Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa Carlos Lopes supported Angola’s position yesterday with respect to the need to enlarge the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Enlargement is aimed at making the political body more representative and better equipped to respond to and resolve conflicts. Lopes believes that the position advocated by Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente before the U.N. General Assembly—specifically, that the U.N.’s political body responsible for peace and security must take into account Africa’s concerns—makes perfect sense if one analyzes the African continent’s geopolitical weight as opposed to its weak ability to make its voice heard.
Angola, he pointed out, has recognized authority within Africa for its role not only in promoting peace and security in various other countries in the continent but also as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in a crucial year during which the next Secretary General of the U.N. will be chosen.
Lopes understands that Africa’s long-fought battle for a permanent presence on the Security Council is a legitimate one, as it remains the only continent in this predicament. It’s for this reason, he explained, that nearly all U.N. peacekeeping and peace-building missions in Africa have completely different characteristics in terms of the way they are conceived and developed, compared to operations carried out in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
However, while permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are in agreement with Lopes, they have barely made these issues central concerns of the Council. “When issues arise in Africa, everyone moves in on [the continent] because there are no permanent African members there to put the brakes on [such impulses] and change the conversation.”*
The executive secretary, who in 2013 was the only Portuguese speaker listed among the 100 most influential Africans in the world, said that reforms being called for by Angola and by other nations are going to have to wait until new U.N. leadership arrives, once the current secretary-general’s term has reached its end. These reforms, he underscored, are critical for transforming the way in which priorities are established and discussed at U.N. headquarters.
For Lopes, a Bissau-Guinean economist, the fact that African states have already incorporated their common positions into the 2030 World Agenda ahead of any other region is evidence they have prepared themselves for the outcome and that they are able to make their priorities known. “I think that Africa is very well-positioned to take advantage of this document, which was approved after nearly five years of negotiations,” he said.
With respect to the refugee and migrant issue being debated in the U.N. General Assembly, he argued that each of the two vulnerable groups should be dealt with separately, as each one has differing motivations for moving to foreign territories.
Lopes recalled that refugees are those individuals seeking protection within safe zones due to political conflicts or natural disasters that have taken place in their places of origin. Migrants, meanwhile, are those that are seeking a higher quality of life due to frustrations about their current socioeconomic situations. The number of Africans that leave the continent annually is close to 2 million, a figure that corresponds to .2 percent of the region’s total 1 billion inhabitants. This number, Lopes pointed out, is much smaller than the nearly 3 million Chinese that leave their country during the same period. “Nevertheless, it’s often exaggerated that the majority of refugees and migrants come from Africa,” he concluded.
Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente affirmed before the U.N. General Assembly that reform of the Security Council is “an imperative which, if not carried out, may hinder the United Nation’s ability to act and cause its legitimacy and credibility to crumble.” Over the course of the speech, in which he represented Head of State José Eduardo dos Santos, the vice president declared that Angola is in favor of growing the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council in order to make it more representative and better equipped to respond to and resolve conflicts.
“For this reason,” he said, Angola “reiterates the right of the African continent to be represented among the permanent members of the Security Council, as per the Ezulwini Consensus.”
With respect to the overall organization, the vice president maintained that the United Nations must be allowed to promote peace and international security, act with speed and efficiency in conflict situations and respond to today’s most pressing, unprecedented challenges, including international terrorism and the untold effects of climate change.
*Editor’s Note: Although the source of this remark is ambiguous, it is assumed the statement was made by Lopes. Lopes made these remarks in English, and while accurately translated, the source could not be independently verified.