South African president Jacob Zuma has called for a fundamental overhaul of the United Nations Security Council, arguing that Africa should play a much larger role in the body.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, Zuma said it was unacceptable that no African countries hold a permanent seat.
“Almost no progress has been achieved on the commitment made by heads of state and government in 2005 to early reform at the UN Security Council. It is unacceptable and unjustifiable that one billion people in the African continent are still excluded as permanent members,” he said.
Zuma has targeted a permanent South African seat at the Security Council as a key plank of his foreign policy agenda. The council has recently been heavily criticised for decision-making paralysis, particularly in relation to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Zuma used his New York address to argue that Europe remains overrepresented. France, Russia and the UK sit alongside China and the United States as permanent members.
“A continent with a smaller population than Africa is represented by 3 countries on the UN Security Council as permanent members. This is unfair. The UN cannot pretend that the world has not changed since 1945,” he said.
“The UN Security Council must take into account the views of the African continent and its sub-regional organisations when dealing with conflicts in Africa in the future.”
Zuma also used his General Assembly address to set out his long-standing opposition to Western interventions in Africa and the Middle East, arguing that the conflict in Libya had fuelled the current refugee crisis in Europe and provoked regional instability.
“The current situation in Libya and the Sahel is a direct consequence of some members of the UNSC not heeding informed council from the African Union. The norm of responsibility to protect was abused for narrow political interests that had nothing to do with the fundamental aspects of the provision,” he said.
The South African president also called for the General Assembly to play a greater role in the election of the UN Secretary General. The Secretary General is currently appointed on the recommendation of the Security Council.