Status Update since our January Forecast
West Africa and the Sahel
On 10 January, the Security Council held a briefing (S/PV.8944), followed by consultations, on West Africa and the Sahel. Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Mahamat Saleh Annadif presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the region and the activities of UNOWAS (S/2021/1091). Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Ghada Fathi Waly and Cécile Thiombiano Yougbare from Médecins du Monde, who spoke on behalf of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel, also briefed. During the meeting, Ghana and Ireland, the co-penholders on UNOWAS, announced that they planned to propose a presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel, which Council members started negotiating at the end of January.
On 11 January, the Security Council held a briefing (S/PV.8945), followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on Mali (S/2021/1117) and biannual letter (S/2022/8) on the operations, performance and implementation of the integrated strategic framework for Mali of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Special Representative and head of MINUSMA El-Ghassim Wane and Executive Director Adam Dicko of the Youth Association for Active Citizenship and Democracy briefed. Council members were unable to agree to press elements due to objections from China and Russia, prompting joint press remarks by the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) reaffirming their support for the decisions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including its imposition of sanctions on the military authorities in Mali, and encouraging the transitional authorities in Mali to fulfil ECOWAS’ conditions for the gradual removal of the sanctions by immediately developing an acceptable calendar for elections.
Security Council President’s Retreat on Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation
On 13 January, Norway convened a one-day Security Council president’s retreat in Manhasset, New York, on preventive diplomacy and mediation. Held under the Chatham House rule, the retreat provided an informal platform for Council members to discuss how their efforts interact with those of other actors to promote conflict prevention and resolution. During the retreat, members held a lunch with Secretary-General António Guterres, in which he presented his vision for the future of preventive diplomacy as he starts his second term as Secretary-General. In addition, Council members convened for an informal “sofa talk” on “Talking with all conflict actors”. There were also two sessions addressing specific conflict situations (Colombia and Afghanistan), in which mediators, negotiators and other peacemaking actors from the field participated.
On 17 January, the Council held consultations on the situation in Cyprus. Special Representative and head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Colin Stewart briefed the Council on the recent developments and key findings from two Secretary-General’s reports on UNFICYP: one was the semi-annual report on the mission (S/2021/1110) and the second focused specifically on UNFICYP’s good offices (S/2021/1109). On 27 January, Council president Norway read the results of the written voting procedure for resolution 2618, which was adopted unanimously and extended the mandate of UNFICYP for another six months.
Women, Peace and Security
On 18 January, the Security Council met for a ministerial-level open debate on women, peace and security entitled “Protecting participation: addressing violence targeting women in peace and security processes” (S/PV.8949). The meeting was one of the signature events of Norway’s presidency. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt chaired the meeting. The briefers were: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet; Executive Director of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security Kaavya Asoka; and Executive Director of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation Zarqa Yaftali. This was the first time that the Security Council has held a formal meeting on reprisals and their effects on women’s participation.
Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
On 19 January, the Security Council held its quarterly open debate on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” (S/PV.8950). The meeting was held at ministerial level and chaired by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland briefed the Council. The Israeli and Palestinian co-directors of EcoPeace Middle East, Gidon Bromberg and Nada Majdalani, also briefed.
On 20 January, the Security Council held an open briefing (S/PV.8951), followed by closed consultations, on Colombia. Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu briefed on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on the mission (S/2021/1090). The Council was also briefed by Luz Marina Giraldo, a former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) combatant and a leader of reintegration initiatives for former combatants. This marked the first time that a former FARC-EP member has briefed the Security Council. Immediately prior to the meeting, Security Council members participated in an immersive virtual reality experience to learn more about the peace process from actors on the ground in Colombia via virtual reality headsets. On 27 January, Council members issued a press statement on Colombia. Among other things, members called on Colombian actors to ensure safe, peaceful and inclusive participation in the upcoming congressional and presidential elections, including the full participation of women.
On 24 January, the Security Council discussed the situation in Libya (S/PV.8952). Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefed on ongoing mediation efforts by Special Advisor Stephanie Williams and on postponed elections, announcing that the House of Representatives was elaborating an electoral roadmap to include a new electoral timeline. Elham Saudi of Lawyers for Justice in Libya (a UK-based civil society organisation) also briefed, arguing that the elections need to be grounded in a legitimate constitutional framework. At time of writing, the Council expected to vote on 31 January to adopt a resolution renewing the UNSMIL mandate until 30 April.
Protection of Civilians
On 25 January, the Security Council held a high-level open debate on “Wars in cities: protection of civilians in urban settings” (S/PV.8953). Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre chaired the meeting. The briefers were UN Secretary-General António Guterres; ICRC President Peter Maurer; and Radhya al-Mutawakel, Chairperson and co-founder of the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights. At the meeting, member states expressed their views on how to reduce and address the cumulative and protracted civilian suffering exacerbated by urban warfare.
On 27 January, Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) Natalia Gherman briefed Council members in closed consultations, apparently updating them on the UNRCCA’s work pertaining to counter-terrorism, the women, peace and security agenda, transboundary water management, and the UNRCCA’s contact with regional organisations, among other matters. The situation in Afghanistan and the unrest in Kazakhstan in early January were also discussed during the meeting.
On 27 January, Security Council members discussed the situation in Ethiopia under “any other business”. The meeting was requested by Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths briefed. During the meeting, which had a humanitarian focus, Griffiths said that no humanitarian convoy has reached the Tigray region of Ethiopia in over six weeks.
On 28 January, the Security Council convened for a private meeting on Myanmar. The briefers were the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer and Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn, who briefed in his capacity as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Special Envoy for Myanmar. Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham briefed on the humanitarian situation. At the time of writing, Council members were discussing a draft press statement.