An increasingly diverse range of experts addressed the Security Council as it grappled with complex national postures in 2019, a year marked by widespread popular uprisings and the erosion of hard-won international treaties.
The 15-member Council convened a total of 243 public meetings, adopted 52 resolutions and issued 15 presidential statements in 2019. In three instances, sharply divided delegations presented competing draft resolutions, which resulted in the rejection of six proposed texts. China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States — the Council’s five permanent members — found themselves particularly at odds over questions of State sovereignty, trading sporadic accusations of interference in domestic affairs.
Many discussions revolved around repercussions of the withdrawal by the United States from various international and bilateral treaties, including the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Delegates also expressed concern about flagrant violations of laws protecting civilians in conflict and deals between parties to conflict, such as the arrangement establishing safe zones in Syria.
While much of Africa witnessed a positive political trajectory, its West and Central subregions continued to suffer an onslaught by extremists, including groups allied with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and its defunct so-called caliphate. Many of the oldest conflicts on the Council’s agenda — including those in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and parts of Europe — remained deadlocked. Syria saw two major military escalations in 2019, despite modest progress on the political track, while the parties to Yemen’s brutal civil war pushed steadily towards peace.
Civilians took to the streets in protest from Khartoum to Bogotá to Hong Kong, while extremist factions — or individuals motivated by their ideologies — perpetrated attacks against religious sites from New Zealand and Sri Lanka to the United States. Meanwhile, tensions between the United States and Iran intensified steadily, coming to a head in the final weeks of 2019, as Member States grappled with the fallout from the rapidly disintegrating nuclear deal.
The Council held more interactive discussions, with a more diverse range of briefers than ever before. They included grass‑roots leaders, doctors, Nobel Peace Prize laureates and survivors of conflict, including a Yazidi witness of the horrors wrought by ISIL/Da’esh. A woman living with a disability briefed the Council for the first time in its history, as members examined the impact of war on vulnerable groups. While discussions focused increasingly on conflict prevention and mediation — especially in light of the global refugee and climate crises — delegates remained divided over the usefulness of tackling thematic issues within the Council.
Council members also marked a series of anniversaries related to the protection of civilians, adopting the first resolution on the protection of persons with disabilities in conflict and another dealing with the plight of missing persons.
As the world commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions in August, many Council members described the landmark treaties as “more critical than ever” in light of today’s complex asymmetrical conflicts and the growing use of autonomous weapons.
Increasing attacks on peacekeepers also took centre stage, with Council members deliberating on how best to protect “Blue Helmets” around the globe. An increasing number of female officials — including commanders of several Council‑deployed military and police contingents — addressed the Council, as delegates welcomed the ambitious targets laid out in the Secretary-General’s Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy and enumerated the many peacebuilding benefits of deploying female troops.
In the Caribbean, 2019 saw the end of a 15‑year peacekeeping presence in Haiti and the subsequent establishment of a new United Nations integrated office there. Council members also worked to support the now three-year-old peace agreement that officially ended the long-running civil war in Colombia. Deliberations on the nature of the political crisis in neighbouring Venezuela reignited decades-old tensions, with several delegates accusing the United States of resuming cold‑war-era interventions in the affairs of sovereign Latin American nations.
Across Africa, the expanding strength of regional and subregional organizations was partly responsible for driving a patchwork of crystallizing democratic reforms, accelerating peace processes and diplomatic rapprochements. Dramatic events unfolded in Sudan in April, when long-serving President Omer Hassan al-Bashir was deposed amid widespread popular protests. Seizing control, the Transitional Military Council rapidly reached a power-sharing agreement with civilian leaders. Officials briefing the Council stressed that Sudan stood at a “historic crossroads”, citing the unprecedented opportunity to end the conflicts that had plagued the country for nearly two decades, including the fighting in its western Darfur region.
Democratic elections in 2018 — including one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that brought a new President, Félix Tshilombo Tshisekedi, into office — were followed in 2019 by largely peaceful votes in Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Madagascar and other countries. Meanwhile, deadly terror attacks spiked in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, as insurgents exploited local disputes and tensions over water and grazing land.
Officials emphasized throughout 2019 that the twin threats of terrorism and organized crime were increasingly connected across Central Africa — often exacerbated by the impacts of climate change — and warned that subregional forces would not be able to protect the wider region from a flood of terrorist fighters indefinitely.
Among other developments, the Council examined the deepening sectarian crisis in Cameroon — where more than 500,000 people had been displaced by mid‑year — and threats to the progress of Libya’s fragile State-building endeavour. In April, forces led by General Khalifa Haftar launched a deadly offensive to seize the capital, Tripoli, from the Government of National Accord. Through the remainder of 2019, the Council considered how best to maintain Libya’s stability, support the Government and push forward the country’s painstaking political transition. However, senior officials emphasized repeatedly that the strategically placed country had become an unabashed proxy battleground for foreign actors pursuing their own interests and fortunes.
Violence perpetrated by extremists in the Sahel and Central Africa subregions served as a reminder that ISIL/Da’esh — and countless local militias pledging allegiance to the group — was far from vanquished. Council members heard repeated warnings that ISIL, while defeated on the battleground, had returned to its underground roots with a presence spanning from West Africa to South-East Asia. Moreover, experts cautioned that the group was gaining strength in the form of illicit financing, was in possession of residual wealth estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and that its ideology was alive and spreading in Iraq, South and Central Asia, and beyond.
The Council convened 25 meeting on the crisis in Syria, now entering its ninth year, and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy pushed forward a political breakthrough late in 2019, as the parties agreed the terms of a long-sought Constitutional Committee and convened its first meeting. However, violence flared up during two major military escalations, as the Syrian army and troops from the Russian Federation launched an offensive around Idlib Governorate in April. In October, Turkey launched its own military operation in north-east Syria, forcing 180,000 people to flee in just two weeks. While many Council members condemned the operation, the Russian Federation’s representative applauded his country’s new agreement with Turkey, saying it would allow Syria to uphold its own security and push back an illegal foreign intervention.
Fresh off the heels of the hard-won 2018 Stockholm Agreement, the parties to the conflict in Yemen made slow but steady progress towards peace. Officials welcomed the ceasefire — especially in the crucial port city of Hudaydah — but stressed that 24 million Yemenis, or 80 per cent of the population, still required humanitarian aid. In January, the Council created and deployed the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement, and by mid-year, both Government and Houthi troops had left the city. As the year drew to a close, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy welcomed the dramatic “drop in the tempo of war” and the vastly reduced number of casualties in Yemen, setting up a potential bright spot on the Council’s 2020 agenda.
Following are summaries of public meetings held in 2019:
Meetings: 30 January, 26 February, 28 February, 27 March, 24 April, 30 April, 17 May, 28 May, 18 June, 25 June, 26 June, 27 June, 30 July, 7 August, 29 August, 19 September, 19 September, 30 September, 8 October, 24 October, 14 November, 22 November, 19 December, 19 December, 20 December, 20 December.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/12.
The Security Council convened a total of 25 meetings on the protracted crisis in Syria as it entered its ninth year. At the close of 2018, Staffan de Mistura, outgoing Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, had spearheaded — but not yet realized — efforts to draw up a list of members to participate in an inclusive, representative Syrian constitutional committee. Many delegations viewed the proposed committee as a first step on the country’s long road to a peaceful political solution. However, views diverged on the details of such a process, and Council members repeatedly expressed frustration with the resulting political impasse. Moreover, early 2019 saw a harsh winter beating down upon millions of displaced Syrians whose hopes dwindled as political talks failed to make concrete progress.
On 30 January, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Council that civilians were suffering particularly difficult weather conditions, with millions living under tents and tarpaulins or in damaged buildings with no power or heat. Urging the international community to step up its support, he called attention to the plight of 3 million people in Syria’s north-western Idlib Governorate, where the risk of military escalation still loomed despite previous de-escalation agreements and memoranda of understanding between the parties. Other officials echoed those concerns on 26 February, when the Council turned its attention to people fleeing to camps for the internally displaced in Rukban and Al-Hol. On 28 February, Geir O. Pedersen, the newly appointed Special Envoy, pledged to focus his efforts on direct communication with the Government of Syria and other crucial stakeholders, and on pushing the proposed constitutional committee forward as a “door-opener to deeper dialogue”.
United Nations mediation efforts were the subject of another briefing on 27 March, when Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, emphasized that no subject was off-limits in the Organization’s talks with the parties. The Council took a closer look at the impact of war on Syria’s most vulnerable groups on 24 April, when Nujeen Mustafa — a young woman from Aleppo living with cerebral palsy — described how discrimination and physical barriers were further complicated by life in a war zone. Members again took a deep dive into conditions on the ground on 30 April, as the Special Envoy spotlighted the plight of tens of thousands of missing persons and provided updates on the constitutional committee process.
Following reports of a military escalation by forces of the Russian Federation and Syria in the latter’s north-western region — including inside the Idlib de-escalation area — Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo warned on 17 May that such a development risked triggering a humanitarian catastrophe and overwhelming the international community’s ability to respond. Ursula Mueller, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, echoed those concerns on 28 May, urging the Council to take immediate action to protect civilians. Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo reiterated on 18 June that no political mediation could move forward in an environment of open conflict. Calling on Council members to exert political influence upon the parties, she also noted that Syria’s recent shelling of a Turkish observation post — and Ankara’s subsequent retaliation — were indications of broader threats to the region’s security.
Representatives of several humanitarian organizations, including the Syrian American Medical Society and the Russian Reconciliation Centre, addressed the unabated fighting in the north-west on 25 June. Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, who also briefed, highlighted reports of attacks targeting medical centres in contravention of international law. He questioned whether the international deconfliction mechanism — established to share the location coordinates of such facilities among the warring parties in order to prevent accidental attacks — was working. “The central question is what those receiving location information are doing with it,” he said. Special Envoy Pedersen joined the many voices calling for an urgent cessation of hostilities in Idlib, cautioning on 27 June that the situation could become a powder keg for regional escalation and urging the Russian Federation and Turkey to help stabilize the area.
The situation had not improved as of 30 July, when Under-Secretary-General Lowcock reported that 450 civilians in the north-west were reported killed in the two weeks between 12 and 26 July. Susannah Sirkin, Director of Policy at Physicians for Human Rights, said her group received reports of 46 attacks on health-care centres in the area. The Council’s inaction on the matter was a clear derogation of its responsibility to protect, she emphasized. On 7 August, other civil society briefers told members that they had “utterly failed” thousands of people arbitrarily detained, abducted or disappeared in Syria, without any international support.
As Mr. Lowcock reiterated his call for civilian protection on 29 August, the representative of Syria defended the Idlib offensive conducted by his country’s Government, as well as the latter’s sovereign right to combat thousands of terrorist fighters residing there.
Ms. Mueller, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, appeared before the Council on 19 September, warning that the situation across Syria remained alarming with yet another winter fast approaching. In a second meeting on the same day, members rejected two competing draft resolutions on Syria’s humanitarian situation. The first — presented by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait — would have called upon the parties to cease hostilities and align their counter‑terrorism efforts with international law. It received 12 votes in favour, but was rejected as China and the Russian Federation cast their vetoes in opposition. Those delegations submitted their own draft — defeated by a vote of 9 against to 2 in favour, with 4 abstentions — which would have affirmed that the cessation of hostilities did not apply to military operations against entities associated with terrorist groups.
On the political front, the Special Envoy announced a breakthrough on 30 September, telling the Council that the warring parties had agreed to Rules and Terms of Reference for the long-sought constitutional committee. Outlining those terms, he said the proposed committee would be led by two co-chairs representing the Government and opposition, and would comprise members from a pro-Government third, a pro-opposition third and a diverse, unaffiliated “middle third” stakeholder group. He went on to describe the agreement as a fresh source of hope for the Syrian people, a sentiment echoed by the Council in a presidential statement issued on 8 October.
However, the situation on the ground soon became even more complicated as alliances among the region’s major players shifted. On 9 October, Turkey launched a military offensive in north-east Syria known as “Operation Peace Spring”, leading Ms. Mueller to report on 24 October that nearly 180,000 people had fled that border region in just two weeks. While some Council members expressed deep concern, the Russian Federation’s delegate emphasized that his country and Turkey had already signed a new agreement with the aim of stabilizing the situation and allowing Syria to uphold its own security in the area rather than allowing an illegal foreign intervention.
As the year drew to a close, Council members took part in tense exchanges regarding a mechanism first authorized in 2014 with the intention of enabling humanitarian assistance to enter Syria through crossing points along its border with neighbouring countries. Mr. Lowcock highlighted the mechanism’s importance on 14 November, noting that it facilitated access to 2.7 million people who could not be reached from inside the country. On 22 November, Special Envoy Pedersen appeared before the Council to mark a major achievement in Syria’s political process — the first meeting of the newly formed Constitutional Committee on 30 October — while stressing the need for improved conditions on the ground to allow its work to succeed. Ms. Mueller reiterated her concerns over the fate of the cross-border aid mechanism on 19 December.
On 20 December, the Council held two meetings on Syria, with the Special Envoy providing an update on the Constitutional Committee’s second meeting and the challenges of uniting it around an agenda for future work. On the same day, members again rejected two competing draft resolutions, this time on the cross‑border aid‑delivery mechanism. A draft tabled by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait was defeated owing to vetoes wielded by China and the Russian Federation. It would have decided to renew the cross-border mechanism’s mandate for six months. The other draft, tabled by the Russian Federation, was defeated by 6 votes against to 5 in favour, with 4 abstentions. By its terms, the Council would have decided to renew some components of the mechanism while calling for stronger vetting of delivery vehicles and aid distribution. As the year drew to a close, no agreement had been reached on extending the mandate, set to expire on 10 January.
On a separate matter, the Council adopted resolution 2477 (2019) on 26 June, thereby extending the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) for six months. That text called upon Syria and Israel to fully respect the terms of their 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and to exercise maximum restraint in the area of separation between the two countries. On 19 December, members adopted resolution 2503 (2019), further extending the mandate of that long-standing Force until 30 June 2020.
Question of Palestine
Throughout 2019, a range of United Nations officials, civil society leaders and others sounded alarms that the prospects for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were dwindling under the pressure of violence, unilateral measures, worsening humanitarian conditions and intra-Palestinian divisions. On 22 January, Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, reported that Israel approved more than 3,100 housing units in the last quarter of 2018 — with nearly half in the West Bank — and warned that the expansion was perpetuating an already dangerous dynamic. Violence in Israeli outposts, coupled with the Palestinian Authority’s growing budget deficit and the suspension of aid from the United States, were among additional challenges spotlighted on 20 February. Following a spate of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza and a robust Israeli response, the Special Coordinator warned on 26 March that more violence risked “potentially catastrophic consequences”.
Against that tense backdrop, the Council met on 27 March to discuss the announcement by the United States that it will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan. Most members expressed regret over the decision, with several reiterating that Israel’s annexation remains illegal under international law and warning that such unilateral actions are “doomed to failure”. Briefing on 29 April, civil society leaders recounted ongoing humanitarian and economic challenges in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine noted that recent Israeli elections only entrenched “apartheid conditions” further.
Another flare-up in Gaza was the context against which the Council met on 22 May to discuss the work and future of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Recalling the steep financial shortfall that plagued the Agency following the 2018 decision by the United States to end its funding, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General reported that support to 5 million Palestinians never wavered, thanks to 42 other nations stepping in to fill the gap. Attention turned back to Israeli settlements on 20 June, as the Special Coordinator reported Israel’s approval of nearly 6,000 new housing units in the West Bank — the largest expansion in two years.
By midyear, officials were warning that such developments had further escalated an already negative trajectory. On 23 July, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained “locked in a dangerous paralysis”, fuelling tensions and extremism. Special Coordinator Mladenov echoed her calls for political leadership and will on 27 August, addressing the Council by video‑teleconference from Jerusalem. Briefing again on 20 September, he reported that there had been no progress in implementing resolution 2334 (2016) and ending Israel’s expansion of settlements. By October, new tensions across the broader Middle East — including shifting alliances in the conflict within Syria and a spate of popular uprisings — had further increased pressure, with Mr. Mladenov warning on 28 October that “the region cannot afford another war”.
On 20 November, the Special Coordinator expressed regret over the new announcement that the United States no longer viewed Israel’s settlement expansion as inconsistent with international law — a reversal of Washington, D.C.’s, long‑standing position — while also decrying ongoing political divisions among Palestinians as “a cancer eating away at the aspiration for statehood”. In a final meeting on 18 December, Mr. Mladenov again reported no progress in implementing resolution 2334 (2016), pointing out that plans for more than 22,000 new housing units in the West Bank settlements had been advanced in the three years since the resolution’s adoption. Against that backdrop, and in the absence of concrete action by the international community, hope for a two-State solution would continue to erode in the coming year, he warned.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/9.
Slow and steady progress towards ending the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — and the five-year-long conflict driving it — continued in 2019, despite several setbacks. On the heels of a hard-won agreement reached in Stockholm in late 2018 between the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah (commonly known as the Houthi Movement), Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, told the Council on 9 January that the nascent ceasefire was just the start of a much longer peace process. Briefing on the same day, Emergency Relief Coordinator Lowcock said that some 24 million Yemenis, or 80 per cent of the country’s population, still required humanitarian aid. Indeed, he emphasized, Yemen’s early political progress “does not in itself feed a single starving child”.
On 16 January, the Council took a major step in support of key elements of the Stockholm Agreement — especially a ceasefire in the critical port city of Hudaydah – by creating and deploying the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) through its adoption of resolution 2452 (2019). Over the next weeks, the Mission would prove critical in leading negotiations to clear troops from both sides from the port, the Council heard on 19 February, as Special Envoy Griffiths cited “new momentum” and hailed the commitment of both sides to sustaining it. On 26 February, the Council adopted resolution 2456 (2019), reauthorizing for one year a set of financial and travel bans first imposed in 2014 against those who threaten Yemen’s peace, security and stability.
Further to the ongoing negotiations, the Special Envoy reported on 15 April that Government and Houthi leaders had agreed to an initial plan to pull their forces from the key ports of Hudaydah, Saleef and Ra’s Isa, thereby clearing the way for the distribution of food and supplies to millions of Yemenis in need. On 15 May, Mr. Griffiths and Mr. Lowcock were joined by Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who called for an acceleration of support to millions of children on the brink of famine. With the Hudaydah ceasefire still holding, fragile progress — including a 68 per cent reduction in casualties — was once again reported on 17 June, as officials urged the parties to end the “unwinnable” war in Yemen. Adopting resolution 2481 (2019) on 15 July, the Council decided to extend UNMHA’s mandate for another six months. On 18 July, Special Envoy Griffiths briefed members on a meeting between the Government and the Houthis aboard a United Nations ship in the Red Sea, which he declared a “notable success”.
However, setbacks soon followed. On 20 August, the Special Envoy reported clashes in the city of Aiden and condemned a new insurgency by a Government faction, the Southern Transitional Council. Council members issued a presidential statement expressing concern over that development on 29 August, while also condemning an escalation of Houthi attacks against infrastructure, such as oil facilities, in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Griffiths addressed those events on 26 September, warning that they could spark a regional conflagration. Regarding negotiations again under Saudi mediation, he reported forward progress on 17 October, and by 22 November, Council members were hailing the freshly signed Riyad Agreement which restored unity in southern Yemen. Special Envoy Griffiths welcomed the dramatic “drop in the temp of war” which characterized the conflict as 2019 drew to a close.
The Council issued five press statements relating to Yemen in 2019. On 4 February, members reiterated their endorsement of the 2018 Stockholm Agreement, expressing concern over allegations of lingering ceasefire violations. In a similar statement on 22 February, they called upon the parties to redouble efforts to finalize arrangements for a prisoner-exchange agreement, among other significant confidence-building measures. Amid continued delays, the Council expressed grave concern on 17 April that, four months after the Stockholm Agreement was first reached, its elements had not yet been implemented. Members commended the Special Envoy’s efforts to support the parties to that end in a 10 June press statement, while also noting initial progress on the redeployment of forces in Hudaydah. On 6 November, they welcomed the signing of the Riyadh Agreement between the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council, recognizing it as a positive and important step towards a comprehensive and inclusive political solution.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/1.
Following elections in 2018, the new year dawned amid a raft of positive developments in Iraq, as Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert reported improved national budgeting and a drop in terrorist actions during a briefing on 13 February. However, she warned that the formation of Iraq’s Government remained incomplete, with several key ministerial posts still vacant, and emphasizing that political actors must embrace compromise. At the same meeting, Iraq’s representative said the Government has “turned the page” since liberating areas previously under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), while stressing the need to wage an intellectual battle against extremism.
The ongoing search for Kuwaiti and third-party nationals and property missing inside Iraq since 1990 received a boost on 19 February when the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the cooperation between Iraq and Kuwait on that front. The Council reiterated its support for Iraq’s cooperative approach on 21 May in adopting resolution 2470 (2019), by which it renewed the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for one year, while cautioning that political infighting and corruption could lead Iraq to backslide on critical gains.
A Council delegation — led jointly by Kuwait and the United States — visited Iraq for the first time ever in 2019, arriving in Kuwait City and subsequently travelling to Baghdad on 28 and 29 June. Recounting the mission on 11 July, Kuwait’s representative reiterated the need for vital economic reforms to address lingering post-conflict challenges. On 15 July, the Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) briefed members on progress in gathering testimony and forensic evidence with the aim of identifying perpetrators and holding them to account.
Even amid such strides, delegates voiced concern on 28 August that flaring tensions in the wider Middle East region risked undermining Iraq’s gains. Following the Council’s adoption of resolution 2490 (2019) on 20 September — by which it extended UNITAD’s mandate for one year — members heard profound testimony on 26 November from a Yazidi civilian who lost his family to ISIL/Da’esh. As 2019 drew to a close, public life in Iraq was dominated by spiking economic frustrations and a spate of popular uprisings, which, officials said on 3 December, broke down sectarian barriers even as they drew disproportionate and deadly fire from security forces and unaffiliated armed groups.
The Council issued two press statement on Iraq in 2019, with members expressing gratitude to the Governments of Iraq, Kuwait and the United States, on 30 June, for having facilitated their visit. On 13 December, they issued a statement welcoming efforts towards an inclusive dialogue in Iraq, while voicing grave concern over the killing, maiming and arbitrary arrests of both unarmed demonstrators and security forces, and calling for maximum restraint.
Meetings: 29 August.
Press Statements: SC/13696 (8 February).
The Council met once on Lebanon in 2019, deciding to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) through its unanimous adoption of resolution 2485 (2019) on 29 August. It also issued one press statement, on 8 February, in which members welcomed the formation of a National Unity Government, congratulated Prime Minister Saad Hariri and encouraged all of Lebanon’s political leaders to build on the present momentum.
Sudan and South Sudan
Meetings: 17 January, 7 February, 25 February, 8 March, 15 March, 26 March, 12 April, 17 April, 30 April, 14 May, 30 May, 14 June, 19 June, 25 June, 26 June, 27 June, 26 August, 18 September, 3 October, 8 October, 15 October, 17 October, 24 October, 31 October, 14 November, 12 December, 17 December, 18 December.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/11.
Dramatic events occurred in Sudan, including the removal of President Omer Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir — the country’s leader since 1989 — amid widespread popular protests. The Transitional Military Council seized control and soon reached a power-sharing agreement with civilian leaders, which included commitments to negotiate peace with various rebel groups. As the political landscape shifted rapidly, the Security Council grappled with the implications for its three peace operations deployed in the area, for the long-standing sanctions regime and for the outstanding warrants issued by the International Criminal Court.
The year began with debates among Council members about the future of sanctions first imposed in 2005, entailing an arms embargo, as well as a ban on travel and the freezing of assets relating to individuals and entities obstructing peace in Sudan’s long-embattled western Darfur region. On 17 January, the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005), which is tasked with overseeing those sanctions, said that challenges — including such human rights abuses as sexual and gender-based violence — continued in Darfur, despite significantly improved security. Some delegates called for the lifting of sanctions, noting that the situation was largely calm and that strides in the peace process had already prompted the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to reduce its troop levels. The Council Members adopted resolution 2455 (2019) on 7 February, extending for 13 months the mandate of the sanctions regime’s Panel of Experts.
On 25 February, Bintou Keïta, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, reported that widespread protests driven largely by political and economic frustrations were under way in Sudan, leading the Government to declare a country‑wide state of emergency. She cautioned that the tumultuous situation placed a question mark over the peace process in Darfur despite the region’s relative stability. The Sanctions Committee Chair elaborated further on 26 March, as Sudan’s representative reiterated his delegation’s request that the outdated sanctions be lifted.
In Khartoum, the capital, events unfolded rapidly on 11 April, when the Sudanese Armed Forces removed President Bashir from office and the Transitional Military Council seized power. Jeremiah Nyamane Kingsley Mamabolo, Joint Special Representative of the African Union and the Secretary-General for Darfur, told the Council on 17 April that the situation was changing drastically and could impact UNAMID’s plans to withdraw by mid‑2020. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, echoed those warnings on 14 June. The Sanctions Committee Chair briefed again on 26 June, noting that Sudan’s political transition and a potentially delayed UNAMID drawdown would impact her work. Amid that flurry of activity, the Council met on 27 June to adopt resolution 2479 (2019), by which it decided to extend UNAMID’s mandate for four months, while “temporarily and exceptionally” extending the period allocated for the drawdown.
On 17 August, the Transitional Military Council agreed with civilian leaders to establish the joint Sovereign Council that would govern Sudan for 39 months, with elections to be held thereafter. The Council met on 26 August to assess the impact of those developments on Darfur. Members applauded the power-sharing agreement as senior United Nations and African Union officials spotlighted a unique window of opportunity during which parties could seize upon Sudan’s political momentum and restore long-term stability in Darfur. In another briefing on 3 October, the Chair of the Sanctions Committee noted that sporadic attacks by armed groups continued, but no large-scale violence was reported in Darfur after the dramatic political events in the country.
“Sudan is at a historic crossroads,” said Under-Secretary-General Lacroix as he addressed Council members on 17 October. There was a real opportunity to end the conflicts that had plagued Sudan for years, including in Darfur, he added, pointing out that negotiations were under way between the new Sovereign Council and several armed groups. On 31 October, the Council adopted resolution 2495 (2019), extending UNAMID’s mandate for one year and maintaining its current troop and police personnel levels steady until 31 March 2020, when plans to draw down the mission would be decided. On 12 December, the Sanctions Committee Chair described a much-improved security situation in Darfur and applauded Sudan’s political strides, while noting that the root causes of many of the country’s conflicts had yet to be addressed.
With former President Bashir no longer in power, Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, appeared before the Council on 19 June and 18 December to remind members of the outstanding warrants against the former President for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed in Darfur. Sudan remained legally obligated to hand over Mr. Bashir and three other wanted individuals, she said, declaring: “Now is the time for the people of Sudan to choose law over impunity.”
Those developments also rippled across neighbouring South Sudan, where a separate peace process was under way since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in September 2018. On 8 March, David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, outlined the considerable progress made since the signing, noting that opposition leaders were moving freely around Juba, the capital, and refugees were beginning to return home.
Council members voted on 15 March to renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for one year, with 14 delegations voting in favour of resolution 2459 (2019) and one, the Russian Federation, abstaining in light of the considerable recent progress on the ground. In a much more divided vote on 30 May, the Council adopted resolution 2471 (2019), extending the arms embargo and other sanctions previously imposed on South Sudan for one year. Ten members voted in favour of the text and five — China, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation and South Africa — abstained, warning that external pressure would be unhelpful in pushing South Sudan’s extremely delicate peace process forward.
On 25 June, Mr. Shearer reported that the ceasefire was largely intact and the violence had dropped. However, some 7 million people faced a food scarcity crisis, he noted. A civil society leader voiced grave concern that South Sudan still had one of the world’s highest rates of violence against women and girls. More progress was registered on 18 September, when Mr. Shearer reported that President Salva Kiir had met with Riek Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, and recommitted to forming a Transitional Government by 12 November — a deadline already extended several times. The Council marked the anniversary of the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, issuing a presidential statement on 8 October. However, members voiced their frustration on 17 December, as Mr. Shearer reported that the 12 November deadline had again been extended. “Reasons can always be found for further delay,” he said, urging the parties to push the peace process forward in the coming year.
The Council dedicated several meetings to the situation in the contested region of Abyei, located on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. At issue was the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which was expanded in 2011 to include support for a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism intended to spearhead border normalization. On 12 April, the Council adopted resolution 2465 (2019), extending UNISFA’s support for that specific task until 15 October, while deciding that it would be the final such extension unless both Sudan and South Sudan demonstrated measurable progress on border demarcation. Under-Secretary-General Lacroix said on 30 April that support for the Force remained essential and proposed the creation of a civilian unit to drive progress towards a political resolution of the dispute.
Council members met on 14 May to adopt resolution 2469 (2019), by which they extended UNISFA’s mandate for six months. By that text, they reduced the mission’s military ceiling by more than 800 troops while increasing its police personnel level by nearly 300 officers. By resolution 2492 (2019) — a technical roll-over text adopted on 15 October — the Council pushed forward, by one month, discussions on both UNISFA’s mandate and its support for the Border Mechanism. Furthermore, Mr. Lacroix reported on 24 October that there was increased cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan, amid extraordinary political changes in the region, and an unprecedented opportunity for progress on the Abyei issue. Those shifting realities were reflected in the Council’s work on 14 November, as members adopted resolution 2497 (2019), extending both UNISFA’s mandate and its support for the Border Mechanism until May 2020. They also requested that the Secretary-General appoint a civilian Deputy Head of Mission.
In 2019, the Council issued five press statements on Sudan and South Sudan. On 21 May, members condemned the looting of UNAMID’s West Darfur headquarters, during which looters vandalized the premises and put the lives of United Nations staff at risk. On 11 June, they condemned recent violence in Sudan and expressed regret over the deaths and injury of civilians. Following an attack on UNISFA peacekeepers and civilians at a public market which left six people dead, the Council issued a statement on 18 July, condemning the incident in the strongest terms and calling upon the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to investigate. On 21 August, members welcomed the agreement signed between the Forces for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council on the establishment of a new civilian-led transitional Government and transitional institutions. In a 22 November press statement, the Council took note of the parties’ agreement to extend the pre-transitional period by 100 days — effective from 12 November — while expressing disappointment over their failure to meet that deadline.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/13.
Ahead of long-anticipated elections in Guinea-Bissau, the Council met on 28 February to adopt resolution 2458 (2019), by which it extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for one year. By that text, members decided that the mission would prioritize its support for legislative elections in March and for a presidential election later in 2019. They endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendation on the reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS, with a view to closing the Office by the end of 2020. On 10 September, a senior Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs official told members that, although election preparations were under way, numerous challenges continued to plague Guinea-Bissau, including political mistrust, tensions and drug trafficking. With tensions running high as the presidential vote approached, the Council adopted a presidential statement on 4 November, calling for cooperation and restraint.
Bissau-Guineans voted on 24 November as planned, but since no candidate won a majority, a run-off election was held on 29 December. In a press statement on 26 March, the Council congratulated the people and Government of Guinea-Bissau, as well as political leaders and civil society organizations, for the peaceful conduct of the 10 March legislative elections. In another press statement on 3 July, the Council noted that compromise by political leaders led to the appointment of a new Prime Minister and set the date for the presidential election on 24 November. Members welcomed the decision by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to extend further the mandate of its mission in Guinea‑Bissau, while welcoming the European Union’s technical and financial support. In a press statement on 16 October, the Council expressed its intention to monitor developments in Guinea-Bissau closely, while reiterating the importance of inclusive, credible, fair and peaceful elections.
Considering the situation in Burundi on 19 February, the Council agreed that dialogue will be crucial in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections slated for 2020. However, members diverged over whether the situation still merits a place on the Council’s busy agenda — a discussion that would re-emerge throughout 2019. Briefing on recent developments, Michel Kafando, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, cited President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announced intention not to seek re-election, while the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration said he would focus on elections and persistent socioeconomic challenges facing that country.
On 14 June, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, briefed the Council again on Burundi’s election plans, citing reports of human rights violations as a lingering source of concern. Several speakers emphasized that normality is nevertheless returning to Burundi, with Equatorial Guinea’s representative stating that the situation in no way represents a threat to international peace and security. On 30 October, officials underlined the need for free, peaceful and transparent elections, as Special Envoy Kafando announced his intention to step down from his post. Several members, including Burundi’s representative, reiterated demands for the Burundi situation’s removal from the Council’s agenda while stressing that the Council’s commitment to Burundi remains “more crucial than ever”.
Central African Republic
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/3.
The Central African Republic continued to struggle against violence perpetrated by various well-armed militias in 2019, even as Government capacity and international support for its efforts solidified. On 31 January, the Council adopted resolution 2454 (2019), extending its arms embargo, ban on travel and freeze on assets for another year. Members also pledged to establish clear benchmarks on security sector reform; the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation of combatants; weapons management; and to further review the embargo. On 6 February, the Government and several armed groups signed the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, known as the Bangui Accord. While previous agreements had failed to yield results, outgoing Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Nyanga said on 21 February that the Bangui Accord was unique in establishing concrete monitoring mechanisms that would hold the parties accountable.
In a presidential statement on 9 April, Council members further elaborated the weapons-management and -storage benchmarks against which they planned to reassess sanctions. Members reiterated their intention to review the arms embargo in light of progress towards attaining those goals. Outlining recent developments on 20 June, Mankeur Ndiaye, the newly appointed Special Representative, welcomed the dismantling of illegal barriers by one armed group — the Popular Front for the Renaissance — while condemning the murder of 39 civilians by another, known as the Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation or 3R. On 12 September, the Council adopted resolution 2488 (2019), extending a modified sanctions regime until January 2020 and detailing the types of weapons permitted in the country. Several members welcomed the lifting of various previous sanctions, applauding it as an expression of support for a Government seeking to re-establish its authority.
Briefing the Council again on 25 October, Special Envoy Ndiaye drew attention to the Central African Republic’s upcoming legislative and local elections — planned for 2020 and 2021 — while asking members to renew the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The Mission’s robust posture and civilian‑protection mandate had proved crucial so far, he said, recalling that its troops successfully thwarted violations of the Bangui Accord by the 3R militia group. Against that backdrop, the Council voted on 15 November to adopt resolution 2499 (2019), by which it extended, for another year, MINUSCA’s mandate in support of a range of priority tasks, such as civilian protection and election preparation.
The Council issued a press statement on 13 February, welcoming the signing of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic by the Government and 14 armed groups. It issued another statement on 28 March, welcoming the consensus reached by signatory parties regarding the formation of an inclusive Government, as well as the engagement of the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States and the United Nations.
Central and West Africa
The vast territory covering Central and West Africa was characterized by crystallizing democratic reforms on the one hand, and chronic insecurity on the other. Even as countries across the two subregions held elections — or prepared for them in 2020 — deadly terror attacks spiked in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, and insurgents worked to exploit local tensions and disputes over water and land for their own ends. Officials briefing the Council warned throughout the year that terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence were increasingly intertwined and often exacerbated by climate change. While the joint force to Combat Terrorism Threat, Transnational Crime of the “Group of Five” for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) countries gained strength and neared its full operational capacity, officials repeatedly warned that, alone, it could not keep the floodgates sealed against a torrent of extremists threatening the wider region.
Outlining democratic progress on 10 January, Mohamed ibn Chambas, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), noted that elections were held since mid‑2018 in Mali, Mauritania, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. However, brutal attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram continued and a state of emergency was declared in Burkina Faso. Against that difficult backdrop, upcoming elections in Nigeria, Senegal and Benin would serve as a litmus test for the consolidation of democratic gains, he said. A Council mission visited Guinea-Bissau and Côte d’Ivoire in February — as recounted during a meeting on 26 February — in order to learn how to better support the former’s fragile peace process. Another visit to the region took place the following month, with its co-chairs outlining their meetings with senior officials, civil society leaders and G5 Sahel joint force staff on 27 March.
The Council met again on 16 May amid a spate of terrorist attacks and an uptick in violence. Members heard from a high-level African Union official that recent events in Niger resulted in more deaths than those recorded from all terror attacks in 2018. Echoing those concerns on 4 June, François Louncény Fall, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), briefed Council members about recurrent and deadly clashes between pastoralists and farmers in several countries. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the worsening conditions in Cameroon, he added, noting that more than 500,000 people had been displaced to date and another 30,000 had fled to neighbouring Nigeria.
Mr. Chambas said on 24 July that the rapid expansion of violent extremism delayed, complicated and in some cases even negated the democratic gains made in 2018. In a sweeping presidential statement issued on 7 August, the Council underlined the need for more support for UNOWAS, tasked with assisting struggling and post-conflict countries across the region. On 12 September, members issued another presidential statement welcoming UNOCA’s role in promoting dialogue in such non-mission settings as Cameroon, Chad, Gabon and Congo. In a briefing on 20 November, various regional stakeholders told the Council that countries of the Sahel needed a redoubling of support to prevent terrorists from spreading across the continent. Bintou Keïta, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, said there had been a three-fold increase in security incidents over the previous year. Alpha Barry, Burkina Faso’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, warned that, without more international support, there could be no more promises that the Sahel countries would be able to stem the tide of terrorism.
Discussions turned to Cameroon on 6 December, as that country concluded a national dialogue intended to quell tensions among its marginalized communities. Officials urged national stakeholders to build upon that momentum ahead of crucial elections in 2020. In a final meeting on 16 December, United Nations and African Union officials focused on the root causes of conflict between farmers and herders — often exploited by terrorists — calling for more holistic solutions to tackle inequality, corruption, the effects of climate change and poor management of natural resources.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/2.
Press Statements: SC/13667 (16 January), SC/13672 (20 January), SC/13678 (25 January), SC/13714 (23 February), SC/13789 (22 April), SC/13811 (16 May), SC/13813 (19 May), SC/13981 (9 October), SC/14029 (21 November).
The situation in Mali continued to reflect an intensifying asymmetrical conflict — also present across the wider Sahel region — between national security forces and non-State armed groups. As in previous years, civilians, Malian troops, United Nations peacekeepers and other international military personnel all became targets of attacks by extremist militias. Meeting on 16 January, Council members heard a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General Keïta, who called upon all parties to the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali to implement its provisions without further delay. Secretary-General António Guterres joined the conversation on 29 March after a massacre of 160 civilians in the village of Ogossagou, warning that more atrocities are likely unless extremist movements, communal tensions over land and water, and the spread of weapons to ethnically based militias were addressed.
On 3 April, the Council issued a presidential statement urging the Government of Mali and the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups — two signatories of the 2015 Peace Agreement — to expedite the latter’s implementation and avoid actions that could undermine progress. Members expressed their strong regret that “protracted delays in implementing [the Peace Agreement] contribute to a political and security vacuum jeopardizing stability and development in Mali”. With the peace process at a critical juncture, Mahamat Khatir Saleh Annadif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, recommended on 12 June that the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Lasting peace would be impossible unless the fragile security situation improved, he emphasized. Council members heeded that advice on 28 June, deciding to extend the mandate for another year, as it adopted resolution 2480 (2019).
Taking up another mandate extension on 29 August, the Council adopted resolution 2484 (2019), thereby renewing for one year a set of sanctions first imposed in 2017, including a travel ban and asset freeze on spoilers impeding the peace process in Mali. Briefing members on 8 October, Special Representative Annadif condemned horrific attacks in the towns of Boulkessi and Mondoro, as well as the death of one peacekeeper and the wounding of several others. While noting that those casualties and many others escalating across parts of Mali cast a pall over the meeting, he nevertheless reported a range of political strides, including the Government’s recent launch of an inclusive national dialogue, promulgation of a law on national reconciliation and legislation intended to establish a new “development zone” in the north.
The Council issued a raft of press statements on developments in Mali throughout 2019. On 16 January, it welcomed positive steps towards implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, as well as weekly meetings between representatives of the Government and the Plateforme and Coordination groups. However, he also expressed a “significant sense of impatience” over persistent delays in fully implementing the accord. On 20 January, 25 January, 23 February and 22 April, the Council issued four separate press statements condemning, in the strongest possible terms, four deadly attacks against MINUSMA peacekeepers.
On 16 May, the Council issued a press statement welcoming recent steps by the G5 Sahel countries towards making their joint force fully operational. It condemned yet another attack on MINUSMA troops in a press statement on 19 May. On 9 October, the Council issued a press statement noting progress by the Government and the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups, while welcoming the launch of Mali’s inclusive national dialogue. The Council then issued a press statement on 21 November, expressing deep concern about the security and humanitarian situation in the Sahel. Among other challenges, it recognized that terrorism and intercommunal violence had caused the loss of numerous innocent lives and the “unprecedented displacement of civilians”.
Fragile State-building progress in Libya — now eight years into its political transition — was the backdrop for the Council’ first 2019 meeting on that subject, on 18 January, when Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), warned of spoilers seeking to sabotage delicate gains. On 20 March, he briefed members about an upcoming national conference on Libya’s future — planned for April — emphasizing that “there is much at stake” because participants would have the opportunity to chart a path forward to elections. Also addressing Council members on 8 May was International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who underlined that persistent impunity for war crimes was undermining Libya’s prospects for peace and stability.
The situation changed dramatically on 4 April, when forces led by General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the Tripoli, Libya’s capital, from the Government of National Accord. Describing the attack on 21 May, Special Representative Salamé reported that more than 460 people were killed and more than 2,400 injured, mostly civilians. “Libya is on the verge of descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country,” he warned, while also sounding the alarm in relation to the rapid proliferation of weapons and the prospect of a major humanitarian catastrophe. Speaking on the same day, Smail Chergui, the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, said the situation was further complicated by Libya’s situation as a proxy battleground for external actors pursuing their own interests.
On 10 June, Council members adopted resolution 2473 (2019), renewing measures designed to implement the arms embargo against Libya for another year. Those steps included authorizations allowing Member States to inspect vessels on the high seas off the Libyan coast, given reasonable grounds to believe they were violating the embargo. As the conflict continued to deteriorate, Mr. Salamé echoed concerns about interference by foreign actors on 29 July, emphasizing that Libya was now fighting the wars of other nations in earnest. Council members expressed concern that the conflict’s spill-over effects were fuelling the rapidly deepening conflict in neighbouring States across the Sahel.
The Council convened an emergency meeting on 10 August, the day on which a car bomb explosion in the eastern port city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff members and injured scores of others, including civilians. Assistant Secretary‑General Keïta said the blast occurred during preparations for the Eid al‑Adha holiday in an area under the control of General Haftar’s forces. Council members roundly condemned the attack, as Ms. Keïta stressed that the Organization had no plans to evacuate from Libya. A brief humanitarian pause in the fighting followed in recognition of Eid al-Adha. On 4 September, Special Representative Salamé urged external actors to build upon that truce and commit to ending the conflict.
Adopting resolution 2486 (2019) on 12 September, the Council decided to extend the mandate of UNSMIL for another year. Standing united again on 3 October, it adopted resolution 2491 (2019), by which it renewed for another year its authorization for Member States to inspect vessels suspected of smuggling migrants and related illegal activities around Libya. Chief Prosecutor Bensouda briefed the Council again on 6 November, calling upon Member States to redouble their efforts to ensure compliance with the work of her office in Libya. On 18 November, Mr. Salamé called for an end to foreign involvement in Libya and for an international conference to support the struggling nation.
Issuing five press statements on Libya, the Council pledged, on 26 March, its full support for Special Representative Salamé and UNSMIL in their quest to mediate a political way forward. On 5 July, members condemned an attack on a detention centre near Tripoli that killed 53 people and injured over than 130, while stressing the need for all parties to de-escalate and commit to a ceasefire. They reaffirmed that message on 5 August, calling for a return to the United Nations-mediated political process and supporting the Special Representative’s call for an Eid al-Adha truce. On 11 August, the Council issued a press statement strongly condemning an attack on a United Nations convoy in Benghazi the previous day, and called for those behind it to be identified and held accountable. In a 2 December press statement, the Council expressed deep concern over the recent escalation of violence in Libya, as well as reported breaches of the arms embargo, calling for full compliance by all Member States.
The Council also issued press statements condemning deadly terrorist attacks elsewhere in Africa. Statements of 20 June and 31 July condemned attacks that killed at least 30 and 60 people, respectively, in north-eastern Nigeria. On the heels of yet another deadly terror attack — this time in Cairo, capital of Egypt — the Council issued a press statement on 6 August.
Great Lakes Region
Press Statements: SC/13978 (8 October).
The Council met twice in 2019 to address developments in Africa’s Great Lakes region, comprising Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. On 26 March, Said Djinnit, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes, briefed for the last time in that capacity, saying the region had made important progress towards stability since the turmoil of the 1990s and early 2000s. “The [Great Lakes] today is largely peaceful,” he added, emphasizing, however, the persistence of cross-border clashes, the lingering refugee crisis and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. He went on to sound the alarm over insecurity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the presence of non-State armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), as well as allegations that such factions received support from Governments in the region or their proxies.
Those persistent challenges took centre stage again on 3 October, as Huang Xia, the newly appointed Special Envoy, briefed on implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. Positive developments included the formation of a new Congolese Government and steps by the new President to strengthen relations with neighbours, he said, while cautioning that insecurity, human rights abuses, displacement and the ongoing Ebola outbreak still required urgent attention and stronger regional cooperation. The Council issued a press statement to that effect on 8 October.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/6.
With a newly elected Government in place, the Council’s consideration of that situation focused on how best to support the State, as well as how, when or whether to begin phasing out the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Early in 2019, disputes arose over the results of largely peaceful elections in late December 2018 that put Félix Tshilombo Tshisekedi in first place to succeed Joseph Kabila, he recalled. On 11 January, Leila Zerrougi, Special Representative and Head of MONUSCO, called upon the Council to lend its support to the Congolese democratic process. Meanwhile, the Permanent Observer for the African Union and Zambia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs described the work of their respective election observer missions.
Special Representative Zerrougi briefed the Council again on 18 March, following President Tshisekedi’s inauguration on 24 January. Pointing to early progress made by his administration, she nevertheless warned that grave challenges remain, including ongoing attacks by armed groups in the country’s eastern region and a renewed spike in cases of Ebola. Meanwhile, discussions about MONUSCO’s role, purpose and funding continued among Council members. They adopted resolution 2463 (2019) on 29 March, calling for an independent strategic review of the Mission to include the articulation of a phased, progressive and comprehensive exit strategy while extending its mandate for nine months. The Council also extended, for one year, the sanctions imposed against designated individuals and entities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adopting resolution 2478 (2019) on 26 June.
Addressing the Council on 24 July, the Special Representative outlined new strides in President Tshisekedi’s reform agenda, improved relations with neighbouring States and the increasingly effective response by Congolese security forces — supported by MONUSCO troops — against armed groups. However, attacks by the ADF were exacting an intolerable toll on civilians, she reported. The Council met again on 2 August to consider the recent uptick in the number of Ebola cases in the country. It issued a presidential statement expressing concern and calling for cooperation among regional Governments and support from international partners. It warned that, among other outcomes, the disease could spread rapidly with potentially grave humanitarian and security consequences.
By the time the Council convened on 9 October, a new coalition Government had been inaugurated in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the number of Ebola cases had dropped, she said, crediting a “broad, coordinated response” focused on building community acceptance of medical personnel. She urged the Government not to waver in that critical effort. In the final meeting of 2019, on 19 December, the Council adopted resolution 2502 (2019), deciding to extend the mandate of MONUSCO and its Intervention Brigade for one year, and to begin the gradual drawdown of military personnel. Also by that text, the Council took note that the assessment of the independent strategic review called for an “absolute minimum” transition period of three years leading to the Mission’s exit, while noting the need for flexibility in considering the situation on the ground.
The Council issued three press statements on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 15 January, it took note of the provisional results of the presidential and provincial elections, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, and welcomed their peaceful nature, despite various challenges. Following a briefing by the Special Representative on 1 August, the Council issued a press statement welcoming President Tshisekedi’s efforts in favour of reconciliation, peace, stability and more open political space. On 14 October, it issued a statement welcoming the inauguration of a new coalition Government and reiterating the importance of the President delivering on his commitments.
Somalia and Horn of Africa
On the heels of a New Year’s Day mortar attack on the United Nations compound in Mogadishu — in which staff were wounded but none killed — Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) warned on 3 January that a stalemate between the Federal Government and the leaders of Somalia’s federal member states was jeopardizing recent progress. Those challenges, as well as preparations for elections in 2020 and 2021, were among key elements of resolution 2461 (2019), adopted on 27 March, by which the Council renewed UNSOM’s mandate for another year. On 22 May, Raisedon Zenenga, Deputy Special Representative, reported that the situation had improved since January — when Somalia expelled Mr. Haysom — while reiterating that greater cooperation between the two tiers of government remained critical. On 31 May, the Council adopted resolution 2472 (2019), extending the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and reducing its troop ceiling, as required by an existing plan to transfer security responsibilities to Somali national forces.
James Swan, the new Special Representative, briefed the Council on 21 August, outlining a fragile security landscape marred by drought, acute food insecurity and ongoing attacks by the terror group Al-Shabaab. Members broadly agreed with his assertion that the success of upcoming elections hinged on genuine cooperation among all parties, with some speakers calling for accelerated efforts to overcome the political impasse between the Federal Government and the federal member states. Echoing those sentiments in a 25 October briefing was the Chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee, who stressed that the long-standing arms embargo first imposed in 1992 must now be streamlined, simplified and updated to better reflect the current realities of the counterinsurgency in Somalia.
Just weeks later, delegates explored the situation first hand during a joint United Nations-African Union mission to the Horn of Africa. Recounting the visit on 4 November, Deputy Secretary-General and mission co-chair Amina Mohammed spotlighted “islands of stability”, as well as diplomatic rapprochements across the broader region. On 15 November, members voted to adopt resolution 2498 (2019), thereby renewing the mandate of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, as China, Equatorial Guinea and the Russian Federation abstained. Convening again on 21 November, the Council heard cautious expressions of hope from various officials, with the Chair of Somalia’s Independent Electoral Commission citing a shift from a clan-based system to a “one-person, one-vote” model in the 2020 and 2021 elections. On 4 December, the Council renewed its authorization for international naval vessels to fight piracy off the Somali coast, adopting resolution 2500 (2019).
The Council issued six press statements on events in the Horn of Africa. On 5 January, it expressed regret at the decision by the Federal Government to declare Special Representative Haysom “persona non grata”, while voicing their gratitude for his work. On 16 January, they condemned in the strongest possible terms a terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, which caused numerous deaths and injuries. In subsequent press statements on 1 March and 15 July, the Council condemned terror attacks in Mogadishu and Kismayo, reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. On 25 November, the Council issued a press statement welcoming the Federal Government’s commitment to adopting the Electoral Law with the aim of ensuring one-person, one‑vote elections in 2020 and 2021. On 29 December, the Council condemned in the strongest possible terms a terrorist attack that killed and injured many innocent people at a Mogadishu security checkpoint the previous day.
Press Statements: SC/13686 (31 January).
The Council met twice on the long-standing question of Western Sahara, both times renewing the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). On 30 April, the Council adopted resolution 2468 (2019), extending the mandate for six months by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, South Africa). Explaining his abstention, South Africa’s representative recalled that MINURSO was created primarily to facilitate the holding of a referendum that would enable the people of Western Sahara to realize their right to self-determination. He went on to describe the text adopted as not balanced, emphasizing that it failed to provide a true reflection of the efforts of Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, both members of the African Union.
Taking up that issue on 30 October, the Council adopted resolution 2494 (2019) by an identical vote, extending MINURSO’s mandate for a year. By that text, the Council called upon Morocco, Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO), Algeria and Mauritania to meet again and to resume negotiations, without preconditions and in good faith. In a press statement issued on 31 January, the Council welcomed the first round of negotiations among those parties — held on 5 and 6 December 2018 — as well as their commitment to participate in further talks in the forthcoming months.
In Afghanistan, early 2019 brought new hopes for peace, sparked by direct talks between the United States and the Taliban. Briefing the Council on 11 March, Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), emphasized the need to align those efforts with those of the Afghan people through direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Government of Afghanistan. After deciding to extend UNAMA’s mandate for six months by adopting resolution 2460 (2019) on 15 March, Council members again spotlighted the potential for diplomatic progress on 19 June. However, leading civil society advocates cautioned on 26 July that hard-won human rights gains — especially concerning the rights of women — must not be sacrificed in any peace agreement. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who led a recent women-focused Council mission to Kabul, said the country could not revert to a time — under Taliban rule — when women were denied schooling, health care and protection from violence.
Preparations for presidential elections — scheduled for 28 September — took centre stage on 10 September, as Council members joined Special Representative Yamamoto in expressing concern over the Taliban’s stated threat to disrupt voting. Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that corruption, money-laundering and the financing of terrorism continued to constrain Afghanistan’s ability to create jobs and grow its private sector. The Council again extended UNAMA’s mandate on 17 September, adopting resolution 2489 (2019), by which the Mission was tasked with supporting the Afghan‑led and Afghan-owned peace process. The text was orally amended to include language proposed by the Government of Afghanistan to further spotlight national leadership of the peace process. In a final meeting on 16 December, the Council adopted resolution 2501 (2019), deciding to extend for one year the mandate of the team that monitors sanctions against Taliban associates, as well as instances of non-compliance.
The Council issued eight press statements on the situation in Afghanistan. On 3 January, it condemned terrorist attacks in northern Sar-e-Pul and Balkh Provinces on 31 December 2018, which targeted the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and resulted in the deaths of at least 27 personnel and the wounding of 20 others. On 15 April, the Council issued a statement condemning the Taliban’s announcement of a “spring offensive”, warning that it would only result in more unnecessary suffering and destruction. Four press statements followed, on 3 June, 1 August, 20 August and 19 September, each condemning terrorist attacks by armed groups that killed dozens of civilians or security troops. On 2 October, the Council described the holding of presidential elections as an important step in Afghanistan’s democratic development, while also condemning those who sought to disrupt the vote. In a press statement on 21 October, the Council condemned in the strongest terms a terrorist attack against a mosque in Nangarhar Province days earlier, which killed more than 60 civilians and injured 60 others.
Meetings: 28 February.
The Security Council convened one meeting on Myanmar in the course of 2019. On 28 February, Christine Schraner Burgener, Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General, told members that fragility, tensions and violence threatened the strides made in Myanmar’s peace process. While neighbouring Bangladesh had been generous in hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled across the border in 2016 and 2017, “we cannot expect this to continue indefinitely”, she emphasized. Many Council members joined her in demanding an end to violence, unfettered humanitarian access and efforts to tackle the root causes of tensions. Some said that the Government had taken insufficient action to improve the situation in Rakhine State — thereby allowing for the safe return of refugees — while others warned that, unless justice was delivered to victims, the Council could refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
Council members also issued several press statements on acts of terrorism in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. In a press statement on 28 January, they condemned in the strongest terms a 27 January attack at Jolo Cathedral in Sulu, Philippines, which killed 20 people and injured dozens of others, and for which ISIL/Da’esh claimed responsibility. On 14 February, the Council issued a press statement condemning a terror attack at Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Iran, which claimed 27 lives. The Council condemned another deadly terror attack, this time in Jammu and Kashmir, India, in a press statement on 21 February. On 15 March, the Council issued a press statement condemning an attack against mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 49 people dead. On 22 April, a press statement condemned a series of terror attacks across Sri Lanka — including one in a Colombo church on Easter Sunday — which killed nearly 300 people.
Three years after the Government of Colombia and rebel groups signed a peace deal ending more than five decades of brutal civil war, the Security Council continued to rally behind the accord’s slow and steady implementation. On 23 January, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, newly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed members for the first time, calling for international support as Colombia addressed lingering violence and sporadic terrorist attacks. Describing recent developments, he reported that a car bomb killed 21 people at a police academy in Bogota, the capital, on 17 January. He also outlined the progress achieved, including the convening of a high-level forum on gender and the completion of the first year of work by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
The Special Jurisdiction mechanism took centre stage on 12 April, when Special Representative Ruiz spotlighted growing divisions and polarization related to its legal codification. Expressing concern over objections by President Ivan Duque Marquez to some elements of the related draft statutory law, he urged the parties to enact it as soon as possible. Such challenges — as well as the thorny question of reintegrating former combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC-EP) — were among the issued considered by a Security Council delegation during a visit to Colombia from 11 to 14 July, he said. On 19 July, that mission’s co-chairs outlined meetings with Government leaders, former fighters, community advocates and officials of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.
Special Representative Ruiz briefed the Council in a separate meeting, also on 19 July, reiterating that progress in implementing the peace agreement remained mixed. The Government had reassured former FARC-EP combatants of its commitment to formalizing land arrangements for training and reintegration purposes, but security in many areas remained a serious concern, he said. The Council adopted resolution 2487 (2019) on 12 September, extending the Verification Mission’s mandate for one year. Meeting on 10 October, Council members heard that attacks against civil society leaders and former FARC-EP combatants continued, and that some of the latter had announced plans to take up arms again. Delegates broadly condemned the unabated violence, urging the Government to do more to ensure the security of those at risk.
The Council issued five press statements concerning Colombia, beginning with its condemnation, on 18 January, of the terrorist attack at the General Santander National Police Academy in Bogotá the day before. In a press statement on 24 January, members again condemned that attack, reiterating that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, while expressing their full and unanimous support for the peace process. The Council reiterated those sentiments on 16 April, in a statement of agreement with the Secretary-General’s recent assessment that the peace process had made important strides but stood at a critical juncture. The Council’s press statement of 23 July outlined details of the field visit to Colombia and another, on 15 October, deplored the announcement by former FARC-EP leaders that they would return to armed activity, in violation of their commitments under the Peace Agreement.
Council discussions on Haiti centred around the imminent end of the 15‑year‑long United Nations peacekeeping presence in the Caribbean country. On 3 April, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix presented the Secretary-General’s final report on the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), which succeeded the original United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in 2017. Outlining developments ahead of the Mission’s planned exit and a possible transition to a non-peacekeeping mission, the Under‑Secretary‑General said the country’s security and humanitarian situation remained fragile on the heels of violent demonstrations. The Council adopted resolution 2466 (2019) on 12 April — thereby extending MINUJUSTH’s mandate for a final period of six months — by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Dominican Republic, Russian Federation).
On 25 June, members voted to establish the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) upon the exit of MINUJUSTH in October. Thirteen delegations voted in favour of resolution 2476 (2019), while China and the Dominican Republic abstained. By that text, the Council mandated that BINUH include units specializing in good governance, reduction of gang violence, police and corrections, and weapons management. On 15 October, the day when MINUJUSTH’s mandate was to expire, several Council members noted that Haitians would wake up the following day in full control of their own security. However, Under‑Secretary‑General Lacroix warned of mounting political challenges and a deteriorating security landscape, declaring: “The current context is not an ideal [end to] 15 years of peacekeeping.” Emphasizing that MINUJUSTH’s exit did not represent the departure of the United Nations, he said the shift to BINUH should be seen as an opportunity to re-centre the Organization’s priorities.
Turmoil erupted early in the year in Venezuela, a nation already plagued by food shortages, deteriorating services and an inflation rate of more than 1 million per cent, amid widespread protests and a sharp political crisis. In January, National Assembly leader Juan Guadió declared himself President, leaving nations around the world — and in the Council — struggling to decide whether to recognize his leadership or that of Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s President since 2013. Attending an emergency meeting on 26 January — convened after a procedural vote of 9 in favour to 4 against, with 2 abstentions — was Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Michael Pompeo, Secretary of State of the United States. Mr. Pompeo described Venezuela as a “failed socialist experiment”, pointing out that 9 out of 10 of its people lived in poverty. Mr. Arreaza rejected Washington, D.C’s, long-standing meddling in Latin America and its attempts to resurrect cold war ideologies.
During a 26 February debate on Venezuela, some 40 speakers considered whether the situation posed a threat to international peace and security, and if so, how best to respond. Days later, on 28 February, the Council failed to adopt two competing draft resolutions, one submitted by the Russian Federation and the other by the United States. China and the Russian Federation cast their vetoes in opposition to the first draft, by which the Council would have expressed concern that the 2018 elections won by President Maduro were neither free nor fair, and called for a new vote under international observation. The Russian text — which lacked the minimum number of votes — would have had the Council urge a peaceful settlement of the situation, with full respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty and right to self-determination. Several delegates expressed concern that intense division within the Council could undermine its credibility on the issue.
On 10 April, Under-Secretary-General Lowcock warned that the situation in Venezuela had worsened, with an estimated 7 million people, or a quarter of the population, in need of aid. A senior official speaking jointly for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) described the magnitude of Venezuela’s refugee crisis as unparalleled in Latin America’s modern history, noting that some 3.7 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. Vice-President Michael R. Pence of the United States called upon the Council to stand up for democracy and the rule of law, declaring: “Nicolás Maduro must go.” However, Venezuela’s representative countered that the United States was trying to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes by provoking a crisis that could be used as a pretext for military intervention.
Five years into the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Council members met several times over the course of 2019 as Ukraine and the Russian Federation traded allegations of violating the 2015 Minsk Agreements, widely viewed as the only agreed framework for a negotiated peace. On 12 February, Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, told members that the Minsk package remained largely unimplemented, and called for additional measures that would render the ceasefire sustainable and irreversible. Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary-General Mueller pointed out that civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict, reporting that more than 3,000 had been killed and nearly 9,000 injured since it began.
On 25 April, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo called upon both sides to refrain from unilateral measures that could exacerbate tensions, recalling that the Russian Federation’s recent presidential decree made it easier for residents of eastern Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship. Entities controlling parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions welcomed the decree, but Kyiv rejected it as unprecedented interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs, she noted. On 20 May, the Russian Federation requested that the Council convene a meeting to discuss a new Ukrainian language bill that was in clear violation of the Minsk Agreements. However, the meeting was never held because the delegations of Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States opposed the request in a procedural action. Ms. DiCarlo briefed again on 16 July, as the language bill entered into force, expressing hope that concrete action in support of the Minsk Agreements would follow the positive statements by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the new President of Ukraine.
The Council held two meetings on the more than 50-year-old United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), adopting resolution 2453 (2019) on 30 January to extend the mandate of that mission for six months. It called upon the island nation’s Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities to explore ways to alleviate tensions in the long-standing conflict. The Council extended UNFICYP’s mandate for a further six months on 25 July, adopting resolution 2483 (2019), by which it expressed regret over the lack of progress in recent years and urged all parties to renew the political will to achieve a settlement under United Nations auspices.
Council members also issued two press statements on the situation in Cyprus. On 27 February, they welcomed the previous day’s meeting between the leaders of the two Cypriot communities, as well as the progress made on confidence-building measures, mobile phone interoperability and electricity interconnectivity. On 9 October, the Council issued a press statement reiterating that no actions not in accordance with previous resolutions should be taken in relation to the contested northern town of Varosha. It further urged both sides and other parties to refrain from actions and rhetoric that might damage the chances of success in reaching a settlement.
Kosovo’s fragile stability faced new threats in 2019, which dawned on the heels of Pristina’s imposition, in late 2018, of a 100 per cent tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 7 February, Zahir Tanin, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) told the Council that both Kosovo and Serbia had made their further engagement on several crucial fronts contingent on the tariff — or the removal thereof. Warning of “a tendency to disrupt rather than de-escalate the situation”, Special Representative Tanin briefed members again on 10 June, outlining a serious diplomatic incident in which UNMIK personnel were arrested, detained and subjected to excessive force during a raid by the Kosovo police. He went on to note that the relevant immunities of United Nations staff were not observed. Meanwhile, Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, said that an internal investigation of the incident was under way.
The Special Representative updated members on the results of that investigation on 31 October, reporting that no evidence of wrongdoing had been found on the part of UNMIK personnel. He also outlined the results of recent elections, which were characterized by high voter turnout and victory for unconventional opposition candidates. Describing the results as the most significant shift in Kosovo’s political landscape in more than a decade, he urged the new leadership to use that momentum to deliver on its promises and push forward the stalled dialogue with Serbia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
When members met on 8 May to discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina — which held general elections in October 2018 — High Representative Valentin Inzko reported that, regrettably, a State-level Council of Ministers and a new Federal Government were yet to be appointed. He urged national leaders to push forward in forming those institutions and to keep Kosovo towards integration with the European Union, while warning them to abandon all destabilizing and divisive rhetoric. Meeting again on 5 November, the Council adopted resolution 2496 (2019), renewing its authorization of the European-led multinational stabilization force (EUFOR-Althea) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for another year.
Cooperation with Regional Organizations
Amid increasingly robust regional capacity — in areas ranging from peacebuilding through development to counter-terrorism — and major diplomatic strides across large swathes of Africa, the Security Council pledged throughout 2019 to continue to bolster its cooperation with the African Union, subregional organizations and other stakeholders on the continent. Meeting in a day‑long debate on 27 February, the Council adopted resolution 2457 (2019) in which it outlined steps towards ending conflict in Africa. The Council also embraced the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns by 2030” campaign, noting that the task of building a conflict-free Africa rested essentially with the African Union, its 54 member States, as well as their peoples and institutions. Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo briefed at the outset, saying that joint United Nations-African Union efforts were already bearing fruit, from Mali to Madagascar.
The Council held a ministerial debate on that partnership on 26 September, when many senior-level officials — including Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission — underlining the need to ensure the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for African Union-led peace operations mandated by the Security Council. Questions of funding took centre stage again on 30 October, as Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, reported that the partnership was growing “from strength to strength”. Speakers pointed out that their combined efforts had contributed to recent positive developments in Sudan, including that country’s Constitutional Declaration on 17 August, but noted that financing peace operations across the continent remained a major challenge.
The Council heard two briefing concerning its partnership with European regional organizations in the course of 2019. Delivering the first on 7 March, Miroslav Lajčak, Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, said that preventing and resolving conflicts remained the organization’s top priority. He went on to outline steps to ease tensions in such hotspot areas as Ukraine, Transnistria, Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh. On 12 March, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s outgoing High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, briefed Council members for the final time in that capacity. She said the bloc was investing in cooperation with the United Nations more than ever before, highlighting joint efforts to push the Syria peace process forward, to establish an international contact group on Venezuela and to act as a guarantor of negotiations in Afghanistan.
League of Arab States
Meetings: 13 June.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/5.
Meeting on 13 June, the Council issued a presidential statement expressing its intention to promote closer cooperation with the League of Arab States in the fields of conflict, early warning, prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and sustaining peace. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for stronger ties between the two organizations in addressing the challenges in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Meetings: 25 September
Ministerial delegates meeting on 25 September welcomed counter-terrorism cooperation with Central Asian security organizations, while stressing that all such efforts must be pursued in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. Briefing members were the Secretaries-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, as well as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States. All three outlined frameworks in which to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime, citing the ever-evolving threat posed by extremists around the globe. Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that such cooperative efforts must be free of polarization and double standards, emphasizing that exploiting terrorist entities for political purposes was particularly unacceptable.
International Criminal Tribunals
Carmel Agius, the newly appointed President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, briefed the Council twice during 2019, alongside Serge Brammertz, Chief Prosecutor. They outlined recent developments in the work of the Mechanism, established in 2010 to carry out essential remaining tasks of the now-closed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. On 17 July, Mr. Agius outlined progress at both branches of the Residual Mechanism, Arusha and The Hague. Prosecutor Brammertz reported that the Appeals Chamber had affirmed the conviction of former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadžić and sentenced him to life in prison. He added that the Office of the Prosecutor had credible information on the whereabouts of several of the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Briefing again on 11 December, the two outlined plans for completing the majority of the Mechanism’s caseload by the end of 2020.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/14.
Press Statements: SC/13762 (2 April).
Tensions escalated in the Persian Gulf area throughout 2019 following the 2018 withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, and the latter’s subsequent deviation from its commitments under that accord. The Security Council also addressed the nuclear activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the breakdown of several crucial disarmament treaties and the looming threat that non-State actors — including terrorist groups — could obtain weapons of mass destruction amid such chaotic developments. On 19 March, the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2000) — tasked with ensuring that States prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands — reported significant cooperation among countries. However, delegates expressed concern about the possibility that ISIL/Da’esh or other groups could acquire unprotected weapons of mass destruction.
On 2 April, Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, sounded the alarm over the steady erosion of disarmament and arms control frameworks, cautioning that the landmark Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons should not be taken for granted at a time when many States prize the acquisition of arms over diplomacy. The Council extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts overseeing the sanctions imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, adopting resolution 2464 (2019) on 10 April. Following attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the Council met on 26 June, when many delegates expressed support for the rapidly collapsing Iran nuclear deal. While some voiced grave concern over Tehran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East, they said that abandoning the deal would only intensify tensions further. The disarmament architecture was dealt another blow in August, as the United States withdrew from its Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Russian Federation. Ms. Nakamitsu warned on 22 August that the Treaty’s collapse must not become a catalyst for renewed competition in the development of ballistic missiles.
Revisiting a subject that dominated much of the Council’s attention in 2018, members issued a presidential statement on 22 November, condemning the use of chemical weapons “anywhere, at any time, by anyone”. Turning to the situation on the Korean Peninsula on 11 December, senior officials said the Secretary-General remained very concerned about recent missile tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Council members echoed those concerns, recalling that Pyongyang had warned of a “new path” should the United States fail to meet its year-end deadline on a way forward. Tensions between the United States and Iran also flared up, with the former stating on 19 December that the latter was responsible for a spate of fresh attacks on oil facilities and a civilian airport in Saudi Arabia.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/4.
The Security Council held several meetings on peacekeeping operations in 2019, tackling such central issues as improving performance and efficiency, making funding more sustainable, preventing sexual exploitation and abuse and protecting peacekeepers against increasingly frequent attacks by armed groups. On 7 May, the Council issued a presidential statement underlining the role of peacekeeping as one of the most effective tools available to the United Nations. Members welcomed the Secretary-General’s 2018 “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative — which seeks to mobilize partners to make peacekeeping more effective — and more than 60 speakers joined in the subsequent debate. The focus of another open debate, on 11 April, was on the benefits brought by female peacekeepers. Many delegates said it was crucial to increase the number of women in peacekeeping because they were better able to “win the hearts and minds” of local populations.
One female Force Commander — head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) — and her male counterpart from the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur provided on-the-ground perspectives while briefing the Council on 18 June. The latter outlined the recent political turbulence in Sudan and its impact on the mission. Triangular cooperation — the partnership linking the Council, police- and troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat — was the focus on 10 July, with Under-Secretary-General Lacroix underlining the importance of working closely with host countries.
Briefing again on 9 September, he called for more flexible operations, improved deployment and more stable funding. Representatives of several African nations echoed those sentiments, noting that operations on the continent — often led by the African Union — made up the bulk of the Council’s agenda and merited more sustainable and predictable resources. In a meeting on 6 November, police commanders from peacekeeping missions in Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Abyei border region between Sudan and South Sudan participated in another interactive session with the Council, underlining the growing importance of police contingents in the work of United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Maintenance of International Peace and Security
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/15.
The Council considered a range of issues under the umbrella agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security”. During a meeting on threats posed by climate change, on 25 January, senior United Nations system officials and outside experts stressed that the risks were not in the distant future but were a grim reality for many around the world. Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned that climate would force more than 140 million people in the global South to migrate across national borders by 2050. While some delegates agreed with experts who called for a Council resolution officially declaring climate change a security threat, others — including the Russian Federation’s representative — rejected “securitization” of the issue, arguing that the Council was not an appropriate forum for such discussions.
On 5 February, attention turned to crimes committed on the high seas, as Yury Fedetov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reported that cocaine trafficking in the Atlantic, transportation of heroin in the Indian Ocean, migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea all threatened regional security and economic stability. The expanding security threats posed by non-State combatants took centre stage on 1 April, as senior officials stressed that such groups ignore international law by targeting civilians, hindering the delivery of aid and resorting to siege and starvation as tactics of war. Tackling the ongoing global crisis of human displacement on 9 April, the Council heard from Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who reported that nearly 70 million people around the world had already been displaced by conflict and more were likely to follow. Citing several specific situations, he called for unified Council action to end the military escalation in Libya.
With discussions across the United Nation system turning increasingly to conflict prevention in 2019, the Council convened a meeting on 12 June to consider ways to expand the application of mediation and render it more effective. Secretary-General Guterres cited recent successes, including the constitutional transfer of power in Mali, the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan. When the parties committed to mediation, the escalation of conflicts could be avoided, he stressed. Also briefing on that subject were two members of the Elders — founded by the late Nelson Mandela to promote peaceful dialogue — Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary‑General, and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland. During another specialized meeting, on 17 July, youth advocates called for stronger efforts to incorporate the voices, energy and ideas of young people into the Council’s work.
Amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East, Council members convened on 20 August to hear from senior officials concerning recent maritime incidents in the Strait of Hormuz. While many speakers cited the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the core of regional instability — as well as a driver of extremist ideology — Secretary of State Pompeo pointed out that Iran continues to escalate tensions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, while also disregarding its nuclear commitments.
Another meeting, on 2 October, focused on the vast potential of young people, especially in Africa, to bolster international peace and security. On 7 October, a range of civil society leaders and academic experts stressed the crucial importance of women-led, locally owned peace processes across Africa in addressing the root causes of conflict. The Council subsequently issued a presidential statement, on 12 December, encouraging more engagement of young people and women in those efforts, while also embracing the continent’s “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2030” campaign. Finally, on 17 December, members turned their attention to the divisive issue of economic sanctions. The outgoing chairs of the Council’s five subsidiary sanctions bodies delivered briefings, underlining that, whereas sanctions could help restore peace and security, they did not constitute an end “in and of themselves” and should not be seen as such.
Threats to International Peace and Security
On the heels of the military defeat of ISIL/Da’esh in Iraq and Syria, the Security Council nevertheless continued to grapple with the implications of a brutal, well-funded terrorist network that was now returning to its underground roots. Related threats, including organized crime syndicates and mercenaries, also featured prominently in those discussions. On 4 February, the Council convened a meeting dedicated to “guns for hire” in the strategically located and resource-rich Central Africa subregion. The Secretary-General called upon Member States to bolster their legal systems, noting that weak State control, porous borders and the flow of small arms and light weapons all exacerbated the threat.
Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations Office for Counter-Terrorism, briefed members on 11 February, cautioning that, despite ISIL’s defeat the network remained well-organized and well-financed. Meanwhile, the presence of returning, relocating or released foreign terrorist fighters was exacerbating that threat, he said. During an open debate on 28 March, the Council adopted resolution 2462 (2019), calling upon Member States to step up efforts to criminalize the financing of terrorists and their activities. Briefers included various thematic experts and civil society leaders, including Xiangmin Liu, the President of the Financial Action Task Force and Grace Buku, an anti‑money‑laundering specialist from Kenya.
Similar questions were raised on 20 May during a joint briefing by the chairs of three of the Council’s subsidiary counter-terrorism bodies, and in another debate on 9 July. Dozens of speakers called for intensified efforts to sever ties between the twin threats posed by terrorists and organized criminal networks. Council members expressed concern that the former could benefit from the latter, as they adopted resolution 2482 (2019) on 19 July. They also spotlighted potential links between extremist groups and the illicit trade in natural resources, kidnapping for ransom and trafficking in cultural property. Providing a range of troubling figures on 27 August, Mr. Voronkov warned that ISIL/Da’esh now spanned from West Africa to South-East Asia and was now in possession of residual wealth estimated at $300 million.
Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
As the United Nations peacebuilding and sustaining peace agendas gained prominence in 2019, attention turned to preventive diplomacy and mediation, as well as the crucial post-conflict transition period. Joining Council members in discussing the latter on 18 July, Secretary-General Guterres warned that drawing down and closing United Nations peace operations could jeopardize strides already made if poorly managed. Speakers agreed that the Organization must pay close attention to such transitions, while spotlighting successfully concluded missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste and Liberia. In a 19 November meeting focused on reconciliation as a powerful peacebuilding tool, more than 60 speakers shared their experiences of tribunals, truth commissions, reparations programmes and similar instruments, highlighting lessons learned. Many emphasized that, whereas reconciliation was neither swift nor simple, it remained possible and even highly effective if carried out properly.
Civilians in Armed Conflict
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2019/8.
The Council marked the twentieth anniversary of its “protection of civilians” agenda in 2019, convening an open debate on the item on 23 May. A range of briefers, including the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), called upon Member States to move beyond a “victim mindset”, emphasizing the crucial importance of the needs and views of civilian communities in developing measures to protect them. On 11 June, members adopted their first‑ever text dealing specifically with persons reported missing in armed conflict — resolution 2474 (2019) — calling upon warring parties to prevent persons from going missing, to actively search for the missing, to account for their whereabouts or enable the return of their remains. The Council again broke new ground on 20 June, adopting resolution 2475 (2019) — its first-ever text calling specifically for the protection of persons with disabilities in armed conflict.
On 2 August, during a day-long debate on children and armed conflict, more than 80 speakers called attention to the plight of tens of thousands of children detained in war-torn countries and 420 million others growing up in conflict‑affected places. A range of senior officials provided snapshots of the global landscape, as survivors of conflicts in Sierra Leone and Sudan described the horrors of war from a child’s perspective. The Council marked the seventieth anniversary of the landmark Geneva Conventions on 13 August, noting that they established the norms for the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. Many speakers described the 1949 Conventions as more critical than ever in a shifting global landscape marked by complex, asymmetrical conflicts and the increasingly common use of autonomous weapons. Issuing a presidential statement to that effect on 20 August, the Council reaffirmed its strong condemnation of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by parties to conflict, calling upon the latter to comply with their legal obligations.
Women, Peace and Security
The Security Council held two open debates on the women, peace and security agenda in 2019. During the first, on 23 April, members took up a hard-fought draft on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict, ultimately adopting resolution 2467 (2019) by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation). By that text, the Council called upon warring parties around the globe to implement specific, time-bound commitments to combat the crime of sexual violence. It also urged existing sanctions committees to apply targeted measures against those who perpetrate and direct the crime. Briefing at the outset were Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, as well as barrister Amal Clooney. All three shared personal stories, with the latter recounting her work providing legal counsel to women previously kidnapped, bought, sold, enslaved and raped by ISIL/Da’esh. On 29 October — and in a subsequent meeting on 4 November — the Council adopted resolution 2493 (2019), urging States to renew their commitments under the landmark resolution 1325 (2000), the twentieth anniversary of which will be marked in 2020.
Meetings: 6 June.
In a 6 June meeting focused on the Council’s working methods, Karin Landgren, Executive Director of the Security Council Report, said the organ’s consultations should be interactive, direct and focused on political strategy. Its resolutions should enjoy the support of all Council members, she added. New Zealand’s representative spoke on behalf of 20 former Council members, saying that elected and permanent members should have equal opportunity to exercise their Charter obligations, including by chairing subsidiary bodies. Other delegates called upon the Council to drop its outdated “penholder” system, whereby some members exercised an unspoken monopoly in drafting resolutions, often without input from others. Meanwhile, several permanent members emphasized the need for flexibility, underlining the need to strike the right balance between public and private meetings.