As of March 1, France holds the monthly presidency of the UN Security Council.
Created in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the UN Member conferred on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It adopts resolutions, legally-binding texts which apply to all UN Member States under the Charter of the United Nations.
As such, it can, for example, recommend procedures or methods for peaceful settlement of disputes, authorize use of force, implement a peacekeeping operation, create sanctions regimes, establish international criminal courts or extend the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
Under the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council is made up of five permanent members with veto rights. These permanent members are France, the United States, Russia, China and the United Kingdom.
The Security Council also has ten elected members. They are elected by the United Nations General Assembly for a two year term.
In 2019, these States are Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait, Peru, Poland and South Africa.
France was one of the UN’s founding members in 1945. It is a Security Council member and has a permanent seat like the United States, China, United Kingdom and Russia, under the Charter of the United Nations. As a nuclear-weapon State and intervention and mediation power present in numerous theatres of operation, including within peacekeeping operations, France plays a leading role in the management of numerous international crises, the promotion of human rights and respect for international law, especially international humanitarian law in conflict environments.
The five permanent members may use their veto to prevent a resolution from being adopted. France has not used its veto since 1989.
The Presidency of the Council is carried out by each of the permanent and non-permanent members of the Council for a period of one month on a rotational basis according to alphabetic order in English. France will preside over the Security Council in March 2019. Germany will take over from France in April 2019. Due to these presidencies falling one after each other, France and Germany have decided to launch joint initiatives in the humanitarian field regarding the safety of humanitarian workers on the ground and respect for international humanitarian law in armed conflict which has declined at an alarming rate in recent years.
The Presidency of the Security Council is responsible for facilitating the debates and the general organization of the Council’s work for the month. While the position does not have any particular prerogatives, it is nevertheless an opportunity to give political impetus in certain direction.
In general terms, a presidency is punctuated by:
- the calendar of regular and obligatory deadlines such as renewal of mandates for peacekeeping operations, Secretariat’s briefings and open debates;
- the adoption of Council texts.
During its presidency in March, France will focus on several priorities:
- Active support for peacekeeping, particularly in Mali;
- Conflict resolution and the commitment to peace;
- Enhanced humanitarian access and protection for humanitarian workers in dangerous areas;
- Compliance with international humanitarian law;
- Protection for women in armed conflicts and increased participation of women in the peace process.
France has long been in favour of expanding the Security Council in both categories of members: permanent and non-permanent. It is also supporting Germany, Brazil, India and Japan in their accession to permanent member status, as well as greater Security Council representation for African countries.
Furthermore, in 2013 France launched an initiative proposing a collective and voluntary agreement by permanent members of the Security Council whereby permanent members shall not exercise the right to veto in the event of mass atrocities. The Security Council’s ability to prevent or put an end to situations of mass atrocities is key to its legitimacy. This French initiative now has the support of 101 countries.
Germany was elected in June 2018 as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council by the General Assembly. It will remain on the Council for two years, 2019 and 2020, as an elected member.
What does the Treaty of Aachen, signed on 22 January 2019 by the President of the French Republic and the German Chancellor, say about the Security Council?
After Brexit, France will become the only permanent member of the Security Council that is also a member of the European Union. It will be imperative to enhance our cooperation with the other European members of the Security Council – first and foremost with Germany, who will sit on the Council until 2021 – in order to defend the views and priorities of Europeans in the most effective way.
The treaty also recalls that France has defended Security Council reform for several years now by supporting the accession of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan to permanent member status.
This is indicated in Article 8 of the Treaty of Aachen:
(1) The two countries will cooperate closely in all organs of the United Nations within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations. They will coordinate their positions closely, including as part of wider efforts to coordinate the positions of the Member States of the European Union that are also members of the United Nations Security Council and in accordance with the positions and interests of the European Union. They will work together within the United Nations to advance the European Union’s positions and commitments with respect to global challenges and threats. They will do their utmost to ensure that the European Union adopts a uniform position in the relevant organs of the United Nations.
(2) The two countries undertake to continue their efforts to conclude intergovernmental negotiations on the reform of the United Nations Security Council. The admission of the Federal Republic of Germany as a permanent member of the Security Council is a priority of Franco-German diplomacy.
Updated: March 2019