Waszczykowski: Poland’s voice will be heard more clearly
“Starting from January 2018, Poland will be a member of the UN Security Council. Our country will have the instruments to engage in solving global problems and helping shape the world order,” writes the minister of foreign affairs.
The intensive campaign promoting Poland's candidacy to the Security Council, conducted over the past year or so, will allow us to fill this important and prestigious seat at the global leaders’ table. Several dozen meetings with leaders of the UN member states have brought us closer to those countries that had previously been far removed from Poland’s foreign policy core, such as African and Latin American countries and island states in the Asia-Pacific region.
We will leave a lasting legacy
Why do we actually care so much about being a member of the Security Council? We often hear complaints that the United Nations Organisation is inefficient and that its indecisiveness and slow response times have hampered its attempts to prevent many crises. We all remember the tragedies in Srebrenica and Rwanda, where the United Nations did not pass the test.
The ordeal suffered by civilians in Syria, the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ethnic conflicts in Africa carry with them much remorse. We blame the Security Council for not adapting its composition to the requirements of the modern world. Despite its best intentions, the international community has not yet come up with an alternative. The UN remains the only international organisation of a universal character that brings together all countries of the world. Each member state decides, jointly with other states, how the organisation should work. This is why the UN is changing and evolving, just like the system of international relations has done over the past decades.
When the peacekeeping missions were established, their objective was to monitor conflicts between states (UN members), but today we are faced with an increasing number of intra-state conflicts, which results in the need to formulate completely different mandates as a basis for specific blue helmet missions. Added to this is the terrorist threat posed by such non-state actors as the so-called Islamic State, which negates values on which the UN is founded. In its early years, the UN dealt with issues that practically no longer exist (e.g. decolonisation), and today it needs to find solutions to such issues as sustainable development and cybersecurity.
It may seem that the role of the elected members of the Security Council is symbolic and major decisions are made by the great powers. However, we have to remember that our membership in the Council will last only, but also as long as, two years. We should not expect Poland to change the world order through its membership in the Security Council, and our actions to bring peace to major parts of the world. But we plan to leave a lasting legacy in the Security Council. We will firmly defend our values and principles. Recent years have shown that active non-permanent members can influence the Council’s work if they present a clear, coherent position and are able to convince other states. This is one of the reasons why competition for a seat on the Security Council is sometimes very fierce.
We witnessed this last year, when Italy and the Netherlands competed so fiercely in the elections that eventually, after several rounds of voting, the leaders of both countries decided to share the two-year term in the Council. Being a member of the Security Council is a true test of diplomacy.
Of course, we understand that the permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States - are of great importance for the Security Council’s work. The fact that these countries wield the veto power has been widely criticized.
The Council's past activities, such as those related to the situation in Syria or Ukraine, have clearly demonstrated that the use of the veto blocks key actions of the international community aimed at stabilising the situation in conflict-stricken areas, protecting human rights or preventing crimes against humanity. Poland also supports initiatives to limit the right of veto, although it is fully aware that the Council’s permanent members will keep it, at least in the near future.
The timing of Poland’s Security Council membership is marked by a lively debate on the Council’s reform. We see the shortcomings of the current situation when the Council’s composition is not adapted to the challenges facing the international community. We also recognise that its composition does not reflect the emerging new global balance of power. We believe that as a member of the Council, we will be able to participate in this discussion and promote our priorities.
Central European sensitivity
During our membership in the Security Council, we will be bold in our efforts to point to the direction that the UN's peacekeeping efforts should follow. We want our membership in the Security Council to be real, and not illusory. The logo of our campaign, which presents the name of our country with the globe inscribed within, was chosen deliberately. Our candidacy to the Security Council meant that we had to define our global interests more precisely. Our efforts to win a seat on the Security Council speak to aspirations for an active role internationally and are an element of the global dimension of Poland’s foreign policy. We want to better contribute to solving global problems and help shape the world order.
For us, membership in the Security Council is a unique opportunity to promote Poland. We have the opportunity)to pursue our foreign policy priorities as part of an organisation that brings together all countries of the world. This is also an chance for us to reflect on multilateral diplomacy. In a dynamically changing international situation, the UN remains the main forum for discussing and solving global issues. Poland's participation in the work of such an important body as the Security Council will provide our diplomacy with a unique experience that we can use in the future to better implement our foreign policy priorities in multilateral fora. Security Council membership is also an opportunity to boost our country’s image and visibility on the international stage, which may well translate into new business contacts.
We are joining the Security Council as a country in Eastern Europe. For obvious reasons, we will want to play an active role when the Council discusses Ukraine, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We are bringing to the Security Council a unique, Central European sensitivity to new sorts of threats to peace and security, such as hybrid warfare, ethnic conflicts and violations of fundamental principles of international law. We are joining the Security Council as a country that espouses universal values, such as tolerance, respect for others, and the desire for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. We believe that — as St John Paul II said in his World Peace Day message in 1984 - “war is rooted in the human heart. It is man that kills, not his sword or rockets, as is nowadays the case.” That is why we want to place major importance on interfaith dialogue, which we consider to be a dispute-mitigation instrument. We will always protest loudly when basic human rights are violated anywhere, including the rights of religious minorities.
Poland is a country with a turbulent history stretching over one thousand years. We remember when Poland was a member of the League of Nations — the UN’s predecessor that failed because of disagreements among the major powers, leading, as a result, to the 20th century’s greatest tragedy. We have a perfect grasp of issues currently on the Security Council’s agenda. Betrayal by the superpowers, genocide, rebuilding state structures, and peaceful transformation are terms an average Pole knows only too well. At the same time we have achieved so much on our way towards peace that we are able to identify our successes and failures in a responsible manner. We feel the responsibility of being part of the Security Council’s work.
We remember only too well that we cannot take security for granted. We also perceive Council membership as a tool for ensuring our own security. Obviously, the situation in Africa and the Middle East has a direct bearing on Poland’s security. The terrorist threat, the migration crisis and the smuggling of arms affect us directly. We believe that as a member of the Security Council we will have the opportunity to present our views and to influence the process of developing solutions to these problems.
Willingness to cooperate
We are aware that the exclusive forum we have been invited to is also shared by strong and experienced actors. We are open to working together with all permanent Council members. Our partnership with the United States will gain a new dimension at the UN. I look forward to constructive cooperation with the US. The United Kingdom is our strategic partner. We hope to continue this close relationship at the UN, also after the UK’s planned exit from the EU. Poland and France share centuries-old, traditionally close relationship, as well as respect for the same universal values, and similar sensitivities of the two societies.
Our cooperation has time and again proved its importance and effectiveness. With contribution from the President and Prime Minister, we have succeeded in recent years in forging close, active relations with China at the highest level, which was demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s attendance at the recent Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. I believe that working together with Russia at the Security Council will improve our bilateral relations.
There are matters on which we must and should cooperate. Let me assure you that Poland is willing to work with anyone, even the most difficult of partners, if this will help find a peaceful solution to any of the ongoing armed conflicts worldwide.
Of course, we will actively collaborate with other non-permanent Security Council members, above all other EU members sitting on the Council, including Sweden and the Netherlands, and with non-European states. Let us remember that Poland’s membership of the Security Council is an opportunity to establish contacts and reach countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with whom we do not have very deep relations. Furthermore, we are also going to work actively with countries that are not in the Council. We are aware of the fact that many UN countries are not — and perhaps will never be — in the position to sit on the Security Council. We know that UN representations are often the most important missions for many countries.
We will be able to make ourselves known as a pragmatic partner by building our global image through Security Council membership. Establishing such a reputation for Poland could help us pursue a more active foreign policy in the future, e.g. with respect to offering our good offices.
We are returning to the Security Council after an absence of over 20 years. Since that time Poland’s international environment has fundamentally changed.
We have joined NATO and the European Union, become the leader of economic growth in Europe, and a state that actively contributes to helping others fulfil their European aspirations.
During our term on the Security Council we want to focus on several key issues. Poland wants to resume its participation in the UN peacekeeping operations. This way, we reaffirm our aspirations to play the role of a state that is not only a security consumer, but one that also takes active measures to preserve international peace and security.
We also think that it is better to prevent conflicts than respond when hostilities break out. That is why we intend to focus on the UN’s preventive activities. We support all measures taken by the new UN Secretary General aimed at conflict prevention.
We believe that international law should have absolute primacy in international relations. We want to play our part in cooperation to establish an international order based, in particular, on the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will not tolerate violations of the fundamental principles of international law.
We believe that Security Council should pay greater heed to the voice of other UN states. We want the Council’s work to be more transparent and effective. Only in that way will we be able to restore the international community’s trust in the Security Council and the entire United Nations.
Author: Witold Waszczykowski