Each of these issues usually gets arranged a meeting every month, unless an unexpected event occurs and an emergency meetings has to be called on.
The very first week working here in the Mission of Spain in the UN, they distributed all the interns into the different departments of the mission. Some interns were placed into the 6 different committees the UN is mainly divided into:
– The First Committee: Disarmament and International Security (DISEC)
– The Second Committee: Economic and Financial (ECOFIN)
– The Third Committee: Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian (SOCHUM)
– The Fourth Committee: Special Political and Decolonization (SPECPOL)
– The Fifth Committee: Administrative and Budgetary and general
– The Sixth Committee: Legal
However, there is also the department of the Security Council (SC), which is only in place these 2 years that Spain has a seat as a non-permanent member. As the Security Council deals with numerous issues, those interns distributed into the Security Council “department” are assigned more specific regional issues. I was appointed to the Middle East team; therefore I work with everything that has to do with the Security Council’s agenda for Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Israel-Palestine and Libya. Having studied International Relations and many of these countries’ crises in depth, I felt incredibly excited for the opportunity to work for and learn from these topics.
Security Council Meeting (I am standing in white shirt at the blue chairs in the right bottom quadrant )
Each of these issues usually gets arranged a meeting every month, unless an unexpected event occurs and an emergency meetings has to be called on. In my “Middle East team” we are 3 interns, hence we organize ourselves so that every meeting has an intern covering it and in a way that we all get to learn from the different topics rather than assigning ourselves a specific issue. Usually the meetings consist of a briefing in the open door Security Council in which the SC Member states take their seat in the main table yet other delegations are welcome to take a seat in the audience. As interns for the Spanish Mission, we get to sit in the main table behind the Spanish Ambassador along with the Diplomats. Usually in the briefings the special envoys of the secretary general to the specific issue update the SC on the crisis either on-site or via videoconference. In these open briefings, some member states are also allowed to intervene if the “SC considers that the interests of that Member are specially affected” (Under rule 37 of the SC provisional rules of procedure). Some of these meetings get very heated when the SC members decide to intervene as well with opposing views being put forward. This is the case in the majority of the briefings on the Syrian crisis in which the Syrian Ambassador participates.
“Whatever happens or is said
in this room is confidential.”
Generally though the briefings constitute a small amount of time of the overall meeting, as once the invited members have intervened, the SC members move to the closed door consultation room in which no other delegation other than the SC members are allowed into. Whatever happens or is said in this room is confidential. I have the opportunity to attend these meetings in a small but very packed room in which the ambassadors sit around a small rectangular table. In these consultations it is common that every single member delivers an intervention always representing that countries stance on the topic.
Rarely is there a common stance on the topic, and this is what makes it the most interesting. Having studied IR, I am very aware of the different SC resolutions, the debates that have been present in the UN and especially the main contradicting views in the majority of the issues. Therefore it is especially exciting when I get to sit in the room and experience firsthand the passing of certain resolutions and the tense debates that go on, clearly demonstrating the strong opposing views some member states have. For example, the meetings on Syria are usually the ones that are the more provocative. I have been greatly informed on the contrasting perspectives of Russia and the US about Syria, however I was not aware of how tense the debates can get. It’s not few the times that after one of these two countries intervenes, the other has to ask to intervene out of order to contest what had been said in a strong tone. It is because of these opposing views of the SC permanent members (with power to veto) that most of the time nothing changes about how the UN tackles the conflict. Many times even a single press statement is debated over and over again because some words may not be of satisfaction to a country in representing their perspective. This is why the UN sometimes feels like it is not doing anything, and this is incredibly disappointing.
“…I was not aware of how
tense the debates can get.”
The long hours sitting in a meeting room, listening to many countries speak their opinion on an issue and then have nothing come out of that meeting is very discouraging especially after having looked up to the UN for so many years. Yet this is the format of the Security Council and until there is a change, we will remain seeing many ongoing conflicts as the countries work in their interest and veto to their interests.
If you want to hear more about the adventures of Celia, Claudia, Elena and Marco at the United Nations, stay tuned at gointoieu.ie.edu!
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