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New Zealand Cites Divisions in UNSC, Wants Perm Reps to Talk Informally

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- The day before taking over the Presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of July, New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the UN Gerard van Bohemen on June 30 spoke off the cuff about the problems he sees in the Council -- divisions on Syria and Yemen, for example -- and proposed that in July all 15 Permanent Representatives commit to actually talk about the resolutions and statements the Council issues.

   Here is Inner City Pro's transcription of van Bohemen remarks at what's called the wrap-up session which ended Malaysia's Presidency for June of the Security Council:

My team was so keen that I should offer my personal reflections that they declined to give me [notes], so I'm going to see how we go. We did have some very good debates this month... I thought the discussion of peace-building was also very interesting and again exposes some of the areas we need to be prepared to go into, if weíre going to make the best use of the machinery that covers this area, beyond this Council.

We also had good results on MINUSMA and UNAMID, even though there were some quite deep seated differences amongst delegations about aspects of whether those mandates needed to be adjusted. I thought it was good that we managed to get over those differences and adopt them as a united Council. I do hope, as I said yesterday, that this new mandate for UNAMID provides an opportunity in particular for a better relationship between the government of Sudan and this Council.

But if we look behind the formal outcomes, what we achieved this month, and look at problems of the world, we have to acknowledge we havenít done all that well. On Syria, Yemen, and Libya, we have got real problems. There are peace talks fitfully under way in Libya, perhaps underway in Yemen, and nothing at all in Syria. We have real problems in Burundi, which is demonstrating how difficult it is to get engaged in prevention, if the other party doesnít want to talk to you, itís very difficult to be an engaged participant. And that is a real difficulty. And weíve just heard some graphically horrible statistics about whatís happening in South Sudan.

These are situations that reflect very badly on all of us and I donít mean just the member of the Council, but I mean as an international community. There are things about the Council which I think we can properly take on our shoulders but we also have to admit that there are real limits as to what the Council can do. If you look in your quiver to see what arrows you can fire, there arenít that many, particularly if other countries arenít prepared to put their troops on the line, if people arenít prepared to authorize more aggressive use of force. And even if they were, we know how difficult it is to actually achieve in these outcomes. So I donít want to say itís all about the Councilís problems. It isnít.

But turning to whatís behind that, in particular if you look at Syria, we have a real problem, because the Council is divided. Similar divisions are playing out in Yemen. Because of those divisions, we are not able to really talk to each other, but instead score points. Thatís not helpful. As to the way we go about our business, some comments have already been made to this, and I want to endorse entirely what the ambassador from the United Kingdom has said, about the need to engage more informally. After all, these are informal consultations in that room, and yet theyíve managed to build up a cadre of practice that is so self-denying that itís unbelievable at times, as is what you can and canít talk about it, or how you can talk about it.

I also agree with the delegation of Spain, that the business of pen holding and how resolutions are negotiated is an issue we need to think about. One option might be the co-pen-holder proposal, but at least I would ask the Permanent members to think if you are one of the Five how it looks when the resolution comes from one of the five, to the five, and then to the ten, and then thatís going to be put to the vote in a day or two. This isnít the most useful way of engagement.

I also think we as ambassadors have a responsibility to engage more in the products we negotiate, which are negotiated and adopted. While of course we recognize the great work done by experts and political coordinators, we in the end are responsible for the products of this council. And how often do we really talk about them? How often do we actually have a conversation as ambassadors about what we are doing? I really believe we need to do that, to reach down and say, letís bring this to the room and talk about it, as a group.

So, thereís a kind of sneak preview of the things I would like to explore next month when Iím the President. I donít know how Iíll get on, but I do hope youíll help me. Thank you.

   Inner City Press (and will be covering the Security Council closely. Watch them.


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