What's In Blue

Posted Tue 5 Jan 2021

Virtual Open Debate on the Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts

Tomorrow (6 January), Tunisia is holding a high-level open videoconference (VTC) debate on the challenges faced by countries in fragile contexts, in particular on the African continent. Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed will chair the meeting. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Chair of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are the anticipated briefers. Non-Council member states and observer missions have been invited to submit written statements to the Security Council Affairs Division by 6 January that will be included in a compilation document.

The open debate is a signature event of Tunisia’s January Council presidency. According to the concept note (S/2020/1296) prepared for the meeting, the open debate will provide “an opportunity to discuss how unattended issues of fragility, especially in Africa, can lead to the eruption of new cycles of violence, exacerbate and prolong existing conflicts and become drivers of regional instability through their spillover effect”.

During the open debate, briefers and other speakers are likely to examine the factors that contribute to creating fragile contexts, their effects and the role of the Security Council in addressing them. Several factors may be referred to as sources of fragility, including intercommunal tensions, organised crime, terrorism, violent extremism, socioeconomic inequality, weak governance, youth marginalisation, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, competition for scarce resources, and climate change. It may be observed that such factors have the potential to contribute to armed conflict and exacerbate threats to international peace and security.

Participants may also refer to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in a broad range of countries. In this regard, resolution 2532, adopted on 1 July 2020, cautioned that peacebuilding and development gains made by countries in transition and in post-conflict situations could be reversed as a result of the pandemic.

The concept note sets out a series of objectives for tomorrow’s open debate, including among other things:

  • how the Council can be better informed by local actors and communities about the interaction between conflict and fragility;
  • how stronger cooperation with regional and subregional actors can help address fragility related to conflict; and
  • what addressing the underlying causes of fragility would imply for the Security Council’s interaction with other UN entities such as the Economic and Social Council, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Peacebuilding Commission, and the Human Rights Council.

The concept note also outlines several questions to help guide members in preparing their statements:

  • How vital are efforts to address fragility for peacemaking in conflict zones, as well as for peacebuilding in post-conflict situations?
  • How can efforts to address fragility be integrated into strategies and approaches for the maintenance of international peace and security?
  • How can policymakers and international institutions actively manage drivers of fragility, rather than reacting only once conflicts have begun?
  • How can the Security Council efficiently contribute to breaking the vicious circle of the continuous interaction between conflict and fragility?
  • How can the Security Council interact better with regional organisations and other UN organs, as well as with international institutions, to facilitate complementary and coordinated approaches to peace and security in fragile contexts?
  • Can UN peacekeeping and stabilisation missions play a role in addressing issues of fragility in discharging their mandates?
  • How can such missions better interact and cooperate with local communities to this effect?
  • Considering that causes of fragility are complex and deep-rooted within their contexts, how can tailor-made strategies to address fragility be devised?
  • How can better peacemaking be a bridge to peacebuilding through early consideration of drivers of fragility, especially in relation to institution-building and enhancement?

Some Council members hold conservative views of what constitutes a threat to peace and security. These members are likely to be more reluctant for the Council to engage on certain factors that are identified in the concept note as contributing to creating fragile contexts, including in relation to climate change and some socioeconomic factors. For example, Russia and China have expressed concern that Council involvement on ecological matters encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN entities, which they maintain are better equipped to deal with them. Russia has been the most notably vocal and often cautions about the value of maintaining the division of labour between the UN’s principal organs and its peace and security, development and human rights pillars.