H.E. Lauro L. Baja, Jr.
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The Philippines and the UN Security Council



 

 

The Philippine Presidency of the
Security Council, September 2005


REACHING FOR THE SUMMIT:
How The Philippines Organized the Third Security Council Summit


By AMBASSADOR LAURO L. BAJA JR.
Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations

WHEN THE Philippines began its second year as non-permanent member of the Security Council, I asked my team at the Philippine Mission how we can replicate the success of our June 2004 presidency of the Council. The release of the High Level Report on Threats, Challenges and Change by a panel of eminent persons commissioned by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and a decision to hold a High Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly in September to discuss what has since been termed as UN Reform, provided us with an opportunity and inspiration—a summit meeting of the Security Council in September while the Philippines is president.

Months of planting the seed on the minds and consciousness of the Security Council members followed. The first challenge we met was to overcome wariness among them that a possible Security Council summit may have the unintended consequences of competing, if not eclipsing, the General Assembly summit. We assured them that the theme of a Council Summit would be focused and confined to the mandate of the Security Council under the charter of the United Nations.

By June we felt confident that we have generated enough interest to issue a concept paper on our theme: "The Role of the Security Council and the New Consensus on Collective Security." We advocated that the twenty-first century has ushered in an urgency to revisit the concept of collective security. The threats to peace and security now include not just international war and conflict but civil violence, organized crime, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. They also include poverty, deadly infectious disease and environmental degradation since these can have equally catastrophic consequences.

International peace and security therefore demands the collective determination and unified purpose of the international community to tackle each source of threats facing the world today. The realities of the twenty-first century call for the new consensus to achieve for everyone the freedom from fear. This new consensus challenges the Security Council to define anew its role in the collective security system established under the United Nations Charter, and to reflect on the most effective use of the powerful tools in its arsenal to rid the world of the scourge of war and conflict.

The Council sits at the apex of the UN security system. It plays a potent role in responding to threats to peace and acts of aggression. Its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security is unquestioned. To continue to command the respect of the international community, however, it must be equipped to carry out its responsibility under the UN Charter and must prove relevant to the security requirements of the new millennium. A meeting of the Security Council at the level of the Heads of State or Government is a good opportunity for the Council to assess its need to adapt to the demands of the new consensus on collective security in the twenty-first century.

The Russian Federation and China—two permanent members of the Security Council—gave our initiative a big boost by expressing their support. Secretary General Kofi Annan showed interest and eventually valuable encouragement. But there were still the United States, the United Kingdom and France and some non-permanent members to cajole and convince on the wisdom of a Council summit.

The US, the superpower, is key to a successful summit, which could send a powerful message to the world through an outcome document. But the US Mission had been without a Permanent Representative since Ambassador John Danforth resigned in January. But by June we were already determined, "almost obsessed" with the idea of a Security Council summit during our Presidency. To the non-permanent members, we impressed upon them that even "tourists" in the Council are capable of preparing and holding a summit. They hooked on to this line.

We issued a paper on the elements of a possible outcome document of a "planned" Security Council summit. The five Permanent Members (P-5) began to meet on the Philippines proposal. (The reality, though uncomfortable, is that the P-5 must agree to any initiative before this could take off.)

Our proposal had taken off!

On 7 July, London suffered a series of terrorist bombings. Terrorism was again prominent in the agenda of the United Nations. I learned from the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, that Prime Minister Tony Blair would consult with President George Bush on the Philippine initiative.

Ambassador John Bolton was subsequently appointed Permanent Representative of the US. When he called on me, he committed to recommend to President Bush his attendance to a possible Security Council summit. The Philippines initiative is airborne!

The next big challenge was to find a date and time which will meet the schedule and convenience of 15 heads of states or governments. Late afternoon of 13 September or the morning or afternoon of 14 September were considered. After intensive negotiations—including bilaterals with 14 Permanent Representatives of the Security Council—I was able to obtain an "emerging consensus" for a Council summit on 14 September at 11 am.

During the first meeting of the Philippine presidency of the Council to adopt its program of work for September, a difference between those who want a focus on terrorism and those who want a more enlarged scope threatened to derail an emerging agreement. France stated that it could only attend the summit if there is agreement on the theme. After another round of negotiations and as a compromise, I was authorized to issue the following statement to the media:

"The President has consulted members of the Security Council and they have agreed that they should take advantage of the presence of heads of State and Government in New York to hold a meeting of the Security Council at that level on 14 September 2005. The subject of this meeting will be "Threats to International Peace and Security".

In this regard the Security Council is now considering a draft resolution on prevention of incitement to terrorism and a draft resolution on prevention of conflict, particularly in Africa."

We are now on negotiations on an outcome document even as we ensure that the agreement to convene a summit holds.

It is difficult enough to prepare one summit; it is overwhelming to organize two summits. Aside from presiding over the Security Council summit, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will also preside over an Informal Summit of Leaders on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace on 13 September from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. How we succeeded in this initiative will be the subject of another article.

In all these endeavors, I was fortunate to have the continuing and invaluable support of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and the hard work and dedication of a team composed of Ambassador Bayani S. Mercado, our Deputy Permanent Representative; Minister Anacleto Rei Lacanilao III, Political Coordinator; and Alternate Representatives Leslie B. Gatan, Ma. Teresa Taguiang, Meynardo Montealegre, Ma. Rosario Aguinaldo, Patrick Chuasoto, Elmer Cato, Yvette Banzon-Abalos, Emma Sarne, and Jimmy Blas and our efficient staff.

There are lessons learned on this odyssey.

First, a heavy layer of patience and dedication is essential to navigate a summit.

Second, in international negotiations, one has to give a little to get a little.

Whenever there is an impasse, it pays to let others have your own way!

Third, it is important to cultivate personal bonds with colleagues. These bonds oftentimes are stronger foundations to achieve results. It is also essential to go into negotiations with adequate preparations and credibility.

 

 

 



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