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18th Aug 2019

EU heading for single UN seat, UN official says

The UN's deputy secretary general believes the European Commission will in future represent the EU in the United Nations as the voice of the European bloc worldwide.

"I think it will go in stages," Mark Malloch Brown told EUobserver on Monday (2 October). He explained that the European Commission already has an observer seat on the executive board for funds and programmes, where the commission is a big donor.

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"We are going to see a growing spread of that and then steady formalisation of it institution by institution, probably starting in the UNDP or UNICEF [development aid units] first," Mr Malloch Brown said.

"It is not going to happen with a flash and a bang," he added, but said he hoped that "it will happen as quickly as possible."

The main obstacles to such a move, explained Mr Malloch Brown, could be that sovereign [UN] member states are wary of the rise of international institutions seeking to become a layer between them and another international institution.

"There is a lot of political theory in the way and it is not limited to the EU member states – there are a lot of other member states that see this as the thin end of the wedge and that other regions will then make the same case for regional organisations," he said.

Mr Malloch Brown explained that the European Commission office in New York working on UN issues "tends to be on the good side of issues so people are kind of quite keen to see it evolve – so it will get there but it is just going to be steady persuasion."

"I'm a huge fan of it," he stated. The number two UN official was in Brussels to speak at a policy briefing on UN reform in Brussels arranged by EU think-tank Friends of Europe.

UN reform 'needed'

He called on the EU to refrain from shying away from UN reform, saying it is urgently needed.

Mr Malloch Brown told the audience that current UN governance, including the UN security council, no longer reflects global reality because it is still largely based on the outcome of World War II.

"A security council without real membership opportunities for countries such as India, Brazil or any African country is clearly not reflecting how power is distributed today," he said.

He compared UN reform to the EU's own development in two ways. Firstly, it never stops due to constantly evolving challenges and risks and secondly, it is a politically difficult process for national states concerned about the transfer of power .

"When it comes to reform, I would say we have covered the first mile, but this will be a marathon," he told his audience of ambassadors, journalists, EU officials and business leaders.

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