General Overview -
The International Community in 1995
Reform of the United Nationsc
During the half century since the United Nations was established, the structure of the international community has changed. With the explosive population growth, the rapid increase in regional conflicts in the post-Cold War period, and the advent of global issues such as environmental degradation, the role the United Nations must play is expanding and diversifying. For all the heightened expectations for the United Nations, there has been criticism that the United Nations has failed to respond fully to the changes in the international situation. The year 1995 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, and in the face of such criticism and the awareness of outstanding issues in the United Nations, there was increasing momentum toward strengthening its capabilities through reform. At the Halifax Summit in June, the leaders confirmed their intent to make efforts to make the United Nations more effective and efficient through specific reforms undertaken with other Member States. At the United Nations, working groups for reform were established under the General Assembly to deal with the financial situation, the Agenda for Development, and for the reform of the Security Council, and discussion was advanced on achieving substantive reforms. Furthermore, in September, a decision was made to establish the Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Strengthening of United Nations Systems. At the 50th Session of the General Assembly, on 26 September, Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono explained Japan's views on three key issues, namely: a new development strategy; the prevention and settlement of conflicts, and disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation; and reform of the United Nations. Furthermore, at the Special Commemorative Meeting of the General Assembly on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations held at the end of October, there was a gathering of leaders on an unprecedented scale, from 130 Member States. Prime Minister Murayama attended, once again emphasizing the importance of advancing reform of the United Nations. Cooperation with the United Nations constitutes one of the important pillars of Japan's foreign policy, and it is vitally important that Japan positively contribute toward enhancing the capabilities of the United Nations.
Due to the outstanding assessed contributions to the United Nations of certain major countries, the United Nations is facing a serious financial crisis. In particular, as a result of a shortage in the program budget, in August 1995, emergency cost-saving measures such as placing limitations on trips by United Nations staff and imposing a freeze on recruitment were adopted. Particularly, the financial support for peace-keeping operations is in a serious situation. (For further details on the financial issues pertaining to peace-keeping operations, please refer to Chapter II, Part A, Section 2.c.)
As a result of this serious situation, at the end of 1994, the High-level Open-ended Working Group on the Financial Situation of the United Nations was established to consider the overall financial situation of the United Nations. It began comprehensive discussions at the beginning of 1995. These discussions focused on such matters as incentive mechanisms to ensure early payment of assessed contributions, a review of the peace-keeping operation budget system, and the scale of assessments of Member States. Participating in this Working Group, Japan stressed the importance of resolving the overdue payments of assessed contributions of Member States and stressed the need to conduct a comprehensive overview of the factors which are distorting the formula used for determining the scale of assessments, in order to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the burden.
As there are increasing problems accompanying new global issues which cross national borders - such as development, environment, population and refugees - the need to enhance the systemic capacities of the United Nations in the economic and social field has become even greater. Furthermore, there are growing voices in the international community which have criticized the United Nations' activities as being inefficient in these fields. In order to rectify this situation, a working group was established within the United Nations in response to the Agenda for Development report by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations, with a view to considering ways to create a more comprehensive development strategy and ways to advance reforms of the various relevant United Nations organizations. This working group is expected to finalize a report during the 50th Session of the General Assembly for submission by September 1996.
Japan believes that reform of the United Nations should not be effected through a process which aims specifically to reduce the United Nations budget. Rather, reform must be conducted in such a way as to contribute to strengthening the functions of the United Nations. From this perspective, Japan is carefully watching the discussions related to the Agenda for Development and is working to advance reform. Specifically, beginning in June, Foreign Minister Kono convened meetings of an informal advisory group to consider the theme "New Agenda of the United Nations and the Economic and Social Fields." In August, a Japanese proposal was compiled based on the report of this meeting and was submitted to this working group. Furthermore, in Foreign Minister Kono's statement during the general deliberations of the 50th Session of the General Assembly at the end of September, he took a new approach and stressed the need for the creation of a more comprehensive development strategy in order to ensure development in developing countries. (For further details on the new development strategy being proposed by Japan, please refer to Chapter II, Part B, Section 2.a.)
In order to make the United Nations Security Council capable of playing the expected role in the international community in the post-Cold War era, it is essential that reform be undertaken for the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Security Council. To this end, the Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council was established at the 48th Session of the General Assembly, and since then, this Working Group has been continuing discussions aimed at expanding the membership of the Security Council, improving the transparency of its deliberations, and ensuring its better working methods. Members of this Working Group have hitherto reached an agreement that the expansion of the Security Council should be done in such a way as to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of the Security Council, improve its representation and improve the efficiency of its operations. However, there has not been a convergence of opinions of members regarding the questions of increasing the number of permanent members of the Security Council and of the use of the veto power.
Japan actively participates in discussions on reform of the Security Council based on its views that: 1) a limited number of countries with the capability and the will to assume global responsibilities should be added to the permanent membership of the Security Council and the capacities of the Security Council should be enhanced; 2) through increasing the non-permanent membership of the Security Council by an appropriate number, its representation can be improved; and 3) the unequal geographic distribution of Security Council seats should be corrected. Furthermore, in his statement at the 50th Session of the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Kono stated that Japan, with the endorsement of many countries, was prepared to discharge its responsibilities as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, in accordance with its basic philosophy regarding international contributions, including the non-resort to the use of force prohibited by its Constitution.
At the Special Commemorative Meeting of the General Assembly on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, Prime Minister Murayama again stressed the importance of reform of the Security Council and urged that progress be made expeditiously, aiming to achieve agreement of all Member States on a broad framework of reform by September 1996.
A general consensus has been achieved on the deletion of the so-called "former enemy clauses" in the United Nations Charter. In February and March of 1995, at the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, agreement was reached on a recommendation that procedures to amend the United Nations Charter in order to delete the "former enemy clauses" be initiated at the earliest appropriate session of the General Assembly, and a resolution of the General Assembly incorporating the recommendation was adopted on 11 December 1995.
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