What's In Blue

Posted Tue 26 Jan 2016

Arria-Formula Meeting on Missing Persons

Tomorrow (27 January), the UK is planning to host an Arria-formula meeting open to UN member states, UN entities, civil society and the media, on the “The Global Challenge of Accounting for Missing Persons from Conflict, Human Rights Abuses, Disasters, Organized Crime, Migration and other Involuntary Causes.”

Brief introductory remarks are planned by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN, and Thomas Miller, the Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), an organisation that strives to find and identify missing persons across the globe. Panelists expected to make short presentations include Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Sister Consuelo Morales, the President of CADHAC (Ciudadanos en Apoyo de Derechos Humanos), a Mexican human rights organisation; Giuseppina Maria Nicolini, the Mayor of Lampedusa, Italy; and David Tolbert, the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice. This will be followed by interventions by Council members and non-Council members, before closing remarks by Ambassador Rycroft.

A concept note has been circulated by the UK in preparation for the meeting. It notes that the meeting is designed to “highlight the cross-cutting, global problem of missing persons in the context of international peace and security and to discuss effective strategies to ensure greater international cooperation in addressing this issue.” The meeting seeks to address the issue of missing persons in a broad range of contexts, which is reflected by the diverse experiences and backgrounds of the panelists, who are each expected to focus on a different aspect of the issue. Zeid will most likely speak about persons missing as a consequence of human rights abuses in conflict. Morales may discuss how CADHAC has developed collaborations among law enforcement, the judiciary, and families to locate and identify missing persons. As the mayor of Lampedusa, Nicolini may discuss how local government, in collaboration with national and international actors, has addressed the issue of missing migrants, as Lampedusa is a key route for migrants fleeing to Europe from North Africa. Tolbert may address the impact of international legal instruments in compelling states to adhere to their statutory responsibilities with respect to missing persons.

The meeting hopes to explore practical steps that can be taken to decrease the number of missing persons. The concept note states that such practical steps include developing innovative programmes using existing resources more productively and using the media and legal instruments more proactively. Other measures that could address the issue of missing persons, according to the note, include joining the ICMP Conference of State Parties and participating in the ICMP’s Inter-Agency Committee on Missing Persons. Founded in 1996, the ICMP strives to cooperate with governments and other authorities to locate and identify missing persons. Signatories to the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the ICMP include Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, El Salvador, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the UK, Serbia and Sweden.

There are a variety of ways that members can address the issue of missing persons in their interventions. Members may choose to explore the importance of effective documentation and registration; the fight against impunity; and human rights monitoring related to enforced disappearances through illegal or arbitrary detention.

A number of members are supportive of tomorrow’s initiative, recognising that missing persons is an issue relevant to many of the situations on the Council’s agenda. However, other members maintain that some of the proposed themes of the meeting are not strongly linked to the work of the Council, raising the question of whether the conversation should be limited to persons missing as a result of armed conflict.

Tomorrow’s meeting is the first one in the Arria-formula format this year. It continues the Council members’ growing use of Arria-formula meetings, including on human rights-related issues. In 2015, there were 17 Arria-formula meetings, as compared with seven in 2014.