Protecting civilians, making progress in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire and creating a special mission to monitor disarmament in Colombia had been at the centre of the Security Council’s work over the past four weeks, Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), its President for January, said during the monthly wrap-up meeting today.
Providing an overview of the month, he said the Council had held 17 public meetings and 12 consultations. It had adopted four resolutions, issued 12 press statements, held one closed meeting and dispatched a visiting mission to Burundi.
He said progress had been made in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, and welcomed efforts by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to advance peace in Cyprus. Resolution 2261 (2016) was a source of “great satisfaction” which would advance negotiations between the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo (FARC–EP), he added.
Citing other positive developments, he said they had included open debates on the protection of civilians and the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, noting that the issue of civilian protection was often enmeshed with other problems, such as the humanitarian situations unfolding in the region.
At the same time, he expressed concern about the 6 January nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, expressing hope that the Council would adopt a resolution in the coming days. Another important matter was the suspension of elections in Haiti, which demonstrated a lack of responsibility on the part of the political establishment for ensuring compliance with timelines and obligations to both establish a Government and carry out reforms, he said, suggesting the dispatch of a mission to place the political process “back on the rails” in the island nation.
Turning elsewhere, he said hunger and siege were being used as weapons of war in Syria, Sudan and Yemen, while hospitals and schools were being targeted for attack. He expressed frustration that the Council had seen neither parties abiding by their commitments nor non-State actors heeding its decisions. Indeed, the Council had its own “momentum and rhythms” in addressing certain issues, he said, noting that genuine debate was more often heard in the consultation room than in the chamber.
When the President opened the floor for debate, speakers said that during the course of January, Council members had both rallied to consensus on important issues and failed to act quickly enough at other times to change fundamental dynamics playing out in various crises. In that context, some speakers said, it had responded to the dire humanitarian situation in Syria only when dramatic images had emerged of starvation in Madaya. “We should have been doing this much, much earlier,” one representative emphasized, describing the Council’s inaction as a classic failure to grab the issue and act quickly, reminiscent of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Several others stressed the need to prevent “new Madayas” and, on the security front, noted the ongoing review of resolution 1540 (2004) which sought to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of non-State actors.
Another speaker added that the Council had met three times on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict in Syria, pointing out that “quantity had not translated to quality” and that some members had sought to scuttle upcoming political negotiations. No matter how long the Council debated the situation, whether in the chamber or in the consultation room, conditions on the ground would not change without political will.
Other speakers pointed out that one conclusion from the 19 January open debate on the protection of civilians was that conditions on the ground often did not reflect the robust normative framework embodied in Council resolutions and presidential statements.
On Burundi, some speakers described the Council’s 21-23 January visiting mission there as “disappointing”, citing the problems involved in engaging a Government that had a “very different” vision for the country’s future from that of the opposition. The Council’s desire was to help Burundi address its problems through dialogue, they said, calling upon the Government to do more to restore public confidence. Others pointed out that the Council itself had taken too long before agreeing on a visit, a delay that had weakened its message at a time when sustained pressure was needed.
With one speaker suggesting that the Council move away from consensus when making such decisions, others nonetheless described the visit to Burundi as a “major achievement” because the mission had engaged with key actors at a time of crisis. Its message to the President was a direct outcome of the mission.
The issue of trust in the Council also emerged as a theme, with many speakers citing resolution 2261 (2016), by which it had created a special mission to monitor the disarmament process between Columbia and FARC–EP. The fact that the parties had sought support highlighted the Council’s “great responsibility” in stopping a culture of violence. Many speakers welcomed the chance to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict.
Examples of unity included the Council’s press statement condemning the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which several speakers said had been in violation of the entire non-proliferation regime. It was time for the Council to “take further significant measures”. Others cited resolutions welcoming the formation of the Government of National Accord in Libya, and progress in negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
And while some speakers criticized the Council’s failure to work in a coordinated manner on the question of Palestine, others said the 26 January open debate had seen general agreement that the most pressing issue in the region was defeating radical extremist groups.
On the Council’s working methods, speakers suggested that wrap-up sessions become a fixed item on the agenda, which would offer a regular exercise in transparency and inclusivity, while providing outgoing members with a chance to reflect on performance. Council debates, briefings and consultations had often led to the repetition of known positions, and informal interactive dialogue with the wider United Nations membership was more useful.
The meeting began at 10:29 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.