What's In Blue

Posted Thu 7 May 2020

High-level Arria-formula Meeting to Mark the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II on European Soil

Tomorrow (8 May), Estonia, Security Council president for May, is hosting a high-level Arria-formula meeting starting at 10 am via VTC on the theme: “Seventy-five years from the end of the Second World War on European soil—lessons learned for preventing future atrocities, responsibility of the Security Council”.  On 8 May 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally, ending the war in Europe.

The meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohljz-a1fZE), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/valismin/videos/2910470295741053/), and on the Permanent Mission of Estonia to the UN website, https://un.mfa.ee/. Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, is expected to chair the meeting. After brief introductory remarks by Reinsalu, briefings will be provided by: Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union; Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; and Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University. Following the briefings, all 15 Council members and 65 additional member states are expected to make statements. Most countries will be represented at ministerial level.

According to a concept note circulated by Estonia (S/2020/352), the discussion will focus on the merits of the post-World War II order. The meeting’s goal is to identify lessons learned from the past 75 years, assess current security threats in Europe and elsewhere, and look ahead to the challenges of the future. Member states are likely to focus on the institutions, norms and principles that have helped to sustain international peace and security and promote human rights since 1945. In this regard, they may reflect on the role of the Security Council in responding to crises and preventing and resolving conflicts.

Several member states are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the multilateral architecture that has developed since the end of World War II. In this context, members may refer to norms and principles—including those enshrined in the UN Charter—that have contributed to peace and security among nations and helped curtail violence against civilians: the sovereign equality of states, the importance of resolving international disputes peacefully, and the non-use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of states (except in a manner consistent with the Charter—that is, self-defense or with Security Council authorisation under Chapter VII). There may also be an emphasis on the importance of adhering to international treaties and preventive diplomacy as tools for preventing and resolving conflicts. Some may also refer to examples of where these principles have been violated in Europe and other places in recent decades, while offering their views on measures that can be taken to address such transgressions.

Council members diverge with regard to their interpretation of conflicts in Europe in recent decades. The conflict in Ukraine is a prominent example of this difference in views. Several members have condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea—which is considered to be the first case of annexation by one state of the territory of a neighbouring state on the European continent since World War II—and have called it a violation of international law. Russia, for its part, has defended the 2014 referendum on the status of Crimea and the subsequent accession of the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian Federation.

Some member states may raise the persistent divisions among the permanent members of the Security Council as a factor preventing the Council from fulfilling its responsibility to safeguard international peace and security. Members may also refer to possible reforms in the UN system that have been proposed to address challenges to multilateralism, such as initiatives to restrain the use of the veto in cases where atrocity crimes are committed.

There may be discussion of how the Security Council, and the UN system more broadly, can strengthen its response to the spread of COVID-19 and its impacts on international peace and security. In a 31 March report, “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”, Secretary-General António Guterres described the pandemic as “the greatest test the world has faced since the formation of the United Nations”, maintaining that it “has and will have profound social, economic and political consequences, including relating to international peace and security”. Several members may reiterate the need for global solidarity and coordination in curtailing the virus.  At the time of writing, Council members continue to negotiate a draft resolution on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many members are keen for the Council to pronounce itself on this issue, divisions have hindered the negotiations, including, at present, whether to refer to the World Health Organization in the draft.

In the past five years—that is, since the 70th anniversary of the creation of the UN—there have been a number of Council meetings reflecting on the merits of the multilateral system. Tomorrow’s Arria-formula session will focus on this issue largely through the prism of atrocity prevention in Europe. Most recently, Viet Nam hosted a ministerial-level open debate in January on the “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter” (S/PV8699) during which a presidential statement was adopted reaffirming the Council’s commitment to the Charter. China had planned an open debate entitled “Upholding Multilateralism and Promoting the Political Settlement of Disputes” during its March presidency, but that meeting could not be held due to the impact of COVID-19 on the working methods of the Council.