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1 March 2021

Press Conference by Security Council President on Programme of Work for March

An open debate on conflict-induced starvation and hunger, along with renewed focus on the crisis in Yemen and the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria will mark the Security Council’s work programme in March, its President for the month said during a press conference today, as she held out the possibility of elevating the crises unfolding in Myanmar and Ethiopia on the agenda.

Council President Linda Thomas-Greenfield (United States) said “we’re ready to get to work”, noting that United States President Joseph R. Biden in his inaugural address pledged that the country would re-engage with the world, repair its alliances and be a trusted partner for peace and security, leading “not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example”.

It is in that spirit that the United States renewed its leadership in vital international institutions, she said, committing to funding the World Health Organization (WHO) as a matter of urgency with a view to transforming the body into a smarter, nimbler organization — in part through its $4 billion pledge to the COVAX Facility.

She said the United States re-joined the Paris Agreement on climate change, which it helped to form, stressing that “this is an issue that impacts every person, in every nation on every continent”.  Her country also restored its financial and political support to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), halting the “global gag rule” on sexual and reproductive rights, and announced its candidacy for a seat on the Human Rights Council.

Recalling that the new United States Administration has also taken action at home, ending its “Muslim ban”, announcing a racial equity initiative and restoring its refugee admissions programme, “shining our light of liberty on those who need it most”, she said her country will host a global summit for democracy, an action that reflects its values.  “Diplomacy is not a zero-sum game,” she said.  “Peace, prosperity and security serve us all.”

It is against this backdrop that the United States will approach its work on the Security Council, she said.  “America is back at the table, literally and figuratively.”  In March, it will sponsor an Arria‑formula meeting calling attention to the important work needed on the issue of gender equality.  The United States will demand accountability for the rampant sexual exploitation and abuse that has been perpetrated during the COVID-19 pandemic and insist on women’s full and effective participation in public decision-making.

On 11 March, she said the Council will hold an open debate on conflict‑induced starvation and hunger, bringing awareness to these issues and calling for its leadership in seeking solutions.  As war and instability have left millions at risk of starvation and malnutrition, the Council cannot stand idly by, she asserted.  On 16 March, it will focus on the suffering in Yemen, she said, stressing that the humanitarian disaster there must be addressed “head‑on”.

Turning to Africa, she said that, on 3 March, the Council will hear a briefing on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS) will be the focus of a briefing on 9 March, while the situation in Libya will be the focus on 24 March.  Recalling the recent death of Luca Attanasio, Italy’s Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and others during an attack, she said “diplomats and humanitarian workers are always in the line of fire”, and every effort must be made to keep them safe.  These events offer a backdrop to the Council’s 30 March meeting on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), she added.

Pointing out that 15 March marks the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria — of “completely preventable suffering” and countless deaths — she said the situation there is “only getting worse”.  The Council’s three meetings on Syria in March therefore will take on added seriousness.  “The eleventh anniversary cannot look like the tenth,” she assured.

Drawing attention to the 15-member organ’s quarterly debate on the situation in Afghanistan, on 23 March, and on the Middle East, including the question of Palestine on 25 March, she went on to note that the United States is prepared to elevate crises in Ethiopia, “Burma” and Haiti on the Council’s radar.

Throughout the March discussions, she said the United States will seek to hear from representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society who can offer first-hand accounts.  “Their invaluable perspectives will serve us immensely,” she said.  Stressing that today’s issues are urgent, global and bring with them a sense of responsibility, she said “there is no problem this body cannot solve if we tackle it together”.

Taking questions, including about what keeps her up at night in her new job at the United Nations, she said she always worries about where and when the next crisis will happen.  She called the 26 February kidnapping of 300 girls in Nigeria “horrifying”, adding that the crisis unfolding in Ethiopia had not been foreseen a year ago.  As someone who has spent half her career on humanitarian issues, focusing in particular on the needs of refugees, she said these issues worry her most as they lead to the most suffering.

Asked about what the Council can do to address the situation in Myanmar, she commended the ambassador of Myanmar for his bravery and compassion expressed in his recent statement, expressing support to him and the people of his country.  “We stand strongly with them,” she assured.  The United States joins the world in pressing the military to reverse its actions and restore the democratically elected Government in Myanmar, she said, acknowledging that the military does not seem ready to take such an action.

“We do have to ramp up the pressure,” she said.  She pointed to the recent Council press statement as a sign that, despite their differences, members can cooperate in areas where it matters.  The United States anticipates using its time on the Council to push for more intense discussions on the issue, she said, noting that the Human Rights Council has called for full respect of rights and freedoms in “Burma”.  The world is watching.  “We cannot sit still and watch people be brutalized,” she emphasized.  The United States hopes to hold discussions on the matter “sooner rather than later”, she said, a proposal she has discussed with all Council members.

To a question on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she said the situation presents a serious threat to global peace and security, adding that the United States President has made clear that her country will engage in principled diplomacy and press for a denuclearized Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

For the full programme of work, please see:  www.un.org/securitycouncil/events/calendar.

For information media. Not an official record.