Security Council Roundup: January 2022
On 1 January, five new non-permanent members — Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates — joined the Security Council, taking the place of Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Viet Nam, which concluded their two-year term. Under Norway’s presidency in January, the Security Council held two high-level debates on addressing violence targeting women in peace and security processes; and on war in cities — protection of civilians in urban settings. The Council heard from Karim A.A. Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on developments related to the situation in Darfur and held nine briefings on situations under the purview of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).
West Africa and the Sahel
“It is certain that West Africa and the Sahel continue to make progress in several areas. However, insecurity in the subregion is jeopardizing these hard-won gains,” Special Representative and head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Mahamat Saleh Annadif said during his briefing to the Council on 10 January. Citing elections in The Gambia and Cabo Verde as positive developments, he said that these examples confirm the appeal of democracy as the surest way of building the future for communities within a republic. However, the security environment has become more concerning. Incidents in northern Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo show that the threat of terrorism is expanding from the Sahel towards the coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea, he said. The increase of coups d’état in West Africa is often the consequence of political practices totally disconnected with what people want, Annadif continued. The Special Representative vowed to work much more closely with the United Nations country teams in the 16 countries covered by the mission to align actions with key priorities. Collectively applying comparative advantages while remaining guided by the same objective, “we will have to act to strengthen the virtuous circle of good governance, security, peace and development,” he said, hailing the work of the Peacebuilding Commission in supporting countries emerging from crisis in the subregion.
To read the Special Representative’s remarks, click here
Council members, on 12 January, heard from Hans Grundberg, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, that 2022 started on a challenging note, with the warring parties doubling down on military options. Seven years into the conflict, the belief that inflicting harm on the other will bring about submission is prevailing, he said. But there is no sustainable solution to be found on the battlefield. “ I will continue to stress that warring parties can, should, and indeed must talk even if they are not ready to put down their arms,” Grundberg said. On the security front, he said he has explored ways to address the parties’ stated priorities and to unlock a nationwide ceasefire. Unfortunately, these efforts have faced the same obstacles that have hindered past efforts: the parties’ disagreements over sequencing, competing priorities and a lack of trust. Nevertheless, the Special Envoy said he will continue to explore options for fast-tracking de-escalation, if and when the parties are ready to pursue these options.
Read his full remarks here
Karim A.A. Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, briefed the Council on 17 January on developments related to the situation in Darfur and resolution 1593 (2005) the first-ever text referring a situation to the Court. While that landmark referral provided hope, he expressed his frustration that 17 years have now elapsed without any tangible accountability or justice for Darfur’s people. However, Khan said, following the 2018 uprising that overthrew Omar Al-Bashir and put Sudan on a path of political transition, the Court was able to visit the country for the first time in many years and new progress was registered. On 9 July 2021, his Office successfully secured confirmation of all 31 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, a senior leader of the Janjaweed militia in Darfur, for crimes including murder, rape, torture, and attacks on the civilian population. That trial will commence in April, marking the first-ever International Criminal Court trial stemming from a Security Council referral. Voicing regret that the military takeover in Sudan on 25 October 2021 marked a major setback in the Court’s work, he nevertheless reported that his team was able to travel to Khartoum in December to obtain fresh assurances from the Government that their work can continue.
Read a summary of the meeting here
Protecting participation — Addressing violence targeting women in peace and security processes
Despite best efforts to ensure that peace is built by and for women, the prospects for their participation in the very negotiations intended to secure their future are “vastly worse” than before the pandemic, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the Council on 18 January. “This harms all of us,” she said. The enabling environment — which is at the heart of the women, peace and security agenda — is largely absent, she noted. Underscoring the need for strategies that create inclusive and safe participation channels for women from all backgrounds, movements, and communities, she said the protection of their work, lives and rights is central to this effort. “The international community must stand united and push back against attempts to attack, silence and criminalize women’s rights to defend rights, participate in decision-making and express dissenting opinions,” she stressed.
To watch High Commissioner for Human Rights remarks at the Council, click here.
Eight months after a fragile ceasefire ended full-scale fighting in the Gaza Strip, Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process told the Council on 19 January that the situation is once again characterized by daily clashes and rising tensions. He warned Council members against piecemeal approaches and diplomatic “half measures” that will only let the conflict fester further. “Without a realistic prospect of an end to the occupation and the realization of a two-State solution based on UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements, it is only a matter of time before we face an irreversible, dangerous collapse and widespread instability,” he stressed. Wennesland recalled that on 28 December Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had met with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz for the second time in four months. Welcoming the ongoing high-level engagement, he urged both sides to continue and expand their cooperation to encompass underlying political issues.
To read his full remarks, click here
Special Representative and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu on 20 January said the fifth anniversary of the peace agreement in the country provided an opportunity to celebrate its achievements, acknowledge challenges and recommit to its comprehensive implementation. “It is important to carry this momentum forward into a key year that holds new opportunities to consolidate peace,” he said, noting that Colombians will cast their votes in March for a Congress that will for the first time include representatives from the 16 special transitional electoral districts for peace. He said the reintegration of the more than 13,000 accredited former combatants has advanced over the past five years. While he acknowledged a reduction in the number of killings compared to the previous year, he stressed that every death is a “blow to peace” and efforts must be made to enhance their individual security, as well as to secure conflict affected areas, where illegal armed actors are taking advantage of the State’s limited presence.
To read the Special Representative’s full remarks, click here
On 24 January, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told the Council that growing polarization among political actors in Libya resulted in the postponement of the 24 December 2021 elections, with the High National Commission for Elections citing such reasons as shortcomings in the legal framework and contradictory court rulings on candidacies. She noted that the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Stephanie Williams, is working with national, regional, and international stakeholders, including the Russian Federation, Tunisia, Turkey and the African Union, among others. Discussions in the House of Representatives and among political actors is also focusing on the status of the Government of National Unity, DiCarlo said, adding that the Special Adviser stressed that it is critical for the international community to remain united in its support for the timely holding of presidential and parliamentary elections.
To read the Under-Secretary-General’s full remarks, click here
War in cities — protection of civilians in urban settings
Secretary-General António Guterres, briefing the Council on 25 January on protection of civilians in urban settings, said that 50 million people in cities are affected by conflict in urban areas. When explosive weapons are used in cities, 90% of those affected are civilians, he said. Citing examples, including targeted attacks on schools from Gaza and Afghanistan and widespread infrastructure damage in Yemen, Guterres said conflict in urban areas have widespread effects, setting back progress for decades, including on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “The frightening human cost of waging war in cities is not inevitable; it is a choice,” he said, highlighting measures to prevent and mitigate these consequences. He concluded by urging all Member States to use their influence over their partners and allies to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and the adoption of good practices.
To read his full remarks, click here
Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at the Council on 26 January, said that six months after the Taliban’s takeover, “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread.” Afghans are facing a brutal winter, education and social services are on the brink of collapse, the economy is spiraling downward, and human rights are losing ground, with women and girls once again shut out of offices and classrooms, and years of steady progress lost in the blink of an eye. Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons reported that the de facto authorities have taken some steps to function more effectively as a government, but stressed that it was time for the Taliban to govern based on trust, not fear, to be inclusive, protect the rights of all Afghans and initiate an Afghan dialogue for national reconciliation. Inclusion should be seen as a long‑standing and required source of domestic legitimacy, she said, emphasizing that: “For now the war has ended but peace has not yet been consolidated.” The current fragile peace and stability could unravel if measures are not taken to govern in a way that builds trust and accountability.
Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, on 26 January, said that the unprecedented attempt at a prison break in Al-Hasakah by thousands of detainees with suspected ISIL links, sparking clashes from the United States-led global coalition, sends a clear message on the importance of uniting to combat the threat of internationally proscribed terrorist groups and resolving the broader conflict. While most of the ISIL fighters have now surrendered, there is great concern for the safety of civilians, many of whom have been displaced. “In this context, the tragedy of the Syrian people is only deepening,” he continued, noting that 14 million civilians now need humanitarian assistance, more than 12 million remain displaced and many are now facing freezing winter conditions. Tens of thousands are detained, abducted or missing, the Syrian economy has collapsed, and criminality and smuggling are flourishing. The country remains de facto divided and society is deeply fractured. “Syrians see no concrete progress towards a political solution,” he warned. Meanwhile, a strategic stalemate continues to hold, with no shifts in the conflict’s frontlines for nearly two years.
To read his full remarks at the Security Council, click here
In a briefing on the situation in Ukraine on 31 January, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said that the Secretary-General unequivocally supports diplomatic efforts at all levels and is greatly concerned about the escalation of tensions and the dangerous military build-up in the heart of Europe.
“The Secretary-General has made clear there is no alternative to diplomacy and dialogue,” she said. The United Nations will contribute to avoid confrontation and create conditions for a diplomatic solution, DiCarlo continued, welcoming steps in this regard, and urging actors to build on such efforts, engage in good faith and refrain from provocative rhetoric. Reiterating the United Nations support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders, she underlined the need for the international community to intensify the efforts of the Normandy Four and the OSCE-led Trilateral Contact Group to ensure the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
To read her full remarks, click here.
Due to persisting gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved, Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme still cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United Nations disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu told the Security Council on 5 January, urging the country to cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) without delay.
On 11 January, El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), reported that a decade into the crisis in Mali, insecurity has expanded, while the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, with heightened food insecurity, an increasing number of internally displaced persons and more children out of school. The Special Representative noted that in 2021 MINUSMA had faced the highest number of casualties since 2013, following a significant rise of asymmetric attacks targeting convoys, camps, and temporary operating bases.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2618 (2022) on 27 January, the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for six months — until on 31 July. Council members called on the leaders of the two Cypriot communities and all involved parties to refrain from any actions and rhetoric that might damage the settlement process and that could raise tensions on the island. It also expressed concern over tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, and underlined that disputes should be resolved peacefully, in accordance with applicable international law.
The same day, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that as the conflict in Syria enters its second decade, even the bare minimum — of sufficient relief, civilian protection and access to basic social service — is not being provided to the country’s people, stressing: “Failure each year cannot be our strategy.” He also expressed deep concern about the hundreds of children who had been trapped in the prison siege in Al-Hasakah, underlining that they must all be accounted for, evacuated to safety and supported.
The recent prison attack in north-east Syria serves as a reminder that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) still poses a grave threat in the region, across Africa and beyond, Vladimir Voronkov, Head of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, told the Council on 27 January, in a late-breaking meeting called by the Russian Federation. “We need consistent, coordinated and comprehensive efforts across countries, sectors and disciplines, anchored in human rights and the rule of law, to address terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” he said.
On 31 January, the Council, unanimously decided to extend the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), until 30 April. Recalling that UNSMIL should be led by a Special Envoy, it also recognized the Secretary-General’s responsibility to appoint an individual to that position, as set out in resolution 2542 (2020)