Veto-Wielding China Says Supports Malcorra for Next SG

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Sept. 6, 2016 – Susana Malcorra’s campaign to become the next UN secretary-general received a boost over the weekend with Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly endorsing the Argentine foreign minister’s bid in a meeting with his Buenos Aires counterpart Mauricio Macri.

Jinping told Macri that Beijing would “support” her candidacy when the pair met on the sidelines of the G20 summit, according to a report in the Argentine daily La Nacion.

Malcorra came in fifth in the recent Security Council straw poll with seven encourage, seven discourage and 1 no opinion.

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Malcorra’s bid is still seen as having an outside chance given the high number of discourage votes but with Russia said to be refusing to budge in its opposition to front-runner Antonio Guterres, China may be trying to galvanize support for Ban Ki-moon’s former chief-of-staff.

That she hails from the Global South, one of only two candidates – the other fellow Latin American Christina Figueres – will put her in good stead with China, and indeed with the majority of UN member states.

Malcorra is also seen as the favorite of the United States, who are said to view her as a steady pair of hands. Opposition comes from the UK, who went to war with Argentina in 1982 over the disputed Falkland islands.

Guterres, the former high commissioner for refugees, has seen his number of discourage votes rise to three since the first straw poll on July 21. While widely admired inside the UN for his capable leadership of UNHCR during the biggest refugee crisis in the agency’s history, it looks increasingly likely that Russia will veto the former Portuguese prime minister’s bid.

During his reign as PM, he was a strong advocate of NATO expansion and EU expansion. There has never been a secretary-general from a NATO country with former secretaries-general from Europe, Dag Hammarskjold and Kurt Waldheim, hailing from neutral Sweden and Austria respectively.

The UN’s first secretary-general Norway’s Trygve Lie was appointed prior to the founding of NATO. Lie, in fact, saw both NATO and the Soviet Union’s network of alliances as a threat to the United Nations.

Another straw poll is set for Sept. 9 and none of the ten remaining candidates look like vacating the race, with each calculating that Russia’s apparent unwillingness to support Guterres will see a change of dynamic in the race.

Whether that means mobilizing behind a candidate that has the support of both the US and China, or the late entry of a compromise candidate, is anyone’s guess, but Malcorra’s odds have shortened.

If elected, Malcorra would be the first woman to hold the post of UN secretary-general and the second Latin-American.

Prior to her appointment as chef-de-cabinet to Ban, Malcorra was under-secretary for field operations for UN peacekeeping. She was appointed Argentina’s foreign minister in Nov. 2015.

– Denis Fitzgeald
On Twitter @denisfitz

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Did Obama Rebuke Kirchner for not Co-Sponsoring Resolution?

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Sept. 25, 2014 – President Obama’s rebuke yesterday to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez-Kirchner during a summit meeting of the Security Council to adopt a US-drafted resolution on combatting foreign terrorist fighters took UN watchers by surprise.

After Kirchner delivered her 14 minute statement, Obama – who spoke for 40 minutes in his address to the General Assembly the day before – said that “we have to make sure we’re respectful of the time constraints.” He added that the meeting had to end by 5pm, which was also baffling. As one journalist put it, the lights would stay on in the Security Council chamber if the meeting went past 5pm – which it did: the meeting, which Obama was chairing, adjourned near 7pm.

Kirchner had rushed to the Council chamber immediately after delivering her address to the General Assembly. She appeared to be speaking without notes, but nevertheless her points were clear: that respecting human rights in the course of combatting terrorism was crucial, otherwise you’re just “feeding this monster.” Kirchner also noted that some of the “freedom fighters” who had been armed in the past are now deemed terrorists. She pointedly said terrorists should be “brought to justice,” inferring that killing terrorists is not justice.

“The way in which we’ve been fighting terrorism has not been up to the job,” Kirchner said. “Something is not working.” She also referenced the provision of military aid by the United States to Sadaam Hussein and the Afghan mujheddin in the 1980s.

Argentina was not among the 104 co-sponsors of the resolution and was one of only three Security Council members not to sign on. The others were China and Russia. All three voted for the resolution.

A source told UN Tribune that Argentina had raised concerns during Council consultations on the draft text. Specifically on due process, and that the combatting of terrorism should be respectful of human rights and the resolution should emphasize the importance of better integration in societies.

The 89 states that didn’t co-sponsor the resolution also include Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Mexico, Peru, Tunisia and South Africa.

Human Rights Watch was also critical the resolution. “There is no question that states should address the threat of terrorism, but the resolution risks repeating many of the mistakes of the post-September 11 era,” Andrea Prasow, HRW’s Washington director said. “The resolution says nothing about due process protections.”

See Obama’s rebuke here, courtesy of C-Span:

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Busy First Month For New UNSC Members

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The Knotted Gun sculpture outside the vistors entrance to the UN headquarters in New York City was a 1988 gift from Luxembourg, who join the Security Council for a two-year term on Jan 1 – the first time ever the country has served on the 15-nation body (photo: Denis Fitzgerald)

Dec. 30, 2012 – Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Rwanda, and South Korea begin two-year terms on the Security Council Jan 1 with fighting still raging in Syria, nuclear negotiations with Iran deadlocked, and a settlement to the Israel – Palestine conflict more elusive than ever.

January’s shaping up to be a busy month for the council and the the five new members – who replace big powers Germany, India, and South Africa, as well as Colombia and Portugal – are likely to spend their first month occupied by the rebel takeover of parts of the Central African Republic, the recently authorized African force for Mali, and further efforts to find common ground on a solution for Syria.

Rwanda, serving for a second time on the council, will find itself in the spotlight over allegations that it is supporting the mutinous M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The M23 most recently stand accused of shooting at a helicopter belonging to the U.N. peacekeeping force in DRC. Rwanda denies it is supporting the rebels.

South Korea’s expected to immediately begin lobbying the 14 other council members to take strong action against North Korea over Pyongyang’s rocket launch earlier this month.

Australia’s election to the council will put the ‘other’ back in the Western European and Others category and it sees the EU contingent on the council reduced to three (Britain, France and Luxembourg) from four (Germany and Portugal end their terms).

Argentina join Guatemala as the Latin representatives on the council and after recent spats with Britain over the Falkland Islands it will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out in the council. Colombia consistently sided with Western countries during its term but such cooperation from Buenos Aires is far from guaranteed.

Luxembourg, more noted for its influence in international finance, will find itself having big boots to fill as the sole non-permanent EU representative with Germany and Portugal ending their terms.

(In addition to the five new members, the composition of the council in 2013 will consist of permanent members Britain, China, France, US, and Russia, and non-permanent members Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan, and Togo – the latter five end their terms on Dec 31, 2013).

 – Denis Fitzgerald