Security Council Roundup: September 2021

A conference officer adjusts the microphone ahead of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.

In September, to reinforce the Secretary-General’s focus on climate change at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, the Security Council organized a high-level open debate on climate and security, focusing on the nexus of conflict, growing resource scarcity and human displacement. Many Council members were represented at the level of Head of State or Government. The Council also heard six briefings on the work of political missions or peace processes under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

Afghanistan

“The lives of millions of Afghans will depend on how the Taliban choose to govern,” Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in her briefing to the Council on 9 September. Those who hoped and urged for an inclusive government were disappointed by the Taliban’s de facto administration announced two days earlier: Many are on the United Nations sanctions list, and no women, no non-Taliban members, no figures from the past government, nor leaders of minority groups. “The best, and still possible outcome,” Lyons continued, “would be for the Taliban to demonstrate that they seek to create an Afghanistan where people do not live in fear, where those with talents are invited to participate in rebuilding their country, and where boys and girls, young women and men, can receive the sort of education that will allow this development to continue”.

To read her full remarks, click here

Libya

With just over 100 days remaining before the 24 December elections, Ján Kubiš, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Libya and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) during his briefing to the Council on 10 September stressed that international and domestic observation of the whole process was critical in order to help ensure integrity and credibility of the electoral process and acceptability of the results. Kubiš said that during his recent visit to the country, he met with or talked to major political actors and some civil society groups and representatives and urged them to secure an agreement towards protecting the electoral path and managing the post-electoral situation. Even in less‑than‑ideal conditions, he said, holding elections is much more desirable than not, a situation that fosters division and conflict.

To read Special Envoy Kubiš’ remarks, click here

Ján Kubiš (on screen), Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya.

Yemen

“There are no quick wins,” Hans Grundberg, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen said, briefing the Council for the first time since taking up his position a few days earlier. Enabling a resumption of a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the country’s people, as mandated by the Council, will not be easy. “The United Nations approach to ending the conflict must be inclusive,” Grundberg continued. Sketching out the way forward, he stated his intention to assess past efforts, identify what has worked and what has not, and listen to as many Yemeni men and women as possible. He said that “we all have a shared responsibility in our different capacities for ending the conflict in Yemen.” The beginning of his tenure should therefore be used as a moment to reassess everyone’s respective responsibilities.

Read his full remarks to the Council here

Sudan

Sudan is making headway in its transition to democracy, with growing momentum towards drafting a new Constitution and organizing elections, but long‑term success requires sustained international support. That was the assessment of Volker Perthes, Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), as he spoke before the Council on 14 September. He pointed to several positive developments, including steps taken by the Transitional Government in Khartoum to address violence in Darfur and eastern Sudan, undertake economic reforms and renew trust in political change. Perthes drew attention to growing humanitarian needs, driven by economic hardship and intercommunal conflict as well as the impact of conflict in neighboring Ethiopia. He underscored the Mission’s role in monitoring the Darfur ceasefire and its focus on peace talks and supporting the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians. “Sudan’s challenges are immense, and the United Nations remains fully committed to supporting the authorities in addressing them and realizing the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a peaceful, stable and democratic Sudan,” he said, adding that UNITAMS is counting on the Council’s robust support as it navigates the path forward.

To read his full remarks, click here

Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, briefs the Security Council meeting on the Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the situation in the Sudan and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.

Climate and Security

On 23 September, Secretary-General António Guterres opened the high-level debate on climate and security by recalling the deeply alarming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shows that climate disruption caused by human activities is widespread and intensifying. Urging much bolder climate action ahead of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, he said the impacts of climate change are particularly profound when they overlap with fragility or conflict. “Where coping capacities are limited and there is high dependence on shrinking natural resources and ecosystem services … grievances and tensions can explode,” he warned. Listing examples — from tensions over resources in Somalia to rising food insecurity in North Africa — he pointed out that climate‑related disasters displaced more than 30 million people in 2020 alone. He went on to note that the United Nations itself is integrating climate risks into its political analysis, as well as its conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives. The Climate Security Mechanism helps field missions, country teams and other partners analyze and address climate‑related security risks and shape integrated and timely responses.

Full remarks by the Secretary-General here

Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Security Council meeting on maintenance of international peace and security on the theme Climate and Security.

Syria

After eight months of facilitation efforts, and pending the confirmation of logistics, the sixth session of the Small Drafting Body of the Constitutional Committee will convene in Geneva from 18 October, Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen announced during his briefing to the Council on 28 September. It should begin to work seriously on drafting, rather than preparing, a constitutional reform process, with all three delegations ‑ nominated by the Government, opposition and civil society ‑ making important contributions. Trust is clearly low, but common interests do exist, he said. Things are not static and there is every reason to try now to build more effective political efforts. He added that he was “absolutely convinced” that inroads can be made on detainees, abductees and missing persons, a dossier on which all sides agree on the need for action. This would build confidence and signal to all Syrians that peace is possible, in addition to serving as a circuit breaker in the context of international diplomacy.

To read his full remarks, click here.

Somalia

Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, briefed the Council on 28 September on her recent visit to Somalia to promote women’s participation in elections. The trip was undertaken in solidarity with Somali women’s calls for full and equal participation in political life, including through the implementation of a 30% quota for parliamentary seats. In 2016, 24% of parliamentary seats were occupied by women. This demonstrates that progress is possible, even in the most difficult circumstances, Mohammed said. However, she highlighted Somali women’s struggles to access financial support to hold campaigns and a lack of the political networks and connections of their male peers. The political environment in general is not conducive to women representatives and many male leaders continue to promote male candidates. These challenges are compounded by violence and discrimination. Across the board, women spoke of the need for greater protections from intimidation, harassment and violence, she stressed.

To read her full remarks, click here.

The situation in the Middle East

On 29 August, Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefing the Council on the most recent developments on the ground, said “we must re-energize efforts now to establish a legitimate political horizon that will end the occupation”. He said he felt encouraged that many Israelis and Palestinians remained committed to achieving a two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace despite the significant challenges. He urged the international community to support the civil society organizations that continue to work tirelessly to build trust and advance the prospects for peace. Wennesland stressed the need for Palestinian unity to advancing a two-state solution. “It is therefore critical that Egyptian-led intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts continue,” he said, continuing that the holding of elections in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza would be a crucial step towards Palestinian unity, giving renewed legitimacy to national institutions, including a democratically elected Parliament and Government in Palestine.

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

Tor Wennesland (on screen), Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Other meetings

On 29 September, the Council renewed for another 12 months the authorization for Member States to inspect vessels outside of Libya’s territorial waters, when there are reasonable grounds to believe they are participating in acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking. Members condemned all acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory and off the coast of Libya, which undermine the process of stabilizing Libya and endangers the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Nearly eight years after the Council mandated the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — tasked with ensuring that goal is achieved — is still not able to consider the file closed, Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told Council members on 2 September.

Deploring internal political divisions that have unfortunately prevented the Council from fulfilling its mandates in many instances, Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders and former President of Ireland, urged all Council members on 7 September to recognize that they each have a common interest in upholding global peace, security and stability. She also recommended that the Council should proactively use the power of investigation under Article 34 of the Charter of the United Nations to engage before large-scale violence breaks out.

Participants in the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East (Syria) sit in the gallery of the Security Council Chamber.

“Peacekeeping missions can help put a country on the right track, but only local stakeholders can keep it there in the long-term,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, briefing the 15-member Council’s open debate on the topic of transitions between peacekeeping operations and successor United Nations presences on 8 September. He emphasized that no peacekeeping operation has ever been designed to be permanent and therefore plans must be made in line with the specific conditions on the ground. Engagement with local actors must continue through the transition period and beyond, he stressed.

While Sudan’s post-revolution reforms continue to register progress and peace is largely holding, implementation of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement remains slow and lingering intercommunal violence continues to plague the Darfur region, the Council heard on 14 September, as Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), Chair of the Security Council Sudan Sanctions Committee presented his quarterly update.

On 15 September, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reporting to the Council on his first visit to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey since taking up his position, said that the lived reality in Syria “is more dire than figures can describe”. It is therefore incumbent upon the international community to identify, develop and invest in sustainable and effective ways to help.

The same day, Nicholas Haysom, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) briefed on the situation in that country, saying that the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the rise in attacks against aid workers was worrying.

The Council in a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/18) on 15 September encouraged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to resume negotiations, at the invitation of the African Union Chairperson, on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project, with a view to finalizing the text of a mutually acceptable agreement on filling and operating the dam “within a reasonable time frame”.

Also on 15 September, the Council, unanimously adopting resolution 2595 (2021) decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as an integrated special political mission until 30 September 2021.

The Council on 17 September decided to extend for one year, until 17 September 2022, the mandate of the United Nations team tasked with investigating crimes committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh/ISIL), unanimously adopting resolution 2597 (2021). Members decided that any further extension would be decided at the request of the Government of Iraq or any other Government that has requested the Team to collect evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, committed by ISIL (Da’esh) in its territory.

The same day, the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was renewed for six months, until 17 March 2022. The Council reiterated its full support to the work of the Mission and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative as the Taliban establishes their rule across the country.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2596 (2021), the Council stressed the critical importance of a continued presence of UNAMA and other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes across Afghanistan.

In a briefing on 27 September marking the 25th anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty’s opening for signature in September 1996, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs said that the treaty was “an essential element of nuclear disarmament” and “a building block for a world free of nuclear weapons”. Since its adoption, the Treaty has achieved a near‑universal adherence, with 185 signatories and 170 ratifying States, she highlighted, making it one of the most widely supported treaties not just in the disarmament and arms control field but in multilateral diplomacy.

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