This post is also available in: Spanish
October is an historic month for Guatemala. For the first time ever, it is presiding over the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Guatemala is currently a non-permanent member of the UNSC, and will be until the end of 2013. It’s one of 15 members, ten non-permanent and five permanent members, including the UK, who discuss international peace and security. The presidency of the UNSC is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the Member States. So October is Guatemala’s turn.
The UNSC has already had a full agenda this year, tackling the situations in Syria, Libya, Liberia, Somalia, the Middle East, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Afghanistan and Haiti. October has been no different.
One of Guatemala’s top priorities for the month was to seek agreement on the extension of the mandate of the UN’s peacekeeping mission to Haiti, MINUSTAH. The Mission had been deployed to assist Haiti’s recovery following the devastating earthquake in 2010, and Guatemala continues to contribute troops to support it. On 3 October the UNSC agreed to extend the Mission’s mandate, so an early success for Guatemala, which the UK supported.
This is just one example of the UK and Guatemala working together on foreign policy. We talk to each other regularly, whether it’s our Ministers meeting or talking on the telephone, or members of my team lobbying their colleagues here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We’ve also swapped visits, with members of Guatemala’s Ministry meeting in London and their UK counterparts visiting here. We also talk to each other a lot in New York via our Missions to the UN, and this week my Deputy has travelled there to attend one of the two open debates that Guatemala will host during October.
Each presidency can introduce themes for the Council to discuss, and Guatemala has chosen two: the strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security (on 17 October), and women, peace and security (on 29 October). Both important themes. The latter resonates with a key UK priority, preventing sexual violence in conflict. Our Foreign Secretary launched the initiative on 29 May, and hosted an event in New York on 25 September at which he announced that the UK will contribute £1 million to support the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Given the synergies with Guatemala’s debate on the 29th, we’ve been comparing notes.