This weekend, negotiations on reform of the United Nations enter their final, decisive stage. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and his colleagues will travel to New York to participate. Your June 30 editorial ["Reforming the U.N."], made me wonder whether the German and "group of four" position on the reform of the United Nations is really understood.

The membership of the Security Council does not reflect today's realities. It reflects a pre-Cold War reality. Germany wants to strengthen the Security Council and enhance its capacity to respond to the needs of members. The free world and our common values are under serious attack. Terrorism, failed states and the world's deadliest weapons in the hands of some of the most dangerous regimes threaten to undermine freedom and prosperity. Germany and the United States, as NATO allies, are on the same side. We need strong institutions capable of defending freedom. We need effective multilateralism. The U.N. Security Council is at the heart of this endeavor.

A stronger Security Council requires offering the major regional players a bigger stake in the institution. Together with India, Japan and Brazil and numerous co-sponsors, Germany has proposed increasing the council's membership from 15 to 25, including six new permanent members from the major regions of the world.

An institution is not weakened by increasing the number of members. Its effectiveness is determined by the legitimacy of its bodies' decision-making, structure and working methods. Decision-making will therefore not necessarily become more cumbersome. No one has claimed that NATO enlargement from 15 to 25 has resulted in a less capable, less efficient alliance.

Reform of the United Nations, and of the Security Council, is a complex endeavor. But a decision to act on the G-4 proposal now would give a push to other elements of the urgently needed comprehensive reform package: secretariat and budget reform, reform of the human rights commission, creation of a peace-building commission, among others.

Germany, together with India, Japan and Brazil, has put a concrete reform proposal on the table. We have drafted it over several months, and it has strong support among the membership of the United Nations. Now is the time to act if we want "effective multilateralism." If not now -- when?

-- Wolfgang Ischinger


The writer is Germany's ambassador to the United States.