Debates on the Middle East and security challenges in small island developing States would be the highlights of the New Zealand presidency of the Security Council in July, a month that would also see several briefings and mandate renewals.
“It will be a very challenging month because there are a number of serious issues before the Council,” said Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand, as he addressed the press at Headquarters this afternoon. One of the 15-member body’s main priorities over the next month would be its open debate on the maintenance of peace and security in small island developing States, to be held on 30 July. New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, would preside over the debate, which would feature regional representatives from the highest levels, including the Prime Minister of Jamaica and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Seychelles.
The issue of security in the world’s 52 small island developing States, which had a combined population of 50 million people, was critical, he stressed. The challenges facing those States were exacerbated by small size, geographic remoteness, climate change, drug smuggling and resource theft, among other issues. Those island States would choose which topics to highlight at the debate. While no formal outcome product was expected, the discussion would likely map out a direction for further steps to take to ensure the security of those countries.
Noting that voters in Burundi had gone to the polls on 29 June, he expressed concern at preliminary observations that conditions for free, fair elections had not been met. In that regard, members of the Council were working on a further product.
On South Sudan, he noted that sanctions had just become effective on six individuals. Sanctions were a political tool, but not a comprehensive solution; efforts were under way to find a comprehensive solution to the issue under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). There needed to be an end to attacks such as the one yesterday on a United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protection site. It was likely that the Council would meet to discuss South Sudan in the coming days.
Yemen was another hotspot coming back into focus, he continued, adding that the humanitarian situation there had been raised to a level 3 emergency. The Council would be watching developments closely and be ready to convene at the appropriate time. Meanwhile, on Libya, the Council had met yesterday and continued to urge parties to bring about a political solution to the crisis there. A report from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Bernardino León, was expected.
The Council was scheduled to meet three times on the issue of Syria, where he said Members had long remained divided. Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for that country, would brief the Council on 28 July. Stressing the need to end the fighting, he said that “the Council should take a very hard look to see what can be done on the humanitarian situation in Syria”. In that vein, the Council could expect a briefing in consultations by Stephen O’Brien, the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
One open debate would be held on the Middle East peace process, with a focus on Israel and Palestine, as well as the humanitarian situation in Gaza. On 14 July, the Council would hear a briefing on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), including on sanctions. The Chair of that Sanctions Committee, as well as Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of MONUSCO, would brief the Council, said Mr. van Bohemen, emphasizing that the body was united in its concern about the current situation, as well as risks to peacekeepers.
A number of peacekeeping missions were scheduled to have mandate renewals during the month, including the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). A key feature of the latter was the important harmonization between the African Union force and the United Nations support mission, he said.
The Council would be closely following the talks in Vienna on Iran nuclear issues. It was not clear when any agreement reached would come before the Council; however, “we will be as nimble and responsive as possible”, he said.
This morning, Malaysia’s Permanent Representative had briefed the Council on his intentions to pass a resolution on the Malaysia Airlines MH17 aircraft that was shot down in 2014, with criminal accountability at its core. The issue was expected to remain the subject of consultations over the month.
Mr. van Bohemen went on to say that, next week, the Council would hold a briefing to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Srebrenica. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson would be on hand at the commemoration, he said, adding that he hoped for a Council product to be issued on that occasion.
On the Council’s working methods, he said that talks had been held yesterday on how the body could better conduct its business, in particular in informal consultations. There was broad support among members to have more direct conversations with each other.
Mr. van Bohemen responded to a number of questions from correspondents, including one who asked if the issue of recognition had come up with regard to Burundi’s elections and potential third-term President. He responded that the issue had not yet come up. A press statement had been issued on Burundi, he said.
A number of correspondents raised questions about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which was not specifically listed on the Council’s programme of work for July. To that, he responded that ISIL came up in conversations about Iraq, Syria and Libya, as well as in discussion on sanctions. “This is an issue we need to think quite hard about,” he said. However, ISIL was difficult to address in its “compartmentalized” state.
Asked if there was a realistic movement on a resolution on barrel bombs, he responded that there had been an Arria Formula meeting on that issue. He did not want to speculate as to what would come out of that.
To a question about the downed MH17 aircraft, Mr. van Bohemen said that no draft resolution had been made available yet.
Responding to a question about action on the Middle East, and about whether the Council might go to Gaza to see the conditions with their own eyes, he said that no such visit was planned for July. There was talk about the right time to take action on the Middle East. Speaking in his national capacity, he added that the failure of the Council to take action would be an abdication of its responsibility.
Asked about Srebrenica, and what he would do to prevent such atrocities in the future, Mr. van Bohemen said that he had been scarred on a personal level by the genocide in Rwanda. However, the Council could only act when it was united. In a related question, he was asked about “genocidal tendencies” in Sudan, and about what more could be done to stop them. To that, he responded that the Council would hold consultations on Sudan next week.
Asked about the process for selecting the next Secretary-General of the United Nations, he said in his national capacity that New Zealand was a member of the group of nations that was concerned with reforming that process. As Council President, he had a responsibility to ensure that the body at least considered the issue.