Power of the President 

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To better understand the role and functions of the Security Council, outgoing President, Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations in New York has spoken about the ‘Power of the President’.

 

As a former president of the SC, what are the main challenges that a president must face in your view?

Guyana’s presidency did not encounter any major challenge per se. We approached the presidency in a transparent, consultative and inclusive manner and benefitted from the full cooperation of Council members. If I could identify a challenge, it would be time constraints, especially given the austerity measures. In addition to the approved program of work, the presidency received several requests from Council Members for additional meetings of the Council. There are also many requests for bilateral meetings with the President from a wide array of stakeholders. The challenge for the presidency was to ensure the necessary attentiveness to these requests which required prioritizing and good time management.

 

In addition to chairing the sessions, what did your role as president of the SC entail?

Chairing the sessions is perhaps the easiest part of the presidency. However, the President is engaged in a number of other activities. For example, when a request is received for a Council meeting, the presidency must balance the sensitivity and urgency of the issue at hand, and the views and perspectives of the concerned country/countries and Council members, in determining the most appropriate meeting format with a view to ensuring the participation of non-Council members. This is especially important when the views of Council members diverge, as the President must make the final decision.

The President is also engaged in a number of other meetings, with Member States, UN officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others, on relevant issues under consideration by the Council or which the presidency must be aware of. In some cases, the President may decide that an issue is important enough to have a consultation. Guyana did this in the case of  the safety and security of UN workers in Gaza, and press elements outlining Council’s concern and support were issued.

In keeping with Note 507 on the Working Methods of the Council, the President held: informal briefings with the wider UN membership on the program of work at the beginning and end of the presidency; a meeting with civil society organizations; a press briefing at the beginning of the presidency; and maintained regular communication with the media throughout. Meetings with the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General were also held in addition to several required administrative functions.

 

The SC has been unable to take action to preserve peace and security in several recent high-profile conflict situations. What reforms do you think should be introduced so the SC can better fulfill its mandate?

Comprehensive Security Council reform continues to see less than acceptable progress, notwithstanding the recognition for urgent reform. However, due to the fact that the Council has not been able to act in certain high-profile cases due to the use of the veto, the focus on reform has been increased by Member States and civil society as well. There are several areas on which reform has focused on, but one that remains central is the use of the veto. In Guyana’s case we have advocated, as part of CARICOM, for the veto to be abolished, but if it is not then new permanent members must also have the same privilege. That said, any reform should include restrictions on the use of the veto, perhaps including when a certain threshold of affirmative votes is obtained and for certain categories of crime, the veto cannot be used.

 

As an Indigenous woman, you are a trailblazer in your field. How does that legacy influence your work as PR of Guyana and as a member of the SC?

I am pleased that I was able to serve my country as a Minister of Amerindian (Indigenous) Affairs and a Parliamentarian, which allowed me to work with other policy and lawmakers and effect positive change for Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples should not be seen only as activists and advocates for change, they must also be able to serve at every level, including as policymakers, to contribute to making the changes needed for them and their country. As the first female Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and now first female Permanent Representative, I believe these appointments have served to show every girl in my country, Indigenous or not, what the possibilities are and that these positions do not have to be the domain of any one group or gender.

Generally in politics, one has to be prepared and productive to be elected and re-elected. This requires leadership and a strong team. I have brought that same approach to my role as Permanent Representative and to Guyana’s membership of the Security Council. Now that we have completed two months on the Security Council, including as the President for February, I believe that the Guyana team at the UN (90% women), has demonstrated that small states can, and have the ability to play a meaningful role in the Security Council.

There are times when I am reminded that, both as a woman and an Indigenous woman, there might be more attention paid to my work. This does not daunt me. It motivates me.

Story by Anyuli Mercedes Gonzalez-Oliver – a Spanish Conference Interpreter at UNHQ.

 

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1 Comment
  1. habeeb says

    The UN Security Council is a joke…
    Takes only 1 vote to veto…by any the top 5.
    And they have been abusing that vote once it involves ISRAEL,
    never mind the continued genocide in Gaza.

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