Inside the United States' Presidency of the United Nations Security Council

Did you know the UN Security Council (UNSC) has a rotating presidency? Each month, a different member of the Council serves as the president, providing it with a critical opportunity to help shape the Council’s agenda and shine a spotlight on some of the most urgent threats to international peace and security. In December 2015, the United States held the presidency. When she announced the agenda for the month, Ambassador Power said to reporters, “We expect to keep you -- and ourselves -- very busy.”

Ambassador Power hosts United Nations Security Council permanent representatives for a working breakfast to kick off #USUNPres [USUN Photo]

It was indeed a busy month! Following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, France in November, the UNSC met repeatedly to address the international community’s response to terrorism. On December 7, 2015, Ambassador Power took the current members of the UNSC (Angola, China, Chad, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom) and the five members joining in 2016 (Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine, Uruguay) to Washington, D.C. to meet with United States officials on the coalition strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL.

UN Security Council members receive a briefing at the Pentagon on coalition counter-ISIL strategy [USUN Photo]

On December 17, 2015, the UN Security Council held two historic meetings. The first was a groundbreaking debate on human trafficking in conflicts by terrorists and armed groups such as ISIL, Boko Haram, and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Although modern slavery has long been an issue of international concern, recent human trafficking by terrorists, notably ISIL, has highlighted the urgent need to tackle this form of modern slavery. Nadia Murad Taha, a Yezidi survivor of human trafficking by ISIL, told her story: “I was unable to bear more rape and torture. I decided to escape, but I failed and I was captured by the guards…But it was not only me who suffered, it was a collective suffering.” 

Nadia Murad Taha, a Yezidi survivor of human trafficking, speaks to the UN Security Ccuncil about her horrific experiences at the hands of her ISIL captors. You can our series on her story here: [USUN Photo]

Following this historic meeting, the UNSC held an unprecedented gathering of international finance ministers to discuss combating ISIL financing, which Ambassador Power said would “energize international efforts to choke off ISIL’s ability to sustain itself and its deadly terror.” During the session, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution that improves the international community’s ability to disrupt ISIL financing and to counter the financing of terrorism more broadly.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew chaired a historic UN Security Council session on combatting ISIL financing [USUN Photo]

On International Human Rights Day, the United States hosted an important meeting on the widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed by the North Korean government against its own people. It was a compelling meeting, especially when Ambassador Power addressed how the abuse of citizens by the North Korean government poses a threat to international peace and security.

Ambassador Power addresses human rights violations in North Korea as a threat to international peace and security. Following the meeting on North Korea, the UN Security Council addressed the situation in Ukraine, which featured a briefing on the human rights situation, including in Russia-backed separatist held areas, and a statement from the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin. 

The United States added to its busy UNSC presidency agenda with a December 18, 2015, resolution on Syria. Secretary Kerry joined Ambassador Power, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and numerous foreign ministers for a unanimous UNSC vote to embrace a ceasefire and political transition process for the first time since the nearly five-year-old Syrian conflict began.

Secretary Kerry chairs UNSC meeting on ceasefire and political transition for Syria in New York on December 18, 2015



After adopting 10 resolutions and holding 41 meetings, the United States is grateful for the opportunity to have served as the UN Security Council president for the month of December and looks forward to participating in the agenda that Uruguay will set as president for January 2016.  

About the Author: About the Author: Caroline Weisser is the Digital Director at the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York.

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Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly a short film is projected onto the UN Headquarters to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations [United Nations Photo]
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