Status Update since our March Forecast
On 3 March, the Council received a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMI, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on the most recent developments in the situation in Iraq and on the two latest Secretary-General’s reports—on UNAMI and on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives. The briefing was followed by consultations.
On 4 March, Council members discussed Guinea-Bissau in consultations under “any other business” with Special Representative and head of UNIOGBIS Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. Niger requested the session in light of the political deterioration that followed the 27 February swearing-in ceremony of Umaro Sissoco Embaló at a hotel in Bissau despite a legal challenge to the election results still being under consideration by the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) (subsequently, the military occupied government institutions, including the STJ). On 5 March, Council members issued a press statement calling on the parties “to respect the legal and constitutional frameworks and the democratic process to resolve the post-electoral crisis”. They further “called on ECOWAS to urgently send a high-level political mission to Guinea-Bissau” to help resolve the crisis.
On 4 March, the Council was briefed by David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report. Shearer reported on several positive developments in the country and said that UNMISS had stepped up its protective presence to build confidence in areas of return. Betty Sunday, Coordinator of the Women’s Monthly Forum on the Peace and Political Process in South Sudan, briefed the Council as a civil society representative by video-teleconference from Juba. The briefing was followed by consultations. Also on 4 March, Council members issued a press statement that welcomed the formation of a Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity. On 12 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2514 renewing the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2021. The resolution maintains the overall force levels at their mandated ceilings of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel. The four core elements of the mandate remain largely unchanged, namely protecting civilians, creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, supporting the peace process, and monitoring and investigating human rights.
On 5 March, Council members discussed the issue of cyber threats and hybrid warfare during the “any other business” part of consultations. In February, the Georgian permanent representative wrote to the Council regarding a large-scale cyberattack launched against the Georgian Government and media websites in October 2019. The meeting was initiated by Estonia, the UK and the US. In a joint statement to the media after the meeting, the three members attributed the responsibility for these cyberattacks to Russian military intelligence agencies and said that these actions represent a wider pattern of Russia’s activities. Russia has denied these accusations and emphasised that there is no evidence to support these claims.
On 5 March, the Council held a meeting under “any other business” to raise concerns over the 1 March ballistic missile test conducted by the DPRK. After the meeting, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and the UK made a joint statement at the media stakeout. They condemned the missile test and emphasised that these activities constitute a violation of Security Council resolutions. On 30 March, the Council adopted resolution 2515, renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee until 30 March 2021. On 31 March, Council members discussed the recent ballistic missile launches by the DPRK under “any other business” at the conclusion of the closed VTC meeting on UNAMA. Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Poland, and the UK issued a statement following the meeting condemning the DPRK’s continued efforts to develop its ballistic missile programs and operate its nuclear weapons programme.
The Informal Working Group on Documentation (IWG) and Other Procedural Questions
On 6 March, the IWG held a formal meeting to discuss its plans for 2020–2021. During the meeting, chaired by Ambassador Inga Rhonda King (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), members discussed issues such as penholdership, strengthening the engagement between chairs of sanctions committees and penholders, and how the Council can balance transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness.
Central African Republic
On 9 March, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee held informal consultations during which the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts provided an overview of the panel’s 7 February 2020 progress update. The panel was supposed to present its work plan to the committee during a meeting scheduled about a week later. However, the second meeting did not take place as Council meetings were postponed due to measures taken by the Security Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The work plan has since been presented to the committee in written form.
On 10 March, the Security Council adopted resolution 2513, which welcomed the progress towards a political settlement of the war in Afghanistan facilitated by the 29 February “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” signed by the US and the Taliban and the “Joint Declaration for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” issued by the US and the Afghan government. On 26 March, Council members issued a press statement in which they condemned a terrorist attack that took place at a Sikh-Hindu temple in Kabul on 25 March 2020. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant–Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack, which resulted in the death of at least 25 people. On 31 March, Security Council members held an informal video teleconferece meeting on the situation in Afghanistan and the activities of UNAMA. Ingrid Hayden, Deputy Special Representative of UNAMA, briefed Council members on the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMA, issued on 17 March (S/2020/210). Council members agreed on press elements afterwards, in which they expressed concern at the impact of COVID-19 in Afghanistan and called on all Afghan parties to implement a comprehensive ceasefire and ensure access to humanitarian aid. They further called on the political leadership in Afghanistan to settle their differences and expressed hope that intra-Afghan negotiations will commence without delay, while bearing in mind the difficulties posed by the spread of COVID-19.
On 11 March, the Council held a debate titled “Countering terrorism and extremism in Africa” under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”, a signature event of China’s Council presidency. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Abdoulaye Mar Dieye and Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed (AU Permanent Observer) briefed. The EU, Japan and 15 African member states made statements as well. A presidential statement was adopted during the meeting (S/PRST/2020/5). On 23 March, as mandated by resolution 2462 on combatting the financing of terrorism, a “joint special meeting” of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee and the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee “on terrorist financing threats and trends as well as on the implementation of the provisions of this resolution” was scheduled to take place. That date was in line with the requirement of resolution 2426 that the meeting take place within 12 months after the adoption of that resolution. In a 20 March letter, the chairs of the two committees announced that the meeting would be postponed “on an exceptional basis in the light of the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19 […] in order to reduce unnecessary exposure to health risks”.
On 12 March, Council members issued a press statement condemning the attack on Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s convoy in Khartoum on 9 March. A briefing on the special report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, requested in resolution 2495, did not take place as planned, as Council meetings were postponed due to measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The quarterly briefing by the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), similarly did not take place in March. On 30 March the Council adopted resolution 2517 regarding the drawdown and exit of UNAMID and establishing a follow-on presence, in accordance with resolution 2495.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On 24 March, Council members held a video teleconference on MONUSCO and the situation in the DRC, including the response to COVID-19 in country. Special Representative Leila Zerrougui and Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Council members. After the meeting, Council members agreed to press elements. They encouraged work towards a sustainable exit for MONUSCO and welcomed the role of regional states. They also welcomed the progress made against Ebola while recognising the challenges that lay ahead with COVID-19.
The Council was initially set to renew the mandate of UNSOM on 25 March. Due to the difficulty of holding physical meetings, given measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, members agreed on a technical rollover of the mandate. On 30 March the Council adopted resolution 2516 renewing the mandate until 30 June.
On 26 March, Council members convened an informal video teleconference meeting on UNSMIL. Acting Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Stephanie Williams briefed. Council members agreed on press elements afterwards, including expressions of concern “at the significant escalation of hostilities” and “the possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”. They further “called on the parties to de-escalate the fighting urgently, to immediately cease hostilities and to ensure unhindered access of humanitarian aid throughout the country”. Originally scheduled for 27 March as the bimonthly briefing and consultations on UNSMIL and Libya sanctions, the meeting was rescheduled and the format was changed in line with adjustments to the Council’s working methods due to the impact of COVID-19.
On 30 March, the Security Council adopted resolution 2518 on improving safety and security of peacekeepers. This resolution was initially intended to be adopted during an open debate on the issue, one of China’s signature events during its presidency, (originally scheduled for 24 March). Since measures announced by the Secretary-General to address COVID-19 included a partial closure of UN headquarters that began on 16 March, and Council members were unable to meet in person, the open debate was cancelled.
Meetings Not Held in March Due to COVID-19-related Changes in the Security Council’s Programme of Work
The chair of the 1540 Committee, Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia), was scheduled to brief the Council on 17 March on the work of the committee, which deals with the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The meeting was postponed.
Open Debate on Multilateralism and the Political Settlement of Disputes
An open debate titled “Upholding Multilateralism and Promoting the Political Settlement of Disputes” which was scheduled for 19 March did not take place.
The Council consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, covering the period from 1 November 2019 to 18 February (S/2020/195), scheduled for 17 March, did not take place.
The Council’s consultations on UNDOF, initially scheduled for 26 March, did not take place.