Last month, the U.N. General Assembly elected five new members to sit in the Security Council for the biennium 2021-2022: India, Ireland, Kenya, Norway, and Mexico. The election took place under challenging circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic in accordance with General Assembly decision 74/755 of 29 May 2020, entitled “Procedure for holding elections by secret ballot without a plenary meeting during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic,” and following the procedure indicated by the President of the General Assembly in his letter of 15 June 2020.
Even though Mexico was endorsed by the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), and its candidature was therefore uncontested, there were three elements that made this a historic election.
First, out of all the candidates from all regional groups, Mexico obtained the highest number of votes in favor (Mexico: 187; India: 184; Norway; 130; Kenya (in second round): 129; Ireland: 128). The official results can be found here and here. It is important to highlight in this regard that India’s candidature was also uncontested. This result, we hope, attests to the respect that States have toward Mexico’s multilateral diplomacy. The recent adoption by the U.N. General Assembly of resolution 74/274 on international cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19 (as we discussed previously at Just Security), which was drafted by Mexico and endorsed by 179 Member States, is another good example of its seriousness and commitment to deliver.
Second, out of the five times in its history that Mexico has been elected to the Security Council (1946; 1980-1981; 2002-2003; 2009-2010; and 2021-2022), this was the highest record of votes in favor.
Third, Mexico was the only State to be elected to two main U.N. organs on the same day, namely, the Security Council and the Social and Economic Council.
However, these achievements have only set the scene for the real work to be done regarding international peace and security from within the main political body of the Organization. In this sense, we wish to highlight some of the general guiding principles that Mexico will follow in its upcoming Security Council tenure, as well as some of the priorities that will be pursued.
Mexico’s guiding principles
The point of departure for Mexico’s participation in the Security Council are the principles of foreign policy established in Article 89(X) of the Mexican Constitution, namely: self-determination of peoples; non-intervention; peaceful settlement of disputes; elimination of the threat or use of force in international relations; legal equality of States; international cooperation for development; respect, protection and promotion of human rights, and; fight towards international peace and security.
These principles are in complete harmony with the principles and purposes of the U.N. Charter. As a consequence, Mexico will continue to act in full adherence to its constitutional and international law, in particular the U.N. Charter. It will also promote cooperation and dialogue schemes to prevent conflicts and to achieve sustainable peace.
As it was expressly mentioned by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in his morning press conference of 18 June, Mexico will also be guided by three general guidelines.
First, to comply with human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of speech, religious freedom, the right to live free from fear and freedom from want. Second, to promote cooperation for sustainable development, including the protection of the environment, with a view to obtain the support form developed countries and international financial institutions to developing countries in their fight against hunger, pandemics, racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, and discrimination in all its forms. This would also include investing in regional development programs so that individuals are not forced to migrate because of lack of opportunities or violence. Third, to ensure that force is not used in any conflict and to impede the hegemonic power of States from being imposed on others.
Mexico’s key priorities
Undoubtedly, Mexico will follow with special interest those issues that are relevant to international peace and security in its hemisphere, such as Haiti, Colombia, or Venezuela. However, instead of focusing on specific agenda items, Mexico will pursue key crosscutting priorities throughout all topics addressed by the Security Council. These are the following.
- Peaceful settlement of disputes and mediation. Recently, the Security Council has become more of a conflict administrator. It is for this reason that it is important to reinforce its preventive role using the mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes established in Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter, which include mediation and conciliation. This goes hand in hand with developing an effective early warning system and the deployment of preventive diplomacy, with the participation of regional organizations.
- Respect for the rule of law. The decisions of the Security Council are binding on all U.N. Member States. This makes it ethically imperative for the Council to properly anchor its decisions in international law, in full adherence to the U.N. Charter, international humanitarian law (IHL), and international human rights law. The Council should also renew its commitment against impunity for mass atrocities through effective actions. And it should strengthen the rule of law through the appropriate mandates for Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and Special Political Mission (SPM), with an emphasis on the development of national capacities.
- Protection of vulnerable groups. It is necessary to strengthen the Security Council mandates regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict in compliance with IHL and human rights law, in particular for vulnerable groups such as children and people with disabilities. This also requires the full protection of medical and humanitarian personnel on the ground to ensure safe, efficient, and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance. In this regard, it is necessary to review sanctions and other measures taken by the Council and by national authorities in compliance with such measures that hinder the financing of humanitarian actors, especially in cases in which terrorist organizations and armed groups exercise effective control of humanitarian access. It is also necessary to focus on access to justice for victims of terrorism and to build strong and resilient societies against hate speech and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
- Promotion of a gender-perspective agenda. Women need to play a leading role in the Security Council decisions, including the planning and design of mandates of UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and Special Political Missions. The Security Council can also do much more to promote and ensure women’s empowerment at the local, national, regional, and international levels. Women are key in all aspects of society and they can play a definitive role in the prevention of conflicts and in the construction of a sustained peace. All aspects of the international peace and security agenda, form terrorism to disarmament, can be greatly benefited from a gender perspective to empower women and girls.
- Prevention and combating of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Historically, Mexico has always been committed to the U.N. disarmament and arms control agenda. Its efforts toward a world free of weapons of mass destruction will continue, especially with the view to protect civilians from explosive weapons. This must be complemented with the need to address the dramatic consequences of the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. Arms embargoes are a major component of Security Council sanctions, and it is therefore imperative to strengthen measures at all levels for the control of arms transfers, including munitions and ammunition, to prevent their diversion to unauthorized end users. Mexico has already demonstrated its commitment as a responsible party to the Arms Trade Treaty, and it will continue to do so in the Security Council. Moreover, PKO mandates should also be strengthened to contribute to disarmament, including demining, and reintegration.
- Improvement of the Security Council’s working methods. This is one area in which the elected members (E10) can play a key role to improve the Security Council’s transparency and accountability. One way in which this can be achieved is by demanding a balanced distribution between the E10 and the five permanent members (P5) of the Council’s roles and tasks. While the P5 are the main penholders of the Council’s decisions, the E10 are generally tasked with chairing subsidiary bodies, a role which is very demanding and overwhelming to many delegations who end up being left aside with many substantive negotiations. Also, there is a dire need to strengthen the relationship between the Security Council with all U.N. organs, especially the General Assembly, and with its Peace Building Commission, which would in turn foster inclusiveness, accountability and would bring more legitimacy to the Security Council’s decisions. The participation of civil society is key in this regard. It is also necessary to address the opacity with which the Security Council has been handling situations on which States have invoked their inherent right so self-defense in accordance with Art. 51 of the U.N. Charter (see here and here). Finally, Mexico will continue to promote with France its joint initiative for the restriction of the veto by the P5 in cases of mass atrocities, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, which to date has been endorsed by 105 U.N. Member States.
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In conclusion, there is a lot to be said and even more to be done, for a more transparent, effective and efficient Security Council that can properly comply with the responsibilities entrusted to it by the U.N. Charter and live up to its expectations in the twenty-first century. The lack of assertive action in moments in which it has been needed the most has been very worrisome, one case being the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it is the responsibility of all U.N. Member States – those inside and outside the Council – to make sure that the Security Council responds adequately to the demands of the international community. Mexico is committed to bring the best of its multilateral diplomacy to the famous horseshoe table during the next two years and to play its part in the consolidation of the Security Council that the world needs after 75 years of the United Nations’ existence, in tandem with its efforts in all U.N. organs, like the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, as dictated by its tradition as a proud founding member of the Organization.