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Arria Formula Meeting on the Central African Republic

Tomorrow morning (1 November), members of the Security Council will convene with members of various UN organs and civil society for an Arria formula meeting on “The human rights and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic”. The meeting will be co-hosted by Ambassadors Gérard Araud (France) and Eugéne-Richard Gasana (Rwanda). (Arria-formula meetings are informal gatherings which enable Council members to enhance their contact with civil society and non-governmental organisations and to exchange views within a flexible procedural framework.) This meeting aims to deepen Council members’ understanding of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), as participants are likely to highlight the gravity of human rights violations taking place and their devastating humanitarian effects.

The participants of tomorrow’s meeting are Adama Dieng, Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide; John Ging, Director of Operations at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; and Brigitte Balipou, legal expert from CAR, human rights defender and member of Femmes Africa Solidarité. Numerous other stakeholders have been invited to attend the meeting, including representatives from neighbouring countries; the AU; the EU; Croatia, as the President of the Peacebuilding Commission and interim chair of the CAR configuration; the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura; UN Women; UNICEF; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch as well as a number of other human rights and humanitarian affairs actors.

The participants are likely to shed light on the extent of the persisting human rights and humanitarian violations perpetrated by the Séléka rebels who seized the capital Bangui on 24 March. They are accused of mass looting, killings, rapes and forced conscription of child soldiers.

Ging is likely to share his observations following a three-day visit to the CAR last week with the emergency directors of several UN agencies and international NGOs. Speaking on 29 October, Ging expressed extreme concern at the situation and what he deemed to be a complete breakdown of law and order where atrocities against civilians are “indescribable”. He noted the dangerous new dimension to the conflict in the CAR of sectarian violence, with religious communities being incited against one another by armed groups targeting the population. It is likely that the threat of inter-communal violence is also an area that Šimonović may highlight in his briefing.

In a 1 October statement, Special Adviser Dieng referred to the deliberate killing of civilians, acts of sexual violence against women and children, and the destruction and looting of property— including hospitals, schools and churches—and urged the international community to support regional initiatives by the AU and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) aimed at protecting the population and preventing further abuses. (Briefings to Council members by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide are quite rare. It seems that the Special Adviser last briefed Council Members in the mid-2000s on Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire. However, it seems that France was particularly keen to have Dieng included in the list of participants for this Arria formula meeting.)

The Council last met on the CAR on 10 October and adopted resolution 2121, updating and reinforcing the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR (BINUCA). The resulting resolution updated BINUCA’s mandate in five areas: support for implementation of the transition process; support for conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance; support for stabilisation of the security situation; promotion and protection of human rights; and coordination of international actors. Council members will be interested in engaging with the participants on how best to facilitate BINUCA’s success in these key areas.

Earlier this week, the Council approved a proposal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send 250 military personnel to guard BINUCA personnel in Bangui by providing perimeter security and access control. The strength of the force is expected to later be increased to 560 troops, at which point it can deploy to areas outside the capital where there is a UN presence. (While such forces have rarely been deployed by the UN, a similar force was sent to protect staff in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.)

The Council in resolution 2121 also expressed that it was looking forward to the swift establishment of the African-led International Support Mission in CAR, referred to in the resolution by its French acronym MISCA, and expressed its intention to consider options for supporting the mission. To that end, it requested that the Secretary-General submit, in close cooperation with the AU and the ECCAS and all interested bilateral partners and international organisations, detailed options for international support to MISCA, including the possible option of a transformation of MISCA into a UN peacekeeping operation.

While financing humanitarian needs are not a direct Council concern, obtaining the necessary funding for humanitarian assistance in the CAR has been a challenge which is likely to be raised by OCHA. At the time of OCHA’s mid-year review of the Consolidated Appeal for the CAR in July, revised requirements based on assessments indicated that a 51% increase in funds would be needed. Of the revised requirement of US$195,136,527 for 170 projects, only 40.5 per cent has been obtained. On 29 October UNICEF warned that, due to growing displacement and waning funding, needs will soon exceed life-saving emergency supplies, and made an urgent appeal for US $3 million in additional funds. According to UNICEF, the number of people forced to flee their homes is estimated at 394,000—a figure that has doubled since September.

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