Interview with Ambassador Noel Nelson Messone of Gabon, Security Council President for the month of June 2011

Ambassador Noel Nelson Messone of Gabon, Security Council President for the month of June 2011

1 July 2011 – Ambassador Noel Nelson Messone became Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations in February 2011; his previous positions include Ambassador to the Benelux States and the European Union and Deputy Foreign Minister. In June, Gabon held the monthly presidency of the Security Council under the rotating system among the Council's 15 members. Below, Ambassador Messone speaks to the UN News Service about the presidency and diplomacy at the UN.

UN News Centre: What were the key achievements of the Security Council under your presidency?

Ambassador Messone: It was a very busy month. I understand that June is always the busiest month of the Security Council from past history.  In this presidency, first of all we helped pass a resolution on HIV/AIDS and conflict. As you know, Gabon has been bringing back the issue of cross-cutting threats to international security. We started in March with the issue of small and light weapons in conflict and so, along those lines, we proposed a debate on AIDS and conflict. That was a goodLibya was one of the great challenges for the Council during June. achievement to have a resolution passed 10 years after the first one was passed under United States leadership with the late Ambassador [Richard] Holbrooke. 

We were also dealing with the situation in Libya. We organized an informal high-level meeting with the African Union (AU) panel on Libya with ministers of that panel coming to meet with the Security Council. That was an important achievement of the presidency, to continue to strengthen dialogue and contacts between the Security Council and AU efforts in bringing about a peaceful solution in Libya. So we consider this to be a major achievement.

The Security Council also had a meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council to talk about strengthening cooperation between the two councils.  That was a very important milestone also.

Ambassador Messone with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, upon becoming Gabon's new Permanent Representative to the United Nations on 23 February 2011.

Of course as you know, the recommendation for the re-election of the Secretary-General was passed under our presidency.  We consider it to be another achievement.

We had worked to see progress in Sudan as the date of 9 July approaches [the date when Southern Sudan will formally separate from the rest of the country]. We all were worried about recent fights in the Abyei area and of course the AU, the UN all worked together to achieve an agreement for the withdrawal of forces in Abyei. I think that was also a major achievement.  And we had a very important presidential statement following that agreement and following a briefing we had on Sudan as negotiations were being concluded in Addis Ababa.

We had another important briefing: by UNODC [the UN Office on Drugs and Crime] on transnational crime and drug trafficking. The West African coast has to face that problem. It is a destabilizing problem for the Gulf of Guinea, particularly as we try to consolidate peace in Guinea-Bissau. We had a briefing on Guinea-Bissau and of course that was an important achievement.  I won’t mention all the mandates that had to be renewed. 

So it was a very busy month and we are very happy and it seems that all the other members are of the same opinion that we did pretty well as a presidency during the month.

UN News Centre: What were the greatest challenges during this past month?

Ambassador Messone: Libya was one of the great challenges for the Council during June.  First of all, passing resolution 1973 [on the situation in Libya, adopted on 17 March] was not very easy and of course all the subsequent debates and briefings and consultations on the implementation of 1973, so that was a very challenging situation to have to deal with. And of course we wanted the meeting between the high-level panel of the AU and the Council to be sanctioned by an outcome. That was very difficult because the meeting was not scheduled as such, but we felt it would have been important to have an outcome. In the end, the members could not agree on an outcome, or the language of that particular outcome, so we did not manage to have consensus on that. That was very difficult. 

We’ve been trying, following requests from Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti, to schedule a meeting on the security situation in that part of the continent.  We have strong positions from different members and we haven’t been able to agree on the format of the meeting but we hope it will take place.  Of course Syria is another challenge. We are still discussing a Syria resolution and hopefully some agreement and consensus can be reached.

Ambassador Noel Nelson Messone announces to the press that the Security Council has recommended the re-appointment of Ban Ki-moon for a second term as UN Secretary-General, 17 June 2011.

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 Messone: First of all, the President of the Security Council has to deal with the issues facing the international community.  His main objective is to ensure that the international community reaches consensus over crises, major issues facing the world. That’s really the key role of the President of the Security Council as he presides. In so far as national interests are part of the concerns of the international community, yes, but I think most important for a president is to make sure the international community reaches consensus on global crises, and challenges to peace and security and key issues.  That’s really what the president does.

UN News Centre: Security Council expansion is an often-debated issue. What do you think is the solution?

Ambassador Messone: The first solution is to continue negotiations.  That’s the first solution. It’s an issue where consensus is of the essence so negotiations have to continue.  As an African, an African Union member, you know that the AU has a position shared and supported by most all African countries, and that’s a position of Gabon as a country. But most important is to continue taking into account all the concerns and continue negotiations that could pave the way to a consensus on what sort of reform, what sort of enlargement, how many additional members in both categories could be realistically accepted by the entire international community.  And reform is necessary.  That should be stressed, that reform is necessary.

UN News Centre: On a personal note, what is the greatest part of being a diplomat at the UN?

Ambassador Messone: I think serving as a diplomat at the UN gives you an opportunity to interact with the world in its full diversity.  It gives you an opportunity to realize that it’s possible for people, diplomats, from all over the world to sit down, discuss issues of common concern and find common solutions that I believe could go beyond national interest and beyond the sort of solutions that could be found in purely bilateral relationships between countries. I think that’s very important.

And also the sense that you actually are in a position to contribute in dealing with and – to an extent – proposing solutions to global issues, to global decision-making. I think that at a personal level it’s a very, very important and valuable experience. Of course in previous capacities I had the opportunity to deal with global, regional, continental matters, but at the UN it’s really at a whole different level, a whole different experience.  And I think that’s the value of serving as a diplomat at the UN.