council, but has stopped short of giving specific suggestions. However, it has said any reforms should give developing countries a greater say.

Although it is now the world’s second largest economy, China has positioned itself as a member of the Global South and – in line with its long-standing efforts to boost ties with African nations – has advocated a greater voice for the continent.

During a tour of Africa in January, Qin Gang, the Chinese Foreign Minister, said Beijing wanted to boost the representation and voices “of developing countries, especially those of African countries, in the UN Security Council … and work together to make the global governance system more just and equitable”.

Despite repeated calls for reform to the council, the UN’s main body for managing crises, there has been little progress in recent years. However, divisions exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing rivalry between China and the US has given those calls greater impetus.

Critics have said that the Security Council has failed to handle crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts such as the Ukraine war or climate change and it is time for a major redistribution of global power.

One of the most vocal critics is India. At a debate last week, the country’s ambassador Ruchira Kamboj described the UN Charter, drawn up after the Second World War, as “anachronistic”.

“Can we practice ‘effective multilateralism’ by defending a charter that makes five nations more equal than others, and provides to each of those five the power to ignore the collective will of the remaining 188 member states?” she told a debate on the UN charter


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