Not only is Lithuania a candidate for the UN Security Council in the year 2014-2015, but next year it will assume the Presidency of the European Union during the last six months of 2013. The article that follows provides insight as to what it takes to be a candidate for President of this year’s UN General Assembly, and why Lithuania’s transformation in just two decades is nothing less than remarkable.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė certainly set the record straight last year when she stated during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2011 that she was “looking forward to Lithuania’s Presidency of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly.” She assured the members of the international community, too, that “Lithuania would do its utmost to contribute effectively and wisely to the work and principles of the United Nations in any of its bodies.”
Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations in New York and former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs,was nominated by the Government of Lithuania for the important post of President of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly on behalf of the Eastern European Group.
If elected to this post in June 2012, Ambassador Čekuolis stated that he will “ensure a balanced, open, cooperative and accessible Presidency of this main body of the United Nations.”
According to the United Nations, “the General Assembly is the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations, and it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter.”
Known for his ability to compromise and seek common ground, Ambassador Čekuolis held the post of Vice-President and President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2006, 2007. In addition, he has also been the Chairman of the Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW in All Its Aspects (2008), and assumed the role of Co-Chairman of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General AssemblY (2010-2011).
Prior to joining the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations in New York during 2006, the highly experienced diplomat served as Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2004-2006, and was the Ambassador of Lithuania to Portugal from 1999 to 2004. During the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (1998-1999), he was the Head of the Committee of Senior Officials of the CBSS. In 1994-1998, Ambassador Čekuolis served as Ambassador of Lithuania in Belgium, accredited to the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and concurrently Lithuanian representative to the Western European Union and to the North Atlantic Cooperation Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
He also served as Ambassador of Lithuania in Denmark, accredited to Norway and Iceland (1992-1994). In the year 1991, Ambassador Čekuolis was Charge d’Afffaires of Lithuania in Denmark, accredited to Norway and Iceland. He assumed the position as Head of the Press and Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1990-1991.
Ambassador Čekuolis speaks six languages, namely, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and his native Lithuanian. He graduated from the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, and during his career has been awarded many honors, including the Grand-Croix de la Couronne 1999 (Belgium), Ordem do Merito Gra-Cruz 2004 (Portugal) and the Cross of Commander of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas 2005 (Lithuania).
If elected, Ambassador Čekuolis, one of Lithuania’s longest standing ambassadors, will be confirmed by the General Assembly in June 2012.
Lithuania informed the Members of the Eastern European States back in 2004 of its resolution to apply for the post as President of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and notified about the decision to nominate the candidature of Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis on 27 June, 2011.
The 193-Member General Assembly elects its President on an annual basis, and the post rotates between the five UN regional groups. This year, the candidate will be chosen from the Eastern European Group which has undergone remarkable changes over the last twenty years, including the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia. Members of the Eastern European Group include 23 countries, namely, the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Georgia, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Belarus, Slovenia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Russian Federation.
Ion Botnaru, Director of UN General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division, explains the procedure of selecting General Assembly President: “As a rule, the regional group endorses one candidate and the chair of the group informs the Secretariat about its decision. The President of the General Assembly is elected by acclamation. But if consensus cannot be reached within the group, all candidates submit their candiature to the Secretariat, and an election by the General Assembly will follow. The President of the General Assembly is selected by a simple majority of Member States present and voting. The last time it happened was in 1991. This year’s deadline for President of the General Assembly election is June 18.”
UN lessons for Lithuania
What lessons has Lithuania learned since joining the United Nations on 17 September 1991? On 16 February, during a celebration commemorating the National Day of the Republic of Lithuania, Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis explained the principal lessons that his country has learned since joining the United Nations: “First, we embraced the principles and values of the United Nations as our own. In just two decades, Lithuania rebuilt a democratic and forward-looking society based on the rule of law and human rights that is ready to actively participate in the international arena.
"There is no doubt that our progress would have been more arduous without the help of the international community, and in particular, the United Nations. At the same time, there are far too many countries that remain caught up in the vicious circle of poverty and failed hopes. As the President of the UN Economic and Social Council in 2007, Lithuania aimed to reinvigorate this body and strengthen its role in ensuring that development and equality are for everyone to share.”
Secondly, Lithuanian Ambassador Čekuolis says, “we learned to value dialogue and look beyond our national interest. Not a single weapon is manufactured in Lithuania, but that does not preclude us from dedicating special attention to international disarmament and humanitarian law. As a Chair of the meeting of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms in 2008, I was struck by how illicit trade in arms creates conditions for human rights abuses, hinders development and contributes to regional instability and insecurity.
“Finally, we learned that multilateralism matters. There are very few things that a country can accomplish alone and the United Nations exemplifies an unprecedented stage for dialogue and global solutions. Last year, as Co-Chair of the ad hoc working group to revitalize the UN General Assembly, Lithuania aimed to lead the efforts to make this body more efficient, authoritative and visible.
“With these lessons in mind, it will be an honor and privilege to continue serving the United Nations in the future, aiming at an increased input of Lithuania to multilateralism, leading – I hope and believe – successful campaigns for the Presidency of the General Assembly in 2012, as well as for a non-permanent member seat on the UN Security Council for the period of 2014/2015.”