Mexico has only one chance in its two-year term to shine as president of the Security Council, and it’s this month.
While all eyes are now focusing on Glasgow, Scotland, and the United Nations-led COP26 meeting on climate change, Mexico aims to bring at least one national issue to the attention of the Security Council during November: On Nov. 22 it will raise the topic of small arms and light weapons — one of Kenya’s signature events last month, too.
“Kenya’s debate was very much focused on peacekeeping missions,” Enrique Ochoa, the political coordinator for the Mexican mission to the UN, told PassBlue. “Our debate is going to be more general, but we also want to see [that] whatever decisions the Security Council makes regarding small arms and light weapons and weapons in general is respected. We have identified several reports of the [UN] Secretary-General that contain some recommendations on how the Security Council could strengthen [relevant] measures.”
Eradicating the deadly illicit trade of small arms and light weapons — which end up in the hands of drug cartels — is a priority of the Mexican government. Because most of these weapons originate in the United States, Mexico recently sued 10 gunmakers in a US federal court. “The suit does not specify how much compensation the government is seeking,” The New York Times reported, “but Foreign Ministry officials said they had calculated up to $10 billion in potential damages.” By raising the topic of small arms and light weapons in the Council again, Mexico is making one of its president’s national priorities an international issue.
This is no surprise to Andrew Rudman, the director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has thus far focused on national politics, not foreign policy, in his term, Rudman told PassBlue on Oct. 19. “Efforts to kind of raise the profile of small arms trafficking and look for international support to improve control of [it] is definitely something that Mexico will pursue because there is a very direct connection to its domestic policy,” he said.
Another signature event for Mexico in the Security Council is a meeting on the topic of “exclusion, inequality and conflicts,” on Nov. 9. The theme is broad — falling under the rubric of maintenance of peace and security — and it aims to look at root causes of conflict in a holistic manner. According to Juan Ramón de la Fuente, Mexico’s ambassador to the UN, problems such as migration and climate change could come up in the discussion, as they are interrelated. López Obrador and UN Secretary-General António Guterres will attend the Nov. 9 debate in person. (López Obrador will be in New York City for less than 24 hours; it’s his second international trip since he became president in 2018; in 2020 he met with then-President Donald Trump.)
On Nov. 16, Mexico will hold an open debate in the Council on the dialogue among the UN’s main organs, such as the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice and the General Assembly. The goal is to demonstrate the need for a more “functional linkage,” among these entities, the Mexican ambassador said at a media briefing on Nov. 1.
As co-chair (with Ireland) of the Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace, and Security, Mexico hasn’t organized a specific meeting on gender-related issues in November, but it intends to address issues through a gender lens at most Council meetings, the delegation said. “For the past three months, Ireland, Kenya and Mexico [presidents of the Security Council from August through November] have been working together in terms of promoting and increasing the profile of the UN agenda for women during our activities in the Security Council,” Alicia Buenrostro, one of Mexico’s deputy permanent representatives, told PassBlue. “While we are presiding over the presidency, in this regard the idea is to have more women as briefers. And then, of course, that the language that we use, or that our signature events also have a component dealing with women as well.”
Each month, PassBlue profiles UN ambassadors or other high-level diplomats as their countries assume the presidency of the Security Council. This column follows ones this year on Tunisia, Britain, the US, Vietnam, China, Estonia, France, India, Ireland and Kenya.
To hear an original analysis with more details on Mexico’s Council presidency and insights from Rudman of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, download PassBlue’s podcast, UN-Scripted, produced by Stéphanie Fillion and Kacie Candela, on Patreon or SoundCloud. (Excerpts are included in the interview portion below.)
Ambassador to the UN: Juan Ramón de la Fuente, 70
Since: February 2019
Languages: Spanish, English, French
Education: M.D., National Autonomous University of Mexico (Unam); psychiatry residency, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, US
His story, briefly: De la Fuente is a former secretary of health in Mexico, in keeping with the other high-profile figures the country appoints to its UN mission; one of its deputy ambassadors, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, a career diplomat, was deputy secretary of foreign affairs in 2009-2010, when Mexico last served on the Council.
“This is the best team we ever had,” Gómez Robledo told PassBlue. “I know that from personal experience because I was the deputy foreign minister [the last time]. We, of course, expanded the team at the permanent mission on those occasions, but we never had the quality of the specialized individuals that we have right now.”
A trained psychiatrist originally from Mexico City, de la Fuente has orbited around the worlds of politics, academia and global health for decades. After his residency at the Mayo Clinic, he returned to Mexico, founded the Clinical Research Unit of the Mexican Institute of Psychiatry and joined the faculty of Unam’s School of Medicine. He became its dean in 1991.
From 1994 to 1999, de la Fuente was secretary of health under President Ernesto Zedillo, but he returned to academia in 1999, shortly before President Vicente Fox came to power. De la Fuente then became Unam’s rector, or president.
During the 1990s, he consulted for the World Health Organization on addiction and mental health-related issues; served as vice president of the World Health Assembly in Geneva for one year; and was later elected chairman of the board of Unaids, the UN’s program on tackling HIV/AIDS.
De la Fuente has been involved with Unesco since 2004, and in 2009 joined the UN University Council in Tokyo. He was also an adviser to UN Development Program projects on violence in Latin America. He holds 19 honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and North America, including in Mexico.
De la Fuente is married to Monica Raya, an architect. His first wife died in 2012. Together, they had three children: Alonso, Mariana and Inès, and eight grandchildren.
PassBlue interviewed Alicia Buenrostro, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo and Mexico’s political coordinator, Enrique Ochoa, on Oct. 29. Their remarks have been edited and condensed for clarity. (The ambassador did not make himself available for an interview.)
How will Brazil’s arrival in the Council in January 2022 change the dynamics for Mexico in its second year in the Council, considering that Brazil is a competing regional power?
Gómez Robledo: This would not be the first time we coincided with Brazil; in 2010, it went very well. It helped us very much to overcome misunderstandings of the past. We are regional powers, but we are also global players. The style of a leader is something that shouldn’t influence the daily workings of the Council. Brazil has a very active foreign policy, just like Mexico. We coincide in a number of issues, and we disagree on others. For instance, we have disagreed strongly on the reform of the Security Council, and that has always been the case. We are on the opposite sides of the table, but we can speak on a number of issues, gender issues, climate change, even if there have been nuances in our positions in the last few years. I think that we will work very well with Brazil, as we did with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines [whose term in the Council as a Latin American-Caribbean country, is ending].
A meeting on Afghanistan is scheduled in the Council in November, and you have said that you want to prioritize women during your Council presidency. What more can be done for women in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover?
Buenrostro: We have already met with [citizens groups] and listened very clearly to the priorities of the women who are suffering nowadays in Afghanistan. We have been trying to be very consistent in the sense that everything we’ll have in the Security Council will need to take into account the perspective of women and the protection of women. . . . What’s important right now is that women become part of the humanitarian effort so that they can be involved in the delivery of any kind of assistance.
Will you do anything related to the climate change conference, COP26, taking place in Glasgow right now, until Nov. 12?
Ochoa: I think that there’s not going to be any targeted discussion on climate change. There are different views in the Security Council on whether climate change is part of the Security Council. Mexico’s position is that, of course, climate change is a factor that affects conflict. This is something that from our perspective is undeniable, but there’s no consensus on that [in the Council]. I think the issue of climate change will be addressed by some states in the Council-specific contexts. So we will be addressing the issue of the Sahel, the issue of Somalia, but there will be no specific debate — as in the case of our predecessor in the Council presidency, Ireland.
Head of State: Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Foreign Affairs Secretary: Marcelo Ebrard
Type of Government: Federal presidential republic
Year Mexico Joined the UN: 1945
Years in the Security Council: 1946; 1980-1981; 2002-2003; 2009-2010; and 2021-2022
Population: 128.9 million
Memberships in Regional Groups: The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organization of American States, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Trade Organization
CO2 emissions, 2019: 3.4 tons per person (world average, 4.7 tons per person; US: 16 tons; target for 2030 to achieve a 1.5-degree Celsius limit: 2 tons)
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.