Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at an Intergovernmental Negotiations Meeting on UN Security Council Reform

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 3, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to our IGN co-chairs, Austria and Kuwait, for your leadership on this vitally important issue. And I thank all of you for sharing your views today.

This month marks 78 years since world leaders came together to draft the Charter of the United Nations. A Charter that, in Chapter V, spells out the functions, powers, and composition of the UN Security Council. Council members are entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. And 78 years after its creation, the Security Council remains one of the most important diplomatic and multilateral forums. It is indispensable, but let’s be clear, it is far from perfect. And to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must commit to reform.

For one, the Security Council needs to better reflect the world and geographically diverse perspectives. That’s why – in his address during the General Debate last September – President Biden called for expansion of the permanent and non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council, including permanent seats for countries from Africa as well as from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Security Council should reflect today’s global realities, not global realities from nearly eight decades ago. We are open to creative ideas – and to credible, sensible, and politically viable paths forward. And we believe it will be important to balance the matter of size vis-à vis regional representation. There is a clear trade-off between the size of the Council and its ability to carry out its mandate efficiently.

Our commitment to Council expansion is just one of the six principles for responsible behavior for Council members that I announced last year. In laying out these principles, I made clear that those of us on the Council have a special responsibility – one entrusted to us by the full UN membership – to demonstrate leadership in promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. To enhance cooperation, inclusivity, and transparency across the UN. To refrain from using its veto except in rare and extraordinary situations. To engage pragmatically with all Security Council members – even those we have bilateral disputes with. And, most importantly, to defend the UN Charter – the document that guides our work, that undergirds peace.

This has never been more important. Because when one permanent member of the Security Council launched an illegal, unprovoked, full-scale invasion of another UN Member State, it struck at the very heart of the UN Charter. So, we must stand together and reaffirm the fundamental principles of the Charter.

Last fall, we kicked off a wide-ranging set of conversations on Council reform – a “listening tour” which has included consultations with Member States, reform groups, regional groupings, and other institutional stakeholders. We are committed to soliciting input and forging consensus around credible and sensible reform proposals. And given how challenging it might be to reach such a consensus, we must be flexible in our approach to change.

The United States supports efforts that allow Member States to discuss Security Council reform in detail – including through the Framework document of 2015 and the Co-Chairs’ Revised Elements Paper. We also continue to support efforts to inform all UN Member States about the work of the Security Council – and to solicit their views. Informal interactive dialogues and Arria-formula discussions have helped ensure the voices of all members are heard.

Colleagues, the United Nations, as an institution, is at an inflection point. The question before us is whether we will defend an outdated status quo or reform the Security Council and empower the UN to take on today’s global challenges.

The United States believes, to our core, that we must strengthen the UN and that we must do it together. We stand ready to engage widely with Member States, including through these IGN discussions, and the supporting “informal informals”, to make the Council more effective, representative, and credible.

Thank you, Mr. President.