The Security Council would organize several of its March meetings to correspond with important international events, including International Women’s Day and World Water Day, said Karel J.G. van Oosterom (Netherlands), Council President for the month, as he presented his delegation’s priorities during a Headquarters press briefing today.
Noting that today marked the first time the Netherlands had taken up the Council Presidency since November 2000 — and recalling that, in an agreement reached last year, its two-year term had been split with Italy — he said his delegation would take a strong multilateral approach to its work, in line with the unique obligations enshrined in its Constitution. It would pursue its efforts in a respectful, inclusive, transparent manner aimed at reaching consensus among Council members.
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, he said the Council would hold a debate on Afghanistan that would also focus on women, peace and security, with the participation of Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands’ Minister for Foreign Affairs. That afternoon, the Council would hear a briefing by the Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), held by Italy, and discuss cooperation between that organization and the United Nations. Meanwhile, on 22 March — World Water Day — Council members would hold a meeting on water-related issues in the Lake Chad Basin, with participation by Foreign Minister Kaag and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed. That event would correspond with a high-level World Water Day event to be convened by the General Assembly.
Noting that the month would also see the renewals of several peace operations mandates — including of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) — he said that, on 12 March, the Council would be briefed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), adopted on 24 February, which had demanded that the parties in Syria adhere to a ceasefire without delay.
On 13 March, he said the Council would be briefed by the Chair of the Eritrea Sanctions Committee, and on 14 March, by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on developments in that country’s political track. On 20 March, the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would engage with Council members in an informal, interactive dialogue, after which the Council would brief the press.
He said an open debate on peacekeeping operations on 28 March would serve as a platform to help launch a series of improvements in United Nations peacekeeping, efforts the Council had been coordinating with Secretary-General António Guterres. Describing the event as a signature of the Netherlands’ Council Presidency, he said the meeting came amid discussions stemming from the December 2017 release of the “Cruz Report” on improving the Organization’s peacekeeping operations. The meeting would not be a one-time event, but rather, the start of a process led by the Secretary-General to make United Nations peacekeeping more “fit for purpose”.
Mr. Oosterom then fielded several questions from correspondents related to the conflict in Syria and resolution 2401 (2018), which called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting. One journalist cited a discrepancy between the urgency of many Council members’ statements and the “wiggle room” contained in that resolution — which could allow the parties to refuse to implement it — while another asked why the Council planned to wait until 12 March to discuss the implementation of that urgent resolution, as it was being violated “every minute”. Responding, he said that, at a Council breakfast this morning, there had been broad agreement among members that 15 days following the resolution’s adoption was the appropriate time to take stock of its implementation. As had been seen in recent days, there were divergent views on resolution 2401 (2018).
Responding to another correspondent who cited a global perception that the Council — and the United Nations more broadly — was not doing enough to address the crisis in Syria, he responded that it was also up to the wider United Nations membership to work with relevant parties and pressure those on the ground to adhere to ceasefire agreements.
Asked whether any formal meetings would be held to correspond with the 14 March submission of a final report on non-proliferation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mr. Oosterom said the mandate of the Panel of Experts on that matter would likely be extended, but there was currently no plan to hold formal talks on that issue. The sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were extremely targeted to bring parties back to the negotiating table, and implementing them would be critical. Speaking in his capacity as Chair of that sanctions committee — the most complex in the world — he said there had been significant outreach to the United Nations membership to explain how the sanctions worked. However, more information sharing was needed, as was capacity-building to assist States that lacked the necessary export controls.
Responding to a correspondent who asked whether there been any request for a monitoring mission in Venezuela, he there had been no such request to date, but that the Council was ready to take up the matter if asked to do so.
Asked about the 8 March debate on the situation in Afghanistan, which one correspondent said could potentially come on the heels of that Government’s official recognition of the Taliban as a party and launch of talks with that group, Mr. Oosterom said the Council’s visit to Kabul under Kazakhstan’s Presidency had greatly benefited its work. There was broad commitment on the part of all Council members to supporting the political process, including talks with the Taliban.
In response to questions about the situation of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state — and whether the Netherlands had considered leading a Council mission to Myanmar — he said outreach to that Government had begun under Kuwait’s Council Presidency, but no agreement on a mission had been reached. However, he stressed, there was no evidence of efforts to block such a visit, and the Council’s work on that issue would continue.
Responding to another question about who would brief the Council on the report of the Committee created pursuant to resolution 1701 (2006), relating to the maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon, and whether the issue of oil and gas would be discussed, he said the briefers would include Acting Special Coordinator Pernille Dahler Kardel and Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita. He did not know, in his capacity as Council President, whether issues related to oil and gas would be raised at that meeting.
Asked why open meetings on the Israel-Palestine question and on the situation in Guinea-Bissau had not been included in the Council’s March programme, he replied that the Council would hear a briefing by Special Coordinator Nikolai Mladenov on the 26 March. The situation in Guinea-Bissau, while not formally scheduled on the March programme, was included in a footnote, which would allow States geographically close to that country to bring up the matter if and when it was needed.
For the full programme of work, please see www.un.org/en/sc/programme/.