Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solís called for a more “proactive,” interventionist United Nations Security Council during his address before the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday morning. Solís had strong words for the Security Council for its perceived inaction in preventing and combating crimes against humanity and its lack of progress in disarming nuclear powers.
“The council’s focus on conflict prevention is inadequate, and when it does take action, it often comes too late,” Solís told the audience of world leaders in New York, referencing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica. “None of these crises emerged without prior warning.”
Solís’ more interventionist view of the U.N. came into view when he addressed the obligations of member states, especially Security Council members: “When governments fail to meet the responsibility to protect, either because they lack the will or the ability to safeguard the rights of their own people, then it is up to the international community, and in particular the Security Council, to intervene and deploy the wide variety of resources at its disposal to resolve conflicts.”
That ability to intervene, however, has been quashed by the threat of a veto by the Security Council’s permanent members, Solís said. According to the U.N. Charter, if any of the five permanent members of the Security Council — the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China — cast a veto in the 15-member Security Council, the resolution or decision does not pass. The president called for a reform to the veto power of the Security Council, saying that the mechanism undermines the mission of the United Nations and member-states’ trust in the U.N.’s ability to resolve the difficult conflicts it was designed to tackle.
Solís said Costa Rica supports a reform proposed by France, a permanent member of the Security Council, which would establish a Code of Conduct that would prohibit Security Council members from using their veto power in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and “demand a political commitment to act promptly and decisively in such situations.”
“The opinion of a single permanent member cannot continue to bear more weight than the necessity to save lives,” Solís said.
Solís also called on nuclear powers to make good on their pledge to disarm under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The president said that nuclear weapons were often on hair triggers and suggested that they were susceptible to cyber-attack.
Gender equality was also on Solís’ mind as he reiterated Costa Rica’s support for serious consideration among member countries of women to lead the U.N.
“The time has come for the General Secretariat to be occupied by a woman,” he said.
Solís’ U.S. travels continue in Washington, D.C., where he met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senate Democrats and Republicans to discuss economic development, regional security, climate change and sustainable development on Thursday. He returns to Costa Rica on Friday.
Read Solís’ full U.N. General Assembly address in Spanish and English below:
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