Cote d’Ivoire Foreign Minister: Time to Renew Push for Africa’s Rightful Place on UN Security Council  

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“Africa will not continue to accept, given its weight in the world today, that it has no permanent seat in the Security Council with everything it entails as an advantage to have that seat,” Marcel Amon-Tanoh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, told an IPI Global Leader Series event on December 17th.

Mr. Amon-Tanoh predicted a resumption of the debate in the General Assembly that had lapsed over the past decade over how to expand the Security Council and make its membership more representative of the United Nations membership as a whole. The 15-member Council is widely perceived as reflecting the world of 1945 when it was created rather than the realities of today where countries like Nigeria and South Africa, along with Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and Turkey have gained stature relative to the existing five permanent seat holders, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“I think everybody will agree along with our countries that the UN Security Council as it exists today does not reflect the world we live in,” Mr. Amon-Tanoh said. “It is being discussed in the Security Council but not in the General Assembly, and we must try to make sure that the debate in the General Assembly that has lost energy can once again regain a dynamic quality so that the debate that existed at the time of [former Secretary-General] Kofi Annan can exist today.”

Noting that there was now talk of Africa seeking from three to five such permanent seats, he said, “Africa should have the ambition of having permanent seats on the Council regardless of number, and it is unjust or even hypocritical not to consider the African continent, which is both envied for its natural wealth and resources, which is the target of much interest by all the great powers because Africa is a great continent which has its means through sheer force of resources to determine the future of humanity, and must be present in negotiations. Countries should take an initiative in order to relaunch debate on the Security Council in the interest of the whole world.”

The subject arose in the course of comments by Mr. Amon-Tanoh on the occasion of his country’s concluding its two-year term as an elected member of the Council—a particularly auspicious development since only two years ago the UN was ending its peacekeeping mission (UNOCI) in the country, and now the country  has become a contributor of UN peacekeeping troops.

This swift passage from being a country that had experienced two civil wars between 2002 and 2011 and was on the agenda of the Security Council for 13 years to being an engaged member of the body was discussed by the second speaker at the event, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary General of the UN Department of Peace Operations.

“It’s very meaningful and quite impressive to see the Côte d’Ivoire having gone from being a country whose status was an item on the agenda of the peacekeeping operations to being an active contributor to the UN Security Council’s work,” he said. “It enriched the Security Council and our operations to have the contributions of Côte d’Ivoire and generally of countries that have directly experienced all the complexities and outcomes of peacekeeping. UNOCI, having been one of the early multidimensional peacekeeping missions and having gone through so many situations in the country, was unprecedented, and I think this informed the way Côte d’Ivoire took part in the Security Council.”

Mr. Lacroix said he viewed the ten elected members of the Council as essential “bridge builders” between the disputatious permanent members and other member states on the Council. “The Security Council is divided now, characterized by the division of permanent members,” he said. “As the Secretariat, we expect a lot of the role of bridge builders from the elected members. On top of that, we have the experience of legitimacy like Côte d’Ivoire that adds to the capacity of those members and that can benefit—we’ve seen it in many situations—the Security Council, the UN, and can help overcome difficulties and divisions that characterize our organization today.”

IPI Vice President Adam Lupel noted that during its just completed two years on the Council, Cte d’Ivoire hosted formal debates on post-conflict reconstruction and peace, security, and stability, and on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations, reflecting critical thematic issues on the Council’s agenda. The country also had been a penholder for the situation in Guinea-Bissau and a co-penholder for the UN Office of West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). He recalled that Côte d’Ivoire’s single Council presidency took place a year ago, in December 2018.

Mr. Amon-Tanoh said the country had been guided in its Council work by three main priorities:

  • Sharing its experience acquired in emerging from crisis and consolidating peace.
  • Contributing to the strengthening of international peace and security, including through support for UN peacekeeping activities.
  • Amplifying the voice of the African Union on current security and humanitarian issues that inhibit development of the continent.

“In this regard,” he said, “be it the conflict in Libya, the security and humanitarian situations in the Lake Chad basin and the Sahel, as well as issues relating to the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Darfur, Somalia, Burundi, or the Horn of Africa, my country has always stressed the need for reinforced cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in matters of peace and security.“

Beyond that, he said, Côte d’Ivoire had paid “particular attention” to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar “for whose solutions it has always advocated dialogue.”

In the cases of Syria and Yemen, he said, Côte d’Ivoire “focused on the political processes for ending the crisis and the urgent management of humanitarian situations” and “insisted on the need for lasting ceasefires in these hotbeds of tension, in order to open up the political spaces essential for the establishment of a constructive dialogue.” In North Korea, it championed “fruitful dialogue,” and in Iran, it counseled a return to the Security Council-endorsed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement. He highlighted the fact that during its presidency, Côte d’Ivoire hosted two high level meetings, one which he chaired, on the need for collaboration between regional and sub-regional organizations and the UN system, and the other, chaired by the country’s president, Alassane Ouattara, on economic reconstruction in the consolidation of peace.

In conclusion, Mr. Amon-Tanoh said he hoped his country would be remembered for “making its voice heard, a voice at the service of dialogue, peace, and fraternity between peoples, the voice of a country that has recently hosted a United Nations peacekeeping mission, and which, through its exemplary crisis resolution and peacebuilding strategies, has returned to peace, stability, and prosperity.”

The discussion was moderated by IPI Vice President Adam Lupel.

Live coverage of the event in French can be found on the IPI Francophone page.