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The United Nations Security Council and A Plus For Peace

The infamous round table with the blue chairs in the seemingly monumental room at the UN headquarters in New York has a fascinating aura. As the epitome of multilateralism, it houses the only organ of the United Nations that can pass internationally binding resolutions; the United Nation Security Council.

In the middle of the second COVID wave, we were able to welcome Aurélie Rime as representative of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) online via Zoom to shed some light on the work and procedures of the United Nations Security Council. As Political Affairs Officer in the United Nations and International Organizations Division of the FDFA, she works for the Swiss candidacy to obtain a non-permanent seat in 2023-24.

In front of a virtual audience of interested members of MUN Bern, she first introduced the UN Security Council. With her first-hand experience of the debates of the UNSC in New York she offered many fascinating insights and anecdotes. As a former member of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN at its headquarters in New York, she used to carry out instructions from Bern and took part in meetings with UN officials, members from other Permanent Missions and civil society. Now, back in Bern, Switzerland, as part of the team that sends the instructions to New York, she has the advantage of knowing both sides.

Interesting facts about the Security Council that you might not know:

  • 52 binding resolutions were passed in 2019[1]

  • The mural that is depicted on the wall of the meeting room was created by the Norwegian artist Per Krohg and depicts a phoenix ascending from the ashes, symbolic of the world’s rebirth after World War II

  • Only 3 resolutions were vetoed in 2019. However, the threat of a veto can have a significant deterrent effect and discourage or even end negotiations[2]

  • In 2019 the UNSC met about 800 times which translates to roughly 3 meetings per business day

  • So called „Arria-formula“ meetings, named after the initiator Venezuelan Ambassador Diego Arria, are informal gatherings where Security Council members may invite external actors in direct dialogue. It allows the members to engage in informal discussions with high representatives of governments, international organizations, as well as non-State parties, like NGOs and members of the broader civil society. In 2019 22 of those „Arria-formula“ meetings were held[3]

  • The curtains in the meeting room of the UNSC are usually closed. In 2019 the German delegation opened them in their month of presidency as a sign of transparency and openness and for more credibility and legitimacy


A Plus For Peace: The slogan of Switzerland’s candidacy for the UN Security Council. © FDFA In a second part, Aurélie Rime presented Switzerland‘s candidacy to the UN Security Council. The Federal Council had already expressed an interest in a possible mandate in the Security Council as early as 2000 during the campaign for UN accession[4]. To the astonishment of many in the audience, the official reflection and consultations on the candidacy began more than 13 years ago in 2007, resulting in the formal announcement of interest for a seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2011. Rime described how a campaign process this long is by no means unusual. On the contrary, most candidacies take such a long time, since the candidate countries have to promote their profile at the UN, secure the support of UN Member States and lay the groundwork for the mandate long before the election date. For example, whereas competitors Ireland and Norway launched their candidacies in 2005 and 2007 respectively, the Canadian campaign for a seat in 2021-22 lasted „only“ 5 years, was run by high-profile Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but did not manage to secure enough votes. Canada put up a fight and gathered 108 votes, but a two-thirds majority of the votes (128) was necessary to be elected by the UN General Assembly.[5] Ireland and Norway will therefore be the direct predecessors of Switzerland in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).

After a process lasting more than a decade, the Swiss candidacy is thus entering its final phase this year. The slogan „A Plus For Peace“ and the logo of a Swiss cross developing into a dove of peace stand for the contribution that Switzerland can bring to international peace and security. In addition, the Swiss candidacy promotes the commitment to international humanitarian law, humanitarian aid and human rights (a plus for humanity); the efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (a plus for sustainable development); the importance of International Geneva (a plus for multilateralism); and its driving role in innovation, digitalization and UN reform (a plus for innovation).

Switzerland’s candidacy in a nutshell:

  • A Plus For Peace

  • A Plus For…

  • ...Humanity

  • ...Sustainable Development

  • ...Multilateralism

  • ...Innovation

So far, Malta is the only other candidate for one of the two available seats within the WEOG. With less than two years left until the June 2022 election, it is possible, but unlikely that any other country will join the competition so late in the game.

We remain excited for the election and thank Aurélie Rime warmly for the informative presentation and the patience with which she answered all our questions in detail.

Stay tuned for more UNSC-Events in the next semester, and for all of you who have further interest in the Swiss campaign for the UNSC, here is their website:

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