November 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 October 2021
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Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Exclusion, Inequality and Conflict

Expected Council Action  

In November, the Security Council will hold a high-level open debate on “Maintaining international peace and security: exclusion, inequality and conflict”. One of the signature events of Mexico’s presidency, the meeting will be chaired by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico. Secretary-General António Guterres and a civil society representative are expected to brief. A presidential statement is a possible outcome.   

Background and Key Recent Developments  

Social scientists have argued that a state’s legitimacy and effectiveness are the foundations of its stability. But this legitimacy suffers when certain groups are excluded from processes related to political, social or economic development. This can lead to societal divisions along gender, ethnic, religious, geographic or other lines—resulting in disenfranchisement and resentment and providing fertile ground for conflict.  

Over the years, various forms of political, economic and social exclusion and inequality have been among the factors that have been discussed in the Council as an underlying source of tension that can lead to, exacerbate or prolong conflict. In a Council debate in February 2011 on the “interdependence between security and development” under the Brazilian presidency, then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Countries facing stark inequalities and weak institutions are at increased risk of conflict. Poorly distributed wealth and lack of sufficient jobs, opportunities and freedoms…can increase the risk of instability”. Ban’s words are relevant to many of the situations the Council has addressed in the post-Cold War era. Discrimination against and marginalisation of ethnic groups in the Darfur region of Sudan was a contributing factor to the war that broke out there in 2003, and which occupied considerable Council attention. The lack of economic opportunities for youth in Haiti continues to contribute to the gang violence in Port-au-Prince that the Council grapples with to this day. And, while women’s protection and participation have been a major focus of the Council’s work since the adoption of resolution 1325 in 2000, the importance of upholding the security and rights of women was recently underscored when the Taliban took power in Kabul in August.  

In its peacebuilding work, the Council has also sought to tackle the insecurity generated by inequality and marginalisation. In resolution 2282 of 27 April 2016 on the ten-year review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, the Council emphasised that “inclusivity is key to advancing national peacebuilding processes and objectives in order to ensure that the needs of all segments of society are taken into account”.  

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the Council has regularly considered how the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities and heightened risks to international peace and security. In resolution 2565, adopted in February, the Council recognised that COVID-19 can exacerbate inequalities and called for “strengthen[ed] national and multilateral approaches and international cooperation…in order to facilitate equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines in armed conflict situations, post-conflict situations and complex humanitarian emergencies”. In May, the Council adopted a presidential statement on addressing the virus in Africa in which it reiterated “the need to enable equitable access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines to all, including the most vulnerable”.   

Mexico’s focus in the November debate on promoting inclusivity and equality is consistent with the views of the wider UN membership and the Secretary-General. In 2015, member states adopted the “2030 Sustainable Development Goals”, a global roadmap for developing more peaceful and prosperous societies. Sustainable Development Goal 16 indicates the important role that state institutions can play in peacefully managing diversity. The goal aspires to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. 

In September, the Secretary-General issued a report titled “Our Common Agenda”. In it, he called for a more inclusive multilateral system with the UN at its centre. He espoused the development of a “social contract” between governments and their people and within societies following national consultations “so all citizens have a say in envisioning their countries’ future”. The contract, in his view, should “usher in a new era of universal social protection, health coverage, education, skills, decent work and housing, as well as universal access to the Internet by 2030 as a basic human right”. The Secretary-General also pledged in the report to establish a High-Level Advisory Board, consisting of former heads of state, “to identify global public good and other areas of common interest where governance improvements are most needed, and to propose options for how this could be achieved”.    

Key Issues and Options 

An ongoing key issue for the Council is how to promote the protection of historically marginalised groups—for example, women, youth and ethnic or religious minorities—and support their meaningful participation in preventing and resolving conflict. One option is for the Council to take into account the needs and efforts of such groups in the context of specific country situations; in this respect, Ireland convened a meeting on 28 September on Somalia that focused on women’s political participation. 

Another key issue is how the Council can strengthen its cooperation and work coherently with other UN entities that strive to mitigate the instability caused by exclusion and inequality. In this regard, Council members might consider how to make better use of the advisory role of the UN Peacebuilding Commission when drafting mandates for peace operations. More frequent briefings to the Security Council by the Presidents of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) could also be considered.   

Council Dynamics 

The theme of the open debate builds upon many similar discussions held in the Council in recent times. The linkages between peace and security, on the one hand, and inequality and exclusion, on the other, resonate with many Council members, as reflected by their statements in public meetings, including in signature events planned by Council presidents.  

In November 2020, during an open videoconference (VTC) debate on “Contemporary drivers of conflict and instability” organised by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, then-Council member the Dominican Republic noted, “Pandemics, such as COVID-19, bring to the surface the underlying factors that result in violence, such as systemic inequality, discrimination and marginalization”. In the open VTC debate initiated by Tunisia in January on “Challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts”, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed said that “drivers [of instability leading to violence] extend from poverty, unemployment, marginalization, exclusion, a decline in human development indicators, [and] the ineffectiveness of State institutions”, among other factors. And in the 12 October open debate on “Diversity, statebuilding and the search for peace” under Kenya’s presidency, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) noted that the Secretary General’s “Our Common Agenda” “rightfully includes aspects of addressing racism, discrimination and inequality”.   

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Security Council Resolutions
27 April 2016S/RES/2282 This was a concurrent resolution with the General Assembly on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture.
26 February 2021S/RES/2565 This resolution demanded humanitarian pauses to deliver vaccines and reiterated the Council’s demand from resolution 2532 for a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Security Council Presidential Statements
19 May 2021S/PRST/2021/10 This presidential statement concern that despite having suffered some of the COVID-19 pandemic’s worst socioeconomic impacts, Africa has to date received just 2 percent of vaccine doses produced globally. In the statement, the Council reiterated the need to enable equitable access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines to all, including the most vulnerable.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 October 2021S/PV.8877 This was the open debate held by Kenya on “Diversity, State Building and the Search for Peace”
6 January 2021S/2021/24 This was a meeting record for a VTC open debate convened by Tunisia on “Challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts”
5 November 2020S/2020/1090 This letter transmitted the statements from a virtual, high-level open debate on “contemporary drivers of conflict and insecurity”, under the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace agenda.

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