On 6 May 2011, France assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council, taking over from Colombia. This presidency lasts one month.
Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, gives an outline of this French presidency.
The Security Council is the United Nations’ main organ which, according to the United Nations Charter, is responsible for "international peace and security." It’s the organ that for example organizes, determines and then controls the peacekeeping operations. The United Nations deploys 120,000 men and women across the world in places that are often difficult. It’s the Security Council’s responsibility to organize these operations.
Each month a different country assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council. The country is purely responsible for organizing the debates, for convening the Security Council when it deems that an event around the world justifies UN action.
What are the themes and milestones that will mark your presidency?
There are two types of themes at the Security Council. There’s firstly the functioning of the United Nations, i.e. the renewal of the mandates of peacekeeping operations, the dates that the United Nations has set. For example, with respect to the issue of the protection of civilians, the UN has worked a great deal on this issue: how the UN forces can protect civilians in war zones. Every six months, we hold a debate in which the organizations, the non-governmental organizations, the UN organizations, give a report on how they’re trying and often managing to ensure the protection of civilians. This is one of the typical UN themes.
Then there are the burning topical issues, and obviously, Libya. The Security Council, through resolution 1973, authorized the use of force, specifically to protect civilians. The operations are continuing though at the same time they don’t have an end in themselves. They are there to force Qaddafi to accept a political settlement that will allow the Libyans to decide on their own destiny. Throughout the days to come, the Security Council will monitor the military operations, but will also try to contribute to the search for a political solution.
Lastly, there are the long-term issues. France will organize a special debate devoted to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a conflict that’s not widely known - where millions of people have died in the past ten years. Tens of thousands of women have been raped. The United Nations has managed to restore a fragile peace. 20,000 men have been deployed to the eastern part of the DRC and we must try to establish a strategy in order to rebuild a Congolese State in the east so that the United Nations can leave the country. We must engage in reflection and debate with the Congolese authorities. France has invited a Congolese minister to New York who will present to the Security Council this transition strategy that we must follow in the years to come, so that when the Blue Helmets leave the Congo the country doesn’t sink back into civil war and so that the full and complete sovereignty of the Congolese State can be restored.
The Security Council is planning a visit to Africa: where is it planning to go and to do what?
70% of the Security Council’s activities are devoted to African conflicts.
We have two deadlines in the next few months that are extremely significant. One is South Sudan’s declaration of independence on 9 July. This is the first time in history that we have the creation of a State which calls the colonial borders into question. This is an important milestone. It’s also the end of 30 years of war, 30 years of civil war in Sudan. The people of South Sudan will finally achieve independence. It won’t be easy. There are many issues that need to be settled in order for the United Nations to be able not just to ensure peace between North Sudan and South Sudan but also to help South Sudan’s authorities build a State. There are 40 km of paved roads in South Sudan so everything must be done to build this State. The Security Council wants to go to the area in order to be able to talk with the local authorities to try and ensure that the date of 9 July is a date of hope, and not the start of a new conflict.
The second topic is obviously Somalia. Somalia has been a lawless state for more than 15 years now. The United Nations supports an operation led by the African Union. These military operations recently succeeded in pushing back the rebels. We therefore want to go to the area in order to see how we can support this military offensive, both through a political process, since there can be no military solution - we need a political process of reconciliation based around the Transitional Federal Government -, but also so that the UN funds and programs can provide, on the ground in these areas that have been liberated by the UN forces, the basic services that the Somali people need. We also have to prove to the Somali people that these military successes do in fact signify an improvement in their living conditions.