U.S. takes lead on U.N. Security Council
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice casts a vote in the Security Council
April 2nd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

U.S. takes lead on U.N. Security Council

By Elise Labott and Jamie Crawford

Over the weekend, a team from the United States mission to the United Nations moved computers and phones across the street and set up shop in a small suite of offices adjacent to the U.N. Security Council.

During April, the United States will assume the rotating presidency of the council. For the next 30 days, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice will lead all council meetings and will be referred to as madame president.

As a permanent member with veto power and biggest financial contributor, the United States enjoys a significant amount of influence in the Security Council even without the presidency.

Washington doesn't always get its way, though. The other four permanent members - Britain, France, Russia and China - also have a veto. Vetoes by Russia and China of two previous resolutions on Syria show the limits of power by any one country in the Security Council.

Bruce Jones, director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, says that while the U.S. won't have any huge new powers during its presidency, Rice will have a certain influence that comes with chairing the meetings. She can influence how Security Council resolutions and statements get introduced and how different negotiations are handled.

Much of the council's work focuses on specific crises, such as peacekeeping operations in Somalia and Sudan or the violence in Syria. But Jones notes the council presidency is an important opportunity for a country to shape a broader foreign policy agenda.

This is where "the really interesting aspect of the presidency is," says Jones. "In using the presidency, states can put issues on the agenda that are not otherwise part of the day-to-day routine."

Senior U.S. officials say that means highlighting and advancing some of the priorities of the Obama administration, such as nuclear security.

A session this month on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and security will follow the 2009 Security Council summit President Barack Obama led when his administration first held the presidency.

Security Council resolution 1887 recognized "the need for all states to take effective measures to prevent nuclear material or technical assistance becoming available to terrorists."

Coming on the heels of the last week's Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, senior U.S. officials said this month's council session will take stock of global efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism and reinforce member state's responsibilities to combat the threat.

The United States will also lead a debate on trafficking of material goods and people.

Previous Security Council resolutions have often highlighted how so-called "illicit" flows can fuel some of the most critical threats to intentional peace and security, such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism and organized crime. This month's session will mark the beginning of a new focus by the council to see how the U.N. system can help member states combat trafficking.

Attention to women's rights, an issue close to the hearts of both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Rice, will also be highlighted by the U.S. presidency.

A session this month will focus on women's roles in peace and security.

Michelle Bachelet, U.N. women executive director, will also brief the council on efforts to get more women involved in conflict resolution and peace building. Several months ago, all Security Council countries were asked to put together a plan for engaging women on these issues, and the U.S. rolled its plan out a few months ago in anticipation of highlighting the issue during its council presidency.

But holding the Security Council presidency isn't all about chairing high level meetings.

The Security Council president is in close communication with the U.N. bureaucracy, including the secretariat, secretary-general's office and the General Assembly.

There are also U.N. mandates to be renewed. For example, the mandate for the joint U.N./African Union peacekeeping operation, UNAMID, is about to expire and needs to be renewed.

Officials say discussions about Darfur will enable the council to focus needed attention on the wider problems in Sudan and South Sudan, given the tense relations and ongoing clashes between the two countries. The Security Council will also hear from the force commander of UNISFA about the situation the disputed Abyei area.

There is also a monthly council session on the Middle East. While the agenda is typically broad, officials expect Syria to take up a large part of the consultations.

On Monday, the first working day of the U.S. presidency, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and current U.N./Arab League envoy, will hold a closed-door briefing for the Security Council about the status of his peace plan. Should there be a political development in Syria or the violence increases further, it will be incumbent upon the United States to hold consultations and discuss next steps to address the crisis.

"Syria is the background for everything that will be on in our presidency and at the United Nations," one aide to Rice said. "It's our top priority to support Kofi Annan, find a way to stop the violence and create a political transition."

But officials are sensitive to expectations that after the two failed efforts to get the Security Council to pass a tough resolution on Syria, the United States now will be able to use its presidency to finally produce a text.

Such expectations, however, are unrealistic. Although the United States can schedule consultations on Syria, Russian and Chinese opposition to a Security Council resolution still remains. Case in point: the United States takes the presidency over from Britain, whose opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is as strong as its own.

"Holding the Security Council presidency doesn't give you the ability to override a veto or change the dynamics of the council," the Rice aide said. "It allows you in part to set the agenda and highlight the issues important to your country.

As Security Council leader, the United States will also be at the mercy of developing crises and unforeseen events.

The situation in Mali, where members of the military recently staged a coup, could take an unexpected turn. North Korea could make good on its promise to launch a satellite during this month's festivities to mark the 100th birthday of the late founding leader Kim Il Sung, which the U.S. is calling cover for a long-range missile test.

Rice, who is considered a leading contender for secretary of state if Obama wins a second term, announced she will take to Twitter to read what people have to say about her role at the United Nations.

"My opening press conference as UNSC president is on Tuesday," she wrote. "Let us hear your questions."

During the next 30 days, you can #AskRice about her turn as madame president.

soundoff (27 Responses)
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  3. William R Sherman

    Could Ambassador Rice consider raising the future possibility of restructuring the Security Council to represent every U.N. member country through representatives of their respective regions- much like a senate? Suggestion: nine regions each having representation through three member countries, thus a 'senate' of 27. Keep the veto rights if need be but achieve a much more inclusive legitimacy giving voice to all global interests.

    April 5, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
  4. Michael

    Dont think Central gas been apart of Canadian/Brit, US focal point? Then why was Haitis when deposed taken by his US paid body guards placed hn a US a Canadian registerd US leased plane and taken directly to a certain Central African nation? Africa is the last available Continent that can be easely be exploited. unlike old colonial prosses todays power no longer need huge militarys, as small units can so disrupt and sow chaos that an easily bribed and thouroly corrupt UN membership will play The Hide Behind Game of for Humanitys sake to either join in the takeover or wait to be paid t clean up under tne guise oe a once again Humanitarian mission. Cannot blame the small nations for taling part in the plunder and voting yes as the US does damn well what it pleases anyways and no UN ambassador wants to go back home and tell his bosses get ready for a revolution a possable assassination or cut off of any funds from UN or Euro/US sources. Safer to play the Hide Behind Game!

    April 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  5. Michael

    For over 30 years now almost every conflict in the central African nations has been described as a tribal or ethnic fude in rdality almost all have beem inst4ated by those not just mations but Corporates from euros and US interest, and at one time US spec ops were Franco/Belgian trained tribals, the Franco group lost and where the currecy was the Frank and French most common language has been replaced by dollar and English. WTO and World Bank have huge projects just waiting for UN approval, ALL TO ALLEVIATE HUMAN SUFFERING OF COURSE. Kofi Anin being an old school chum of Clinton should help in this months US role. The fact that US set up shop right accross the street with a whole office sueite when D.C. is only a few miles away means US is taking this opportunity very seriously.

    April 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  6. Michael

    Look out Africa, especialy central, and as the fate of all Mediteranen sea nations are now under Euro/Centric control the next few years are going to be a mess elsewhere on the continent. The UN vote is little different than a US Congressional vote, whats in it for me. On the front of each UN members assembly desk is a sign noting the nation and directly below it is another, Make An Offer. The so called UN African Peace Keeping Forces is made up almost exclucively by men trained within firstky their home nation by a US firm MPRI that is located in Virginia. It along with a subsidiary of old Blackwater are now training some 15, at last count, while some 4 and sometimes more SOGs are *Assisting* many natioms anti terrorism efforts. Efforts such as searching for an Army of God force that broke up years ago. Central Africa has th worlds largest amount of Those Rare Earth Minerals that Obama and the Euro/Centric nations are threatening China with a trade war over.

    April 3, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  7. Michael

    The only thing that the Palistinian/Israel issue is good for is that it gives the hand wringers something to whine about and a few of tha Arab and Islamic nations leaders to give their own people a boogy man, Israel. Otherwise Palastinians are worth no more time and the eventuality of ther demise in world matters not one whit! Their is no way those in Gaza and Israel is as the most successful among them already do make a buck when they can no matter how and who they use to get it and then move the heck out of there.

    April 3, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
  8. Steve2350

    I feel for David. He is so bore and has nothing better to write about.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Reply
    • gemini

      I'm sure he feels sorry for you too...

      Cuz ur probobly a fagatron..

      April 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  9. david

    Research israels aparteid policies.

    Investigate AIPAC contributions to politicians.

    Israel is the leading cause of anti-semtism.


    April 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      David – do you ever have an original thought without parroting some propaganda item, and then referring it to the rest of US? I like to make my own decisions, as many others do and we don't need to be spoon fed by your good self.

      April 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Reply
      • gemini

        I'm sure he accomplishes his goals. What have you done to accomplish yours??

        April 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • gemini

      Agreed, Israel is a real threat.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  10. Pat

    Time to pack the bags and get out of the UN for good.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
  11. David

    Stop supporting Israeli aggression.

    Research israels crimes against humanity.

    April 2, 2012 at 2:09 am | Reply
    • ICU

      so david what shall we call you this week ?, the wise or concerned citizen , don't you think you should change the post it is getting very old .

      April 2, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply
      • david

        I'm all of those those things.

        Blow me....bitch

        April 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Selongb

      Palestine hasn't been a perfect little angel either buddy.

      April 2, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
      • david

        Not saying they have been. Can't blame em for fighting an aparteid regime tho.

        April 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Capt. Obvious

      Don't support Palestinian aggressionist victimization.

      Look up how many Terrorist cells operate inside Gaza and the West Strip

      April 2, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
      • david

        That's hilarious.

        But most of the world is on my side.....

        You loose Hahaha

        April 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
      • david

        Research israels aparteid policies.

        Investigate AIPAC contributions to politicians.

        Israel is the leading cause of anti-semtism.


        Don't support pro zionist politicians.

        April 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
      • Gideon

        I agree David, Israel has much to answer for.

        April 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
      • YouBetcha

        Capt Obvious – Well said. Finally an intelligent post. As for David – "The rest of the world agrees with me...........????." Delusions of grandeur; paranoia; or just plain SAD – take you pick folks!

        April 2, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • YouBetcha

      David – do us all a favour – make a friend, read a good book, paint a picture or bake a naffing cake. Just so long as you stop being an unmitigated bore.

      April 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Reply
      • gemini

        It seems like David is the one trying to change things, while you just sound like a fag...

        April 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

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