Reforms at the UN
The assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by two dozen governments, including Brazil, India, Nigeria and South Africa -- four countries with ambitions to become permanent members of the Security Council, a status now held only by the United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain.
Those five current permanent members -- the World War II victors -- have veto power over security matters.
The resolution calls for the 62nd General Assembly, which begins work on Tuesday, Sept. 18, to "take immediate steps to facilitate results-oriented inter-governmental negotiations" along the lines of discussions among UN members in past years.
Germany and Japan, which also have aspirations for permanent seats on the Security Council, did not join in sponsoring the resolution. But they stand to benefit if negotiations succeed in reforming the council.
After years of pushing for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Germany announced in July that it had scaled back its ambitions in the hope that a series of larger reforms would ultimately end with Berlin as part of the body.
Reforms could benefit Germany
Over the summer, Germany said it was going to change its course from calling for a seat on the council to looking for an "intelligent compromise."
Officials in Berlin claimed that the UN was suffering from "reform fatigue" and would restart its negotiations for a permanent seat once a viable reform package was under way.
The new resolution could be the first step in a larger reform process that could see Germany and its so-called Group of Four partners -- Japan, Brazil and India -- admitted to the Security Council.
Group of Four opposed by regional rivals
Two years ago, the Group of Four issued a series of demands for permanent seats. But each met fierce regional opposition: India was opposed by Pakistan, Japan was opposed by South Korea and China, Germany was opposed by Italy, and Brazil was opposed by several Latin American nations.
In addition to the council's five permanent members, there are also 10 members elected for a two-year term with the 10 seats rotating among the world's five regions.
UN members have for more than 15 years called for revamping the council to include more countries -- as many as 20 or 25 members -- and give more representation to developing nations.