Security Council Roundup: November 2021
In November, under Mexico’s presidency, the Security Council held three high-level debates on exclusion, inequality and conflicts; on preventive diplomacy; and on small arms. The Council also heard five briefings on the work of political missions or peace processes under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and one on the situation in Ethiopia.
During the Security Council meeting on 8 November to discuss urgent action to de-escalate the potentially disastrous conflict in Ethiopia, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said that the yearlong conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has reached dangerous proportions. The fighting places the future of the country, its people and the stability of the wider Horn of Africa region in grave uncertainty. “In a country of over 110 million people, over 90 different ethnic groups and 80 languages, no one can predict what continued fighting and insecurity will bring,” she said. DiCarlo warned that “the risk of Ethiopia descending into widening civil war is only too real.” The political repercussions of intensifying violence in the wider region could be immense, compounding the many crises besetting the Horn of Africa. DiCarlo added that the Secretary‑General has offered former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, African Union High Representative for the Horn of Africa region, the full support of the United Nations to his efforts to resolve the conflict.
To read the Under-Secretary-General’s remarks, click here
Exclusion, inequality and conflicts
Council members, on 9 November, discussed the importance of addressing exclusion, inequality and conflicts and adopted a presidential statement, reaffirming the Council’s primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security. Addressing the meeting, Secretary‑General António Guterres said rising inequalities are a factor of rising instability. The world is facing the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, he said, with conflicts that last longer and are more complex. Human rights are being denied, from Afghanistan, where women are denied their rightful place in society, to Myanmar, where minorities are targeted, brutalized and forced to flee. Tragedies are further enflamed by the climate emergency and the pandemic, he added. Further, recent seizures of force indicate that “a dangerous sense of impunity is taking hold”. Against this backdrop, he underlined the need for conflict prevention, which is at the heart of the Agenda for Peace, in the report on Our Common Agenda, noting that “without inclusion, the puzzle of peace remains incomplete, with many gaps to be filled”.
Read his full remarks here
Peace and security through preventive diplomacy: A common objective to all UN principal organs
Conflict prevention does not always get the attention it deserves, partly because it is hard to measure when it succeeds, Secretary-General Guterres said on 16 November during the open debate on peace and security through preventive diplomacy. Nonetheless, prevention is the ultimate goal of the Council, which seeks to resolve disputes before they turn into armed conflicts. For 76 years, the United Nations system has given the world a home for dialogue, and tools and mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes. However, it also involves “connecting the dots” among the drivers of conflict, including poverty, inequalities and climate change, Guterres said, adding: “History has shown that conflicts do not emerge out of thin air. Nor are they inevitable. Too often, they are the result of gaps that are ignored or not properly addressed.” Prevention is also about defusing tensions through dialogue, fostering tolerance, trust, and respect for human rights and closing development gaps that lead to conflict. “It is about reversing the vicious cycle of conflict and division — and instead, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of development and peace,” he emphasized.
On 17 November, Special Representative James Swan briefed the Council on the situation in Somalia. Swan noted that in the recent election of the Upper House of the Federal Parliament, women were elected to 14 of the 54 seats, representing 26 per cent of the Senators. “Women’s full inclusion and representation in political life, and in all sectors of life, is key for Somalia’s sustainable peace and development,” he stressed. He urged all stakeholders to move swiftly to conclude the House of the People elections in the Federal Member States, in order to ensure that the full Parliament is elected before the end of this year. Unfortunately, the security situation in Somalia continues to be volatile, he cautioned. Al‑Shabaab remains a serious threat to Somalia’s security and is maintaining a high level of activities, including through continued use of improvised explosive devices and an increase in the use of suicide bombers. Implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan for progressive transfer of security responsibilities from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Somali Security Forces is advancing but remains behind schedule, he said.
To read Special Representative James Swan’s full remarks, click here
Later the same day, briefing on Afghanistan, Special Representative Deborah Lyons said that urgent steps must be taken to address the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and stave off economic collapse. “To abandon the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake — a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences,” she said, adding that the Taliban takeover has left the Afghan people feeling abandoned, forgotten and punished by circumstances that are not their fault. Lyons pointed out that the UN Mission has not shied away from raising difficult issues with the de-facto authorities, particularly on women’s rights and girls’ education. While the de-facto authorities say they are formulating a nationwide policy on the right to girls’ education, there has been a general curtailment of Afghan women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms, ranging from limiting their right to work to the absence of women from major decision-making fora and from senior echelons of civil service, she added.
To read her full remarks, click here
Robin Geiss, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), during the open debate on 22 November, said the diversion and trafficking in weapons and ammunition “destabilizes communities and exacerbates situations of insecurity, including by committing serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, as well as violence against women and children in various contexts”. It is “a defining factor” in undermining peace and security, he stressed. The misuse of illicit arms and ammunition has negative impacts, ranging from deaths, injuries, displacement and psychological harm, to long-term socioeconomic effects on access to health and education, the delivery of humanitarian services, the protection of civilians and sustainable development. He highlighted the importance of tackling each stage of weapons’ lifecycle, including production, export and stockpiling. However, United Nations peace missions do not systematically integrate conventional arms control measures into their conflict prevention and management toolbox, Geiss pointed out, noting that UNIDIR is developing arms-related risk analysis tools that can enhance peace operations’ conflict prevention, management and peacebuilding efforts.
To read the UN News story, click here
Iraq’s national elections in October marked a hard-won victory for the country, despite taking place in the shadow of an unprecedented wave of violent countrywide demonstrations in 2019 and 2020, Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the Security Council on 23 November. The fifth national elections held under Iraq’s 2005 Constitution were peaceful, well run and featured significant technical and procedural improvements. Nonetheless, with many of the protesters’ grievances remaining unaddressed and the electoral results awaiting ratification, she warned the current outlook of the country was “precarious”. The Special Representative noted that women candidates seem to have operated very successfully, “likely exceeding the 25 per cent women quota, which is a floor and not a ceiling.” However, in recent weeks, mistrust has grown between parties, which risked leading to escalation. Voicing concern, she stressed: “Any unlawful attempts to prolong or discredit the electoral results process — or worse, to alter the electoral results through (for instance) intimidation and pressure — can only backfire.”
To read the Special Representative’s full remarks, click here
With one month left until presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled on 24 December, Ján Kubiš, Special Envoy for Libya, briefing the Council on 24 November, called on all Libyan stakeholders and candidates to publicly commit to respecting the rights of their political opponents before, during and after the elections; refrain from using hate or revenge speech and threats, incitement to violence and boycott; and accept the results of the elections. Despite the evident eagerness of the Libyan people to exercise their right to vote, he cautioned that the political climate remains heavily polarized, marked by persistent vocal opposition to holding the elections on the basis of the existing legal framework. There are also rising tensions around the eligibility of some high-profile presidential candidates, he said, calling on all those that challenge the process to channel such concerns through the existing judicial mechanisms. During the briefing Kubiš announced his resignation from the position of Special Envoy for Libya, effective 10 December.
To read the Special Envoy’s full remarks, click here
The situation in the Middle East
Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland told the Council on 30 November that the Middle East Quartet envoys during their recent meeting in Oslo reiterated the need to take constructive steps to advance a two-State solution, and called on all parties to help address the current urgent challenges through fiscal and other reforms, as well by avoiding unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undermine the prospects for peace. The Special Coordinator called the designation by Israel’s Ministry of Defense of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations on 22 October, a “concerning development”. These designated NGOs work closely with the United Nations and the international community, including on human rights and humanitarian response, and several receive a significant portion of their funding from Member States, he noted, adding: “The legal implications of the designations are potentially wide-ranging”. Wennesland ended his briefing by calling for the restoration of a political horizon that will help stop the endless cycle of crisis management and move back towards meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and resolve the conflict on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.
To read the Special Coordinator’s full remarks, click here
Unanimously adopting resolution 2604 (2021), the Council extended on 3 November the mandate of the European Union-led stabilization force in Bosnia and Herzegovina for another year, as members reviewed progress on implementation of the 26-year-old Dayton Peace Agreement.
On 5 November, voting simultaneously as the General Assembly, Council members elected Hilary Charlesworth (Australia) for the open seat in the International Court of Justice, following the death of Judge James Richard Crawford, for the term ending on 5 February 2024.
Female police officers are instrumental to the United Nations’ flagship initiative to strengthen the effectiveness of its peace operations, the Council heard on 10 November, at a meeting convened during the annual UN Police Week. Noting that gender-responsive policing ensures that the different security needs of men, women, girls and boys are considered, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said United Nations police have already achieved gender parity targets for 2025, with five police components headed by women.
With 13 votes in favor and two abstentions, the Council on 12 November, extended the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2022, outlining a range of mandated tasks from civilian protection to the promotion and protection of human rights.
The same day, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix presented the Secretary‑General’s latest report on the activities of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), noting that the region remains severely unstable, with civilians paying the highest price. Amid a persistently unstable security situation punctuated by alarming terrorist attacks, troops deployed to combat violent extremism in the Sahel region need more predictable funding and broader international support, he told Council members.
The Council on 15 November unanimously adopted resolution 2606 (2021) to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 December 2021, recognizing that the current situation in Abyei and along the border between Sudan and South Sudan continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security.
Adopting resolution 2607 (2021) (S/RES/2607(2021)), the Council, decided on 15 November to reauthorize maritime interdiction of illicit weapons imports and charcoal exports, while also renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts on Somalia. The resolution authorizes Member States to inspect vessels in Somali territorial waters and on the high seas extending to and including the Arabian sea and Persian Gulf which they had “reasonable grounds” to believe were carrying charcoal or weapons or military equipment, including components for improvised explosive devices.
On 23 November, in his first appearance in the Security Council, the new Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, called for a more robust partnership between the two bodies towards ending impunity for atrocity crimes committed in Libya and elsewhere. He said instability has prevented the Office from conducting investigations on Libyan territory, but he intends to visit the country in early 2022 to meet with State officials and other stakeholders.
The Security Council, through a presidential statement on 24 November, welcomed the Paris International Conference for Libya which was convened on 12 November 2021 and expressed its support for parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 24 December, as set out in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum roadmap and resolution 2570 (2021).
On 29 November, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano del Col today briefed the Security Council on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006) and the situation in Lebanon, with a focus on the latest report of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in closed consultations. Special Coordinator Wronecka recognized the formation of a Government as a positive development while regretting that it had not resulted in progress in the implementation of a reform agenda in Lebanon since her last briefing to the Security Council in July 2021.