KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
THE Committee of Ten has historically played a critical role in fostering global unity and development.
Initially, it was the Committee of Ten in the United States, established in 1892 to solve the problem of whether public schools should be a college preparation system.
This was after it became apparent that there was need for the standardisation of education.
The Committee of Ten concluded that allowing all students equal opportunity to attend college was the most effective way to give all students equal opportunity in life.
But the Committee of Ten meeting this weekend in Livingstone, Southern Province, has nothing to do with the standardisation of the education system in the United States â€“ this one is an African Union (AU) initiative looking at the acceleration of the United Nations (UN) reforms.
The AU Committee of Ten (C10) has its own unique background.
At the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, a committee of key African finance ministers and bankers was founded as a response.
The British think tank Chatham House predicted that the C10 might become a vehicle for ensuring Africaâ€™s needs are heard in international affairs.
Analysts predicted that there were no signs that the C10, which was then seen as far less ambitious than NEPAD, was going to exceed its financial mandate and move to other issues.
However, the C10 summit in Livingstone is an initiative of the AU to push the continentâ€™s agenda on UN reforms, particularly in the Security Council.
Its genesis lies at the 2008 Ezwilini Summit in Swaziland. Comprising two countries from each region, the C10 was constituted with the specific task of lobbying the permanent members of the Security Council to support Africaâ€™s position.
Zambia and Namibia are the founding members of the C10, representing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) while the current chair is the President of Sierra Leone.
At the Livingstone summit, being held under the theme â€˜The Livingstone Strategy for Accelerating the UN Reformsâ€™, Zambia will be presenting a joint report with Uganda on a task they were given to lobby the Permanent Members of the Security Council.
The UN General Assembly started debating Security Council reforms in 1993, and since then several proposals have been put forward as viable options while several countries have put themselves forward as candidates for permanent membership.
The Global Policy Forum, an independent policy watchdog that monitors the work of the United Nations and scrutinises global policy-making, contends that the Security Council is not representative of the geopolitical realities of the modern world.
â€œBoth Africa and Latin America lack a permanent seat on the council, while Europe is overrepresented and Asia is underrepresented. These problems are not easily addressed because the Permanent Five members [United States, Britain, China, Russia and France] of the Council do not want to see their power diminished.
As a result, little progress has been made since 1993 in spite of the number of proposals that have been suggested.
The central issues are membership, transparency and working methods, and the veto,â€ the Forum said in one of its many statements on UN reforms.
â€œThe P5 generally opposes any expansion of membership of the Council that would diminish their power, though they occasionally support some countriesâ€™ bids.
Negotiations are currently stalled but the lobby is still as active as when it began.
Most recently, the US gave its support to India. France has backed Africa for a permanent seat.
There is also the G4 (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan) that have put themselves forward as candidates for permanent membership of the Security Council.
But the Global Policy Forum says these countries have failed to garner enough support – or quell the opposition – to ascend as permanent members.
Other blocs of states have put forward reform proposals such as non-addition of permanent members, and instead election of members on a regional basis to create more parity in representation.
Another group calls for more transparency and co-ordination between the Security Council and the General Assembly and some guidelines on the use of the veto.
As a separate bloc, the AU wants the expansion of the Council to give Africa and Latin America seats.
In December 2004, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had proposed changes to the Security Council as part of the High Level Panelâ€™s Report on Threats, Challenges and Change.
In March 2005, Annan reiterated the two suggested plans, known as Model A and Model B.
But despite his attempts to push forward reform, neither plan was accepted by all of the factions in play.
Many analysts insist that on too many issues of global concern, the UN faces gridlock.
Sonia Rothwell, an international relations specialist based in London, says the Security Council, embodying as it does the post-war oligopoly in its permanent membership, desperately needs reform to empower the wider world and to improve its effectiveness.
But those with their feet under the table are reluctant to give way.
In 2009, Shekou Momodu Touray, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN in his capacity as co-ordinator of the AU C10 on the Security Council Reforms in an informal plenary meeting of the General Assembly, made Africaâ€™s position known.
â€œTime and again, the African Group has reiterated that the relevance, legitimacy and moral authority of the United Nations will ever remain undermined if the historical injustice caused by the fact that the continent of Africa is not represented in the Permanent category of the Security Council is not addressed without delay,â€ he said.
â€œAfrica remains the only continent that is without a permanent seat on the Security Council. Thus, we have consistently called for an enlargement of the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories with a view to making the Security Council inclusive, representative, democratic and responsive to the current geo-political realities. The status quo is no option, and is unacceptable.â€
That is why the C10 meeting at David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa is critical.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba has confirmed that among the issues to be discussed will be the progress made towards the realisation of Security Council reforms in view of advancing the common African position, and means and ways of expediting the acceptance of the African position both within and beyond the continent.
The meeting is being preceded by a ministerial meeting attended by ambassadors and permanent representatives from Addis Ababa and New York. Three heads of state from Namibia [Hage Geingob], Sierra Leone [Ernest Koroma] and Zambia have already confirmed they will attend the meeting.
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka