The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) can be regarded as the highest decision making body in the world with utter dominance over global affairs, hence St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) being a part of that body is significant.
Former minister of health Luke Browne highlighted, in a lecture at the Frenches House on Monday night, the importance of SVG’s UNSC pick.
The presentation was dubbed, “The Significance of SVG’s Election to the United Nations Security Council” and Browne said that the time is ripe for mature reflection on the election.
“We have the benefit of our experience on the Council thus far and just concluded a month of service in the coveted post of President of the Council during November. Moreover, we are not yet past the half-way mark of our two-year term of office and are therefore still have a significant period to exercise some measure of elevated influence on the direction of world affairs,” Browne said.
SVG won one of the temporary seats of the UNSC on June 7, 2019. The seat is for a two-year term and started on January 1, 2020. Browne said the historic win is still fresh in our minds as it was a significant and momentous national achievement.
He said that a spirit of euphoria spread across the country and there were jubilant celebrations while Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves returned from New York where he had gone for the vote to a hero’s welcome.
“We had beaten El Salvador in a race for the seat in a vote of countries that ended with the result 185 to 6. That is what we might call in our parlance a good licking. Incidentally, El Salvador had submitted a last minute candidacy perhaps at the prompting of imperialists but was soundly defeated,” Browne noted.
Trying to give an appreciation for the monumental magnitude of the achievement, Browne said that in the first place, SVG is the smallest country ever to sit on the UNSC.
Previously, this distinction was held by Cape Verde which has a population of 500,000, while SVG has a population of just around 100,000 and is only about one-fifth the size of Cape Verde.
Additionally, only three other Caribbean countries have had the distinction of serving on the UNSC, Guyana (1976 and 1983), Jamaica (1980 and 2000) and Trinidad and Tobago (1986).
Browne said that we are seated alongside countries like Russia, the United States and China in deliberations that have an impact on the fate of billions of people across the globe.
“What we do has implications for war and peace and has a bearing on questions of poverty, hunger and all the various matters of development. The Security Council has the final say on whether or not a country can be admitted to the UN and basically determines who will be the Secretary General,” Browne explained.
He said that while we have been making the point that SVG became the smallest nation ever to be elected to the UNSC, one can better appreciate this point if they knew the composition of the Council.
The Security Council is made up of 15 members in all, five permanent members (USA, Britain, France, Russia and China) and 10 temporary members (elected for two year terms at a time) with each region of the world having a specified number of temporary seats.
Browne stressed that the Security Council is the only organ of the United Nations with the authority to make decisions that bind all member states.
He noted also that the UN in all its manifestations has some degree of responsibility for maintaining peace, as it is the Security Council in particular that was endowed by the Charter of the United Nations with special powers in relation to war and peace.
“The Security Council has sole jurisdiction on matters of membership meaning that a new country cannot be admitted to the United Nations without the explicit approval of the Security Council.
‘The Security Council almost singlehandedly determines who will be the Secretary General of the United Nations and together with the General Assembly selects the judges for the International Court of Justice,” Browne explained.
“This is probably why Professor Jussi M. Hanhimäki in his book on The United Nations (a Very Short Introduction) described the Security Council as “the central organ of the entire UN System.
“Professor Hanhimäki went on to say that the Security Council ‘has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security’ and that it was granted ‘wide powers that would make it an active participant in international affairs.’
“I would pause here for a moment to let it sink in, that SVG for the moment is one of only 15 countries charged with primary responsibility for international peace and security. We are part of a group of countries with the power to investigate any dispute or situation that might lead to international friction and which is vested with the awesome authority to impose economic sanctions or take military action,” Browne said.
He stressed that this is our reality as a nation of just 100,000 persons.
“I believe that by now you have a sense of why our election to the United Nations Security Council can be regarded as a profound achievement which placed great responsibilities unto the shoulders of our nation,” Browne said.