The Security Council will turn to technology in April to tackle the humanitarian crises in Yemen and Syria, address conflict-induced hunger, promote the youth, peace and security agenda, and respond to the threat of COVID-19, its President for the month said today.
Speaking by videoconference, incoming President José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic) outlined the Council’s extraordinary working methods for April, addressing at length the changes in the way in which the 15-member organ will conduct its meetings for the foreseeable future.
He went on to state that the Council will continue its work by means of “informal” meetings held using video teleconferencing (VTC) technology, adding that members unanimously approved that format, which will allow continuing discussion of the Council’s agenda “given the extraordinary circumstances” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council needed to adapt, he continued, noting that it has held private VTC meetings on April’s agenda since mid-March. Under the Dominican Republic’s presidency, it will hold both open and closed VTC meetings, with the former replacing briefings and the latter substituting for closed consultations. The open meetings will entail briefers presenting their reports via live feed, after which the President will circulate members’ statements to the wider United Nations membership. In addition, the Council will continue to release press statements after each meeting — as implemented last month during China’s presidency — to make its work “as transparent and inclusive as possible under the circumstances”.
Turning to the Council’s April work programme, he said that, on 7 April, it will hold both open and closed VTC meetings on major developments concerning the implementation of peace and reconciliation agreements in Mali. Other topics will include the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the impact of COVID-19 on that country and the surrounding Sahel region. On 9 April, the head of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) will deliver a special report and brief on the most recent developments on the ground via closed VTC meeting.
Concerning Syria, he said the Council will discuss the political situation in that country and the implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) on 13 April. Noting that the Constitutional Committee established to draft a new constitution and call general elections has not met since its launch in November, he said Special Envoy Geir Pedersen is expected to brief Council members on different actions taken to mobilize the Committee. The Council is also likely to address the impact of COVID-19 on the humanitarian and political situations in a “country devastated by almost 10 years of conflict”, he added.
On 14 April, the President said, the Council will consider the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the most recent developments in Colombia.
He went on to state that Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, will brief the Council on 15 April and present the monthly report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The latter will focus on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, progress achieved by the Declaration Assessment Team, and updates on the relevant fact-finding mission. The Council expects to receive the first report of the OPCW’s identification and inspection team in early April regarding its efforts to identify perpetrators of chemical warfare in Syria.
On 16 April, the Council will consider the situation in Yemen, he continued, describing the situation there as “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world”, in which 80 per cent of the population require some form of assistance. The Council will also discuss the impact of COVID-19 in the region, he added.
He went on to announce a featured event, to be held on 21 April, relating to the maintenance of international peace and security and protecting civilians from conflict-induced hunger, emphasizing that its main objectives are to “keep this issue alive” in the Council and to improve implementation of resolution 2417 (2018). Briefers will include the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme and the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. The meeting will coincide with the launch of the global report on the food crisis, as conflict remains among the major drivers of food insecurity, hunger and famine.
The President said that on 22 April, the Council will discuss Africa’s Great Lakes region while reviewing the Secretary-General’s report on the situation and implementation of peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider subregion.
He said the Council will hold open VTC meetings on 23 and 24 April on the Middle East and United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Council members are expected to continue to promote a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on mutual respect and international principles. They will also hear the first briefing on UNMIK in 2020, he added.
Announcing that the Council will hold another featured event on 27 April, when it holds an open VTC meeting on youth, peace and security, he said the aim of that open debate is to provide a platform for Member States to discuss progress on implementation of resolutions 2419 (2018) and 2250 (2015), and to share best practices and lessons learned on the national and regional levels.
The President said Council members will discuss the situation in Sudan and South Sudan on 28 April, noting that the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) expires in May 2020. The meeting is expected to assess the progress both countries have made in meeting benchmarks established by the Secretary-General for the mission’s eventual departure. It will also focus on the Secretary-General’s proposal to include civilian elements in the mission.
He said the Council will conclude its April agenda on 29 April with a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria, adding that it will address reported attacks against health facilities in Idlib Province during the last military escalation in that region.
Asked about plans to hold an emergency meeting on COVID-19 in April, the President said negotiations are ongoing and the Council will “make it happen for sure” the week of 6-10 April or before. In response to a related question about a potential resolution on the pandemic, he said members are yet to discuss the issue, but the Council will “see how events play out” when such a discussion does occur.
Queried about the Council’s working methods, he emphasized that it will try — as it did during China’s presidency — to have press elements after every closed VTC meeting, confirming also that members’ statements will be circulated after each VTC session. Briefings will be broadcast live, he added. The Council is currently “bound by technology” and will expand live coverage to member statements when technology allows, he said. Likening current technical issues to a “big sailboat”, he quipped that the Council will go “wherever the wind takes us”.
Questioned as to why current meetings are considered “informal”, he cited the unprecedented nature of the current circumstances while underlining the utmost importance of transparency and openness. “I am a pragmatist”, he added.
When asked whether the Council intends to meet on the escalating fighting around Tripoli, Libya, and the political feud in Afghanistan, he said the Council is open to anything important that must be addressed “in the moment”.
For the full programme of work, please see www.un.org/securitycouncil/events/calendar.