Chile and the Security Council

When La Tercera invited me to share my opinions about Chile’s decision on the composition of the UN Security Council, I welcomed the opportunity to reflect on the criteria that one would hope our Chilean friends will bear in mind in deciding what is best for global security and the credibility of the world’s most powerful multilateral body.

Visiting Fellow Roger Noriega
For the Security Council to make deliberate and effective decisions, its membership must reflect more than regional balance. Each member government must have the temperament to deliberate constructively and soberly on the most complicated and momentous issues confronting humanity.

All nations, large and small, forfeit some measure of their precious sovereignty to the United Nations--particularly to the binding decisions affecting global peace and security made by the Security Council. Each state must justify to its own people that it has entrusted that extraordinary power to governments that share its essential values and interests. It is particularly important that the UN’s democratic governments choose the best among them to advance those values in the Security Council’s debates and decisions.

Effective and credible multilateralism is particularly important to smaller states. For the world’s most powerful nations to remain fully engaged in multilateral bodies, they must be convinced that collective deliberations are capable of producing concerted action to deal effectively with the gravest issues. For the world’s lone superpower to defer to consensus on such issues, it has every right to expect that representatives on the Security Council are committed to cooperating for the common good.

The recent experience in dealing with Iran’s provocative nuclear weapons program demonstrates the importance of disciplined collective diplomacy. It is too soon to conclude whether the recent breakthrough with Iran will defuse a potential nuclear confrontation. However, it appears that tough-minded diplomacy in Europe and within the Security Council may have produced a peaceful resolution that many considered improbable a few short weeks ago. The lesson: effective collective diplomacy requires disciplined teamwork.

Chile’s successor in the UN Security Council has a tough act to follow. Chile has a coherent foreign policy, executed by a corps of talented diplomats. While no one can dispute that the United States had a profound difference of opinion with Chile on at least one major issue in the last few years, no one questions that Chile reflected the ethics and values that one would expect from a member of the Security Council.

Like it or not, many are making comparisons between Chile and Venezuela--which is seeking Latin America’s seat on the Council.

In my personal view, taking into account each of the criteria for sound multilateral diplomacy, Venezuela’s candidacy stirs legitimate concerns. I have witnessed firsthand in the last four years the deliberately divisive tactics of the Venezuelan delegation at the Organization of American States (OAS) and the regional Summit process. Just this week at the recent OAS General Assembly in Santo Domingo and in prior meetings, Venezuelan delegates have surprised their regional counterparts by challenging long-standing consensus on principles as fundamental as representative democracy, freedom of expression, terrorism, and the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

There is no doubt that these fiercely ideological Venezuelan diplomats are doing the bidding of President Hugo Chavez, whose very personalized, populist agenda has sown discord and derailed urgent efforts at regional integration. I shudder to think of the impact of such a unique and polarizing agenda on the weighty work of the UN Security Council.

I know that Chile tries consciously not to be didactic about its own experiences and successes. But Chile has never failed to advance its own essential values for the benefit of a better world. I trust Chile to decide how to do that best with so much at stake at the UN.

Roger F. Noriega is a visiting fellow at AEI.

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