This video interview with the Mexican Ambassador to Japan, Claude Heller Rouassant, is a follow-up to the event reported on below. In the interview Ambassador Heller discusses UN Security Council decision-making, legitimacy, effectiveness and reforms from the perspective of his extensive diplomatic career including appointments as Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN, to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and to the Organization of American States.
On 8 November 2013, the Mexican Ambassador to Japan, Claude Heller Rouassant, gave a lecture to students at the United Nations University about his experience as the Mexican Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council (UNSC) in 2009–2010. The ambassador opened the lecture with a brief history of Mexico and the United Nations, beginning with the country’s involvement in the San Francisco Conference in 1945 and its participation in the first UNSC in 1946.
Due to Mexico’s negative experience in the first Council, which arose in part from pre-cold war tensions between the permanent members, Mexico decided to play a more active role in the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies. It was not until 2005 that the Calderón administration decided that Mexico should play a more prominent role in the Council. Mexico subsequently submitted its application for membership and was elected for the 2009–2010 term.
According to Ambassador Heller, this renewed involvement in the Council was linked to both internal and external developments. Internally, the Calderón administration had positioned Mexico as a promoter of peace and conflict resolution; a firm supporter of the implementation of human rights mechanisms; and a non-aligned (militarily) developing country that strived to be an example for other countries in the region. Externally, President Obama’s election to office in 2008, and the shift to a more multilateral US foreign policy, also played an important role in Mexico’s decision to submit its application.
By chairing the first working group sessions on children in armed conflict and being involved in the first review process of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, the Mexican delegation, and particularly Ambassador Heller, came to be very familiar with the daily tasks of the Council. Based on his experience, the ambassador noted that the excessive politicization of the agenda-setting process remained an obstacle to the Council’s performance. Sri Lanka, for example, represented a controversial case that many members of the Council, including Mexico, felt should have been discussed.
Thus far, the case has not been taken up due to resistance and pressure from some of the permanent members (P5). Nevertheless, the ambassador noted that the general impression of the P5 was somewhat overemphasized. While the P5 play a leading role in the body, these states often need the support of the non-permanent members to justify their positions.
The ambassador elaborated on several mechanisms for reform as suggested by Mexico and other UN member states, including instituting new categories for membership and improving regional representation. He further highlighted Mexico’s support for the idea of extending the terms of non-permanent members and, as a way to ensure transparency and accountability, the option of re-election.
After the lecture, the ambassador engaged with the audience in a question and answer session, providing a unique opportunity for students to understand the intricate dynamics of the Council from the perspective of a former representative. The ambassador addressed questions on international political relations in the Council, including relations with the United States and the recent intelligence leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In Ambassador Heller’s view, these recent events do not have substantial repercussions for UNSC member states. Students also shared their ideas on Council reform, suggesting the expansion of the body, the possibility of re-election, and the implementation of a code of conduct for the P5.