Council members undertook a visiting mission to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin region from 2 to 7 March travelling to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, where the terrorist group Boko Haram continues its insurgency. Members sought to assess the threat posed by Boko Haram and signal their support to the four countries in confronting the group, as well as to understand better the scale of the humanitarian crisis created by the conflict, and the underlying root causes. In addition to meeting with government leaders and the UN country and humanitarian teams in the four countries, Council members traveled to Maroua, in Cameroon’s Far North region and to Maiduguri in Borno State to meet displaced persons and refugees, local authorities and military commanders. On 9 March, the three co-leads, France, Senegal and the UK briefed the Council on the visiting mission. Discussions then proceeded among some members, initially on a follow-up presidential statement, that was eventually made into a draft resolution, which at the end of March, the full Council membership had just started negotiations on.
DPRK (North Korea)
In a 7 March press statement, Council members condemned the ballistic missile launches conducted by the DPRK on 5 March. In a 23 March press statement, they condemned the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch of 21 March and the ballistic missile engine test of 19 March. Both statements noted that such activities contribute to increasing tension in the region and beyond as well as the risk of a regional arms race, and emphasised the importance of the DPRK “showing sincere commitment to denuclearisation.” The statements also called on member states to redouble their efforts to implement the sanctions measures imposed by the Council. On 23 March, in resolution 2345, the Council renewed for another 13 months the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee.
On 9 March, the Council was briefed by Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, on his latest report on the situation in Burundi.Benjamin William Mkapa, East African Community facilitator of the Inter-Burundian Dialogue, and Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, also briefed the Council. The briefing was followed by consultations. On 13 March, Council members issued a press statement expressing their concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country and the slow progress in the Inter-Burundian dialogue.
On 10 March, Council members met in consultations on the situation in and around Mosul, Iraq. The meeting had been requested by Russia in order to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mosul and the alleged use of chemical weapons in eastern Mosul. Head of OCHA Stephen O’Brien and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo briefed Council members on the humanitarian situation and alleged chemical weapons use, respectively. On 24 March, Russia requested the meeting under “any other business” on the situation in Mosul in light of the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons by ISIL. During the meeting China and Russia circulated a draft resolution which sought to extend the mandate of OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism to Iraq.
On 10 March, Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA briefed the Council on the latest UNAMA report. Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, also briefed the Council. On 17 March, the Council adopted resolution 2344, renewing the mandate of UNAMA until 17 March 2018.
On 10 March, following a request by Russia, the Council was briefed by OCHA head Stephen O’Brien, who had travelled to Yemen from 26 February to 2 March. O’Brien highlighted that Yemen was the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 18 million people in need of assistance, and was at risk of famine, while he also addressed the humanitarian crises of South Sudan, Somalia and the Lake Chad Basin Region. The following week, 17 March, following a Russian request, members discussed in consultations under “any other business” a planned attack against the port city of Hodeidah by the Coalition and Yemeni government. Political Affairs Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman provided a briefing. On 29 March, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and Ambassador Koro Besho (Japan), Chair of the Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee, briefed Council members in consultations. Ahead of this meeting, on 23 March, the Informal Experts Group on Women Peace and Security met on Yemen. Participants included Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Special Envoy Ahmed, the UN’s Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Modern Slavery, Forced Labour and Conflict
On 15 March, the UK held a ministerial-level debate on modern slavery, forced labour and conflict. Secretary-General António Guterres; Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; Ilwad Elman, a Somali human rights activist; and Kevin Hyland, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner of the UK briefed the Council (Fedotov and Elman by video teleconference, from Vienna and Mogadishu, respectively). In addition to Council members, more than 50 representatives of member states and international organisations participated in the debate. The Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Urmila Bhoola, also participated in the debate. The aim of the debate was to call attention to the extent of the phenomenon of conflict-related modern slavery and the links between trafficking in persons, organised crime and terrorism (21 million people are estimated to be victims of forced labour, generating $150 billion a year in illegal profits). In its concept note, the UK posed questions regarding ways in which the Council and the UN system can be more effective in addressing the scourge, how to ensure a proper law enforcement response, and how to ensure accountability of those who enslave, engage in trafficking in persons, or utilise forced labour in conflict.
Non-Proliferation (1540 Committee)
On 16 March, the chair of the 1540 Committee, Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia), briefed the Council on the work of the Committee. He said the Committee intended to build on the momentum generated by resolution 2325 adopted on 15 December 2016, which endorsed the 2016 comprehensive review of the implementation of resolution 1540, and that its programme of work for 2017 (S/2017/126) would enable significant progress towards more effective implementation.
Central African Republic
On 16 March, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and the CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera briefed the Council on the situation in the CAR. The Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee was to meet with the Committee to present its programme of work to the Committee on 31 March. Council members held an informal interactive dialogue on 13 March with the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Mission for Central Africa and the Central African Region, Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt.
On 17 March Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, El Ghassim Wane, briefed Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s 8 March report on the implementation of resolution 1701. On 9 March, the Council received the Secretary-General’s strategic review of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which was requested by resolution 2305 of August 2016.
On 17 March, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed Council members on the situation in Myanmar during informal consultations under “any other business”. Hui Lu, Deputy head, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (New York) was also present and responded to questions during the session. The main focus of the briefing was the situation in Rakhine, including the humanitarian challenges. Feltman also covered recent political developments and the efforts of the UN and regional organisations. Members expressed concerns about human rights violations and the humanitarian situation and were interested in how the UN could support the peace process.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On 21 March, the Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, briefed the Council on the latest MONUSCO report . President of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo Marcel Utembi and Marie-Madeleine Kalala of the NGO the Common Cause Network, also briefed the Council. At press time, the Council was set to adopt a resolution on 31 March, renewing the mandate of MONUSCO, including that of its Force Intervention Brigade, until 31 March 2018. On 29 March, Council members condemned the killing of two experts from the DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts who were on mission in the Kasaï-Central region and expressed concern over the unknown status of the four Congolese nationals accompanying them.
Protection of Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflicts
On 24 March, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2347 on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts (S/PV.7907). Drafted by Italy and France, this was a first-ever resolution specifically on the issue of protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts. The resolution, among other things, condemned destruction, looting and trafficking of cultural heritage in armed conflicts. Furthermore, the resolution calls on the member states to implement necessary measures to advance the protection of cultural heritage on their territory and, if requested, with the assistance of relevant UN agencies. At the meeting following the adoption the Council was briefed by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (via video teleconference); and General Fabrizio Parrulli, head of the Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.
UNDOF (Golan Heights)
On 28 March, Council members held consultations on UNDOF. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed on the latest developments. Council members called on all parties to adhere to the Disengagements Forces Agreement. Furthermore and welcomed UNDOF’s return to the Bravo side as well as the UN’s efforts to ensure security.
On 28 March, following the consultations on UNDOF the Council members discussed under “any other business” the situation in Georgia. Ukraine initiated the meeting because of concerns regarding the parliamentary elections on 12 and 26 March in Abkhazia, plans for the referendum on 9 April in South Ossetia, and the ongoing militarisation in breakaway territories in Georgia. Furthermore, Ukraine wanted to use the meeting to express support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. Ukraine also proposed a press statement following the meeting but its adoption was blocked by Russia.
At press time, Ukraine planned to hold a 31 March Arria-formula meeting on hybrid warfare as a threat to international peace and security. The main objective was to generate the discussion within the UN and the Security Council on possible responses to hybrid warfare. The meeting was to be chaired by Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), with: Patrick Cullen, Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; Erik Reichborn, Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; Taras Berezovets, Head of the Fund for National Strategies (Ukraine); and Alexander Motyl, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, as briefers.