President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today called for United Nations reform to enlarge the 15-member Security Council and strengthen the authority of the 192-member General Assembly.

“Reform of the United Nations and the Security Council should be undertaken without delay because it will help the realization of our dreams in the face of new challenges and changes that affect our planet,” he told the Assembly on the first day of its annual session.

“Enlarging the Security Council is an indispensable democratic necessity and this vision must be reinforced by assuring the authority of the General Assembly to enable its president to play a primary role in the search for solutions to the problems of our times.”

At present only resolutions of the 15-member Security Council, on which the five permanent members have veto power, are legally binding. The Council has not changed for decades, with 10 non-permanent members holding no veto and elected for two-year terms, and talks to reform it have been under way for more than 17 years.

Some countries have argued that this structure does not represent the realities of today's world. Key issues under discussion are the category of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council, and the Council's working methods and its relationship with the Assembly.

Mr. Kabila also called for a world environmental authority to confront the impact of climate change.

Turning to his own country, which has benefited from one of the largest UN peacekeeping efforts ever launched as it tries to recover from years of civil war and ethnic conflict, he stressed his government's efforts to eradicate violence in the strife-torn east, especially “the calvary” of Congolese women in rebel-infested North and South Kivu provinces, where there have been numerous incidents of mass rapes as well as massacres.

“Instability is the principal cause of this tragedy,” he said. “Armed groups who feed off the illegal exploitation of natural resources are the source of this scourge. We have drawn up appropriate measures to confront this unacceptable situation.”

President Paul Biya of Cameroon also called for Security Council enlargement, with Africa holding a permanent seat.

“How can we today explain why Africa is the only continent without a Permanent Member on the Security Council,” he asked. “How can we explain that it is unable to make its voice heard when its problems are examined in global economic and financial bodies whereas the decisions taken will be imposed on it?”

He also called for another Marshall Plan to help Africa stand on its own feet.