7 June 2011 Ambassador Gerard Araud, who has served as a diplomat for almost three decades, became France's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in September 2009. In May, France held the monthly presidency of the Security Council under the rotating system among the Council's 15 members. Below, Ambassador Araud speaks to the UN News Service about the presidency and diplomacy at the United Nations.
UN News Centre: What were the key achievements of the Security Council under your presidency?
Ambassador Araud: The month of May is a quiet month. There were not many significant debates under the French presidency. There were not significant renewals of peacekeeping mandates. We wanted to benefit from this ‘truce’ to conduct a debate on the future of United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a mission of the utmost importance, with 20,000 men deployed in a difficult area. We thought it was a good opportunity to prepare the future without any urgent pressure, to consider what the United Nations could do to ensure trThe Security Council – despite nuances of perception, nuances that are legitimate – was able to maintain its unity.ansition in the country. Then in a certain way we managed the Libya crisis. The Security Council – despite nuances of perception, nuances that are legitimate – was able to maintain its unity. And finally, we benefited from the lighter agenda by being able to organize a Council visit to Addis Ababa in the framework of the regular dialogue with the African Union in Sudan and in Somalia.
UN News Centre: What were the greatest challenges during this past month?
Ambassador Araud: Principally, like I said, maintaining the Council’s unity. Military operations in Libya are the subject of nuances of perception between the members of the Council. Some of them consider that the coalition is going beyond resolution 1973, which, of course, members of the coalition refute. We had to try to move beyond disagreement to find a global position which is a position of support for a peace agreement.
UN News Centre: As the monthly President, you lead the Council’s work. How do you balance your national interest with those the Council as a whole?
Ambassador Araud: It’s not very difficult, contrary to what one may think. You have to achieve compromise. When you are president, the advantage is that you can quickly ascertain what that compromise might be. In a certain way, this allows you to economize time – you can see what the balance is on the Council. The president should contribute to moving quickly towards a compromise which reflects the balance of power in the Council.
UN News Centre: Security Council expansion is an often debated issue, what do you think is the solution?
Ambassador Araud: France’s proposal is clear. It has been repeated several times at the highest level. We are in favour of expanding the Security Council. We are in favour of its expansion with regard to both permanent members and non-permanent members. We think that Japan, Brazil, India and Germany should become permanent members. We think that there must be at least one African permanent member. We are similarly raising the question about Arabic representation. So for us it is clear: the current Security Council reflects 1945 power balances and it has to be adapted to reflect the present.
UN News Centre: On a personal note, what is the greatest part of being a diplomat at the UN?
Ambassador Araud: The most stimulating part is the contact with my colleagues, who represent the entire world. And they have great qualities. It is a kind of summary of both problems and power in international life. That’s captivating, the human interaction. The driest part is that the 15 members of the Security Council, contrary to what one may think, are most of the time, on most subjects, in agreement, and yet the 15 members still consider themselves obligated to make speeches. And then we have to hear most of the time, the same thing 15 times.