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Italy on the UN Security Council at a Time of Terror

Interview with Sebastiano Cardi, Italy's Ambassador at the United Nations

consiglio di sicurezza
Just days from Italy's turn on the UN Security Council, we asked a few questions to Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who reaffirms: "Italy is now preparing itself for its term in the spirit of guaranteeing continuity, on the trail of those values which it has always held, which characterize the Republic’s foreign policy"


Might 2016 be remembered for it’s vivid disunity in the Western world? How many times have we had to choose between polar opposites? Europe’s Brexit, Yes or NoSì or No also in Italy’s constitutional referendum advanced by Renzi’s government… then, in the United States “I’m with Her” or “Make America Great Again”… A pandemic of international crisis and terror attacks that finds the West is thoroughly divided. Citizens notably frightened and frustrated, they no longer have faith in their government, even shortly after having elected them.

In an attempt to navigate on the crisis that predict the threshold of the new year, last week we asked a few questions to the Italian ambassador to the United Nations, Sebastiano Cardi, who, from January 1st will take his place at the Glass Palace at the helm of diplomatic mission representing Italy on the UN Security Council. The election of Italy to the non permanent member seat of the UN Security Council this time, however, will only last one year, as the term is shared with the Netherlands. There are in fact 193 countries represented in the General Assembly of the United Nations, but only 15 of which are part of the Security Council, with five of those seats permanent. This leaves 188 countries to compete for the 10 temporary seats that are voted in on rotation, and Italy has been fortunate to serve in the Security Council seven times, the first in 1959 and most recently in 2007.

sebastaino cardi

Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi

What is the impact of Matteo Renzi’s resignation and Italy’s government crisis having on the Italian diplomacy preparations to join the UN Security Council? Could possible elections compromise Italy’s policy within the Security Council?

“The country has rapidly formed a new government under President Paolo Gentiloni, who has worked for the past two years has worked directly on international issues and with the United Nations in his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs. At Farnesina (the Ministry for Foreign Affairs), the new Minister, Angelino Alfano, has announced that he will work closely with his predecessor. Italy is now preparing itself for its term on the Security Council in the spirit of guaranteeing continuity, on the trail of those values which it has always held, retaining its bipartisan style. They characterize the Republic’s foreign policy which has at its core a strong mission of multilateralism, and within this framework our participation in peacekeeping operations, counter-terrorism, our strong commitment to the development of the least developed countries, the defense of human rights, and humanitarian solidarity.”

The migrant crisis is shaking Europe: Italy is the most vulnerable to the waves of refugees and migrants that, other than being a humanitarian question, is also becoming a security issue. Holding the seat in the Security Council change something for Italy in their attempt to contain the problem?

“For some time now, Italy has expressed itself in all international forums in this regard, so that the migratory crisis issues receive adequate responses. Tens of millions of refugees, the highest number since World War II, represent a phenomenon that shouldn’t be managed through crisis management solely by the countries at the frontline. This is a phenomenon that will continue for many years to come, rooted in conflict and underdevelopment, which should be dealt with finding solutions to underlying causes of these conflicts. The refugee crisis gets even greater because of the migrating patterns due to climate change and natural disasters. Italy will use its seat in the Security Council to continue, with coherence, the actions carried out in recent years in multilateral forums to search for solutions to security threats, thereby assisting to reduce the impact of fluctuations in populations.”

The Libya crisis, which seemed to be resolving itself through the birth of a united national government, now seems to be becoming more complicated and far from a resolution, as seen by the testimony of UN special representative Martin Kobler to the Security Council just this week. According to Italy, has Libya had sufficient attention in the Security Council agenda? Is there something that the UN should still do for Libya and that Italy will lead in the Council?

“Italy in recent years has been at the forefront of finding a political way out of the complex Libyan crisis. We have supported the government of national unity and Prime Minister al-Serraj from the onset, by working to strengthen his ability to address urgent political, economic, and security challenges. We have contributed to directing the efforts of the international community to support of the Presidential council and the GNA, supporting UN mediation efforts and promoting initiatives aimed at creating a dialogue between all the major international and regional actors, with the aim of finding shared solutions. We will continue our efforts even within the Security Council where the Libyan dossier is frequently discussed, Libya being a key country for the stability of Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, in addition to being an anchor in discussions about migration which directly impact Italy and Europe.”

For Italy, is the most urgent problem that the Security Council must address at the start of 2017 the civil war in Syria and the general instability and terrorism in the Middle East? Could the fact that there is the special UN representative in Syria, Staffan De Mistura, a former Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs of the Italian government, give more weight to the role of Italy within the Security Council?

“Syria represents perhaps the most serious crisis of our time, given the number of victims, injured displaced, the amount of destruction in the country, and the continuing violations of international humanitarian law.

The humanitarian tragedy taking place is unprecedented, as is the threat of terrorism. In this dramatic context, Italy provides an important contribution to humanitarian efforts and is doing everything possible to promote political success to the conflict, the only approach possible to achieve a sustainable solution.  To this end, we made every effort within the framework of the International Syria Support Group and we’ll do just the same when, on January 1st, we will assume the responsibilities of non-permanent member of the Security Council. We fully support UN action and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura, with whom we are in constant contact.”

The election of former Portuguese Premier Antonio Guterres as Secretary-General to the UN: is it an advantage for Italy to have a fellow European as Secretary General UN?

Antonio Guterres

Antonio Guterres takes the oath of office: he will take office as UN Secretary General on January 1, 2017

“We are very satisfied with the election of Guterres. We are talking about a personality with proven experience, great diplomatic skills and a deep knowledge of key international dossiers. Italy is ready to work together with him for in pursuit of the ideals of the United Nations Charter, that is always the cornerstone of the foreign policy of the Republic. Indeed, the fact that he is such an authoritative exponent of a European country can’t but facilitate agreement and collaboration with our government.”

Security Council Reform: Where are we at? With Italy joining the Security Council will anything perhaps change? Can Italy better influence the Reform path during the time in which it will hold its seat?

“The reform process of the Security Council is incardinated by over 20 years of activity in the General Assembly, initially with the tasks of the “open-ended working group” and since 2008, through annual Interngovernmental negotiations.  Italy, as always, is committed to an inclusive and democratic reform, that is that increases the possibilities for all the Member States to give their own contribution to maintain peace and international security, keeping in mind the needs of a more equitable distribution of the seats among diverse regional groups. Italy’s role is to coordinate the negotiating group “Uniting for Consensus,” that gathers the sustaining nations of a reform centered on increasing the sole elected members and that will have as a result a Council that is more representative, democratic, responsible with respect to the Members States, efficient and transparent. Since, therefore, the reform of the Security Council does not compete with the same Council, our mandate as a non-permanent member will give us an opportunity to transfer concretely in our daily work this vision of the Security Council, giving proof to the contribution that elected members can offer, for example, in terms of transparency and efficiency on the tasks of the Council. The Security Council must be prepared to face the global challenges of the 21st Century and a reform that increases the democratic and inclusive quality will have beneficial effects on its authority in the eyes of the entire International Community.”

The seat is shared with the Netherlands: What problems and opportunities do you foresee with this joint seat? Could this truly be a chance to get some proof for the start of a European Union seat on the Security Council?

“In these months already we have worked intently with our Dutch friends to outline the framework of our collaboration over the next two years. We organize regular consultations at all levels, even in the Capitals, and the level of integration achieved by the two Representatives is important. We foresee exchanges of officials and reaching agreement on the statements in the Security Council toward achieving a sense of continuity within the shared mandate. It’s about taking this opportunity to deepen our friendship with a nation like the Netherlands, co-founder of the European Union, that shares our values and principles: I cite for example the many common battles on human rights and the commitment to climate change and their impact on international security. The two governments want the shared seat to be a sign of unity and a relaunch of ideals of the European Union. It is important to ensure the success of the innovative experiment, to demonstrate that the road to European collaboration represents a positive prospective, even within the Security Council where, after all, it’s worth remembering that the Member States are elected at a national level”.

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