In Hindsights

  • Introduction On 21 December 2023, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2719 on the financing of AU-led peace support operations (AUPSOs).[1] In a 22 December statement[2], Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the Council’s decision and expressed his commitment to working with...

  • The Security Council has been severely tested by a multilateral environment in turmoil. In 2023, it faced the continuing effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the precipitous escalation of conflict in the Middle East, and pushback against UN peacekeeping in Africa as well as UN sanctions. The shifting global balance of power, the contrasting narratives about global priorities that emerged after the invasion of Ukraine, and the allegations of Western double standards over Israel’s actions in Gaza, have severely strained relations and deepened the atmosphere of distrust. The Council continued to come under public attack for its inability to address violations of the UN Charter.

  • The sanctions divide is particularly stark between Western countries, on the one hand, and China, Russia, and African countries, on the other. Western countries often maintain that arms embargoes and targeted sanctions, such as assets freezes and travel bans, are vital tools in mitigating violence and supporting the implementation of peace agreements. While China, Russia, and the Council’s African members recognise that sanctions can be a useful tool of the Council, they point to countries that remain under Council sanctions for several years as evidence that sanctions are insufficiently adjusted to account for progress.

  • The discourse on transitions has recently intensified in response to the changing nature of conflict, underpinned by complex and multifaceted peace, security, and development challenges. A characteristic of current conflicts is their wider regional implications influenced by transnational actors and geopolitical rivalries involving major powers, contributing to their protracted nature.  As well, host countries and communities have grown frustrated with the perceived ineffectiveness of UN peace operations. At times, inflated public expectations and disappointments have been influenced by disinformation campaigns.

  • The Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace calls for strong partnerships between the UN and regional frameworks as part of “networked multilateralism”. Current geopolitical shifts make it imperative to reflect on how such partnerships should function—how the Security Council and regional organisations relate to each other in the maintenance of international peace and security. This is especially important in assessing how and when the Council must be involved with regional arrangements, including peace and enforcement operations. The Council itself has a mixed record in interpreting the provisions of the UN Charter, however.

  • Introduction In July 2023, UN Secretary-General António Guterres released A New Agenda for Peace. It is one of 11 policy briefs connected to his 2021 report, Our Common Agenda, reflecting his vision for the future of multilateralism and intended to...

  • In July, the Council failed to adopt a resolution reauthorising the Syria cross-border aid mechanism. As a result, a nine-year old mechanism, which had allowed the delivery of humanitarian assistance into non-government-controlled parts of Syria without requiring the consent of the Syrian government, was shut down. The draft put forward by the co-penholders (Switzerland and Brazil), with a nine-month extension of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, was vetoed by Russia.

  • With the Security Council elections behind them, incoming Council members—Algeria, Guyana, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, and Slovenia—are now starting to discuss the allocation of the chairs and vice-chairs of the subsidiary bodies. For many years this process was shrouded in secrecy, with the permanent members deciding how to allocate these positions, often with minimal consultation.

  • The 77th session of the UN General Assembly is scheduled to hold elections on 6 June for five non-permanent seats of the Security Council for the 2024-2025 term.

  • In the space of about three years, the Council has grappled with two major crises—the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine—that could have threatened its ability to function. Yet, except for a brief moment at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council continued to operate, adapting its working methods to new realities. These twin crises have both changed and challenged how the Council exercises its role, illuminating the role of working methods as the Council’s foundation for functioning in hard times.  

  • By the end of April, the United Nations Secretary-General will publish a report on the financing of African Union (AU)-led peace support operations (AUPSOs).

  • In March, the Security Council is expected to conduct its 70th visiting mission since 1992. This trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will be only the second Council visiting mission since October 2019, and the first since it travelled to Mali and Niger in October 2021. In the few years preceding the outbreak of COVID-19, the Council undertook multiple such missions every year: five trips each in 2016, 2017 and 2019, with three in 2018.

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 was a seismic event with devastating consequences for the people of Ukraine and far-reaching effects on the global economy. The invasion is widely regarded as a flagrant violation of a fundamental tenet of international law and of the UN Charter: namely, the commitment to refrain from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of a member state. It laid bare the Security Council’s inability to maintain international peace and security when one of its permanent members unilaterally decides to wage war.

  • 29 December 2022

    The Security Council in 2022

    2022 was a turbulent year for the Security Council, its functioning tested by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The value of the UN Charter became a central theme in many members’ interventions, and the Council referred a situation to the General Assembly for the first time in forty years. Within the Council, the invasion exacerbated the trust deficit among members, making it harder to find common ground on many issues.

  • Just over a year ago, Ireland, Kenya and Mexico formed a “Presidency Trio for Women, Peace and Security” (WPS), pledging to make WPS “a top priority” of their respective presidencies in September, October and November 2021. During the press conference on the Council’s programme of work for September 2021, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland) described the initiative as “a golden thread” that would run through the Irish, Kenyan and Mexican presidencies.