Security Council Roundup: March 2022

March was marked by seven Security Council meetings on Ukraine and one on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Under the United Arab Emirates’ presidency, the Council held an open debate on women and peace and security and heard seven briefings on situations under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

Afghanistan

Briefing the Security Council on 2 March, Deborah Lyons, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), stressed the need to address the country’s critical economic situation. “It is imperative that we not find ourselves six months from now in the situation we faced six months ago: with millions of Afghans facing another winter of starvation and the only tool at our disposal being expensive and unsustainable humanitarian handouts.”

To read the Special Representative’s remarks, click here

Ukraine

Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the Security Council during an emergency meeting on Ukraine on 4 March. The session was convened in the wake of fighting at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine. DiCarlo called military operations around nuclear sites “not only unacceptable but highly irresponsible”. Welcoming the reported agreement between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators during a second round of talks in Belarus a day earlier, she voiced hope that a full and unconditional ceasefire could be quickly agreed and enacted. “The fighting in Ukraine must stop. And it must stop now.” Earlier on 2 March, the General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.

On 7 March, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), briefed the Council on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. “Simply put, millions of lives have been shattered,” Griffiths said. Humanitarian assistance continued in all areas where security permits, and under the leadership of the Crisis Coordinator in the country, new plans were being drafted on how to deliver where humanitarian needs are most acute. Russell said that with the escalation of the conflict, the immediate and very real threat to Ukraine’s 7.5 million children had grown. Homes, schools, orphanages and hospitals have all come under attack. “What is happening to children in Ukraine is a moral outrage”, she stressed, reminding all parties of their legal and moral obligation to protect children and spare them from attack.

Briefing the Security Council on 11 March, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo said that as the war entered its third week, the Russian armed forces were pursuing their offensive operations and laying siege to several cities. She stressed that the targeting of civilians, residential buildings, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, was “inexcusable and intolerable”, and that all alleged violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and those found responsible should be held accountable. She called for negotiations to end the conflict to intensify, including to secure humanitarian and ceasefire arrangements as a matter of priority.

In another Council briefing on the situation in Ukraine, on 14 March, DiCarlo, together with Zbigniew Rau, Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said the war in Ukraine vividly illustrated the importance of mechanisms to maintain and strengthen European and international peace and security. She said the war was the most severe test the OSCE and related regional frameworks had faced since their creation.

Briefing the Council again on 17 March, DiCarlo said daily attacks were continuing to batter Ukrainian cities, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, including hundreds of residential buildings, hospitals and schools. “The magnitude of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine cannot be denied. This demands a thorough investigation and accountability,” she said. Also addressing the Council were the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees for Operations Raouf Mazou.

At yet another emergency meeting on Ukraine on 18 March, the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, told the Council that the United Nations is still not aware of any biological weapons programme being conducted in Ukraine, responding to fresh allegations by the Russian Federation of the existence of such research.

On 23 March, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have demanded civilian protection in Ukraine and called for unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. Tabled by the Russian Federation, the draft was defeated by a vote of 2 in favor to none against, with 13 abstentions. It was the Council’s third vote since 24 February and would have needed nine votes in favor with no veto to pass.

Women and peace and security: Economic inclusion through partnerships

“We have the blueprint and the business case to support women’s economic inclusion; what we need is political will to pursue it,” Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN-Women, said at the Council briefing on 8 March. Investing in women’s economic empowerment has a beneficial impact on both peace and prosperity, she underscored. Highlighting recent developments of concern around the globe, she said that in Afghanistan, the consequences of a new gender apartheid mean that women’s employment rates have plummeted since the takeover by the Taliban. On Ukraine, meanwhile, she underscored that most of those trying to escape conflict are women and children. Achievements in gender equality that gained momentum over decades can evaporate quickly, Bahous warned.

To read the UN-Women Executive Director’s full remarks, click here

Yemen

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Hans Grundberg briefed the Council on 15 March alongside Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. Reporting on the consultations he has had on his Framework for Peace, the Special Envoy said that he was encouraged by the interest and active engagement from Yemeni political parties, components, experts and civil society representatives. He hopes that the parties will engage swiftly and constructively with his proposals to bring the people of Yemen some much-needed hope and relief. “Any potential de-escalation measures will not hold unless they are supported by a political process. This is why my Framework and its attempt to chart a path toward reaching an inclusive political settlement are vital,” said the Special Envoy.

To read his full remarks, click here

Libya

On 16 March, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo briefed the Council on Libya, warning that the Libyan executive is facing a crisis that could, if left unresolved, lead to instability and parallel governments in the country. She said that the United Nations is exerting significant efforts to bring together Libyan stakeholders to convene a joint committee of members of the House of Representatives and the High State Council with the objective of achieving agreement by both bodies on a constitutional basis that would lead to elections this year. She added that Special Adviser of the Secretary-General Stephanie Williams has offered her good offices to mediate between Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Fathi Bashagha to overcome the current political impasse.

To read her full remarks, click here

Lebanon

On 17 March, the Council held closed consultations on the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Resolution 1701 (2006) and the situation in Lebanon. Briefing the Council on the ongoing preparations for parliamentary elections that are due on 15 May, Special Coordinator of the Secretary-General Joanna Wronecka stressed the need for reliability and predictability, particularly with regards to finalizing the elections budget, the legislative framework and the functionality of the Supervisory Commission for Elections. “The Lebanese voters need and deserve certainty and the ability to make their voices heard”, the Special Coordinator said, hoping that women in particular would participate actively in the elections, both as voters and candidates. Urging full adherence to resolution 1701 in all its provisions, the Special Coordinator underlined the fragility of the relative calm between Lebanon and Israel.

To read more, click here

Middle East

Tor Wennesland, the Special Coordinator of the Secretary-General for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Council on 22 March on continued settlement activity by Israeli authorities in the occupied Palestinian territory, as requested by Security Council resolution 2334. He said that settlement expansion continues to fuel violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, further entrenching the occupation, undermining the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, independent statehood, and eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian State. The Special Coordinator also noted the forthcoming Ramadan, Pesach and Easter observances and said that this should be a time of peaceful reflection, prayer and celebration for all religions. “Leaders on all sides have a critical role to play to ensure there are no provocations,” he stressed.

To read the Special Coordinator’s full remarks, click here

Syria

Geir O. Pedersen, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, briefed the Council on 24 March on the Seventh Session of the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated Constitutional Committee, which convened the same week in Geneva. He said that committee members have discussed draft constitutional texts on four titles of constitutional principles: 1) basics of governance; 2) state identity; 3) state symbols; and 4) regulation and functions of public authorities. He reported that the deliberations have not been easy, but he had appealed to the members to make serious attempts to begin to narrow the differences. He added that there is a clear need for progress towards a political solution in line with Security Council resolution 2254. The Constitutional Committee concluded on 25 March with substantive issues still needing to be bridged.

To read his remarks to the Council, click here

To read his statement at the conclusion of the 7th session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, click here

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Briefing the Security Council on 25 March, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo recalled the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the DPRK’s launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on 24 March. She underlined that this was a flagrant breach of the DPRK’s own 2018 moratorium and a clear violation of relevant Security Council resolution, and that the launch risked triggering a significant escalation of tensions in the region and beyond. She also reiterated the importance of addressing humanitarian imperatives in the DPRK. The United Nations remains committed to working with all parties for sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, she added.

To read her remarks to the Council, click here

Sudan

“Unless the current trajectory is corrected, Sudan will head towards economic and security collapse as well as significant humanitarian suffering,” Volker Perthes, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), warned in his briefing to the Council on 28 March. Time is not on Sudan’s side, he stressed. Perthes said the UN-led broad consultations on a political process — involving more than 800 participants from all parts of the country — have found “visible” consensus on many issues, including on the need to end the violence, establish a technocratic Government and an oversight body, and adopt critical legislation. The consultations also found common ground on a minimum of 40 per cent representation of women in transitional institutions, and on mechanisms to advance women’s rights, he reported. An intensive phase of talks is expected to start in the next couple of weeks with a view to a return to constitutional order and an empowered civilian-led government to steer Sudan through the transitional period.

To read his remarks, click here

Other meetings

Briefing the Council on 7 March, Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), noted an “accumulation of unfulfilled commitments and the imperative to address them in the limited time at hand” during the remaining 12 months of the three-year transitional period established under the Revitalized Agreement. Key pending benchmarks relate to the necessary conducive political and civic space, a secure environment, and technical and logistical prerequisites along with an agreed timetable for a free and fair electoral process to bring the transitional period to a close, he stressed.

“As has been stressed repeatedly, due to the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved […] at this stage, Syria’s declaration cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, as she presented one of her regular updates to the Council on 10 March on the implementation of resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

On 14 March, Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), said that the comprehensive review of resolution 1540 (2004) — adopted unanimously to prevent non-State actors from acquiring nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, their means of delivery and related materials — is the top priority for the Committee charged with overseeing implementation of that landmark instrument. “The full and effective implementation of the resolution is a long-term task,” he stressed.

The Council decided on 15 March to extend the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for one year, until 15 March 2023, and to maintain its force levels with a ceiling of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel by a vote of 13 in favor to none against, with two abstentions.

The Security Council adopted on 17 March a resolution that extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for 12 months. The new, robust mandate allows UNAMA to coordinate humanitarian aid; promote inclusive governance; monitor human rights and promote the empowerment of women and girls; and support regional cooperation.

Against the backdrop of increasing donor fatigue and the spiraling economic repercussions of the war in Ukraine, the Security Council today adopted a presidential statement emphasizing the urgent need for funding to address ongoing crises in the Middle East and North Africa, while praising cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States in a range of critical areas.

On 28 March, Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), briefing Council members in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan, said that the slow realization of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement overall — in large part due to insufficient financial support by donor countries — along with continuing intercommunal tensions are complicating the peace process in Sudan.

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