French president blasts 'scandal' over Africa's place at UN

23rd October 2010, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday that it was a "scandal" that Africa was not given a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as he outlined his aims for France's presidency of the G20 and G8 nations.

Sarkozy also supported places for India, South America and economic powers Japan and Germany on the UN's powerful decision-making body, and vowed to begin tackling reform of the international monetary system.

"We are in the 21st century, we are no longer in the 20th century," Sarkozy said, outlining the need for major changes to international political and economic governance at the opening of the 13th summit of francophone nations.

Sarkozy told the 37 other heads of state and government that he wanted to deal with three major issues when France takes over the helm of the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations on November 12, and the Group of Eight industrialised nations next year.

They included a multilateral approach to the monetary system, volatile commodity prices and transparency in oil markets, as well as broadening the UN Security Council to developing nations and other economic powers.

The French leader questioned whether it was normal that there was "no permanent member of the Security Council from Africa".

"One billion inhabitants, in 30 years two billion inhabitants who have no permanent representation -- it's a scandal," he exclaimed, also underlining the legitimacy of a place for India as one of the world's most populous nations.

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade told journalists: "A historic error needs to be repaired."

But Wade cautioned that an African country that took up a Security Council seat with the veto right "must be a good advocate for Africa" as whole and should not believe that it represented itself.

Sarkozy also highlighted the need to continue to modernise world monetary and economic affairs, criticising a monetary system that dated back to the 1940s when there was "fundamentally a single currency and one major economy".

He underlined that world leaders appeared "unable to define a multilateral system".

"France proposes to begin the debate on the international monetary system without taboos," the French president added, also criticising "the extravagant volatility of commodity prices" including food.

G20 finance ministers who vowed to avoid tit-for-tat currency devaluations on Saturday forged an agreement in South Korea to "refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies".

In the Swiss town of Montreux, Abdou Diouf, the former Senegalese president who heads the International Organisation of Francophonie, said Africa was "underrepresented in bodies where decisions are taken that concern it directly".

African nations form 27 percent of the UN membership.

Diouf's Francophonie mandate was expected to be extended on Sunday, the last day of the summit.

The 40-year-old International Organisation of the Francophonie brings together 56 member states and 14 observer nations, 40 percent of them from Africa.

Swiss President Doris Leuthard opened the summit with an appeal for the "rapid restoration of the rule of law" in Guinea and Madagascar, which are currently suspended from the Francophonie.

"Coups and Francophonie have become incompatible," Leuthard underlined.

The two-day summit is also expected to deal with food security, and environmental issues, as well as the post-earthquake reconstruction of Haiti.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to keep up aid for the Caribbean nation.

"Your friends from the Francophonie will never let you down," he said.

Diplomats said they would try to forge a common position in Montreux on ways of fighting climate change, just over a month before crucial UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

© 2010 AFP

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