2 March 2020

Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for March

March will see the Security Council prioritize discussions about Africa, peacekeeping and the urgent need to preserve multilateralism against the backdrop of an increasingly divided world, Zhang Jun (China), its President for that month said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“We all know that we are living in a world full of uncertainties,” said Mr. Zhang, as he outlined the 15-member Council’s programme of work and took questions on a range of topics, most notably the threat posed by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Emphasizing that the Council continues to play a major role in seeking the peaceful political settlement of conflicts, he said China’s presidency will adopt a responsible, impartial approach aimed at furthering dialogue between warring parties.  It is open to input from all stakeholders, including civil society, he added.

Noting that a rising tide of unilateralism “has shaken the international order”, he said multilateralism offers solutions to all the world’s major challenges.  China’s delegation will convene an open debate on that issue — focusing, in particular, on the political settlement of disputes — on 19 March.  Among those invited to share their views on that occasion will be Secretary-General António Guterres, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria) and Justice Abdulqawi Yusuf, President of the International Court.

Africa will be the second priority for the month, he continued.  Noting that the continent has the world’s greatest development potential, he pointed out that it nevertheless continues to grapple with both old and emerging challenges.  Among the latter are the new threats posed by terrorism and extremism, which will be the focus of a debate on peace and security in Africa, to be held on 11 March, he said, expressing hope that representatives of the African Union, the Secretariat and African States will share their views on that occasion and offer practical ideas on how to address the rising threat of terrorism on the continent.

United Nations peacekeeping operations will be a third priority, he said, stressing that “blue helmets” today face many new challenges to their safety and security.  Citing their lack of capacity, he announced plans to convene a debate on that matter on 24 March, calling upon troop-contributing countries, as well as peacekeeping-related institutions, to share their views — and tangible, pragmatic solutions — on how best to address those issues.

Turning to the various conflict hotspots around the globe, he said that most of them — ranging from Syria to Libya to Iraq and Yemen — will be addressed as part of the Council’s busy March programme of work.  Pledging to promote dialogue between parties to conflict while working to narrow their differences, he said that his delegation also plans to undertake efforts to improve the Council’s effectiveness and efficiency throughout the month.  “We all need to work more closely and more responsibly in the Security Council,” he said, emphasizing that today’s world is becoming increasingly divided.

Asked whether the Council plans to discuss COVID-19 during the month, the President said that the Secretary-General has announced plans to change the arrangements for several upcoming conferences, including the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  However, Council members generally feel there is no reason to panic at the moment and plan to monitor the situation, he said, adding that COVID-19 is not currently on the organ’s agenda.  The virus falls under the umbrella of global public health and security, rather than the Council’s geopolitical scope, he added.

In response to questions about China’s national experience with the virus, he noted that the number of active cases in the country declined to around 200 as of 1 March.  The number of patients having recovered has reached 2,800, thanks largely to the Government’s unprecedented measures — the strictest in China’s history — and pledged to share the country’s experience and lessons learned with other nations.

Asked specifically about the decision to dramatically scale back the upcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women — which will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — he expressed regret that the decision had to be made, while emphasizing that the coronavirus threat and related uncertainties are real.  However, the commitment of the United Nations to promoting the strong momentum of women’s rights remains unchanged and the international community’s overall efforts will not be affected, he stressed.

Responding to the announcement today that Ghassan Salamé, United Nations Special Envoy for Libya is resigning his post, and how that departure is expected to impact the Council’s work, the President said that although it will take more time to assess the impact, Libya is on the Council’s March agenda and members had expected to hear a briefing by Mr. Salamé.  He went on to express appreciation for the latter’s efforts to end the Libya conflict, recalling that the Council adopted a resolution on the matter in February.  Its commitment to promoting a political settlement in that country remains unchanged.

Asked about previous attempts to appoint a joint special envoy for Libya with the African Union or the League or Arab States, he said it will mainly be up to the Secretary-General to put forward ideas regarding Mr. Salamé’s successor.

When asked whether the Council will meet on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or push forward a draft resolution on the matter, he said that the Council plans to discuss mandate extensions for of the related Panel of Experts in March.  He added that the delegations of China and the Russian Federation have submitted a draft resolution intended to create the conditions needed for progress towards denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, and it “remains on the table”.

For the full programme of work, please see

For information media. Not an official record.