January 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 December 2020
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Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts

Expected Council Action

As president of the Security Council in January, Tunisia is organising an open debate on the challenges of maintaining international peace and security in fragile contexts.


The open debate intends to focus on the various challenges faced by countries in fragile contexts, in particular on the African continent. The discussion is likely to examine the drivers that contribute to creating fragile contexts, their effects, and the role of the Security Council in addressing them.

In Africa, multiple factors contribute to creating fragile contexts, including insecurity, intercommunal violence, organised crime, terrorism, violent extremism, socio-economic inequality, weak governance, youth marginalisation, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, competition for scarce resources, and climate change. These drivers also have the potential to contribute to armed conflict and exacerbate threats to international peace and security.

The Council mandates several UN missions in African countries facing these complex challenges, including the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA); the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO); the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA); the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, declared a global health crisis on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organization, is also relevant in this context. Resolution 2532, adopted on 1 July 2020 following an arduous negotiation, demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on the Council’s agenda in support of the Secretary-General’s global ceasefire appeal to combat the pandemic. The resolution also recognised the risks to fragile states that have been affected by conflict, cautioning that peacebuilding and development gains made by countries in transition and in post-conflict situations could be reversed as a result of the pandemic. On 9 September 2020, Security Council members held an open videoconference (VTC) on the implementation of resolution 2532. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said the weakest, most fragile and conflict-affected countries would be those worst affected by COVID-19 in the medium and long term. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said the erosion of trust in public institutions “increases fragility and has the potential to drive instability”.

The Council has engaged on several of the factors that contribute to fragile contexts in both thematic and country-specific items on its agenda. As a recent example, Security Council members held a virtual, high-level open debate on 3 November 2020 on “contemporary drivers of conflict and insecurity”, under the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace agenda at the initiative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which looked at the security implications of climate change and COVID-19, among other factors.

Council Dynamics

Some Council members hold conservative views of what constitutes a threat to peace and security. These members are likely to be more reluctant for the Council to engage on certain issues, including in relation to climate change and some socio-economic factors. Russia and China have expressed concern that Council involvement on such issues encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN entities, which they maintain are better equipped to deal with them. Russia has been the most notably vocal and often cautions about the value of maintaining the division of labour between the UN’s principal organs and its peace and security, development and human rights pillars.

The security implications of climate change is a particularly controversial issue in the Council. Most Council members currently champion the organ’s engagement on this issue. They have emphasised that factors such as drought, water scarcity, food insecurity, and desertification that are caused or exacerbated by climate change increase the risk of violent conflict. Russia, China and the US, however, have strong reservations about the Council’s engagement on this issue. The US has resisted efforts to incorporate climate-security language in Council outcomes on Iraq, Haiti and other matters.

After initial concerns raised by China and South Africa about the COVID-19 pandemic’s link with the maintenance of peace and security, members appear to recognise and agree on its potential peace and security implications.


Security Council Resolutions
12 November 2020S/RES/2552 This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA for one year until 15 November 2021.
28 August 2020S/RES/2540 This resolution extended UNSOM’s mandate for 12 months until 31 August 2021.
1 July 2020S/RES/2532 This resolution demanded a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on the Council’s agenda and called upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a 90-day humanitarian pause.
29 June 2020S/RES/2531 This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2021.
12 March 2020S/RES/2514 This resolution renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2021.
Security Council Letter
11 September 2020S/2020/897 This contained the record of the briefings and statements from the 9 September video conference on the implementation of resolution 2532 with USG for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, USG for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and USG for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock.


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