Long-standing Conflicts Still Rage in Africa, Middle East, Even as New Challenges Emerge on Security, Humanitarian, Human Rights Fronts
Terrorism — and attempts to address both its root causes and colossal humanitarian impacts — pushed the Security Council towards new ground in 2015, with the 15-member body taking far-reaching actions to redefine threats to international peace and security, while struggling to adapt quickly to the technologies and conditions inflaming situations across the Middle East, Africa and other regions.
In total, the Council convened 228 public meetings in 2015, down slightly from the 241 held in 2014. It adopted 64 resolutions and issued 26 presidential statements. There were 12 high-level meetings, as well as others in which the Council fundamentally altered its system of checks and balances in order to accommodate new geopolitical realities.
Perhaps the most striking of those occurred when Council members endorsed the 14 July agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, paving the way for the lifting of United Nations sanctions levied against that country. Unanimously adopting a 104-page resolution, the Council set out a monitoring mechanism and a timetable for implementation, reaffirming that upon receipt of a positive report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it would terminate all sanctions imposed between 2006 and 2015.
The Council also decided that the resolution’s provisions should expire 10 years after their adoption, pending confirmation of implementation, and with that, the Iran nuclear file would be removed from its agenda. “Implementation is everything,” emphasized the representative of the United States, whose delegation had submitted the text, pointing out that it provided for a “snap-back” system that would trigger reinstatement of the sanctions in the event of non-compliance.
In another unprecedented event, finance ministers represented their Governments for the first time in the Council’s 70-year history as it moved, in a December ministerial session, to expand and strengthen the Al-Qaida sanctions framework by extending the focus to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, it adopted a 28-page resolution sponsored by the United Sates and the Russian Federation, covering the asset freeze, travel ban, arms embargo and listing criteria for ISIL, Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities.
“Preventing and disrupting financial flows must be at the centre of any successful strategy to defeat ISIL,” emphasized Je-Yoon Shin, President of the Financial Action Task Force, as he opened the meeting with the first-ever address to the Council by the independent standard-setting body. “Our aim is to protect the integrity of the financial system and the broader economy.” His remarks echoed those of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said ISIL’s multimillion dollar economy — financed through oil trade, extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking — had set a model that Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and the Taliban were following. They also followed the Council’s move to declare ISIL a new threat the previous month.
The scope of those actions set the tone for reshaping the broader dynamics playing out in the Middle East, most notably in Syria. The conflict there, now in its fifth year, had generated the world’s largest humanitarian emergency, in which more than 220,000 people had been killed, 7.6 million displaced and nearly 4 million reduced to seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
The enormous humanitarian needs dominated debate, ultimately pushing the Council to adopt, on 18 December, a resolution endorsing a road map for a peace process and setting a January timetable for United Nations-facilitated talks between the Government of Syria and members of the opposition. Adopted by foreign ministers gathered in New York for a meeting of the International Syria Support Group, the text outlined the contours of a nationwide ceasefire, to begin as soon as the parties had taken steps towards a political transition.
As for Yemen, where attacks by Al-Qaida, secessionist tendencies and an acute humanitarian crisis had emerged alongside a power struggle between the Government and Houthi rebels, the Council demanded that the latter withdraw from Government institutions, safely release President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, relinquish arms seized from military and security forces, and engage in United Nations-brokered peace talks. The Council also imposed sanctions on individuals undermining stability, despite the Russian Federation’s abstention in the vote adopting the text.
The Council continued its regular monthly briefings on the question of Palestine, with tensions — inflamed early in the year at holy sites in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza — left simmering at year’s end amid calls for the Council to propose a negotiating framework that would save the languishing two-State solution.
Turning to Africa, the Council devoted most of its time to the situation in Sudan and South Sudan after fighting between the Government and opposition forces left dwindling hopes for progress towards peace. The Council laid the groundwork for imposing targeted sanctions on those blocking peace, and later, by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, Venezuela), extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until July 2016. It increased troop and police levels and changed the mandate to enable the Mission to support a fragile peace accord signed in August.
Debate on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo centred on reducing the threats posed by armed groups to a level that could be effectively managed by national institutions, with the Council extending its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the country until 1 July 2016. The Central African Republic had seen a “delicate” return to stability following two years of unrest, with the first round of presidential and legislative elections set for 27 December.
In Burundi, violence ahead of legislative and local elections scheduled for 29 June led the United Nations Electoral Observer Mission in Burundi (MENUB), which had begun its work on 1 January, to conclude that the environment was not conducive to a credible vote. The Council responded to the ensuing political crisis by adopting a resolution condemning reported human rights violations and stating its intention to consider measures against those who impeded the search for peace.
The situation in Libya remained a major concern, with the Council adjusting its arms embargo and calling on the relevant sanctions committee to consider requests for the transfer of arms for use by the Libyan armed forces in combating ISIL. More broadly, it authorized States to inspect vessels on the high seas off the Libyan coast suspected of smuggling migrants or trafficking in human beings. By year-end, it welcomed the 17 December political agreement to form a Government of National Accord, expressing support for it as the sole legitimate authority.
Elsewhere, intense fighting in Ukraine, which had regularly seized the Council’s attention in 2014, faded somewhat with the onset of a renewed ceasefire on 12 February. The chamber held only 7 public meetings on the situation, versus 19 last year.
As it considered Afghanistan, the Council worked to support that country in the inaugural year of its Transformation Decade towards economic growth, job creation and development. Adjusting and extending its sanctions regime against individuals and entities affiliated with the Taliban, the Council also clarified, among other things, language on the need to combat the financing of terrorism by calling upon States to move “vigorously and decisively” to cut the flow of funds to those on the 1988 Sanctions List.
For the second time ever, the Council considered the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as an agenda item distinct from non-proliferation issues following a rare procedural vote to approve the meeting’s provisional agenda. Highlighting stark differences about whether the Council was the appropriate forum in which to discuss human rights violations, the procedural ballot, requested by China’s representative, was adopted by 9 votes in favour to 4 against (Angola, China, Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 2 abstentions (Chad, Nigeria).
Those divergent world views also played out in other contexts as the Council, while routinely seeking consensus, adopted 10 contested resolutions — up from three in 2014. Total unity remained elusive in relation to the situations in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya, as well as on such thematic issues as small arms and light weapons. The most frequent cause was language around the use or potential use of sanctions or technologies — including unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones — or because the views and concerns of some delegations had not been reflected.
Of two texts that suffered a veto by the Russian Federation, the first would have established an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for crimes connected with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine on 17 July 2014, and the second would have commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the massacres in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On the thematic level, the Council considered five new topics: the role of youth in countering violent extremism, the root causes of conflict, human trafficking, peace and security challenges facing small island States, as well as attacks and abuses against ethnic or religious minorities in the Middle East.
The 13 October thematic debate on women, peace and security, held over two days, saw 113 speakers take the floor, the most in the Council’s history. The resolution adopted during the meeting outlined sweeping actions to improve implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. It covered the Council’s work on countering violent extremism and terrorism, improving working methods and broadly taking up the gender recommendations of a just-completed global study.
As for mission drawdown in Africa, the Council named a successor to the United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia. To be known as the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), its priorities would better reflect the Organization’s new responsibilities in that country. The United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB), established on 1 January, closed on 31 December, while the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda briefed the Council a final time before its 31 December closing. For South Sudan, the Council established the 2206 Sanctions Committee, with powers to designate those eligible for a travel ban or asset freeze over a 13-month period.
To monitor the situation in Syria, the Council decided to establish, for one year, the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It was tasked with identifying “to the greatest extent feasible” individuals, entities, groups or Governments perpetrating, organizing, sponsoring or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria.
The Council dispatched two field missions, the first, headed by Chile and the United States, visiting Haiti in January, and the second a three-tiered visit to the Central African Republic — led by Angola and France — to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — led by Angola and France — and to Burundi, jointly led by Angola, France and the United States.
Rounding out a busy 2015, the General Assembly elected Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay as non-permanent members of the Security Council. They will each serve a two-year term, starting on 1 January 2016. The new members replaced Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria, which concluded their terms on 31 December 2015. Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela remain on the Council until the end of 2016.
Following is a guide to the Council’s 2015 public meetings on all agenda items:
Unanimously adopting resolution 2231 (2015) on 20 July, the Security Council endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by its five permanent members as well as Germany, the European Union and Iran concerning the latter’s nuclear programme. The resolution set out a rigorous monitoring mechanism and timetable for implementation while paving the way for the lifting of United Nations sanctions against Iran. Further, the Council decided that, pending confirmation of implementation, the resolution’s provisions should expire 10 years after its adoption. At the same time, the text outlined the process for automatically reinstating the sanctions in the event of non-compliance.
Following that action, the representative of the United States, whose delegation had submitted the text, said the agreement cut off Iran’s pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon while ensuring the vigorous inspections and transparency necessary for verification.
Iran’s representative noted that the agreement and the resolution just adopted provided for the termination of sanctions unjustifiably imposed on his country due to its exercise of the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Iran hoped the agreement and the resolution would herald a new chapter in its relationship with the Security Council, he added.
Román Oyarzun Marchesi (Spain), Chair of the Iran Sanctions Committee, said in successive briefings on 24 March and 23 June that no new incidents had been reported. On 15 September, he reported that sanctions imposed on Iran would remain in full effect until the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed to the “1737 Committee” — named for resolution 1737 (2006), which established it — that the country had taken a set of nuclear-related actions in accordance with resolution 2231 (2015).
Speakers in the ensuing debate hailed the agreement on Iran’s nuclear file as a “milestone”, but emphasized the need for continuing vigilance. The Council must play an active role in fully enforcing the accord, which marked the initial stage in the process, the representative of the United States said. The Russian Federation’s representative called for lifting the unilateral sanctions in good faith.
On 9 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2224 (2015) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, extending the mandate of the Iran Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 2 July 2016, while keeping the mandate under review pending developments.
Implementation of Non-Proliferation Resolution 1540 (2004)
Meeting: 22 December.
Román Oyarzun Marchesi (Spain), Chair of the 1540 Committee, briefed the Council on 22 December, reporting on progress made in implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime concerning weapons of mass destruction. He noted that there had been an increase in acts of extreme violence perpetrated by terrorists.
In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed concerns that non-State actors, terrorist groups in particular, might acquire, manufacture or transport weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. They urged the international community to make every effort to ensure that such groups did not gain access to such arms.
Small Arms and Light Weapons
During a day-long open debate on 13 May, speakers underscored the human suffering caused by the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons in conflict zones. They called for urgent management of such deadly materiel through national action, implementation of treaties and stronger strengthened international cooperation. “Small arms do not only make easy the taking and maiming of lives, but also kill economies and the social bonds on which every kind of collective institution and progress rely,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Noting that widespread access to such weapons facilitated denial of education and health, criminality and illicit plundering of natural resources, he said it also reduced trade and investment while promoting violence against women and girls, gang violence and the collapse of the rule of law. Also addressing the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the widespread availability of weapons was a major factor in the more than 250 conflicts of the past decade, and had leading to more than 50,000 deaths a year as well as record levels of displacement.
Some 60 speakers took part in the debate, with many calling for increased international cooperation to stem the illicit flows of small arms and light weapons around the world. Others raised emphasized the need to completely stop the flow of arms to non-State actors, while still others voiced concerns about the language of a proposed resolution on the matter, which they worried might infringe upon the sovereignty of States. Following further negotiations over several days, the Council adopted a resolution on the matter on 22 May by a vote of 9 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions (Angola, Chad, China, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Venezuela). By the text of resolution 2220 (2015), the Council urged stronger cooperation in staunching the “illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse” of small arms and light weapons, and identified a wide range of areas in which international cooperation could be bolstered. Speaking in explanation of their respective positions, several abstaining members objected to the lack of language specifically addressing the illicit transfer of arms to non-State actors.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Determining that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery remained a threat to international peace and security, the Council unanimously adopted, on 4 March, resolution 2207 (2015) under Chapter VII of the Charter, thereby extending until 5 April 2016 the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Threats to International Peace and Security
Meetings: 19 January, 12 February, 30 March, 29 May, 28 July, 30 September, 27 October, 20 November, 17 December, 21 December; Resolutions: 2199 (2015), 2249 (2015), 2253 (2015); Presidential Statements: S/2015/4, S/2015/11, S/2015/14.
The Council sharpened its focus on terrorism in 2015, with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) squarely in its sights as an “unprecedented” threat to international peace and security, requiring a holistic approach to choke off its revenue streams while defeating its barbaric, murderous tactics and hate-filled ideology.
During a high-level open debate on 30 September, senior officials from around the world stressed that rampant instability and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa could only be stemmed through a united, comprehensive approach that addressed root causes. “We must work together to stop this downward spiral, using all United Nations tools,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, opening a meeting attended by scores of foreign ministers and other senior officials. He said the United Nations was developing an action plan to prevent violent extremism and stem related conflicts.
Presiding over the meeting, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said the rapidly deteriorating situation in the region and the subsequent mass migration had made clear the need for new, united strategies to defeat terrorism. Other speakers agreed that ISIL and other terrorists were exploiting opportunities presented by the Syrian conflict and current migrant flows to perpetuate bloodshed.
The meeting set the tone for further Council action. On 17 December, the Council expanded and strengthened its Al-Qaida sanctions framework to include ISIL in a sweeping initiative to suppress the financing of terrorism. It took that action during an unprecedented meeting of finance ministers, who outlined efforts to dismantle funding channels to the terrorist group now controlling swathes of Iraq and Syria. Unanimously adopting resolution 2253 (2015) under Chapter VII of the Charter, the Council decided that the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee would be renamed the “1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee”, while the Al-Qaida Sanctions List would be known as the “ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List”. Sponsored by the United States and the Russian Federation, and co-sponsored by an array of delegations, the 28-page text covered asset-freeze, travel-ban, arms-embargo and listing criteria.
During a briefing on 27 October, the Chair of the 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) Sanctions Committee concerning Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities warned that Libya presented fertile ground for Al-Qaida and ISIL, noting that a series of major challenges had hindered efforts to cut off their revenue streams.
On 20 November, the Council adopted resolution 2249 (2015), determining that ISIL constituted an “unprecedented” threat to international peace and security. It condemned the group’s gross, systematic and widespread abuse of human rights, as well as its destruction and looting of cultural heritage, calling upon States to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.
Similarly, on 21 December, the Council extended and adjusted its sanctions regime against individuals and entities affiliated with the Taliban by unanimously adopting resolution 2255 (2015), also under Chapter VII. Besides clarifying exemptions to travel bans and asset freezes, as well as language on the need to combat the financing of terrorism, it strongly condemned the flow to the Taliban of weapons, military equipment and components for improvised explosive devices.
Those actions built upon earlier momentum, notably the Council’s 17 February adoption of resolution 2199 (2015) under Chapter VII, by which it condemned any trade with ISIL, Al-Nusrah Front and other entities associated with Al-Qaida, and underlined the obligations of States to prevent terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria from benefiting from trade in oil, antiquities and hostages. A 29 May presidential statement welcomed the “extraordinary efforts” by States to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to and from conflict zones, while urging greater efforts in that regard due to growing recruitment by extremist groups from more than 100 countries.
In another presidential statement, on 19 January, the Council again focused on terrorist activities by condemning in the strongest terms attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria, while a 28 July presidential statement condemned that group’s terrorist attacks, human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in the Lake Chad Basin region. Briefing on 30 March, Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said more than 3 million people in northern Nigeria would be unable to meet basic food needs unless well-targeted humanitarian assistance reached those fleeing Boko Haram.
Question of Palestine
Over a total of 13 public meetings, senior United Nations officials warned that a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict was under threat from continuing settlement construction, security incidents, occupation-related violence and a lack of Palestinian unity. Tensions at holy sites in Jerusalem, the cause of the current crisis, had been exacerbated throughout 2015 by “reckless” statements on the part of both Palestinian and Israeli extremists, according to officials who regularly briefed the Council.
The monthly briefings began on 15 January, with Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, then Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, warning that an “increasingly antagonistic and virulent” discourse between the two sides had plunged them into a downward spiral of actions and counter-actions. Steps by President Mahmoud Abbas to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court had been met with an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel would stop transferring customs revenues to the Palestinian Authority.
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said on 18 February that it was in that “toxic” environment that leaders had failed to rectify governance and security issues in the Gaza Strip and to turn the tide against deadly clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians brought on by Israel’s demolition of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank.
Robert Serry, then Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, concluded his 26 March final briefing to the Council with a warning that it could be too late to realize “two States for two peoples”, recalling that his tenure had been part of a peace process in which “a can is kicked down an endless road”. Indeed, the process had played out on three tracks — peace negotiations, Gaza and the United Nations — and had produced the biggest crisis to date in joint efforts for a two-State solution. Furthermore, he continued, remarks by Israel’s Prime Minister, fresh from re-election on 17 March, had raised doubts about that country’s commitment to the prospect, while Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court, effective from 1 April, was a powerful sign of their determination not to return to the status quo. The decision to suspend security coordination with Israel could well be the “nail in the coffin” of the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, he said, adding that perhaps the only way to preserve a two-State solution was for the Council to propose a negotiating framework.
On 21 April, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a meeting on the situation in the Middle East by pressing the international community to do more to promote “difficult compromises” in order to salvage a two-State solution. The incoming Israeli Government should reaffirm its commitment to that goal and foster an environment conducive to dialogue, including by freezing settlement activity, he said. In the ensuing debate, the observer for the State of Palestine said the Council’s failure to act had fostered impunity for Israel, while that country’s representative pointed out that President Abbas had never supported a two-State solution when speaking in Arabic, but rather an alliance with Hamas.
It was precisely because of such dangers that both sides must demonstrate historic leadership and personal commitment to peace, Nickolay Mladenov, the new Special Coordinator, emphasized in his first briefing on 19 May. The tide of terrorism washing over the Middle East made it all the more critical for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a two-State solution and end actions that imperilled it. He said that he and the Secretary-General would engage the new Israeli Government in exploring realistic options for a return to negotiations within a “reasonable” time frame.
Under-Secretary-General Feltman cautioned on 24 June that the risk of radicalization in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been heightened by the lack of a political horizon. Welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reaffirmation of a two-State solution, he said Israel must now translate that into action with an end to settlement construction in the West Bank, where the situation was tense, with violence having led to the arrest of 510 Palestinians.
On 23 July, Special Coordinator Mladenov, briefing ahead of an open debate, said the rise of terrorism in the region presented as much of a danger to Palestinian aspirations for statehood as to Israel’s security. To reverse the perception that a two-State solution was dying “a death by a thousand cuts”, leaders must engage in a broad political framework with the goal of achieving a final-status agreement, he stressed.
Indeed, the time had come to restore the hope endangered by hate-driven agendas, Under-Secretary-General Feltman underlined in his 19 August briefing. The latest violence had included a 31 July arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma, apparently by extremist Jewish settlers. While urging Israel to bring the perpetrators to justice, he denounced calls by Hamas and Islamic Jihad for revenge attacks, while advocating a comprehensive approach — on the ground, in the region, and with the international community — to alter negative dynamics.
The notion of balance emerged again during Special Coordinator Mladenov’s 15 September briefing, in which he called upon Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for a resumption of peace talks, as fresh violence emerged around the holy sites of Jerusalem. He noted that over the previous three months, Middle East Quartet envoys had consulted with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council and other international partners on ways to salvage a two-State solution. The crisis sparked by violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza had shown no signs of abating by 16 October, when Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, urged both sides to respect decades-old status quo arrangements around the holy sites and for political leaders to calm their language. A fire set by Palestinians at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus had followed a deadly week in the West Bank, during which 11 reported attacks had left four Israelis and nine Palestinians dead.
Days later, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, speaking ahead of an open debate on 22 October, said the crisis would not have erupted had Palestinians had hope for a viable State of their own and the ability to emerge from a “stifling and humiliating” occupation. Likewise, the situation had sharpened Israeli fears of what they viewed as growing anti-Semitism around the world. On 19 November, Special Coordinator Mladenov reported that in the previous month, Palestinians had carried out 35 reported attacks, including stabbings, shootings and car-rammings, leaving six Israelis dead. In clashes across the West Bank and Gaza, 11 Palestinians had been killed and more than 3,500 injured.
Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Council on 16 December that overcoming the challenges would require “unprecedented” vision on the part of leaders on both sides in order to see beyond today’s confrontations. While tensions inflamed early in the year around Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount had calmed, stabbings and shootings by Palestinians against Israelis continued daily, with perceived impunity for settler attacks against Palestinians driving the violence. He called upon leaders to “let go of their immediate political fears and focus on the greater good of achieving a sustainable long-term peace”.
Meetings: 28 January, 26 February, 6 March, 26 March, 24 April, 28 May, 29 June, 28 July, 29 July, 7 August, 17 August, 27 August, 16 September, 27 October, 16 November, 18 December, 21 December, 22 December; Resolutions: 2209 (2015), 2235 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015); Presidential Statements: PRST/2015/10, PRST/2015/15.
As the conflict in Syria entered its fifth year, the scale of human suffering — with more than 220,000 killed, 7.6 million displaced, 1 million injured and nearly 4 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries — had generated the world’s largest humanitarian emergency by the end of 2015. The colossal humanitarian needs dominated the Council time, with either the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs or the Assistant Secretary-General briefing a total of 12 times, and discussions pushing the Council towards its 18 December adoption of resolution 2254 (2015). By that text, it endorsed a road map for a peace process and set a January timetable for United Nations-facilitated talks between the Government of Syria and opposition members.
Adopted by foreign ministers and others gathered in New York for a meeting of the International Syria Support Group, the resolution also outlined the contours of a nationwide ceasefire to begin as soon as the parties had taken initial steps towards a political transition. By other terms of the text, the Council reconfirmed its endorsement of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué and endorsed the “Vienna Statements” — reached by the Support Group in October 2015 — as the basis for a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned political transition to end the fighting. “This marks a very important step on which we must build,” the Secretary-General emphasized at the outset of the meeting. He urged the Support Group to apply the necessary pressure on the Syrian parties to immediately end the violence and allow unconditional access for aid convoys.
The Council’s action dovetailed with its 22 December adoption of resolution 2258 (2015), by which it re-authorized until 10 January 2017 the passage of aid by United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners across conflict lines in Syria and the border crossings of Bab al-Salam, Bab al-Hawa, Al Yarubiyah and Al-Ramtha, in addition to those already in use. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who briefed the Council on 21 December alongside Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, had warned that Syrians made up nearly half the 1 million people who had arrived in Europe by boat in 2015. They would continue to seek such options until there was a fundamental change in the factors pushing them to leave, he emphasized.
That cautionary tone had been set early on, with Assistant Secretary-General Kang stressing on 28 January and 26 February that the extreme violence in Syria had created one of the worst displacements of people in decades. “We are running out of words to describe the terrible human and humanitarian consequences,” she said. By 26 March, Valerie Amos, then Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, described the savagery of the worsened situation as “breath-taking”.
In response to those accounts, the Council issued a 24 April presidential statement noting that international support had “fallen short” of meeting needs, and urging donors, international financial institutions and United Nations agencies to consider financing instruments that addressed the “massive structural impact” of the crisis on neighbouring countries, notably Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Briefings by Under-Secretary-General Amos and High Commissioner Guterres, as well as Angelina Jolie Pitt, Special Envoy for Refugee Issues, and Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), provided the Council with updates on the depth of the humanitarian crisis across the region.
Delivering her final briefing on 28 May, Under-Secretary-General Amos said that Syria’s descent into the “depths of despair” had surpassed what even the most pessimistic observers had thought possible, a message reiterated in a 29 June plea by Assistant Secretary General Kang for humanitarian workers to use every route, across borders and conflict lines, to deliver life-saving aid. The humanitarian community looked to the Council to press for a political solution to the “nightmare”, she said.
Stephen O’Brien, having replaced Ms. Amos as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator by 28 July, chronicled another month of grim statistics in his inaugural briefing. In early July, he said, the number of registered refugees had hit 4 million, marking the largest such population from a single conflict in more than 25 years. In later briefings on 16 November, 27 October, 16 September and 27 August, he noted that the conflict had given rise to extremist and terrorist groups. The failure by all parties concerned to uphold the basic tenets of international humanitarian and human rights law had propelled the Syrian people to levels of tragedy that could barely have been imagined five years ago, he said, citing images of a three-year-old Syrian boy lying dead on a beach in Turkey.
Meanwhile, on the political front, Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, told the Council on 29 July that the scale of suffering demanded a search for even the remotest possibility of a political solution. The Geneva Consultations — a set of structured, separate discussions with Syrian and non-Syrian players unrolled on 5 May — was aimed at “stress testing” any willingness to narrow the gaps in the interpretation of principles outlined in the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. While most had agreed on their relevance, there was dissonance regarding how to create a united, sovereign, independent, non-sectarian and all-inclusive State, he said. He said that, to address those issues, he had proposed thematic discussions through intra-Syrian working groups on: safety and protection; political and constitutional issues; military and security issues; and public institutions, reconstruction and development. Secretary-General Ban urged the Council to endorse those recommendations, a call that the Council answered on 17 August through a presidential statement affirming support for the Special Envoy’s approach.
The Council adopted two resolutions concerning the use of chlorine as a weapon, passing resolution 2209 (2015) on 6 March by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with Venezuela abstaining). It condemned any use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria, signalling that it would take “Chapter VII” action if such arms were used again in the conflict. On 7 August, the Council adopted resolution 2235 (2015) under Chapter VII, establishing for one year a joint investigative mechanism of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Its task would be to identify “to the greatest extent feasible” individuals, entities, groups or Governments perpetrating, organizing, sponsoring or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria.
In other action, the Council condemned continued fighting in the area of separation, including the use of heavy weapons by both the Syrian armed forces and armed groups involved in the ongoing Syrian conflict. It extended the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) — which monitors the truce between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights — until 30 June 2016, by adopting resolution 2229 (2015) on 29 June, and resolution 2257 (2015) on 22 December. The Council stressed the obligation of Israel and Syria to abide by the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and called upon both to observe the ceasefire “scrupulously”.
With terrorist attacks on the rise in Iraq and the humanitarian situation worsening over the past year, the Council heard during a 17 February briefing that there was cause for “paranoid optimism” because political, community and religious leaders had coalesced to “save the country from terror”. Nickolay Mladenov, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), also stressed that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continued to commit grave crimes against civilians, and that the country’s most pressing goal was to win back territory taken by that terrorist group.
Having taken over from Mr. Mladenov, Ján Kubiš delivered his first briefing on 14 May, echoing his predecessor’s points and emphasizing that efforts to free Iraq from the “horrendous crimes” perpetrated by terrorists must be rooted in greater bolstered unity and accelerated national reconciliation. During the same meeting, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the humanitarian outlook in Iraq remained “deeply worrying”, pointing out that since her last briefing in November 2014, the number of people needing assistance had increased by 3 million to more than 8.2 million. The new Special Representative briefed the Council again on 22 July, when he emphasized the urgent need to implement the National Political Agreement and Ministerial Programme and to put in place the institutional and legislative reforms they laid out. Those elements were the key to preserving Iraq’s national unity, he stressed, noting that the process was moving ahead but without the necessary vigour.
Bolstering its support for Iraq’s political, humanitarian and security sectors, the Council decided on 29 July to extend UNAMI’s mandate for another year, until 31 July 2016. It further welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation to revise and prioritize the Mission’s tasks, which should be focused on political good offices, humanitarian assistance facilitation, human rights and the rule of law.
Addressing the Council again on 11 November, Special Representative Kubiš reported that the Government of Iraq, led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, continued to fulfil its agenda, even in the face of increasingly complex challenges, including a fiscal and budgetary crisis sparked by the steep drop in global oil prices. The country required urgent economic reform, he added.
The situation took on a new dimension towards the end of 2015 as Turkish forces entered the country. Briefing the Council on 18 December, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, called upon the two countries to exercise restraint and defuse tensions arising from the increased presence of Turkish forces in Iraq. The United Nations Secretariat had received a letter dated 11 December from Iraq’s Foreign Minister, which called upon the Council “to order Turkey to withdraw its forces immediately”, he said.
Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq told the same meeting that his country rejected any counter-terrorism entailing military movements without the approval or even knowledge of Iraqi federal authorities. Turkey’s representative said Iraq needed its friends to help it defeat terrorist groups without delay.
Meetings: 12 February, 15 February, 24 February, 22 March, 14 April, 28 July, 19 August, 23 October, 22 December; Resolutions: 2201 (2015), 2204 (2015), 2216 (2015); Presidential Statement: S/PRST/2015/8.
The Council held nine meetings on the progress made and the threats facing Yemen’s transition towards inclusive democracy. On 15 February, it unanimously adopted resolution 2201 (2015), demanding that Houthi rebel fighters “immediately and unconditionally” withdraw from Government institutions. The Council also demanded that the rebels safely release President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and all others from house arrest and engage in good-faith United Nations-brokered negotiations.
On 24 February, the Council adopted resolution 2204 (2015), authorizing a one-year extension of sanctions imposed on those threatening stability in Yemen. Also by that text, it extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the Committee charged with overseeing those measures.
In a presidential statement issued on 22 March, the Council condemned unilateral Houthi actions that were undermining the political transition process and jeopardizing Yemen’s security and stability. Also condemning air strikes targeting the presidential palace in Aden and attacks at the international airport and two mosques in Sana’a and Sadaa, Council members asserted that a solution to the conflict could only be found through a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political process, as set out in the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and Implementation Mechanism.
Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Council on 19 August and described the scale of human suffering in the country as “almost incomprehensible”, with a shocking four out of five Yemenis requiring humanitarian assistance and nearly 1.5 million internally displaced. Securing a pause in the fighting would enable the international community to reach all those in need with basic assistance while providing the urgently needed time and space to seek a more durable ceasefire and political solution, he stressed.
During a 14 April meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2216 (2015) by 14 votes in favour to none against, with the Russian Federation abstaining. That country’s representative explained that the text failed to take its proposals into account and contained “inappropriate” references to sanctions. By the terms of the resolution, the Council demanded that all Yemeni parties, the Houthis in particular, immediately and unconditionally end the violence and refrain from further unilateral actions threatening the political transition.
On 23 October, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, told the Council that despite delays, the warring parties had agreed to take part in United Nations-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the fighting on the basis of the framework set out in resolution 2216 (2015).
During a meeting on 22 December, the Special Envoy expressed support for negotiations, describing the latest peace talks as a “solid” basis for a renewed and stronger ceasefire. Accompanying him were Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who briefed on the worsening humanitarian situation and warned that inaction would push Yemen into irreversible balkanization.
Expressing deep concern over recent incidents across the “Blue Line” established between Israeli and Lebanese forces, and within the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) area of operations, the Council underlined, in a 19 March presidential statement, that such events could lead to a new conflict that neither of the parties, nor the region, could afford. It urged all parties to abide “scrupulously” by their obligation to respect UNIFIL’s safety. Renewing the Force’s mandate by adopting resolution 2236 (2015) on 21 August, the Council called upon all the parties concerned to prevent violations of the Blue Line and to cooperate with UNIFIL in order to realize progress towards long-term agreements, as envisioned in Council resolution 1701 (2006), which had brought an end to the flare-up of violence during that year.
Protection of Minorities
Meeting: 27 March.
During a 27 March day-long debate on ethnically or religiously motivated attacks in the Middle East, nearly 70 speakers urged the Council to help protect the region’s minorities. From Syria and Iraq to Libya and Yemen, they said, the cultural and religious fabric of the Middle East, woven over centuries, was being torn apart by terrorists who were intent on eliminating the very diversity that had given rise to many of the world’s great civilizations. “I am deeply concerned about the grave dangers faced by minorities in parts of the Middle East,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in opening remarks. Thousands of civilians were at the mercy of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, he noted, appealing to “all those with influence” to help the region reclaim its historic diversity and dynamism. France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, whose delegation organized the debate, suggested that the Secretary-General present the Council with an action plan to address the situation.
Meetings: 24 February, 26 February, 3 March, 24 March, 14 May, 28 May, 10 June, 14 July, 25 August, 28 August, 9 October, 2 December, 15 December, 15 December; Resolutions: 2205 (2015), 2206 (2015), 2223 (2015), 2230 (2015), 2241 (2015), 2251 (2015), 2252 (2015); Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2015/9, S/PRST/2015/16.
The power struggle between the Government of South Sudan and armed rebel forces entered a new phase in 2015, with renewed attempts to implement a 2014 ceasefire as well as a new peace agreement that would be signed in the second half of the year. On 24 February, during the Council’s first 2015 briefing on the situation, peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous predicted little progress in upcoming peace talks and urged the imposition of “consequences” if the parties did not immediately cease fire and enter into negotiations. Heeding that advice on 3 March, the Council adopted a resolution laying the groundwork for targeted sanctions on those blocking peace. However, a number of Council members cautioned that such actions could derail ongoing negotiations, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), aimed at securing a lasting peace deal.
In a 24 March presidential statement, the Council again condemned violations of the ceasefire and called upon all parties to issue, without delay, clear orders prohibiting violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of human rights. Indeed, such violations were commonplace and “the untold suffering of the people of South Sudan must stop”, Council members heard on 14 March during a briefing by Ellen Margrethe Løj, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Despite the peace agreement, however, the security, human rights and humanitarian situation was still deteriorating, she said, adding that widespread military action — as well as murder, rape and destruction — continued unabated. The Council strongly condemned such actions on 28 May, when it unanimously decided to extend the mandate of UNMISS for six months.
In August, a number of major parties to the conflict — including President Salva Kiir and representatives of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition — signed the “IGAD Plus” peace agreement, which called for an end to all hostilities. However, the situation on the ground remained “volatile and tense”, with the humanitarian situation continuing to worsen, Ms. Løj told the Council in another briefing, on 25 August. A presidential statement issued on 28 August confirmed the Council’s intention to move swiftly in updating the UNMISS mandate so as to support the key tasks of the accord. In particular, it expressed its readiness to consider “appropriate measures” to address any violations or failures by any party to implement the agreement’s provisions, including through an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions.
Under-Secretary-General Ladsous struck another note on 2 December, telling the Council that international partners must work collectively to increase parties’ “buy-in” to the peace agreement. Taking a broad view of its work in the country, on 9 October, the Council extended for two months the Mission’s mandate by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, Venezuela). By an identical vote on 15 December, it further extended the mandate until July 2016, deciding to increase force levels up to 13,000 troops and 2,001 police personnel. It also made a number of changes to the mandate, enabling UNMISS to support the peace agreement signed in August.
On 26 February, the Council considered the disputed border area between Sudan and South Sudan, where tensions had run high in recent years, deciding to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 July 2015, consistent with the evolution of a Joint Border Verification Management Mechanism. On 14 July it again extended that mandate, this time until 15 December 2015. It demanded that Sudan and South Sudan urgently establish the Abyei Area Administration Council and constitute an Abyei Police Service to take over policing functions, including the protection of contested oil infrastructure, throughout the area. Finally, on 15 December, the Council once again extended UNISFA’s mandate until 15 May 2016, demanding the withdrawal of armed personnel from the contested area and expressing regret that another meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee had not yet taken place.
Briefing the Council on 25 November, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, described accelerating terrorist attacks, spikes in displacement and increasingly grave humanitarian challenges in the region. Security threats remained the main preoccupation, and the roots of insecurity — including unemployment, underdevelopment and the illicit trade in drugs — must be addressed holistically in order to prevent further deterioration, she emphasized. In particular, the drug trade that financed terror and instability must be “choked” if counter-terrorism efforts were to be successful. Two weeks later, on 8 December, the Council issued a presidential statement noting the progress made towards implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and encouraging support for regional efforts — including those of the Group of Five for the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) — to address the security and political challenges to stability and development. The Council also expressed grave concern that Libya remained a “safe haven” for terrorist groups operating in the region, and about the threat posed by the widespread availability, as well as proliferation, of unsecured arms and ammunition.
Continued terrorist threats and delicate electoral processes in several countries remained among the main concerns across West Africa throughout 2015. Introducing the latest semi-annual report of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) on 7 July, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of UNOWA, said Boko Haram had stepped up its attacks in the Lake Chad Basin area, mainly targeting civilians. He also described political dialogue that had recently begun in Guinea and the progress in preparations for elections in Burkina Faso. The threat of resurgent Ebola was also a concern across the region, with three new cases reported in Liberia since the country was declared free of the disease in May. Six months earlier, on 8 January, Mr. Chambas had voiced concerns about the busy 2015-2016 electoral schedule, noting at the time that elections were scheduled in Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo. In Nigeria, general elections had been slated to take place amid the violent insurgency waged by Boko Haram in the country’s north-east, as well as sectarian conflicts in the north, central and north-west, he noted.
Meeting: 13 August.
Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told the Council on 13 August that Ebola could be “soundly defeated” by the end of 2015 if the intensity of case detection and contact tracing was sustained. Joined by other senior officials, she said strides made against the disease were real and hard-earned, with surveillance and response capacities having vastly improved. New cases in Liberia had again stopped, while Guinea and Sierra Leone had together reported only three cases during the past two weeks, the lowest numbers in more than a year, she said, warning nonetheless against a false sense of security while emphasizing that success hinged on “getting to zero and staying at zero”.
Holding its first 2015 meeting on the situation in Liberia on 2 April, the Council authorized the resumed drawdown for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) — suspended since September 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak — and narrowed its mandate to exclude assistance for senatorial elections held in December 2014. Given that drawdown, senior officials told the Council on 5 May that it was crucial to address factors that had contributed to Ebola’s spread in the country, including fragile institutions and widespread distrust of the Government. Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIL, said Liberia was expected to be declared Ebola-free after almost 14 months spent “under the cloud”.
In similar vein, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the nation had endured the trauma of Ebola with “resilience, dignity and a profound determination to overcome”. Briefing the Council on 10 September, he reported that, as UNMIL continued its gradual drawdown, Liberia’s progress on a number of fronts included important momentum on essential political reforms. In light of those strides, the Council decided on 17 September to extend UNMIL’s mandate for one year, while further reducing personnel numbers in the Mission’s military and police components. In other important action, on 2 September, the Council renewed an arms embargo on non-State actors in Liberia for nine months. At the same time, it recognized the progress made on arms control and border management, terminating other sanctions and reducing the membership of the Panel of Experts assisting the so-called 1521 Committee, charged with monitoring sanctions imposed on Liberia.
Barely a year after the election of a new Government following a 2012 coup d’état, Guinea-Bissau faced political turmoil again in 2015. On 12 August, President José Mário Vaz dismissed Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira and his Government, citing an emerging constitutional crisis. During a meeting on 28 August, the Council expressed hope that the recent events would not reverse gains made towards peace, security and stability. Miguel Trovoada, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said the Council had always underscored that the country’s fragility was rooted in failure to address the underlying causes of instability, including underdevelopment.
Since the 2014 elections and the formation of a new Government, the Council heard during a briefing on 5 February that Guinea-Bissau had made significant progress on the rule of law, reconciliation, security and justice. Speakers during that meeting emphasized that sustained international support was vital to preserving those gains, and stressed the need to challenge the long-held view that the country was a “chronic case” of corruption, impunity and drug trafficking. The Council further expressed its support for national reform processes on 18 February as it extended the mandate of UNIOGBIS for 12 months, until 29 February 2016.
The year dawned on a chaotic, volatile situation in the West African nation, despite operational support provided by French forces to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) at the end of 2014. As armed groups continued to engage in serious fighting, with heavy casualties among civilians and peacekeepers alike, peace talks had reached a crucial stage, the Council heard on 6 January. The talks must move forward and all armed groups in Mali’s strife-torn northern region must adhere to the agreed ceasefire. In a 6 February presidential statement, the Council reaffirmed its support for the inter-Malian negotiation process and for MINUSMA, underlining its authorization for the Mission to use all necessary means to deter threats and prevent the return of armed elements, to protect civilians in danger and respond to attacks against its personnel, installations and equipment.
Peace talks reached a critical new phase on 1 March, when two of three Malian parties — the Government and the so-called “Platform” of northern movements — signed a draft peace agreement. Talks continued between international partners and the other coalition of northern movements known as the “Coordination”. On 9 April, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Council that, with the advance of progress towards a negotiated solution, it was critical that all Malian parties put in place a detailed framework and calendar of implementation. Clear and robust implementation mechanisms would build confidence, he added.
On 29 June, with all major armed groups having signed the peace agreement, the Council extended the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2016, within the authorized troop ceiling of 11,240 military personnel. They would include, for the first time, at least 40 military observers to monitor and supervise the ceasefire. That decision came on the heels of a 23 June briefing by Mongi Hamdi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINUSMA, in which he warned that the peace accord would not succeed without strong international support. On 6 October, he provided an update on implementation of the peace agreement, saying it had been fraught with unexpected obstacles, ceasefire violations and criminal activity by terrorist groups. The priority was to rebuild trust among the parties, to promote national reconciliation and to fight impunity, he emphasized. The deployment of MINUSMA military observers, expected to be operational by mid-October, would help in observing and reporting on ceasefire violations.
Concerned about the grave security situation in parts of Central Africa — in particular the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic and its regional impact, and the continuing threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and continuing terrorist activities by Boko Haram — the Council welcomed, in a presidential statement issued on 11 June, the local, parliamentary and presidential elections conducted in the subregion and stressed the need for upcoming polls to be held in a timely, transparent and inclusive manner. Regarding the international mediation process in the Central African Republic, it welcomed in particular the outcome of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation, held from 4 to 11 May, and encouraged the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) to continue to support those efforts. In an 8 December briefing by Abdoulaye Bathily, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office in Central Africa (UNOCA), the Council heard more about the security and humanitarian crises triggered by the LRA. The group had kept a low profile, buying time and taking advantage of coordination gaps in the region’s collective response, he said, noting that intercommunal violence had generated refugees and gross human rights violations. Attacks by Boko Haram and cases of piracy were again on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea, he added.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Despite the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s defeat of the 23 March Movement (M23) in late 2013, armed groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continued to terrorize civilians and threaten the country’s stability, the Council heard on 22 January, during a briefing by peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous. He said that since the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) continued to play an important role in protecting civilians against those groups, the drawdown of the Organization’s operations in the country should be conducted gradually. The briefing followed a presidential statement issued on 8 January, by which the Council called for immediate military action by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), in cooperation with United Nations peacekeepers, to “neutralize” the FDLR, which had not disbanded despite a 2 January deadline.
In a related measure designed to isolate non-State armed groups, the Council decided, in a 29 January resolution, to extend its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It requested that all States prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms or related materiel, as well as the provision of assistance to all non-governmental entities and individuals operating in the county. A second resolution on 26 March extended MONUSCO’s mandate — including its controversial Intervention Brigade — for another year. On 14 July, Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MONUSCO, said that while the priority was to ensure that the main non-State factions disarmed voluntarily, the use of force had proved inevitable as many consecutive deadlines for disarmament had passed. Joint operations against the FDLR in North Kivu, South Kivu and Katanga had been at a standstill for five months, he said, adding that, while the Government had made great strides in restoring security over the past decade, the east of the country still lived at the mercy of armed groups.
Those words echoed the Special Representative’s 19 March warning that, despite their country’s emergence from civil war after 15 years of international efforts, many Congolese still lived in fear of rape, attack or robbery. More must be done to reduce threats posed by armed groups and violence against civilians to a level that could be effectively managed by national institutions. In that light, he said on 7 October, MONUSCO’s mandate — ensuring that the country was secure and stable, and that progress was irreversible — had not yet been fulfilled. In a 9 November presidential statement, the Council noted some progress on the situation of the eastern region, while highlighting deep concerns about political tensions as well as continuing violence and human rights violations. It urged the Government and all other relevant parties to ensure an environment conducive to the holding of free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely presidential elections by November 2016.
In the transitioning nation of Somalia, 2015 saw some success in battling the Al-Shabaab militant group, progress on building a federal State and a dramatic spike in requests for United Nations support, which had resulted in the establishment of a new Support Office whose priorities were better aligned with the Organization’s expanding responsibilities in Somalia. Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), told the Council on 19 May that, following the end of a recent political crisis, the federalism process had regained momentum, emphasizing that UNSOM’s work was becoming ever more critical. The briefing followed his 4 February warning that, given the political setbacks of 2014, it was critical to accelerate federalism in order to maintain progress towards stability.
Responding to both progress and challenges, the Council took measures throughout the year to deepen the United Nations presence in Somalia. On 26 May, it extended UNSOM’s mandate for 10 weeks — pending consideration of a review of regional and international efforts — and, on 28 July, decided to extend that mandate until 30 March 2016. Also by that resolution, the Council decided to authorize Member States of the African Union to maintain the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until the same date, agreeing with the Secretary-General that conditions would not be appropriate to establish a United Nations peacekeeping mission until the end of 2016 at the earliest. Reinforcing that notion, Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Council on 16 July that launching such a mission “at the present time” would be a high-risk undertaking due to the continuing threat posed by Al-Shabaab. Addressing Somalia’s overall security situation, he said that while AMISOM had made significant gains against the militant group, it continued to adapt, launching asymmetric attacks and blocking access to newly recovered areas.
Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, told the Council in a 14 October briefing that, given the major expansion of its tasks — now including both high-intensity military operations and highly mobile political engagements in Somalia and beyond — the United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOA) also required significant strengthening. Among the reasons for the upgrade were UNSOA’s expanded client base, which now included not only AMISOM, but also UNSOM and the Somali National Army. In response to those needs, the Council decided on 9 November to name a successor to UNOSA. To be known as the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), its priorities would better reflect the Organization’s new responsibilities in Somalia.
In a resolution adopted on 10 November, the Council addressed the security situation off Somalia’s coast, stressing the need for a comprehensive international response to prevent and suppress piracy — which exacerbated insecurity inside the country — and tackle its underlying causes. On 23 October, the Council extended, by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with Venezuela abstaining, the arms embargo on Somalia until 15 November 2016, reaffirming the country’s sovereignty over its natural resources and underlining the need for its Federal Government to put a resource-sharing agreement in place so as to ensure that the national petroleum sector did not become a source of increased tension.
Tackling the four-decade-long territorial dispute over Western Sahara on 28 April, the Council decided to extend by one year the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). By that text, it called upon all parties to demonstrate the political will to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations. Council members raised concerns about the prevailing status quo in United Nations efforts to resolve the dispute, and stressed that, moving forward, refugees living in the Tindouf camps must not be forgotten. A number of speakers underlined that the United Nations remained the only organization accepted by both sides, and that MINURSO was indispensable in facilitating a lasting political solution.
As Côte d’Ivoire made progress towards sustainable peace and economic recovery following its 2010 post-election crisis, a number of hurdles remained, including a prevailing culture of impunity, threats by “non-registered military elements” and the need for electoral reform ahead of presidential elections in October. Several of those challenges were spotlighted in a 13 January briefing in which Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), stressed the importance of remaining vigilant to ensure that gains made in terms of stability and prosperity were irreversible. In particular, there was a need to improve security and reintegrate former soldiers, she added. The issue of former combatants and non-registered military groups took centre stage during a meeting on 22 April, as the Council heard from Cristián Barros Melet (Chile), Chair of the 1572 Committee monitoring sanctions levied against those who threatened Côte d’Ivoire’s stability. The Chair reported on a recent meeting with Government authorities, saying they had confirmed the country’s desire for the lifting of sanctions in the near future.
However, given the continued existence of armed elements linked to followers of former President Laurent Gbagbo, and with non-registered military elements as well as large quantities of weapons still unaccounted for, the Council decided, on 28 April, to extend a modified arms embargo for one year, in addition to the targeted travel and financial sanctions imposed on individuals deemed to threaten national reconciliation. The arms embargo, modified during its last extension in 2014, allowed certain exceptions for Ivoirian and international security forces, as well as for UNOCI. Through the extension, the Council would review the sanctions regime before the end of April 2016 with a view to further modifying or lifting all or part of the remaining measures.
The Special Representative told the Council on 9 June that the international community must maintain its presence in Côte d’Ivoire as scheduled national elections approached. Throughout the electoral period, political stakeholders tempted to use inflammatory rhetoric should continually be encouraged to act responsibly and in accordance with the law, she emphasized, adding that UNOCI’s mandate, which was crucial to stability on the ground, should be promptly renewed. The Council heeded that advice on 25 June, extending the mission’s mandate for one year as well as the authorization for the French forces supporting it.
More than a decade after the political agreement and subsequent ceasefire that ended a protracted civil conflict, Burundi was “back on the brink” in 2015, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in a 9 July briefing to the Council. Violence had erupted ahead of the 29 June legislative and local elections, and while citizens had gone to the polls in large numbers, the United Nations Electoral Observer Mission in Burundi (MENUB) — having commenced its work on 1 January — had eventually concluded that the environment was not conducive to free, credible and inclusive elections. Also briefing on that occasion was Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who said that the situation arising from President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term had undermined a decade of progress in building democratic institutions and a common national identity. In a 26 June presidential statement, the Council condemned the violence, expressing concern about grave threats to security and calling for inclusive dialogue among the parties.
The mid-year instability marked a major downturn, since 2014 had begun with a 21 January briefing during which officials had spotlighted Burundi’s progress in peacebuilding over the previous 10 years while looking forward to the drawdown of the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) at the end of 2014. By 18 February, however, the Council had received initial reports of intimidation, harassment, political violence and arbitrary arrests, which it condemned in a presidential statement issued on the same day. As instability continued to grow throughout 2015, a presidential statement issued on 28 October expressed deep concern about the continued rise of violence and the persisting political impasse, marked by a lack of dialogue among national stakeholders. The statement strongly condemned all acts of unlawful violence, whether committed by security forces, militias or other illegal armed groups. On 9 November, Council members heard a briefing by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who said Burundi had fallen into a deep political crisis and called for a solution before the situation spiralled out of control. On 12 November, the Council responded by adopting a resolution that strongly condemned the reported human rights violations and stated the Council’s intention to consider additional measures against all actors whose actions and statements impeded the search for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Central African Republic
Following significant unrest in 2013 and 2014, the Central African Republic was entering a crucial phase in its “delicate” return to stability, Council members heard on 14 April. Babacar Gaye, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said during a briefing that while important headway had been made in protecting the population, intercommunal tensions linked to the seasonal migration of Foulani farmers and their livestock persisted. The anti-Balaka group in Bangui, like the ex-Séléka in the centre and east, sought to replace the State, and Muslim communities in particular were threatened with violence. The briefing occurred shortly after the Council had decided, on 26 March, to authorize an increase of 750 military personnel, 280 police and 20 corrections officers to MINUSCA’s strength, having determined that the situation in the country remained a threat to international peace and security. In other important action, on 22 January, the Council extended its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the Central African Republic until 29 January 2016, as well as the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the related Sanctions Committee, through 29 February 2016.
On 28 April, the Council further boosted the United Nations presence in the Central African Republic, extending by one year the mandate of MINUSCA amid an “improving” but “fragile” security situation. It also authorized French forces known as Sangaris to use all necessary means in providing operational support to MINUSCA. In another briefing on 5 August, Special Representative Gaye told the Council that support from the global community was vital to maintaining positive momentum. With presidential elections forthcoming, the next steps would require strong leadership, reconciliation on the part of the population and support from donors. In many places across the country, civilians still suffered human rights violations at the hands of armed groups, he said, adding that MINUSCA peacekeepers had also been targeted for attack.
In response to rising instability in the latter part of 2015, the Council issued a presidential statement on 20 October, condemning the recent upsurge in violence. It also decided to apply the asset freeze and travel ban contained in its resolution 2196 (2015) to individuals and entities engaging in or providing support for acts undermining peace, stability or security. In its final 2015 briefing on 14 December, peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous told the Council that the Central African Republic was entering the final and most sensitive phase of its electoral process. The State was moving ahead towards ending the transition, with the first round of presidential and legislative elections set for 27 December, despite repeated attempts to derail the process, he said, calling for “uncompromising” rejection of any attempt to obstruct a return to constitutional order.
Meetings: 18 February, 4 March, 5 March, 27 March, 12 May, 15 July, 26 August, 10 September, 5 November, 5 November, 11 December, 23 December; Resolutions: 2208 (2015), 2213 (2015), 2214 (2015), 2238 (2015), 2259 (2015).
Entering the fourth year of a conflict spawned by deep political divisions following the fall of the Qadhafi regime in 2011, Libya saw a year bookended by “horrific and brutal” acts of terrorism — including the beheading of 21 men in February — and, by the end of 2015, the successful formation of a Government of National Accord. Addressing “barbaric” acts by extremist groups on 18 February, Bernardino Léon, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the Council that such acts highlighted the dangers facing the country unless there was swift agreement on resolving the political crisis and ending the military conflict. Providing a further update on 4 March, he said the overall situation on the ground was deteriorating rapidly, warning that terrorist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were playing on political divisions to consolidate their influence.
In response to the devastating conditions spreading across Libya, the Council followed up its brief 5 March extension of UNSMIL’s mandate by simultaneously adopting two resolutions on 27 March. By the first resolution, it further extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2015 and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. By the second text, it adjusted the arms embargo imposed on Libya in light of the terrorist threat there. Further, the Council expressed its grave concern about ISIL and its supporters, and about the negative impact of violent extremist ideology on stability. Echoing those sentiments, Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told the Council on 12 May that the frequency and brutality of assassinations, terrorist attacks and threats against media workers, human rights defenders and women in particular were troubling. Libya remained split, with two governments vying for legitimacy, she noted, adding that her Office was considering the investigation and prosecution of further cases in the country and would not hesitate to help end impunity there. On 5 November, she briefed the Council again, expressing hope that Libya’s ongoing political dialogue might help usher in an era of accountability and rule of law upon which the country’s future could be built.
However, Special Representative Léon warned during a briefing on 26 August that as the dialogue process neared its final stages, overcoming the political polarization in Libya would be no easy task. The scale of human suffering was staggering, with an estimated 1.9 million people requiring urgent assistance to meet their basic health needs and some 1.2 million requiring food assistance. In a year that had already seen more than 2,000 migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea, close to 250,000 migrants were estimated to be in Libya or transiting through, many headed for Europe. In response to those and other challenges, the Council affirmed, on 10 September, the importance of UNSMIL’s work and extended its mandate for a further six months, until 15 March 2016.
Meanwhile, the United Nations-facilitated dialogue process reached a new phase in July as several parties to the conflict — including representatives of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and officials from Tripoli and Misrata — signed a political agreement aimed at completing the transition started in 2011. Meeting on 15 July, the Council heard from the Special Representative that, although the General National Congress had decided not to initial the agreement, “the door remains open for them to join”. As 2015 drew to a close, the formation of a National Accord Government was “imminent”, he told the Council on 5 November. An agreement negotiated with parties from across the political spectrum aimed to lay out a set of principles and structures that would guide the next phase of Libya’s political transition. Participants in the political dialogue had forged a consensus on the composition of a Presidency Council that would comprise a Prime Minister-designate, three Deputy Prime Ministers and two senior ministers, he reported, noting, however, that strong objections had been voiced in the House of Representatives over perceived inadequate representation for the east, particularly Benghazi.
Having taken up his role as the new Special Representative and Head of UNSMIL, Martin Kobler told the Council on 11 December that, in the face of the continued inability of the House of Representatives and the General National Congress to move forward with the outcomes of the political dialogue, he had convened a new round of talks. Two days of deliberations in Tunis had culminated in agreement on a number of outstanding issues. Finally, on 23 December, the Council welcomed the 17 December signing of the Libyan Political Agreement to form a Government of National Accord, calling upon its new Presidency Council to form that Government within 30 days and to finalize the interim security arrangements required for stabilizing the country.
The western Darfur region of Sudan continued to be plagued by intercommunal violence and hostilities between the Government and armed rebel groups in 2015. Meeting for the first time on that situation, the Council expressed concern, on 12 February, about non-compliance with the sanctions it had previously imposed on the region, and renewed the mandate of the relevant Panel of Experts — established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) — for an additional 13 months. Those measures, now consisting of an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on designated individuals, were still necessary to counter instability in Darfur, the Council decided. On 17 March, it heard from peacekeeping Under-Secretary-General Ladsous that the situation had “deteriorated significantly” over the past year, and that the Council and the African Union should step up pressure on warring parties to begin direct negotiations towards a cessation of hostilities. That sentiment was echoed on 28 October, when Assistant Secretary-General Mulet told the Council that the overall situation remained precarious and unpredictable, stressing that a comprehensive resolution — which would allow for the return of some 2.6 million displaced persons — required, first and foremost, a political settlement between the Government and armed movements.
Meeting on 10 June, the Council heard from Assistant Secretary-General Mulet that any end to the United Nations presence in Darfur — carried out through the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) — must await concrete improvements on the ground. On 29 June, the Council renewed UNAMID’s mandate until 30 June 2016, reaffirming its strategic priorities of protecting civilians, facilitating humanitarian assistance and mediating peace between the Government and rebels who had not signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. Also on 29 June, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the Council that Member States must play a larger role in ensuring Sudan’s compliance in bringing those charged with grave crimes to justice, following the Council’s referral of the situation in Darfur. Individuals still wanted by the Court included President Omar al-Bashir, she said, pointing out that more than six years had passed since the Court’s initial issuance of a warrant for his arrest. Briefing the Council again on 15 December, she noted that despite repeated requests for Council action, her appeals continued to go unheeded, and that the relevant resolutions adopted by the organ amounted to “no more than an empty promise”.
The launch of the Transformation Decade (2015-2024), as well as economic, security and political matters, dominated the Council’s consideration of Afghanistan. On 16 March, it unanimously adopted resolution 2210 (2015), extending for another year the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). By that text, it decided that, alongside the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, it would continue to lead and coordinate international civilian efforts to achieve established priorities.
Three months later, on 22 June, the Council heard Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative and Head of UNAMA, urge the international community to facilitate direct talks between the Government and armed groups. Noting that foreign fighters from Afghanistan’s northern neighbours and elsewhere presented a particular challenge, he expressed “considerable” concern that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sought to establish a foothold in the country.
On 17 September, the Special Representative reiterated his call for direct engagement between the Government and the Taliban, urging Afghanistan’s neighbours also to play a constructive role in suppressing the terrorist threat. Briefing the same meeting, Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), declared: “Illicit drugs are supporting instability, insurgency, corruption and organized crime.” Afghanistan accounted for an estimated 85 per cent of global opium production and 75 per cent of global heroin production, he said, adding that the gross value of the opiate economy in 2014 was estimated at $2.84 billion.
By year’s end, the Council had extended and adjusted its sanctions regime against individuals and entities affiliated with the Taliban. By its unanimous adoption of resolution 2255 (2015) on 21 December under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council also clarified exemptions to travel bans and asset freezes, as well as language on the need to combat the financing of terrorism, deciding to review those and other measures in 18 months. It called upon States to move “vigorously and decisively” to cut funding to those on the 1988 Sanctions List.
In the quarterly debate that followed, the Special Representative outlined the steps taken by Afghanistan’s Government of National Unity in pursuit of greater economic and security self-reliance. For its part, UNAMA would continue its three-track approach to the Taliban, focused on human rights, humanitarian access and political engagement, he said.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
The Council’s deliberations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were spread over two meetings relating, respectively, to that country’s security and human rights situations. On 4 March, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2207 (2015) under Chapter VII of the Charter, extending until 5 April 2016 the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It also requested that the Panel provide the Committee — established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) — with a midterm report no later than 5 August 2015 and a final report no later than 5 February 2016.
On 10 December, the Council held a rare procedural vote to determine whether the 15-member organ was the appropriate forum in which to discuss human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. By a vote of 9 in favour to 4 against (Angola, China, Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 2 abstentions (Chad, Nigeria), the Council approved its provisional agenda. China’s representative, who had requested the vote, voiced disagreement with the notion that the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a threat to international peace and security.
Briefing the Council after that vote, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, declared: “History has shown that serious violations of human rights often serve as a warning sign of instability and conflict.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said millions of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were denied basic rights and freedoms, including the right to movement, religion, access to information and to form organizations. The country’s political prison camp system was believed to hold between 80,000 and 100,000 prisoners, he added.
A renewed ceasefire — reached on 12 February in Minsk, Belarus, by leaders of Ukraine, Russian Federation, France and Germany with the aim of alleviating fighting in eastern Ukraine - lent fresh impetus to Council efforts to resolve the two-year-old crisis. On 17 February, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2202 (2015), calling upon the parties to implement fully the “package of measures” contained in the Minsk agreements and included as Annex I of the resolution. Among those measures was an immediate ceasefire in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides and by equal distances, and withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries from Ukraine.
That success followed weeks of “the worst” hostilities since the breach of the 2014 ceasefire, as well as accusations of increased Russian support for separatists, said Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in a 21 January briefing. All stakeholders, especially parties to the conflict, had a responsibility to move from “a narrative of confrontation” to one of cooperation, he emphasized.
In an emergency meeting called five days later, however, the Under-Secretary-general urged the rebels to “recommit to the ceasefire and back down from their offensive”, noting that 50 civilians had since been killed, and nearly 150 injured. Attacks on Mariupol from “multi-launch rocket systems” had been among the worst violence. The 23 January announcement by the Donetsk People’s Republic that it would boycott future consultations with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Trilateral Contact Group, unilaterally withdraw from the 2014 ceasefire and seize further territory was in violation of commitments under the 2014 Minsk accords, he said.
By 27 February, there had been a significant reduction in hostilities, another release of detainees and an initial withdrawal of heavy equipment from the line of separation, said Heidi Tagliavini, Chair of the OSCE Trilateral Contact Group (which also includes the Russian Federation and Ukraine). Those positive developments, while stipulated in the Minsk accords, were only the start of a process, she cautioned. “Until the guns fall silent, there will be no hope for stabilizing the situation.” Ertuğrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, said his team needed improved baseline information to facilitate, monitor and verify the withdrawal of heavy weapons from a defined security zone.
In other mixed developments, Under-Secretary-General Feltman told the Council in a subsequent briefing, the OSCE had monitored some withdrawal of heavy military equipment from the line of contact by 6 March, but due to lack of access and freedom of movement, the Mission had been unable to verify the true extent of the process. Full and unfettered access must be granted so that the full withdrawal of such weaponry could begin urgently, transparently and comprehensively, he said. John Ging, Director of the Operational Division in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), noted that Ukraine, which had no displaced people a year ago, currently had almost 1.1 million registered as such.
The prospect of intractable conflict had again emerged by 5 June, Mr. Feltman said in a briefing on that day, describing the Minsk Agreement as indispensable to leading Ukraine out of conflict. Non-implementation entailed a “dangerous limbo”, with Ukraine now ranked among the top 10 in terms of the number internally displaced persons, which exceeded 1.3 million. Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, cited irregularities, saying that weapons previously recorded were now often missing, and heavy weapons were being used in areas prohibited under the Minsk accords.
Against that backdrop, the Council failed on 29 July to adopt a resolution that would have established an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for crimes connected with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014 in Donetsk Oblast.
The action saw 11 affirmative votes, 3 abstentions (Angola, China, Venezuela) and 1 negative vote by the Russian Federation, whose representative explained that his country did not support such a tribunal under Chapter VII of the Charter, since resolution 2166 (2014) — which demanded accountability, full access to the site and a halt to military activities in the area — did not consider the downing of the aircraft a threat to international peace and security.
By year’s end, the situation in eastern Ukraine remained “tense and volatile”, despite a renewed 1 September 2015 ceasefire, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Council on 11 December. He urged the parties to fully implement the Minsk accords — the “best available, viable and accepted” path to resolving the conflict. Rebels in eastern Ukraine had postponed self-declared local elections slated for 18 October and 1 November while the parties had committed to finding compromise on modalities for voting in rebel-held territory, he noted.
Reporting both the end of a prolonged political impasse and the eruption of violent protests in Kosovo, Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Council on 6 February that from its inception, the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had been about “making hard choices” between the past and the future.
That point reverberated throughout the year, and on 26 May, the Special Representative called upon Serbia and Kosovo to avoid procrastination in implementing the remaining steps of the April 2013 agreement, saying delays would allow “older issues” to shackle opportunities for opening new ground. While meetings between the two Prime Ministers were “important milestones”, the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, a core provision of the April 2013 agreement, remained unresolved.
On 21 August, the Special Representative said that leaders from both sides would meet in Brussels under European Union auspices on 25 August to iron out differences. Noting that he would soon hand over to his successor, he said the situation had changed “dramatically” since 2011 — when he had assumed the post — having gone from adversarial discourse among communities to the unprecedented election of Kosovo Serb mayors under a unified legal framework and fully integrated police structures.
Mr. Zarif’s successor, Zahir Tanin, said on 19 November that genuine progress had been achieved at the Brussels meeting on 25 August, including on the “general principles/main elements” of the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities. However, leaders in both Serbia and Kosovo must demonstrate “far-sighted” commitment to overcoming fresh political turbulence that threatened to set back hard-won agreements aimed at normalizing relations, he emphasized, noting that violent tactics had impeded proceedings in the Kosovo Assembly — the core of the democratic process.
Ivica Daĉić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the decision by the Constitutional Court of Kosovo to suspend the accord on the establishment of the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities flouted the agreements reached in Brussels. Regrettably, Kosovo and Metohija continued to be devoid of the basic conditions for the unhindered and sustainable return of internally displaced persons, he noted.
Flora Çitaku of Kosovo said her country was an independent State, recognized by a majority of the world’s free nations. The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union had made clear that its European future was irreversible and unstoppable. As for the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, she pointed out that the Constitutional Court should be allowed to do its job in evaluating the relevant agreement’s conditionality, as foreseen in the agreement itself.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the Council on 12 May: “I believe that a great deal can be achieved in 2015 if there is a renewed commitment within the country and among its political leaders to pull together and to work together.” He called upon national leaders to end the “stagnation”, noting with concern a declaration adopted by the Republika Srpska National Assembly on 17 April that directly challenged the authority of the Constitutional Court. Council members welcomed the consolidation of the Federation’s Government and the agreement on further progress on European integration.
On 8 July, during a meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica killings, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have emphasized acceptance of those tragic events as genocide as a prerequisite for national reconciliation. After casting a negative vote, the Russian Federation’s representative said the text should not have been put to a vote because it singled out one ethnic community for blame, contained elements that did not enjoy consensus among Council members and was detrimental to reconciliation. The United Kingdom’s representative, the text’s lead sponsor, said many bodies had labelled the crimes genocide, a determination that could not be retracted. Ten Council members voted in favour, with China, Venezuela, Angola and Nigeria abstaining.
Rounding out the year, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2247 (2015) on 10 November, thereby authorizing the European Union-led multinational stabilization force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for another year. High Representative Inzko noted that 21 November would mark the twentieth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which had ended Europe’s most brutal fighting since the Second World War. Emphasizing that the Dayton peace “must never be taken for granted”, he said the immediate challenge was the Republika Srpska’s decision to hold a referendum on independence in 2018 and another to determine whether the entity’s authorities must respect the country’s central judicial bodies or the High Representative.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2233 (2015) on 29 July, the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), one of the Organization’s longest running missions, until 31 January 2016, calling for implementation of confidence-building measures and urging the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides to continue talks on demarcation of the buffer zone.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Meeting: 24 February.
For a second year, the annual briefing by the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) centred on that body’s efforts to address the crisis in Ukraine. Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, told the Council on 24 February that the truce announced on 12 February by leaders of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, France and Germany was the “best available road map to bring about calm”. Addressing prolonged conflicts was high on Serbia’s agenda as OCSE Chair, he said, expressing particular concern over recent developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The size and strength of the United Nations presence in Haiti took centre stage during the Council’s consideration of that topic in a year that saw the island nation hold the first round of long-awaited legislative elections on 9 August. Speakers agreed on 8 October that reform of the criminal code and a “generally stable” security environment meant that “a new order” was taking shape. A strategic assessment mission would be deployed after the electoral cycle to formulate recommendations, noted Sandra Honoré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
On 14 October, the Council extended the Mission’s mandate for one year, until 15 October 2016, at the Secretary-General’s recommended force levels of up to 2,370 troops and 2,061 police — a decision taken after an 18 March debate on the merit of downsizing the peacekeeping force. The Council’s visiting mission to Haiti from 23 to 25 January had borne witness to the resilience and determination of the Haitian people in rebuilding their country, the representatives of Chile and the United States, co-leaders of that visit, told other members on 29 January.
Civilian protection, asymmetric threats, caveats imposed by troop-contributing countries and the role of United Nations Police figured prominently in the Council’s consideration of peacekeeping matters.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed Council members twice, both times joined by various Force Commanders or Police Commissioners who described operational hurdles to implementation of their respective mandates.
On 17 June, Mr. Ladsous said peacekeepers were working in environments of unprecedented scale and difficulty. Force Commanders of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) recounted challenges relating to the protection of civilians, the use of force and abiding by national caveats. On 13 November, he stressed that United Nations Police were often viewed by local communities as the “face” of the Organization’s peacekeeping operations. The Police Commissioners of UNMISS, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) described their experiences of adapting to highly fluid security environments.
In that context, the Council issued a presidential statement on 31 December, stressing the importance of triangular consultations among itself, the troop- and police-contributing countries and the Secretariat in order to improve United Nations peacekeeping operations. It noted, in particular, the view shared by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and the Secretary-General that the lack of effective dialogue among those stakeholders had generated frustration on all sides and undermined mandate implementation.
In the first of two meetings, the Council issued a statement on 14 January, underlining the primary responsibility of national Governments for the success of peacebuilding. Peace required coherence among political, security and development approaches, which was essential for improving human rights, gender equality and the rule of law in countries emerging from conflict, it said. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, introducing the relevant report of the Secretary-General, said that, in examining the life of a conflict, “we need to think of extending that attention to the pre-stage and the post-stage”.
On 25 June, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that body could increasingly play to its political strength by adopting the determined position it had taken in the early stages of the Ebola outbreak. Presenting the Commission’s 2014 report, he said the body was uniquely placed to promote harmony among the subregional, regional and international dimensions of post-conflict responses. The review of the peacebuilding architecture offered an opportunity to strengthen United Nations efforts in that regard, he added.
Children and Armed Conflict
With its adoption of resolution 2225 (2015) on 18 June, the Council added abduction to the list of crimes against children to be closely monitored, urging the “immediate, safe and unconditional” release of all child abductees. The action, taken ahead of an open debate in which some 80 speakers participated, underscored the point made by many that 2014 had been the worst year for children affected by armed conflict. In opening remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said non-State armed groups were using abduction to terrorize ethnic and religious groups, and described the protection of children as a “moral imperative and legal obligation”.
In an open debate on 25 March, Junior Nzita Nsuami, a former child soldier forced at age 12 into a decade of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told the Council that his most painful memories were of watching other children play and wishing he could join them. The meeting also heard from the Secretary-General, his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the last of whom stressed: “Our outrage is not enough.” A Child Protection Adviser of Save the Children in the Central African Republic called upon the United Nations to engage with armed groups to agree and implement action plans.
Women, Peace and Security
The Council outlined sweeping actions taken in 2015 to improve implementation of its landmark women, peace and security agenda, covering its work on countering violent extremism and terrorism, improving working methods and broadly taking up the gender recommendations of a newly completed global study it had requested two years ago. Unanimously adopting resolution 2242 (2015) on 13 October, ahead of a high-level open debate on the topic, the Council decided to integrate women, peace and security concerns across all country-specific situations on its agenda. Addressing the meeting, the Secretary-General said a theme had emerged from major reviews of United Nations peace operations, the peacebuilding architecture, and the women peace and security agenda. “Any reforms must include gender equality and women’s leadership as central ingredients,” he emphasized.
During its 15 April open debate, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict presented the Secretary-General’s report, saying it outlined “shocking” incidents in 19 conflict situations that cast “a long shadow over our collective humanity”. The use by extremist groups of sexual violence as a terror tactic — in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria and Mali — represented a “catastrophic” new trend, she said, imploring the Council to partner with women’s groups and service providers to protect those at risk, support survivors and prosecute perpetrators.
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
On 27 May, the unanimous adoption of resolution 2222 (2015) — which strongly condemned impunity for attacks on journalists — anchored the Council’s work on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which it carried out in three public meetings. The text called upon all parties to conflict and all Member States to create a safe environment for media professionals “in law and practice”. The day-long debate included comments by the widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.
Six months later, on 25 November, outraged that civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties during conflicts, the Council issued a presidential statement expressing its intention to continue addressing the protection of civilians, both in country-specific considerations and as a thematic agenda item. That point was driven home during a 30 January meeting, when some 70 speakers decried the impacts of stoning, enslavement, rape and forced suicide bombings on women and girls. “There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought to account for their crimes,” Kang Kyung-wha, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, emphasized.
Maintenance of International Peace and Security
Meetings: 19 January, 23 February, 23 April, 30 July, 18 August, 20 August, 17 November, 20 November, 25 November, 9 December, 16 December; Resolution: 2250 (2015); Presidential Statements: S/2015/3, S/2015/22, S/2015/25.
Taking up a range of aspects relating to the maintenance of international peace and security throughout the year, the Council held unprecedented debates on the role of youth in countering violent extremism, on the root causes of conflict and on human trafficking. Issuing a presidential statement on 19 January, it underlined the primary responsibility of national authorities for engendering inclusive development. Nearly 80 speakers urged a common United Nations approach in that regard, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declaring as he opened the meeting: “Post-conflict societies must prioritize social, economic and political inclusion if they are to have any hope of rebuilding trust between communities.”
Reiterating the need for a common approach in a 23 February ministerial debate, nearly 80 speakers underlined the importance of respecting the United Nations Charter in the maintenance of international peace and security. As the Organization approached its seventieth anniversary, the Charter tenet of national security remained valid, but a State’s responsibility for its people and its participation in global cooperation were also increasingly vital, Secretary-General Ban emphasized. Presiding over the meeting, Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China cautioned against international intervention and other forceful measures whenever possible.
On 23 April, in its first-ever high-level debate on “the role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace”, the Council heard Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II of Jordan — the youngest person ever to preside over a Council meeting — emphasize that youth must be engaged in such efforts. The session also featured briefings by Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Professor at King’s College, London, and Scott Atran, Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris. Several of the more than 60 speakers stressed that development approaches must reduce the “push” and “pull” factors that enticed young people into violent extremism.
In similar vein, speakers in the Council’s 30 July debate on “peace and security challenges facing small island developing States” stressed that those countries, representing one fifth of Member States, must have their voices heard in the Council. Transnational crime, illicit exploitation of resources, climate change and natural disasters were among the many factors threatening small islands that required collective responsibility. While many agreed that those countries were often the “first alarm” on global problems, Brazil’s representative pointed out that the Council lacked the tools, expertise, representation and legitimacy to deal with the complex issue of climate change.
As the Council considered the question of partnerships in an 18 August debate, speakers stressed that violent extremism, massive population movements and cyberattacks were just some of the evolving global security threats requiring strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations. While it was necessary to build upon cooperation with the African Union and the European Union, different forms of engagement with other organizations should be considered, Secretary-General Ban said in a briefing, citing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Collective Security Organization (CSTO) and the League of Arab States, among others.
During a 20 August special briefing on security-sector reform, Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, emphasized that the professionalization of security sectors should be at the core of the mandates and activities of United Nations peace operations. The meeting — which also featured presentations by Izumi Nakamitsu, Director of the Crisis Response Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict — sought to identify key priorities in the implementation of resolution 2151 (2014), the only stand-alone text on that issue.
Emphasizing that prevention efforts were also essential, the Secretary-General urged a greater focus on prevention, human rights and coherence among all actors in addressing problems which, when allowed to fester, led to large-scale atrocities. He was opening the Council’s first high-level open debate on security, development and the root causes of conflict on 17 November. Olof Skoog (Sweden), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that by overcoming turf wars, the United Nations could provide more effective support for the societies it aimed to help. Wided Bouchamaoui, President of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts and a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate with fellow members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, also addressed the Council. In addition, the nearly 80 speakers in the debate stressed that security and development were “two sides of the same coin”, and the Council had an important role to play.
On 20 November, the Secretary-General presented his report “The Future of United Nations Peace Operations: implementation of the recommendations of the High-level Panel on Peace Operations” to the Council. Stressing that the demands of conflict placed enormous burdens on peace and security tools, he noted that the United Nations did not always respond with the speed and effectiveness required. Going forward, the Council could strengthen peace operations through improved design and implementation of mandates, by endorsing the Panel’s recommendation on sequenced mandates, and, where civilian protection was mandated, by using all available tools, including force. There was also a need to engage troop and police contributors “well before” a peace operation was mandated.
In that context, the Council reiterated its commitment to “early and effective” action to prevent armed conflict on 25 November, issuing a presidential statement that took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the future of United Nations peace operations. More broadly, it recalled its determination to upgrade its situational awareness, and reaffirmed the basic principles of peacekeeping: consent of the parties, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defence or mandate protection.
Recognizing the threat to stability and development posed by radicalization among youth, the Security Council urged Member States to consider ways in which to give young people a greater voice in decisions made at the local, national, regional and international levels. Meeting on 9 December, it unanimously adopted resolution 2250 (2015), which defined youth as persons aged between 18 and 29 years. Also by that text, the Council urged States to consider establishing mechanisms for enabling young people to participate in peace processes and dispute resolution. Jordan’s representative said the text was considered the first of its kind on youth, peace and security, noting that its adoption had followed the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, held in Amman.
Rounding out the year, the Council held its first-ever meeting on human trafficking on 16 December, issuing a presidential statement deploring all such practices by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. Underscoring that certain acts associated with human trafficking in the context of armed conflict might constitute war crimes, it called upon Member States to reinforce their political commitment and improve implementation of their legal obligations to criminalize, prevent and otherwise combat trafficking in persons, while enhancing efforts to “detect and disrupt” the practice.
During the meeting, members heard briefings by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as two moving accounts from the front lines by Nick Grono, head of the Freedom Fund, and Nadia Murad Basee Taha, an Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith, who described her experience of being trafficked and abused by ISIL. She implored the Council to recognize acts of human trafficking as genocide and to refer them to the International Criminal Court, a call echoed by some Government representatives during the debate.
Describing the deep partnership between the United Nations and the European Union, speakers participating in the 9 March meeting called for strengthening the relationship further in such areas as diplomacy, human rights, counter-terrorism and peacekeeping. “At a time when we face multiple crises, strengthening this partnership for peace, human rights and sustainable development is more necessary than ever,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting.
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, agreed that multilateral cooperation was critical, going on to discuss the collective action necessary to help Libya defeat ISIL, counter extremism, ensure accountability for grave violations against civilian populations, and build respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as democracy. Underlining the importance of regional partners, she singled out the League of Arab States, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Union, as well as interlocutors in Asia and Latin America.
During a meeting on 11 May, Ms. Mogherini addressed the growing crisis of migrant trafficking, describing the plight of migrants as “an exceptional situation that requires an exceptional and coordinated response”. The European Union stood ready to address the root causes of the crisis — including poverty, conflict and human rights abuses — in close partnership with countries in the region and the Council, she said, citing the bloc’s efforts to disrupt human trafficking, including by tripling resources to its Triton and Poseidon operations. However, the European Union could not work alone, she emphasized.
Téte António, Permanent Observer of the African Union, stressed the need for coordinated partnership involving that regional body, the European Union and concerned countries. Noting that “push factors” such as climate change, lack of inter-African mobility and the digital gap resulted in the emergence of criminal gangs that threatened international security and stability, he underlined the importance of collective efforts towards realizing the development agenda and a more just international system.
Peter Sutherland, United Nations Special Representative for International Migration, also briefed the Council, saying that more resettlement countries and quotas must be made available and more aid provided to countries close to conflict zones.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Meeting: 24 February.
Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, spoke in his capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), briefing on the new Minsk Accord reached by the leaders of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, France and Germany. He said the truce announced on 12 February was the best available road map for bringing about calm and enabling the OSCE Special Monitoring and Verification Mission to carry out its mandate. He emphasized the importance of coordination between OSCE and relevant United Nations agencies in identifying urgent needs so as to address the humanitarian situation.
Turning to the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, he expressed concern over recent developments, recalling that he had met earlier in February with the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group (France, Russian Federation and the United States) to discuss steps to reduce tensions while facilitating a high-level dialogue towards a peaceful settlement.
International Criminal Tribunals
The International Tribunals established to prosecute serious human rights crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s were downsizing as quickly as possible, with the formal closure of the Rwanda Tribunal on track for the end of 2015, their senior-most officials told the Council in their semi-annual updates. The 9 December arrest of Ladislas Ntaganzwa, wanted by Rwandan authorities for his role in the 1994 violence, marked another milestone in the pursuit of justice. The transition of both courts to a smaller successor body was an opportunity to both preserve and share lessons learned in the practice of international jurisprudence, the officials said on 3 June, as the Council heard from the respective presidents and prosecutors of the Tribunals.
However, Carmel Agius, President of the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, said in a 9 December briefing that if it was to complete its work by the end of 2017, the Council must help it manage the “perennial and endemic” problem of staff attrition because the drain of experienced staff was a serious threat to completion of the mandate. With that in mind, on 22 December, the Council extended until varying dates throughout 2016 the terms of office for 17 permanent and ad litem judges, adopting resolution 2256 (2015) by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention by the Russian Federation’s representative delegate, who objected to further extensions, pointing out that the Tribunal had been due to close five years ago. He added that his delegation would look to a decision in the long-standing Šešelj case as an indicator of progress.
In a presidential statement issued on 16 November, the Council requested that the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals present, by 20 November, its report on the work carried out in its initial four-year period. It also requested that a related informal working group examine that update so that a mandated review of the Mechanism would be complete by 21 December.
On 16 June, the Council heard briefings on the activities of subsidiary bodies forming a crucial part of the United Nations counter-terrorism machinery: the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001), also known as the Counter-Terrorism Committee; the Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) concerning Al-Qaida, or the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee; and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) concerning the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Delivering a joint statement on behalf of all the committee’s, Spain’s representative said that seizing opportunities for further engagement should lead to a “multiplier effect” in the delivery of results.
The meeting dovetailed with another held on 17 December, which featured briefings by the five outgoing Council members on the work of the subsidiary bodies they had chaired during their two-year tenure: the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, chaired by Chad; Committee on Liberia established by resolution 1521 (2003) and the Committee on the Democratic Republic of the Congo established by resolution 1553 (2004), both chaired by Jordan; Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism, the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013) concerning the Central African Republic, and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014), concerning Yemen, all chaired by Lithuania; Committee established pursuant to resolution 1572 (2004) concerning Côte d’Ivoire, the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan, and the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals, chaired by Chile; and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea-Bissau and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1518 (2003) concerning Iraq, both chaired by Nigeria.
Among the topics covered during the Council’s annual discussion on its working methods was use of the veto, cooperation with the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, regional organizations and troop- and police-contributing countries, as well as procedures for appointing the new Secretary-General. Held on 20 October, the day-long debate featured interventions by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, and Olof Skoog (Sweden), President of the Peacebuilding Commission, among many others.
On 30 October, the Council concluded the discussion by issuing a presidential statement by which it underscored the importance of increased interaction among the principal United Nations organs. The Council pledged to keep its working methods under consideration during its regular work in order to ensure that they were consistently implemented.
More broadly, the Council continued to hold monthly “wrap-up sessions” in a public briefing format. Introduced in 2014 for the first time since 2005, the sessions offered a glimpse into internal Council dynamics on working methods. Members highlighted their positions on a range of situations addressed each month, from violence in Syria and the broader Middle East to unrest in the Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan and Darfur. Interventions also focused on sanctions, terrorism and the protection of children in armed conflict.
Meeting: 20 October.
As the Council met to adopt its annual report to the General Assembly for the period 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015, New Zealand’s representative, in charge of the introductory section, explained that his delegation had taken a revised approach by providing an introduction that was half the length of others published in recent years. Acknowledging that it “would not go as far as some would wish”, he said that he would have hoped for more reflection on the Council’s performance.
Security Council Mission
Meeting: 18 March.
The representatives of France and Angola, co-leaders of a Security Council mission to the Central African Republic and Burundi, updated members on the team’s discussions with key stakeholders in the peace processes in those countries. In two days in the Central African Republic, the team had held discussions with political leaders and others in the capital, Bangui, and in the countryside of Bria. In Burundi, the team had held “far-reaching” exchanges with the President and leading ministers, civil society representatives, religious authorities and United Nations agencies. Between the country visits, the mission had stopped in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Council’s ninth joint annual meeting with the African Union Peace and Security Council, members heard.