Status Update since our May Forecast
On 4 May, the Security Council heard a briefing on the latest Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701 in a closed VTC meeting. The Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Ján Kubiš, and Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed the Council. This meeting was originally scheduled to take place in March but was postponed because of the impact of COVID-19 on the Council’s working methods. Following the meeting, Council members issued press elements that commended the work of UNIFIL, emphasised the importance of the force being able to fulfil its mandate, and condemned any attacks on UNIFIL peacekeepers. On 13 May, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the Council on the latest Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1559 in a closed VTC meeting. Following the meeting, Council members issued press elements that stressed the need to fully implement resolution 1559, which requires the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon and stated that violations of the Lebanese sovereignty by air and land should immediately stop. Council members further emphasised the urgent need for the Lebanese government to carry out economic reform in the country and expressed their support to Lebanon in addressing the economic, security, and humanitarian challenges, as well as the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, that are facing the country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
On 6 May, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, briefed in an open VTC on his latest semi-annual report. A civil society briefer, Irena Hasić, Executive Director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also briefed the Council. Inzko applauded the tripartite presidency for launching the process on 28 April to implement 14 key priorities for achieving EU membership. However, he expressed concern that some political parties “will soon return to the pre-pandemic status quo” where decision-making at the State level was blocked by parties belong to Republika Srpska’s governing coalition. Hasić explained that filling the gaps in the current educational system is “crucial to offering Bosnia and Herzegovina youth the tools they need to become active and responsible citizens and promoters and drivers of change.”
High-level Arria-formula Meeting to Mark the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II on European Soil
On 8 May, Estonia hosted a high-level Arria-formula meeting entitled: “Seventy-five years from the end of the Second World War on European soil—lessons learned for preventing future atrocities, responsibility of the Security Council”. Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia chaired the meeting and briefings were provided by Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU; Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; and Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University. In addition to Security Council members, 61 member states made statements in the meeting. Of the participating states, 45 were represented at ministerial–level. Estonia circulated a concept note ahead of the meeting.
On 14 May, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2519 extending the mandate of UNISFA, as well as its support to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, until 15 November (S/2020/408). The resolution maintained the mission’s troop and police ceilings. It was adopted through a written procedure under temporary, extraordinary and provisional measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council members were briefed on 14 May by Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener in a closed VTC. She covered recent developments in Myanmar, including the democratic transition, the conflict in Rakhine state and Rohingya crisis and highlighted the impact of COVID19 on these issues. She also addressed humanitarian access issues and regional cooperation. Following the meeting, the past and present EU Council members (Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, and Poland) held a virtual stakeout during which they expressed their concern about the military escalation in Rakhine and Chin States and called for an immediate, comprehensive and nationwide ceasefire.
On 15 May, Estonia, which is the vice-chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) organised the annual open debate on the working methods of the Security Council (S/2020/418). Estonia, jointly with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, whose Permanent Representative, Ambassador I. Rhonda King chairs the IWG, prepared a concept note for the debate. Because of the temporary measures adopted due to the COVID–19 pandemic, the debate was held under the format of an open VTC. The briefers were King, in her capacity as chair of IWG; Karin Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report; and Edward Luck of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. The ten elected members made a joint statement, delivered Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy (Viet Nam) whereas the permanent members each made a statement. The statements of the briefers and Council members were webcast live and archived on UN Web TV. Member states not on the Council had been invited to submit written statements. There were 41 written submissions from non-Council members. Some statements were made on behalf of groups, such Accountability, Coherence and Transparency, or ACT, submitted by Switzerland; the Nordic States, submitted by Norway; the of the Group of Like-Minded States on Targeted Sanctions, submitted by Chile; and a diverse group of 25 recent former members of the Council, submitted by New Zealand. The text of all the briefings and statements will be published in a compilation document. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in its capacity as IWG chair, plans to produce an analytical summary of the statements.
On 20 May, Security Council members held an open VTC, followed by a closed VTC, on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” (S/2020/430). Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov briefed. He told Council members that: “The continuing threat of annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would constitute a most serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-State solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace and our broader efforts to maintain international peace and security”.
On 20 May, the Security Council held an open VTC meeting on Venezuela at the request of Russia (S/2020/435). Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the Council. The meeting was prompted by a letter that Venezuela sent to the Security Council on 13 May (S/2020/399) in which it alleges that there was an attempt by groups of mercenaries to infiltrate Venezuela between 3 and 4 May, with the aim of perpetrating criminal acts and assassinating high-level officials in the country. The letter claims involvement by Colombia and the US in the alleged attempted infiltration- an allegation which both countries have denied. At the 20 May meeting, Di-Carlo echoed the Secretary-General’s position, which opposes any escalation of the situation in Venezuela, and called for the resumption of political dialogue between the main political parties in the country and for the holding of credible and inclusive elections. She further expressed concern about the politicisation of humanitarian aid and about reports of detentions of political leaders and journalists reporting on COVID-19 in Venezuela.
On 21 May, Russia hosted an Arria–formula meeting via VTC on the situation in Crimea. The meeting was framed as a follow-up to the 6 March Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in Crimea, organised by Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US in partnership with Ukraine. Members were briefed by Asadullah Bairov, Deputy Mufti of Crimea; Anastasia Gridchina, head of the Ukrainian community of Crimea; Ervin Musaev, Deputy Director-General of the Crimean Tatar TV channel “Millet/People”; and Alexander Makar, presenter of the TV channel “Krym/Crimea”. In their statements, the briefers defended the legitimacy of the 2014 Crimean referendum and the region’s subsequent accession to Russia. They also argued that the Crimean population and ethnic minorities in the area enjoy a wide range of freedoms, speak their language and practice their religion freely, and in general, do not face persecution at the hands of the Russian authorities. Most members who spoke at the meeting condemned the annexation of Crimea by Russia and accused it of violating the basic principles of the international law including multiple General Assembly resolutions that uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol.
On 22 May, there was an Arria-formula meeting on: “Cyber Stability, Conflict Prevention and Capacity Building”, organised by Estonia in cooperation with Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Kenya. Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas delivered opening remarks and Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) chaired the meeting. Briefers included High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu; James Lewis, Senior Vice President and Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington DC think tank; and David Koh, Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. The meeting was organised in order to raise awareness of cyber challenges to international peace and security, how these challenges can be mitigated, and how responsible state behaviour in this sphere can be enhanced.
Protection of Civilians
On 27 May, Council members were joined by Secretary-General António Guterres, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, and Nobel Peace Laureate and member of The Elders Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a high-level open VTC to discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Secretary-General reiterated his global ceasefire call and detailed the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19. He also stressed the disproportionate consequences of conflict on women, girls, and people with disabilities. Maurer underlined how Council divisions, particularly around humanitarian access, increase suffering and must be ended. Sirleaf bemoaned the amount of protracted conflicts that still exist and called on the Council to find the political will to end the conflicts that are hurting civilians. At a later date, the Council will release a document where all statements, including those from the wider membership that were submitted in writing, will be compiled.
On 28 May, the Council held its annual meeting on strengthening the partnership with the EU under its agenda item on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations in maintaining international peace and security. Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy briefed the Council in an open VTC.
On 29 May, the chair of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Christoph Heusgen (Germany), briefed Council members in a closed VTC on the 90-day report of the committee’s work. The briefing was primarily focused on developments related to the work of the committee and the implementation of the sanctions.
During May, Council members continued negotiations on a draft resolution to support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-penholders, France and Tunisia, placed a text under a silence procedure on 7 May. But the US, which has objected to a resolution mentioning the World Health Organization, broke silence the next day, unable to accept a less direct reference to the “United Nations system, including specialized health agencies”. During May, Council members held closed VTCs at ambassadorial level on the draft resolution under “any other business” on 6 May, 12 May and 21 May. The 12 May session was requested by Estonia to discuss the possibility of a shorter draft resolution, focused exclusively on those elements related to the Secretary-General’s ceasefire appeal, an initiative floated by Estonia together with Germany. Despite informal circulation of a text, the proposal did not gain traction. By the end of May, France and Tunisia were still engaging Council members to try to reach an agreement on a resolution.
On 29 May, at the request of the UK and the US, Council members discussed the 27 May decision by China’s National People’s Congress Party regarding national security legislation for Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) under “any other business”.