Opening the 66th UN General Assembly in New York this week President Dilma Rousseff noted that a former general assembly president, Joseph Deiss, “reminded me of an impressive fact: the debate on Security Council reform is entering its 18th year. We can delay no longer”.
Rousseff added to her collection of firsts on 21 September by becoming the first woman to open the General Assembly, and she duly declared her conviction that the 21st Century would be “the century of women”. Her speech was a fairly line-by-line articulation of the Brazil’s foreign policy ambitions and its increasingly confident world view. Resting her argument on emerging countries’ firm demands for greater representation in global forums like the UN, she pulled no punches whatsoever in ticking off the US and Europe for what she said was their “political failure” to find a solution to the global economic crisis (see overleaf), and, playing to a supportive audience, she warned that “the legitimacy of the UN Security Council increasingly hangs on its reform”.
Rousseff insisted on Brazil’s belief that “the security council’s strategies for achieving sustainable peace must be partnered with development policies” and stated that “the quest for peace and security cannot be limited to interventions in extreme situations”, arguing, in reference to the Arab Spring, that the UN “must find a legitimate and effective way to aid those societies that call for reform, while keeping their citizens in the lead of the process”. Underlining her major foreign policy priority, she asserted that “Brazil is ready to shoulder its responsibilities as a permanent member of the council”. “Brazil has lived in peace with its neighbours for over 140 years” she noted, “and I am proud to say that it is a force for peace, stability and prosperity in its own region and even beyond it”.
Rousseff went on to endorse Palestine’s UN membership bid. The fact that her call for Palestine “to be represented fully” at the UN was immediately shot down as an irrelevance by President Barack Obama, who succeeded her on the podium, did not weaken her overall message. The US is looking isolated, and not only on Palestine.