Although the Dominican Republic has been a member of the United Nations since 1945, the country is making its debut on the Security Council this month — starting big, as the president in the rotating seat. It is the country’s first strike out of two presidencies as an elected member with a two-year term, representing the Latin American-Caribbean region.
For the occasion, the Dominican Republic has sent a new special envoy, José Singer Weisinger, a wealthy businessman, to lead the Dominican delegation in the Council. In an exclusive interview with PassBlue, Singer discussed his priorities and plans for the presidency in January. The president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina Sánchez, sent Singer as a special envoy while the country’s permanent representative, Francisco Cortorreal, will handle General Assembly affairs.
Singer said that President Medina asked him to represent his country in the Council because of his negotiating skills as a businessman. Singer also said that he was close to the president and has access to him “24/7.” Singer is fluent in English, another asset for working in the Council, he added.
“We’ve been trying for 12 years to get on [the Security Council],” Singer told PassBlue. “We’ve finally made it in a unanimous vote. I’m especially interested in the Caribbean and very committed to this part of the world. Personally, I want to look at how [we] can think outside of the box to solve problems not taken care of in the Security Council and make our presence in the Security Council recognized.”
Every month since July, PassBlue has profiled UN ambassadors whose countries hold the rotating presidency of the Council: Sweden, Britain, United States, Bolivia, China and Ivory Coast. The column is meant to be an informative capsule of not only the country’s ambassador but also the ambitions of the country occupying the president’s seat. A short country profile is part of our feature. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Dominican Republic’s Special Envoy: José Singer Weisinger, 67
Envoy to UN Since: January 2019
Languages: English, Spanish
Education: Adelphi University (Garden City, N.Y.), bachelor’s degree in business
His story, briefly: José Singer Weisinger was born Sept. 9, 1951, in Santo Domingo, the capital. He studied business in the US — deciding to attend Adelphi, on Long Island, rather than New York University, he said, because it was a smaller campus. “I may be the first Adelphi graduate to sit in the Security Council,” he noted. He then started his own business, buying a printing company in 1987 and one in plastics in 1992. Today, his two companies, based in the Dominican Republic, have more than 1,000 employees combined, he said, and his children are taking care of them while he’s heading the Council.
Singer has also been involved in the public sector of his country for many years, serving on a binational economic council (regulating the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola), and as a member of the Council on National Competitiveness, among other organizations.
Singer said he was not getting paid for his work as special envoy, noting, “I’ve been successful in life, I can bear the cost [of] living in New York City, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable being paid for it.”
Singer and his wife, Rosita (he said he wouldn’t have gotten as far without her) have three adult children. “I have three granddaughters on the way in 2019,” he told PassBlue. “It’s so great being a grandfather. I sometimes give more attention to my grandkids than to my own children, as I didn’t have enough time before. But I stopped feeling bad about it!”
How do you like New York City? I’ve had a place in New York City for many years, uptown. It’s not far from our office in the eastern part of the city. It’s also walking distance from Fifth Avenue, which makes my wife happy because she loves shopping, that’s her great hobby! It’s also nice for me to be able to walk back and forth to work, as what we do requires lots of sitting during the day.
What are the Dominican Republic’s priorities for the presidency and what special meetings are planned? On Jan. 25, we will hold an open debate on climate-related disasters affecting international peace and security, for which our president will attend. Climate change is a threat, so it’s crucial to us and the region.
Other issues of interest for us is the trafficking of small arms [weapons], cybersecurity and drug trafficking, part of what our president said in his speech in the General Assembly in September. We’re also interested in narcotics, in the east Caribbean, when drugs travel from South America to the US and Europe through the Caribbean; we want to make the Security Council aware of the costs [we have to bear] to protect island nations’ frontiers. We want to bring awareness of how all big consuming nations have an effect on all small islands where traffickers go through. Women, peace and security and youth issues are also big for our government.
Speaking Spanish to the media on Jan. 2, Singer also described his country as a participant in multilateral mechanisms in the region and that its representation in the world is still in an “embryonic” stage. Other main items on the Council agenda for January include briefings on UN missions and work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, West Africa and the Sahel region; Mali, Sudan, Cyprus, Libya and Western Sahara. Venezuela and Yemen are not on the schedule, and Singer had no details on the recent announcement by the Palestinian National Authority to seek statehood in the Council on Jan. 15, although he said that Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Authority, will be present.
How are you planning to promote women’s right in the Council? We’d like to address the range of correlations of women and rights that are protected by humanitarian-rights laws. Also, the economic empowerment of women and their meaningful participation in conflict-resolution processes. We also support the use of sanctions to address conflict-related sexual violence.
How does the Dominican Republic contribute to peacekeeping operations? We have 13 military police officers serving in Colombia. The objectives of the mission are to verify the agreements of reintegration of the FARC [the former guerilla group] into society and protection. In Colombia, the peace process was a success because women were involved.
Who are your closest allies on the Council? We want to be very open-minded. We only have a few embassies in Africa (Egypt and Morocco and one to be opened in South Africa). During these 24 months on the Council, we will have an opportunity to listen to these partners. I want to hear everybody’s voice on a lot of problems. We don’t have a strong ally, and we always listen to everybody’s position. Our votes will always be a Dominican Republic vote.
Head of State: President Danilo Medina Sánchez
Foreign Affairs Minister: Miguel Vargas
Type of Government: Representative republic
Year Dominican Republic Joined the UN: 1945
Years in the Security Council: 2019-2020
Population: 10.7 million
Memberships in Regional Groups: Organization of American States (OAS), Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, Group of 77 (G77), Inter-American Development Bank
Adult Literacy Rate: 92% (2015)
GDP per Capita: $16,029 (2017) Britain: $39,720; world: $10,172 (2017, Haiti: $1,814)
Emissions (tons of CO2/year): 2 tons (world average, 5; US: 17; EU: 7)
Total Contributions to UN Operating Budget: $1.477 million (2019, per UN spokesman)
Total Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Budget: $616,000 (2018; or 6 cents per capita)
Electric Power Consumption: 1,5 kWh per capita/year (world average: 3kWh)
Franz Baumann contributed statistical information to this article.
Stéphanie Fillion is a New York-based reporter specializing in foreign affairs and human rights who has been writing for PassBlue regularly for a year, including co-producing UN-Scripted, a new podcast series on global affairs through a UN lens. She has a master’s degree in journalism, politics and global affairs from Columbia University and a B.A. in political science from McGill University. Fillion was awarded a European Union in Canada Young Journalists fellowship in 2015 and was an editorial fellow for La Stampa in 2017. She speaks French, English and Italian.