The Security Council will hold more than 20 meetings in November, including important open debates on peacekeeping operations in Africa and the strengthening of global multilateralism, its President for the month said at a Headquarters press briefing today.
Presenting an overview of the 15-member Council’s “very full” programme of work, Ma Zhaoxu (China) said his presidency chose to hold the first of those two debates — scheduled for 9 November — in view of new challenges facing the more than seven-decades-old multilateral world order. Emphasizing that the United Nations has stood at the core of the multilateral order, he declared: “Thanks to that, the world has maintained peace and security in general.” However, the world is now filled with uncertainties and destabilizing factors; long‑standing rules and mechanisms are being undermined. The Council, in fulfilling its duty to maintain international peace and security, must play a leading role. The open debate will provide all Member States a chance to discuss ways to strengthen multilateralism and the role of the United Nations, as well as the latter’s cooperation with regional organizations.
Meanwhile, he said, the second open debate — to be held on 20 November — will focus on peace and security in Africa, especially the strengthening of United Nations peacekeeping operations on the continent. Recalling that the topic is a tradition for China’s Security Council presidencies, he pointed out that Africa is not only host to many peacekeeping operations, but is also a major troop contributor. Expressing hope that the debate will set the stage for further discussion of the issue — leading to strengthened cooperation between African Union, African countries and the United Nations — he said continued support and attention from the international community is critical.
Drawing attention to various other items on the agenda, he said the Council will take up issues including the situations in Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Burundi, Iraq, Kosovo and Yemen. It will also discuss a report by the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee and hear a briefing by the police commissioners of United Nations peacekeeping operations, among other things.
On Libya, he said the Council supports all efforts to stabilize the situation, including through mediation, and to promote a political solution. Despite rampant terrorist activities and continuing security and migration-related challenges, Libya is making steady progress, and the Council will continue to lend its full support. On Syria — whose humanitarian, political and chemical weapons situations will be discussed this month in three separate Council meetings — he emphasized that the country stands at a “critical juncture”, with a potential political settlement taking shape. He expressed full support for outgoing Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s efforts to drive forward political dialogue, in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015). The priority now is the establishment of Syria’s constitutional committee, he said, adding that all Council members are united in support of maintaining peace in the Idlib area.
Turning to the situation in the Horn of Africa, he welcomed progress in relations between countries, as well as accelerated nation-building in Somalia and urged States of the region to seize that positive momentum. Turning to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the Council will take up on 6 November, he expressed hope that its discussion will make a positive contribution to building trust between parties and maintaining stability. He also noted that Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Jan Kubiš will brief the Council on 13 November, while a briefing on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will take place the following day. On the latter, he expressed hope that the parties will seize the opportunity presented by resumed dialogue and carry out the agreement they have reached.
On the Sahel region — where the threats to peace and security remain severe — he said the work of the Group of Five for the Sahel joint force continues to demonstrate commitment on the part of States to combat the threats they face. Recalling that previous Council resolutions authorized the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to support the Force, he voiced support for bolstered assistance in that regard, all while fully respecting African leadership in resolving African issues.
Addressing the critical situation in Yemen, he said many people around the world — and in the Council — are hopeful that political talks will help ease the humanitarian crisis. Expressing concern that the latter continues to worsen, he also voiced his hope that Council members will remain united on the issue.
Other topics on the agenda will include Lebanon, South Sudan, Burundi — where the situation is now generally calm — and the long‑standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In addition to those hotspot issues, he said, the Council will consider six resolutions relating to mandate extensions and renewals. Council members have also been invited to visit Beijing to meet with officials in charge of deploying China’s peacekeeping troops, he said, adding that his Presidency — in line with its long‑standing practice — will aim to improve the Council’s efficiency and working methods by providing suggested guidelines to briefers.
Responding to several questions from members of the press, including several who pointed out that United States unilateral sanctions against Iran are set to take effect on 5 November, Mr. Ma said that issue is not presently on the Council’s agenda for the month, though all members are watching events closely. His presidency remains open to considering holding a meeting on any topic, if requested to do so by a member.
Asked about the possibility of lifting sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mr. Ma said some Council members — including China — believe it will become necessary for the Council to invoke “reversible provisions”, when appropriate, given Pyongyang’s recent progress towards denuclearization. Also regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, another journalist asked whether the Council will invoke United Nations Charter Articles allowing States to attend and speak at meetings about topics in which are directly affected. To that, Mr. Ma responded that the Rules of Procedure — “the Bible of the Council” — will be fully followed throughout his Presidency.
Responding to a question about the decision to invite the Council to Beijing — which a journalist pointed out is not a conflict zone, and which some might refer to as “Security Council tourism” — Mr. Ma said the invitation is a bilateral one extended by his delegation in its national capacity, and based on its belief that participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations is one of its most critical duties. The trip will provide Council members a chance to better understand the role of Chinese peacekeepers and hold an exchange with military officials in Beijing, he said, stressing that improved cooperation is crucial given the increasingly complex issues now being tackled by peacekeepers.
For the full programme of work, please see www.un.org/en/sc/programme/.