By Arul LouisUnited Nations, June 2 : Veteran Trinidadian diplomat Dennis Francis has been elected President of the UN General Assembly with a pledge to promote an atmosphere of conciliation at a critical time for the world organisation debilitated by the Security Council’s paralysis.
After his unanimous election by the 193-member Assembly on Thursday, Francis declared “Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Sustainability” as the theme for his tenure that will start at the next session that starts in September.
He said he hoped to bring “a renewed atmosphere of conciliation, cooperation and shared commitment in addressing the many challenges”.
As the Assembly President, Francis will have a key role in shepherding the negotiations for reforming the Security Council and in appointing the facilitators for the process.
At a news conference, he hedged his answers to questions about the long-stalled reform process known as the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN).
Asked if he was optimistic about the negotiations, he said cryptically, “Diplomats don’t generally speak in superlatives and there’s a reason why: because you you’re unable to foretell the future.”
He noted that the negotiations are stuck in the preliminary mode of determining the process for the IGN.
“Negotiations are not now taking place about reform of the Security Council,” he said.
“Diplomats first discuss process before getting to substance.We have not yet gotten to the substance.We’re still in the process of discussing the framework,” he added.
He said that he will provide assistance to the facilitators “who will assist and support the negotiations when they begin” and “facilitate a better understanding of the various positions of the various groups”.
Francis is currently Trinidad’s permanent representative and has represented his country at several international organisations and meeting during his 40-year diplomatic career.
Trinidad is a member of the Latin American and Caribbean group whose turn it is under the regional rotation system for the presidency and Francis will take over from the Hungarian diplomat Csaba Korosi.
Korosi said, “The cascading crises that shepherded the start of my term still require the General Assembly to identify and adopt solution-oriented approaches.Crisis management and transformation remain the dual approach to guide our vision and actions in the General Assembly.”
Politically the most important issue Francis will face during his presidency is the Ukraine imbroglio.
The Security Council is paralysed on Ukraine, potentially the most risky situation facing the world, because of the vetoes and the Assembly took the pathbreaking step last year of requiring the permanent members wielding vetoes to explain their action.
The vetoes also brought the Ukraine issue to the Assembly which has condemned Russia’s invasion, although it has no enforcement powers.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “President-elect Francis arrives at a deeply challenging moment for the human family: Conflicts and climate chaos.Escalating poverty, hunger and inequality.Mistrust and division.”
“Across all of these issues, the world looks to this Assembly to unite member states around common solutions” and “Francis brings a wide range of skills, experience and knowledge to this essential task”.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed at @arulouis)
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