Paralysis Constricts Security Council Action in 2018, as Divisions among Permanent Membership Fuel Escalation of Global Tensions
Rifts over Iran, Korean Peninsula, Ukraine Blight Debates, as Others Stress Protection for Rights of Migrants, Refugees, Women, Youth
The Security Council remained largely paralysed by expanding rifts and mounting tensions involving its permanent members in 2018, a year characterized by the rise of nationalist movements and breaches of long-standing global norms that sparked questions about the very future of multilateralism.
Over the course of the second-busiest year in its history, the 15-member Council convened a total of 275 public meetings, adopted 54 resolutions and issued 21 presidential statements. It also failed to adopt a total of seven draft resolutions, three of them due to a permanent member’s exercise of its veto and four owing to a lack of sufficient votes in their favour. Meanwhile, a greater percentage of resolutions adopted in 2018 lacked the Council’s unanimous support than in the previous year.
The Council’s five permanent members — China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States — remained gridlocked on several of the organ’s oldest agenda items, with fresh divisions also emerging over newer issues. Against that backdrop, regional organizations such as the African Union took an increasingly prominent role in addressing their own challenges, raising new questions about the role and responsibilities of the United Nations in an evolving and more complex world.
One of the Council’s most intense divisions revolved around a worrying spike in the reported use of chemical weapons, from the battlefields of Syria to the tranquil United Kingdom town of Salisbury. Such allegations prompted many Council members to express grave concern over a perceived erosion of critical, long-held international norms governing warfare. More broadly, Council members, as well as the wider United Nations membership, repeatedly voiced alarm over indications that — seven decades into the world’s grand experiment in multilateralism — deepening divisions and a rising tide of nationalism threaten to derail hard-won gains.
The complex, bloody conflict in Syria entered its eighth year in 2018, with a shifting cast of international actors and coalitions remaining staunchly divided over the best course of action. The Council met repeatedly amid reports that chemical weapons have been used against civilians in and around the southern district of Eastern Ghouta. While members stood united against the use of chemical weapons, they diverged sharply over the credibility of the relevant allegations, the identity of the perpetrators and the appropriate response.
In April, following the circulation on social media of shocking images appearing to show gassed civilians gasping for breath, Council members again differed in their versions of events. Some described the dramatic images as “fake news” staged to falsely incriminate the Government of Syria and its allies. The Council took up three competing draft resolutions intended to authorize the launch of an independent investigation into the incidents, but each text failed to rally the votes needed for adoption.
As clashes in Syria receded in the second half of 2018, thanks largely to diplomatic efforts among the “Astana guarantor States” (Iran, Russian Federation and Turkey), the international focus turned to the political track. While announcing his intention to step down at the end of the year, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria since 2014, pledged to work “until the last hours” of his tenure to propel Syria’s peace process forward by convening a national constitutional committee. In his last address to the Council in December, he appealed to members to unite around those efforts and to set their differences aside in order to end Syria’s “dirty, brutal, horrific war” for good.
The horrific humanitarian situation unfolding in Yemen also captured public attention in 2018, with a growing number of media outlets sounding the alarm over the fate of 14 million Yemenis on the brink of famine. In the Council, the year was bookended by two rare consensus resolutions on the issue, with members agreeing in February to renew the sanctions imposed on those threatening Yemen’s peace and security. The year concluded with the adoption of another consensus text, endorsing the outcome of peace talks just concluded in Sweden. At the close of 2018, the tenuous ceasefire agreed in Stockholm appeared to be holding in Hodeidah, with Houthi forces beginning to withdraw from that strategically crucial port city.
Throughout 2018, questions also arose about the role of the United Nations in combating the rapidly evolving, interlinked threats of terrorism and transnational organized crime. In various briefings in the course of the year, officials warned that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) — having lost nearly its entire territorial base — was returning to its underground roots and morphing into a shadowy, diffuse threat characterized by brutal terror attacks and fed increasingly by laundered money and the manipulation of technology.
Those challenges were perhaps most stark in North and West Africa, where countries with limited resources struggled to counter them. Despite suffering several deadly terror attacks on its bases, the Multinational Joint Task Force launched in 2017 by the “Group of Five” Sahel countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — made significant strides in 2018. Widely praised by the international community, that robust regional response — alongside the stronger United Nations emphasis on cooperation with regional groups in general — raised questions about the Organization’s role and responsibility in financing peacekeeping operations around the world.
Other sources of ideological division among Council members included differences over the effectiveness of sanctions, as some members worried that punishing economic measures risk jeopardizing regional efforts to end protracted conflicts. In July, the Council voted — with nine members in favour to none against, with six abstaining — to extend its sanctions regime against the conflict-wracked young nation of South Sudan. Members were sharply divided on the timing and usefulness of the measures, which Juba’s representative described as a “slap in the face” to those engaged in his country’s ongoing peace process. Such divisions notwithstanding, the situation in South Sudan took a positive turn following the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement in September.
Long-standing stalemates among Council members continued to block forward progress on other fronts as well. Violence raged across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with unrest early in 2018 following the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to cut its funding stream to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). On the heels of massive Palestinian demonstrations at the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, the live-fire response by the latter’s security forces — which peaked in May, on the seventieth anniversary of the State of Israel’s creation — a split Council failed to adopt two competing draft resolutions aimed at addressing the violence.
Members also reacted to several surprise developments in the final weeks of 2018. In November, Russian warships seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait waterway near Crimea, reigniting concerns about possible escalation. Delegates urged the parties to exercise maximum restraint, while some also demanded respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In December, the Council met after the discovery of covert tunnels extending across the “Blue Line” between Israel and Lebanon, which some members said imperilled one of the oldest enforced ceasefires. Tensions also flared over Kosovo’s decision to establish its own army, a move described by its representative as a natural step in the evolution of a sovereign State but condemned by the President of Serbia as a violation of international agreements.
As the sun set on 2018, Syria’s political strides and the hard-won ceasefire in Yemen were not the only bright spots on the horizon. Delegates hailed the Horn of Africa’s recent diplomatic trajectory, marked by thawing relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the final lifting of sanctions against the latter. The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, deployed after the end of that country’s 50-year-long civil war, continued to report strong commitment to peace on the part of the parties, despite remaining challenges. And in the last days of 2018 — following more than two years of electoral delays — 46 million voters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo headed to the polls to elect a new President, with potentially far-reaching implications for the wider African continent.
Following are summaries of public meetings held in 2018:
Meetings: 23 January, 30 January, 5 February, 14 February, 22 February, 24 February, 28 February, 12 March, 16 March, 27 March, 4 April, 9 April, 10 April, 13 April, 14 April, 17 April, 25 April, 16 May, 29 May, 27 June, 29 June, 27 July, 28 August, 6 September, 7 September, 11 September, 18 September, 17 October, 26 October, 29 October, 5 November, 19 November, 13 December, 20 December.
The complex, bloody conflict in Syria entered its eighth year in 2018, with Council members divided over the best course of action for the war-ravaged nation and ultimately its political future. The Council first met on 23 January amid reports that chemical weapons had been used against civilians in the south-west region of Eastern Ghouta. While delegates stood united against the use of chemical weapons, they diverged over the credibility of the Eastern Ghouta allegations, with the Russian Federation’s delegate pointing out that the attack had not been confirmed. Meanwhile, the representative of the United States recalled that Moscow wielded its veto in late 2017 to effectively kill the Joint Investigative Mechanism tasked with identifying the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks.
On 30 January, Ursula Mueller, Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, warned that the United Nations and its partners faced serious challenges in gaining access to 13.1 million people in need of assistance, especially in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. Allegations of chemical weapons use surfaced again on 5 February, as Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, briefed the Council. Noting that the results of an Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission were pending, she stressed that should the use of chemical weapons be verified, the international community must hold the perpetrators to account.
Special Envoy de Mistura reported on 14 February that more than 1,000 people were killed in Syria in the first week of February alone. Striking a similar tone on 22 February, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Council that “you can still save lives in Eastern Ghouta” and that millions of beleaguered civilians were depending on meaningful action by its members. In a breakthrough for Council unity on 24 February, members adopted resolution 2401 (2018), demanding that the parties in Syria cease hostilities for at least 30 consecutive days to ensure a “durable humanitarian pause” to enable weekly deliveries of humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.
However, implementation of that resolution proved challenging, with delegates reconvening just days later, on 28 February, to address reports of ongoing clashes. Speaking during that meeting, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, cited reports of military air strikes in Eastern Ghouta as well as of shelling and a chlorine gas attack. Meanwhile, Mr. Lowcock warned that the humanitarian situation was worsening. “Assistance across conflict lines to millions of people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas has in recent months totally collapsed,” he said. In the ensuing heated debate, some Council members expressed frustration over obstructions by the Government of Syria, while others — echoed by that country’s representative — blamed the latest bloodshed on terrorist groups.
With fighting continuing and the Council starkly divided, Secretary-General António Guterres briefed members on 12 March on the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018). He warned that, despite the demands outlined in that text, humanitarian convoys had not been able to freely enter Eastern Ghouta and no cessation of hostilities had been achieved. On 16 March, Mr. de Mistura reported that some progress had finally been made, with a tenuous, fragile ceasefire agreed between the Russian Federation’s military, the Government of Syria and members of the Jaish al-Islam group. Providing a sobering humanitarian update on 27 March, however, Mr. Lowcock said more than 1,700 people had been killed in Eastern Ghouta since the adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), with other fatalities reported in Damascus and some 183,500 people displaced in Afrin District.
Meetings on the chemical weapons track also continued as the year and the fighting wore on. On 4 April, Thomas Markram, Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that after more than four years of work, the OPCW was still unable to verify Syria’s initial assertion that it had fully destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile. During an emergency meeting — convened on 9 April following fresh allegations of chemical weapons attacks against civilians in Douma — Mr. de Mistura reported that, over the last 48 hours, photos had begun to circulate on social media showing lifeless bodies as well as men, women and children appearing to suffer symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical weapons. While the United Nations was not in a position to verify those reports, “it cannot ignore them”, he stressed. Council members differed sharply in their versions of the incident, with some describing it as “fake news” aimed at falsely incriminating the Syrian Government and its allies.
On 10 April, the Council took up three separate draft resolutions crafted in response to the Douma allegations, ultimately failing to rally the votes needed to launch an “independent mechanism of investigation” into the incident. In a series of votes that laid bare the rapidly expanding rifts among Council members, a draft submitted by the United States was rejected following a vote of 12 in favour to 2 against (Bolivia, Russian Federation), with 1 abstention (China), due to the Russian Federation’s veto. A competing draft submitted by that country’s delegation was also rejected, by a vote of 7 against (France, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) to 6 in favour (Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation), with 2 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait), owing to an insufficient number of votes in favour. The Council also rejected a third, shorter draft — also submitted by the Russian Federation and containing no proposal to establish an independent investigation mechanism — with 6 members abstaining (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden) and 5 in favour (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation) to 4 against (France, Poland, United Kingdom, United States).
On the heels of that contentious meeting, Secretary-General Guterres addressed the Council on 13 April, appealing to members to overcome their divisions and prevent the dangerous situation in Syria from spinning further out of control. The next day, on 14 April, the Council failed – by a vote of 8 against (Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) to 3 in favour (Bolivia, China, Russian Federation), with 4 abstentions (Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Peru) — to adopt a draft resolution submitted by the Russian Federation. The text would have condemned air strikes by the United States — against facilities it described as central to Syria’s chemical weapons programme — as illegal aggression.
During the same week, on 17 April, the Council convened a meeting focused on the humanitarian needs of civilians in the badly damaged town of Raqqa as well as in the Rukban camps for internally displaced persons. Mr. Lowcock said 100,000 people had returned to Raqqa since October 2017, when ISIL/Da’esh was forced out. However, conditions there were not conducive to returns due to high levels of unexploded ordinance, improvised explosive devices and lack of services, he warned. The Russian Federation’s delegate — noting that Raqqa was destroyed by a United States-led coalition — criticized the failure of those countries to fund the city’s reconstruction. Financing also took centre stage on 25 April, as Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Mueller urged donors to turn pledges made at a recent funding conference in Brussels into concrete aid for some 13.1 million Syrians in urgent need.
In the weeks that followed, violence continued to escalate, with more international actors joining in air strikes over Syria. On 16 May, Mr. de Mistura said the intensity of those international confrontations were unprecedented in more than 40 years, with strikes against Syrian and Iranian military targets carried out by the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Israel. He urged “careful diplomacy” to de-escalate the situation. Mr. Lowcock provided a humanitarian update on 29 May, reporting that only six aid convoys had reached Syria’s 2 million most desperate people in rural Homs, Douma and southern Damascus in 2018. Similarly, Mr. de Mistura warned on 27 June that nearly 50,000 people in south-west Syria had been displaced by a “full ground offensive, aerial bombardments and exchanges of gunfire” from both sides. On 27 July, Virginia Gamba, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, reported to the Council that 2018 had so far seen a sharp increase in the number of human rights violations committed against Syrian children.
In the second half of the year, the eyes of the world turned to Syria’s north-western province of Idlib, where escalating clashes and air strikes threatened the lives of some 3 million residents — many of whom had already fled other parts of the country. On 28 August, John Ging, Director of Operations and Advocacy for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned Council members that the uptick in violence in Idlib — covered under an international agreement on “de‑escalation zones” — represented a worrying trend. With Ms. Nakamitsu noting on 6 September that no accountability mechanism for chemical weapons use in Syria had yet been created, Mr. de Mistura kept the geographic focus on Idlib, warning the Council on 7 September that the ingredients for a “perfect storm” were taking shape. The Government of Syria and its partners — poised on the brink of a massive military strike against Idlib — must urgently rethink its strategy, he stressed, warning of repercussions including mass casualties and a flood of 700,000 refugees into neighbouring countries, Europe and beyond. Syria’s delegate insisted on his country’s sovereign right to carry out operations against the 50,000 terrorist fighters located in Idlib.
Following a summit in Tehran, attended by the Astana guarantor countries, the Council convened on 11 September to hear a briefing on the meeting’s outcome. The Russian Federation’s representative described the summit as a “major milestone” in efforts to restore peace in Syria, reporting that in a joint statement, the Astana guarantors reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating terrorists, protecting civilians, rebuilding Syria and moving the political process forward. He added that the outcome document rejected “political blackmailing” by the United States and other Western partners.
As talks continued on the political track, Mr. de Mistura advocated on 18 September for the creation of a constitutional committee in Syria comprising three groups — the Government, a broad opposition delegation, and a group of Syrian experts, civil society and tribal leaders, and women. On 17 October, he announced his plans to step down from his post by the end of 2018, while outlining strides in reducing the territorial base of ISIL/Da’esh and — most recently — averting a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib. However, as he noted on 26 October, efforts to draw up a list of prospective constitutional committee members acceptable to all parties proved challenging.
With 2018 drawing to a close, Mr. Lowcock said on 29 October that Syria’s humanitarian crisis remained severe despite a recent reduction in hostilities. Ms. Nakamitsu used her final briefing on 5 November to urge Council members to remain united against the “deeply held taboo” of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Mr. de Mistura outlined further progress in convening Syria’s proposed constitutional committee on 19 November, describing efforts to overcome an impasse over the composition of the so-called “middle third” group of civil society constituents. On 13 December, the Council adopted — by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation) — resolution 2449 (2018), extending authorizations for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their partners to use selected border crossings. In his final briefing as Special Envoy, on 20 December, Mr. de Mistura appealed directly for each Council member to unite around ending Syria’s “dirty, brutal, horrific war” for good.
On a separate matter, the Council adopted resolution 2426 (2018) on 29 June, thereby extending the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) for six months, while noting that no military activity of any kind is permitted in the area of separation between Israel and Syria.
Question of Palestine
In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2018 began with protests and violence across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in December 2017. On 25 January, during the first of the Council’s 16 formal meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year, Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that the greatly reduced pledge by the United States for UNRWA had heightened anxieties for some 5.3 million refugees. Against that backdrop, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority outlined, on 20 February, a new proposal to relaunch peace talks with Israel. It entailed the rapid convening of an international summit and the subsequent creation of a multilateral mechanism to guide the peace process, while also demanding that the United States reverse its decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.
However, tensions flared again in March over demonstrations in favour of the right of Palestinians to self‑determination, with deadly violence erupting along the security fence separating Israel from Gaza. On 26 April, both sides delivered statements reflecting the perspectives of their respective delegations on the stalled peace process amid renewed instability. “There is nothing peaceful about terrorists firing over the fence at our positions,” Israel’s representative said, emphasizing that the protests were neither non-violent nor the product of grassroots efforts. The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine countered by stressing that the killing of innocent protesters revealed that Israel did not, in fact, desire peace. During the ensuing day-long debate, delegates overwhelmingly urged both sides to stop the violence, return to peace talks, hammer out an agreement and move a two‑State solution from paper to reality. Mr. Mladenov briefed Council members again during an emergency session on 15 May, reporting that a further 60 Palestinians were killed during protests at the Gaza perimeter fence. Delegates voiced differing views of the unrest, with Israel’s representative laying the blame squarely on Hamas for radicalizing Gaza’s people, and the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine insisting that those killed were exercising their right to protest Israel’s actions.
On 1 June, the Security Council failed to adopt two competing draft resolutions submitted, respectively, by the delegations of the United States and Kuwait, on behalf of the Arab Group. By the terms of the Kuwait draft — which the Council rejected by a vote of 10 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Ethiopia, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom), owing to the exercise of a veto — the Council would have deplored Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, the Council also rejected the United States text with 11 members abstaining and 1 in favour (United States) to 3 against (Bolivia, Kuwait, Russian Federation), owing to insufficient affirmative votes. By the terms of that draft — containing various amendments to Kuwait’s text — the Council would have described Hamas, the organization currently holding power in Gaza, as a terrorist group.
Mr. Mladenov addressed the Council again on 19 June, presenting the Secretary-General’s first written report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), related to Israel’s settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He emphasized the need to reverse, or at the very least contain, the impact of illegal settlement activity, violence and incitement. Echoing that sentiment in a briefing on 22 August, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, expressed concern over the renewed hostility in the region, citing in particular the launching by Hamas of missiles into Israel, and the latter’s targeting of protestors in Gaza. Similarly, concerns emerged on 20 September about the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza, with some delegates calling upon the United States to maintain its commitment to Palestinians as part of an international mobilization in support of UNRWA.
“Gaza is imploding,” Mr. Mladenov warned in a briefing to the Council on 18 October. He said the economy is in free‑fall and massive demonstrations on the border continue to draw deadly responses as incendiary devices are launched into Israel. Violence reached a high point again towards the end of 2018, with Mr. Mladenov noting on 19 November that three days in November saw one of the fiercest exchanges of fire since the Gaza conflict of 2014 . Describing the Israeli Defence Forces operation inside Gaza that triggered the violence, he said the ensuing clashes included a barrage of some 450 rockets and mortars launched by Gaza-based militants into Israel, as well as Israeli air strikes against 160 militant targets.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/5.
As the struggle between the Government of Yemen and Houthi rebels — which first broke out in 2015 — entered another year, tense deliberations continued among Council members on how best to support that country’s war-ravaged population. Members were able to find consensus on relieving the humanitarian crisis and resuming talks, even as the Russian Federation vetoed the first text tabled in 2018 — on the renewal of sanctions against those threatening the peace in Yemen — on 26 February, before an alternate draft passed on the same date as resolution 2402 (2018). That text would have spotlighted specific instances of non‑compliance by Iran, as identified by the expert panel mandated to monitor the measures and language deleted from the subsequent draft. On 27 February, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Yemen, warned of the worsening toll on civilians and the lack of political progress despite the agreed framework.
The Council expressed grave concern over the deteriorating conditions in a 15 March presidential statement, calling for all Member States to fully implement the arms embargo and for unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. Martin Griffiths, the new Special Envoy appointed in March, said Yemen was now the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with some three quarters of its people requiring urgent assistance. He appealed for the resumption of negotiations to relieve their plight. On 2 August, he briefed the Council on plans to invite the parties to Geneva in September for consultations on a potential framework for talks, confidence‑building measures and plans to move the peace process forward. After Houthi representatives failed to attend the Geneva meeting, the Special Envoy urged States on 11 September to work with the parties to move talks forward, reporting that the conflict continued to escalate. Yemen’s representative, as he did over the course of 2018, stressed that only the reversal of the “Iran-backed Houthi coup” would end the suffering. While several Council members supported that appeal, others placed a greater focus on proportionality in the response of the alliance supporting the Government, given the toll of the bombardment.
Warning on 21 September that Yemen could collapse completely amid “massive loss of life”, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, appealed for greater assistance from Member States to influence the parties to ensure that they uphold their obligations to protect civilians and allow humanitarian relief, as well as in stabilizing Yemen’s economy. With little political progress, he warned on 23 October, half the population was threatened by famine. On 16 November, he noted the heightened attention to what had been a forgotten crisis, reporting on progress in his work with the parties to develop a negotiating framework, including the establishment of principles for United Nations-led, inclusive Yemeni talks, a set of interim arrangements to end the fighting and allowing the flow of humanitarian goods. That effort ultimately led to the successful convening of the December negotiations in Sweden.
The Stockholm Declaration — endorsed by the Council on 21 December through resolution 2451 (2018) — required a ceasefire in critical areas, the opening of ports, the demilitarization of areas crucial for the delivery of desperately-needed humanitarian supplies, and the continuation of constructive talks towards a lasting peace. In that regard, the document called upon the parties to follow through on their expressed intention to meet again in January 2019 to pursue a lasting settlement. Following their endorsement of the Stockholm Declaration, Council members stressed that the agreement was only the first step towards restoring stability and relieving the still-extreme suffering in Yemen.
Issuing a press statement on 28 March, the Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the multiple Houthi missile attacks, including the use of ballistic missiles targeting several cities in Saudi Arabia several days earlier. On 5 September, Council members, in another press statement, voiced their full support for the United Nations-led political process in Yemen and the efforts of the Special Envoy to bring about a political settlement. Welcoming consultations scheduled for 6 September in Geneva, they urged the Yemeni parties to seize the opportunity to de-escalate tensions and participate fully, constructively and in good faith in order to build confidence and as a first step towards ending the conflict.
Meeting on 20 February to consider the situation in Iraq, Council members held the country up as an example of positive developments in the Middle East, noting that while it has overcome many obstacles, it still requires continued international support to anchor lasting stability. The Council met again on 30 May on the heels of largely successful parliamentary elections held on 12 May, with some speakers describing the vote as a “historic turning point”. However, Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Iraq, also called attention to such lingering threats as ongoing terrorist attacks and sectarian divisions, stressing that they must remain a priority on the international agenda.
Regarding the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the Council adopted resolution 2421 (2018) on 14 June, extending the Mission’s mandate until 31 May 2019 and expanding its role in Iraq’s post‑conflict reconstruction and reconciliation processes. The Special Representative briefed members again on 8 August — describing growing public demonstrations over the lack of basic services in predominantly Shia areas — and again on 13 November to report on progress in combating terrorism, reducing sectarian tensions and peacefully transferring power in accordance with the outcome of elections. Noting that the people are counting on international support, the Special Representative emphasized: “We must not let them down.” The Council convened the final meeting of 2018 on 4 December to hear the first-ever briefing by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIL/Da’esh (UNITAD). Reporting on the team’s activities since its official launch in August, he outlined efforts to lay the groundwork for a broad investigation — set to begin in earnest during 2019 — to identify those responsible for heinous crimes in Iraq.
The Council met on 30 August to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) — first deployed in 1978 to monitor the situation on the border between Israel and Lebanon — for a period of one year. Adopting resolution 2433 (2018) to that effect, Council members also called upon the Government of Lebanon to develop a plan to increase its naval capabilities, with the goal of drawing down UNIFIL’s Maritime Taskforce and transitioning its activities to the country’s armed forces.
As 2018 drew to a close, the Council added a meeting to its December agenda following the discovery of several covert tunnels extending from Lebanon across the “Blue Line” into Israel. During a meeting on 19 December to address those developments, Jean-Pierre LaCroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told members that the tunnels represent a violation of resolution 1701 (2006) as well as “a matter of serious concern”. Meeting again on 21 December, Council members adopted resolution 2433 (2018), thereby renewing the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) for six months and calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint. Among other things, the text urged them to refrain from any breach of the ceasefire in the “area of separation”, where no military activity of any kind is permitted.
In a 27 March press statement, the Council commended the convening of a ministerial meeting in Rome in support of Lebanon’s Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces, while welcoming the joint statement issued at that meeting. In a second press statement issued on 9 August, Council members condemned in the strongest terms an attack against UNIFIL on 4 August in southern Lebanon, wherein peacekeepers were threatened, vehicles set on fire and UNIFIL’s own weapons and equipment seized. The Council reiterated its full support for the Force and underlined the need for a credible investigation to determine the exact circumstances of the attack.
Sudan and South Sudan
Meetings: 10 January, 24 January, 31 January, 8 February, 27 February, 14 March, 15 March, 13 April, 23 April, 8 May, 10 May, 15 May, 31 May, 11 June, 14 June, 20 June, 28 June, 29 June, 13 July, 13 July, 18 September, 20 September, 3 October, 11 October, 22 October, 15 November, 16 November, 11 December, 14 December, 18 December.
The first meeting of 2019, concerning South Sudan on 24 January, focused on violations of the cessation-of-hostilities agreement signed on 22 December 2018, with several Council members raising the possibility of sanctions. During a 27 February meeting on the outcome of a review of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), officials expressed concern over such challenges as the politicization of the Mission’s protection of civilian sites. Many Council members voiced concern about the precarious situation, with Equatorial Guinea’s representative saying that South Sudan was “balanced on a knife’s edge”. On 15 March, the Council — adopting resolution 2406 (2018) — extended the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2019, demanding a halt to the fighting and signalling its intention to consider all measures, including an arms embargo, against those obstructing peace.
Meeting on 31 May, the Council adopted — by a vote of 9 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions — resolution 2418 (2018), renewing sanctions on those blocking peace in South Sudan until 15 July, with the option of considering further measures — including an arms embargo — if fighting continued amid ongoing mediation efforts, or if there remains no viable political agreement. It also decided to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts overseeing the sanctions until 14 August. On 28 June — a day after President Salva Kiir and former First Vice-President Riek Machar signed a framework agreement for future discussions — Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told Council members that South Sudan would only achieve sustainable peace through a fair and inclusive revitalized peace agreement that addressed the root causes of the conflict. On 13 July, the Council adopted resolution 2428 (2018) by 9 votes in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions, thereby extending its sanctions regime in South Sudan and imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on two high-ranking individuals. South Sudan’s representative described that action as a “slap in the face” to those engaged in the ongoing peace process.
Meeting on 18 September, Council members cautiously welcomed the 12 September signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan. However, delegates raised a range of concerns about subsequent clashes and the protracted humanitarian crisis, while briefers outlined the challenges ahead, with some calling for enhanced support as South Sudan’s leaders embarked on a path to sustainable peace. Addressing the Council again on 16 November, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix emphasized the importance of women’s representation in the peace process. Joining him were the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security and the Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), who accompanied him on a fact-finding visit to South Sudan the previous month. Following that meeting, the Under-Secretary-General told the Council on 18 December that a window for peace has finally opened, with significant progress made since the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
In a press statement on 27 June, Council members condemned in the strongest terms an attack against an UNMISS convoy the previous day in Central Equatoria in which a United Nations peacekeeper was killed. On 7 December, members also condemned, again in the strongest terms, a spate of “heinous incidents” of sexual and gender-based violence against women near Bentiu in northern South Sudan. On 21 December, they strongly condemned the assault, detention and abuse of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism team by Government officials on 18 December.
The Council also dedicated several meetings to the situation in Darfur as well as the contested region of Abyei, located on the border between Sudan and South Sudan.
Meeting on 10 January, members focused on the first of two phases for the reconfiguration of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). In a presidential statement on 31 January, the Council welcomed improvements in the security and humanitarian situation, but remained concerned about outstanding challenges, as it expressed its support for a review that would consider a new mission concept for UNAMID. Adopting resolution 2400 (2018), on 8 February, the Council extended until 12 March 2019 the mandate of the four-member Panel of Experts monitoring the arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze imposed on those impeding peace in Darfur. Briefing the Council from El Fasher, Sudan, on 14 March, the Joint Special Representative and Head of UNAMID said that while Darfur’s security situation remained stable, the causes of the conflict — and their related consequences — were still largely unaddressed.
Briefing on the strategic review of UNAMID on 11 June, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said that with the security situation largely stable, now was the time to closely couple the mission’s drawdown with the building of a peacebuilding effort that would focus on addressing the conflict’s root causes. On 11 June, Council members received an update on the recent activities of the Sudan sanctions committee, including details from its visiting mission on 13 to 20 April. On 20 June, members heard a briefing on Darfur-related cases by Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who pressed the Council to play a more active role in supporting the arrest and transfer of those suspected of mass-atrocity crimes.
Meeting on 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2425 (2018) — a so-called “technical rollover” text — which pushed back the renewal of UNAMID’s mandate for several weeks pending agreement among members on several outstanding issues. On 13 July, the Council adopted resolution 2429 (2018), extending UNAMID’s mandate until 30 June 2019 and stressing that its drawdown should be based on progress against specific indicators and benchmarks. Speaking in her capacity as Chair of the Committee overseeing sanctions on those impeding peace in Darfur, Poland’s representative said on 3 October that civilians are still suffering the effects of the lack of progress in the peace process, amid ongoing clashes between the Government of Sudan and pro-Government militia groups on one side and members of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid al-Nur in the Jebel Marra area.
On 22 October, the Head of UNAMID presented members with a concept for continuing international support for the consolidation of stability in Darfur. On 11 December, the Council welcomed the progress made in creating the conditions for UNAMID’s drawdown, issuing a presidential statement to that effect, which also noted the operation’s projected termination date of 31 December 2020. Members heard a final briefing on Darfur-related investigations from Chief Prosecutor Bensouda on 14 December, when she warned that Council inaction on cases of non-compliance by States is leading to increased violations of the Rome Statute and hampering the Court’s work.
With regard to Abyei, the Council adopted resolution 2411 (2018), extending for 10 days a set of modifications to the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), thereby enabling it to support efforts to implement the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. Ten days later, on 23 April, it adopted resolution 2412 (2018), extending UNISFA’s modified mandate until 15 October. Adopting resolution 2416 (2018) on 15 May, the Council extended until 15 November UNISFA’s mandates relating to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians. Delegates said on 20 September that, with a relatively stable security situation in Abyei, it was time to consider adjustments to the Force’s mandate. Adopting resolution 2438 (2018) on 11 October, the Council extended several such modifications until 15 April 2019, while also warning that it would consider no further extensions on that front unless the parties meet specific benchmarks. On 15 November, it adopted resolution 2445 (2018), extending UNISFA’s core mandate while reducing its authorized troop ceiling and raising its police ceiling.
Meetings: 19 April.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/4.
Press Statements: SC/13154 (8 January).
In the course of 2018, the Council met only once on the situation in Liberia. Following the closure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on 30 March, members convened on 19 April to issue a presidential statement commending the Mission’s work as well as the progress achieved by the people and Government of Liberia over the course of UNMIL’s 14-year mandate. Hailing improvements in social cohesion, respect for human rights, electoral preparations and the overall security situation, the Council pledged to remain a steadfast partner to Liberia as it continues to consolidate peace and stability in the future. Members requested that the Secretary‑General undertake a study of UNMIL’s role in resolving conflict, and of its drawdown and transition, affirming their intention to apply lessons learned from UNMIL’s success to future peacekeeping missions.
In a press statement issued on 8 January, the Council congratulated the people and Government of Liberia for the peaceful conduct of a presidential run-off election on 26 December 2017, in which George Weah became the country’s President-elect.
In Guinea-Bissau, 2018 dawned amid rapidly unfolding political developments. Briefing the Council on 14 February, Modibo Ibrahim Touré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), outlined such changes as the dismissal, by President José Mário Vaz, of Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló and his replacement with Artur Silva. During the same meeting, Mauro Vieira (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, recalled that the Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently laid out a 30-day deadline for the country’s political actors to implement the 2016 Conakry Agreement — regarded as the foundation for future stability. ECOWAS would begin applying sanctions against anyone standing in the way of a political solution, he warned.
Meeting again on 28 February, the Council adopted resolution 2404 (2018), extending the mandate of UNIOGBIS for one year while deciding to review sanctions and pledging to take additional measures if Guinea-Bissau’s crisis continued to worsen. On 16 May, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council, noting that the political landscape continued to evolve in recent months. Reporting that an agreement signed by the two main political parties represented a “significant breakthrough”, a cause for guarded optimism, he nevertheless warned that rampant drug trafficking and the shortfall in electoral financing, among other challenges, could hamper further gains.
In the context of those developments, attention turned to preparations for Guinea-Bissau’s legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for late 2018 and 2019, respectively. On 30 August, José Viegas Filho — the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative and Head of UNIOGBIS — told the Council that key provisions of the Conakry Agreement had now been met. However, he warned that a national dialogue leading to the adoption of a “stability pact” was yet to be held, and the convening of timely and credible elections will be of paramount importance. In the final briefing of 2018 on 21 December, Assistant Secretary-General Zerihoun reiterated that the international community must send a strong message demanding that the authorities and other political actors demonstrate the political will needed to hold credible legislative elections, despite the recent decision to delay that vote until May 2019. He also addressed, among other things, the possible reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS, noting that its eventual exit could take place by the end of 2020.
The Council issued three press statements on the situation in Guinea-Bissau during 2018. On 21 February, members expressed their deep concern over the country’s ongoing political and institutional crisis, urging stakeholders to fully implement the Conakry Agreement without delay and denouncing those seeking to prevent and obstruct a resolution of the crisis. On 7 September, the Council stressed the need for continued engagement by the international community in support of regional efforts with a view to full implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the ECOWAS “six‑point road map”. Council members further encouraged national stakeholders to work together to hold legislative elections in November 2018, as scheduled. On 27 December, members took note with interest of a special report of the Secretary-General on the assessment of UNIOGBIS, including recommendations for reconfiguration into a good offices mission. The Council expressed its intention to deliberate on those recommendations in negotiating the next resolution on UNIOGBIS in February 2019.
Press Statements: SC/13177 (24 January), SC/13184 (27 January), SC/13232 (28 February), SC/13281 (5 April), SC/13283 (6 April), SC/13298 (15 April), SC/13464 (24 August), SC/13547 (19 October), SC/13557 (27 October).
Considering Mali on 23 January, the Council heard from Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, who noted that the situation there was taking a turn for the worse. Against the backdrop of elections slated for April, increasing attacks against peacekeepers and some 4.1 million people facing food insecurity, he urged the parties to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation to redouble their efforts to implement its provisions and restore stability. On 11 April, members received updates on Mali’s political progress and electoral timetable from Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative and head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). He stressed that, despite ever-precarious security situation, the peace process was making headway and plans for elections in July and August were on track. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations briefed members again on 14 June, emphasizing that the presidential elections on 29 July must lay the foundation for consolidating democracy.
On 28 June, the Council adopted resolution 2433 (2018), extending MINUSMA’s mandate for another year and maintaining its personnel levels of more than 13,000 troops and nearly 2,000 police officers. Meeting on 30 August, members adopted resolution 2432 (2018) by which they decided to renew the sanctions previously imposed on Mali for one year. They include the banning of travel and a freeze on the assets of individuals and entities designated by the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017). On 19 October, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix briefed members on the largely peaceful re-election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August, noting that the signing of the new Pact for Peace and a recent drop in the number of peacekeeper deaths represented new bright spots against the backdrop of continued insecurity and violent extremism.
The Council issued a series of press statements on Mali over the course of 2018. On 24 January, it welcomed the renewed commitment of the Government and the “Platforme and Coordination” armed groups to implement their obligations under the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, while also expressing impatience over persistent delays in that process. On 27 January, the Council condemned in the strongest terms an attack against a bus transporting civilians, which killed 26 people near the town of Bani. Amid a rash of attacks against MINUSMA personnel, the Council issued press statements on 28 February, 5 April, 6 April, and 15 April, all condemning, in the strongest terms, the attacks that left numerous peacekeepers dead. In a 24 August statement, the Council welcomed the final results of Mali’s presidential election, which it said were generally peaceful despite challenging security conditions. On 19 October, members commended the signing of the new Pact for Peace, while condemning, on 27 October, yet another deadly attack against a MINUSMA convoy, again conveying condolences to the families of the victims.
Central and West Africa
Amid spiking terrorist attacks and new inroads made by transnational criminal networks in Central and West Africa — as well as increasingly robust regional efforts to combat those threats — the Council issued a presidential statement on 30 January welcoming positive developments while voicing concern over the challenging security situation. Welcoming renewed impetus to implement the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel, the Council voiced concern about asymmetric terrorist attacks, maritime piracy and transnational organized crime, including trafficking in persons, arms, drugs and natural resources. In a far-reaching debate on 22 March, Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohamed briefed members alongside Mohammed Bila — a representative of the Lake Chad Basin Commission — as well as a civil society conflict adviser. Central themes emerging from that discussion included the serious impact of climate change, with Mr. Bila reporting that parts of the Lake Chad Basin had lacked sufficient water for farming over nearly a decade. The area’s environmental monitoring network was inadequate, sparse, poorly funded and badly operated, he emphasized, spotlighting potentially serious implications for conflict prevention.
On 23 May, members heard from Assistant Secretary-General Keita that addressing the subregion’s security challenges — especially in Mali — hinged on supporting the joint force deployed by the “Group of Five” (G-5) Sahel States (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) to tackle the spread of terrorism and transnational organized crime. On 10 July, Deputy Secretary‑General Mohammed briefed members on a joint mission she undertook to the region with Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Both recounted meetings with women — including those affected by the horrific actions of Boko Haram — and warned that no peace, security or development would be possible without the full involvement of women at all levels of decision-making. On 17 July, Mohamed ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), briefed on the progress made by the G-5 joint force, cautioning that gains in West Africa and the Sahel “are not immune from reversal”.
In a presidential statement issued on 10 August, the Council noted the increasing demands on UNOWAS and underscored the need for adequate resources, while reiterating its concern over the Sahel’s challenging security situation. In another presidential statement issued during a separate meeting on that date, members noted the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the mandate of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) be extended for another three years beginning on 1 September while requesting that he first conduct a strategic review of its mandate and activities. Among the review’s goals would be to enhance coherence and ensure a clear division of tasks among UNOCA, UNOWAS, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the Organization’s other entities in the subregion.
On 15 November, officials of the G-5 Sahel, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations jointly urged the Council, Member States and other partners to boost their support for the region’s joint force. Citing expanding terrorist threats and mounting hopelessness among the population, they sounded the alarm over unmet funding commitments to the joint force as it moved into its operationalization phase. On 13 December, François Louncény Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of UNOCA, warned that the Lord’s Resistance Army and Boko Haram still posed serious threats in the region. On 19 December, Côte d’Ivoire’s representative — Council President for that month — convened a meeting dedicated to the specific challenges posed by the illicit drug trade. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), outlined “new, alarming trends in drug trafficking” in West and Central Africa, noting that the subregion’s countries — once limited to the role of transit hubs for cocaine, heroin and other illicit drugs — had become both users and producers. The connections linking terrorism, illicit drugs and other forms of crime were still strong, he stressed.
In two separate press statements issued on 2 March, the Council condemned in the strongest terms a terror attack in Yobe State, Nigeria, the abduction of schoolgirls from the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School, and another terror attack against the army headquarters and Embassy of France in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In a press statement issued on 19 April, members expressed their condolences to the Government and people of Côte d’Ivoire following the death of Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué, that country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In three press statements related to the G-5 Sahel joint force, the Council welcomed, on 23 May, the subregion’s determination and progress in combating terrorism and organized crime. On 29 June, it condemned in the strongest terms a terrorist attack perpetrated that day against the headquarters of the joint force in Sévaré, Mali. Finally, in a statement issued on 15 November, Council members voiced appreciation for the continued efforts of the G-5 Sahel States towards the joint force’s “full and effective operationalization”, while underlining the critical need for support through a swift disbursement of all announced pledges.
Great Lakes Region
Meetings: 10 April
Press Statements: SC/13287 (10 April)
Building on a series of meetings held throughout 2018 with a focus on preparations for critical elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — scheduled for 23 December — the Council explored their potential impact on the wider region on 10 April, while issuing a related press statement on that date. Said Djinnit, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, noted that five years after the signature of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, convening credible and inclusive elections, followed by a peaceful transfer of power in Kinshasa, would have a major positive effect on peace, stability and development. Speakers also called attention to other regional developments, including ongoing humanitarian concerns and the activities of various armed groups.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Security Council discussions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the activities of MONUSCO focused on the follow-up to the 31 December 2016 agreement between President Joseph Kabila and the opposition, calling for elections by the end of 2017. A fresh electoral calendar, announced on 5 November 2017 by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, set presidential, legislative and provincial elections for 23 December 2018 — a date that would be postponed again in the last days of 2018.
Reviewing the situation on 9 January, Council members expressed concern about protests over the delays, as well as violence the previous month that left 15 United Nations peacekeepers dead and many others wounded. Meeting again on 7 March, delegates underscored the importance of fair and credible elections. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Minister for Foreign Affairs emphasized, however, that incendiary statements and unfair sanctions did nothing to help improve the pre-election climate. On 19 March, the Council turned its attention to humanitarian aspects of the situation, with a rural women’s rights activist and an Episcopalian clergyman warning of dire consequences if the international community failed to help turn the tide on the conflict. Adopting resolution 2409 (2018) on 27 March, the Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2019 with a more focused mandate to help protect civilians and support implementation of the New Year’s Eve political agreement, including preparations for the 23 December elections.
Adopting resolution 2424 (2018) on 29 June, the Council extended its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the Democratic Republic of the Congo through 1 July 2019 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2019. It also reiterated the need for the Government to swiftly and fully investigate the March 2017 killing of two of its expert members and four Congolese nationals accompanying them. Speaking from Kinshasa on 26 July, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of MONUSCO told the Council that the electoral process continued to suffer from distrust between the political opposition and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Meeting on 27 August, members urged the Government to resolve outstanding disputes in the run-up to the elections, build trust among participating parties and avoid actions that might jeopardize the nation’s first peaceful democratic transfer of power. The country’s representative said the electoral process had reached its “cruise speed”.
In an 11 October update to the Council on pre-vote preparations, the Special Representative reported that the electoral law had been revised, voter lists established and candidates validated. During the same meeting, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region presented his latest report on implementation of the Framework Agreement for the Great Lakes region, saying insecurity in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was persisting. Also on 11 October, the co-chairs of the Council’s 5-7 October mission to the country outlined its activities and findings. Unanimously adopting resolution 2439 (2018) on 30 October, the Council condemned attacks by armed groups and their role in exacerbating the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Briefing members again on 13 November, the Special Representative said that despite the Ebola outbreak and ongoing attacks by armed groups, the country was still on track to hold elections as planned, as delegates expressed hoped for a peaceful transfer of power. A Congolese human rights activist also delivered a briefing.
Through press statements, the Council called on 16 January upon all political parties, their supporters and others to remain committed to the 31 December 2016 Agreement; condemned on 29 January an attack against MONUSCO two days earlier in South Kivu, in which a Pakistani peacekeeper died; and on 22 Marchexpressed great concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation. On 13 August, it welcomed the President’s respect for his commitment to abide by the Constitution and the 31 December 2016 Agreement; condemned, on 15 November, the deaths of seven MONUSCO peacekeepers during a joint operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu; and expressed on 21 November its conviction that the 23 December presidential election constitutes a historic opportunity to transfer power, consolidate stability and create the conditions for development.
On 18 December, mere days before the historic vote was scheduled to take place, the Council issued a press statement reiterating the importance of the elections while expressing concern over several violent incidents. On 22 December, members took note of the Government’s decision to delay the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections until 30 December, expressing hope that it would permit the creation of favourable conditions for the Congolese people to express themselves freely on that date.
Somalia and Eritrea
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/13.
Developments in the Horn of Africa evolved rapidly in 2018, marked by fresh diplomatic breakthroughs. The Council first convened on 24 January with Somalia still reeling after the worst damage by an improvised explosive device in history, which killed more than 500 civilians in Mogadishu in October 2017. Members reconvened on 24 January to hear a briefing by Michael Keating, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), who emphasized that the terrorist group Al-Shabaab remained a “potent threat” whose defeat will require the use of both “carrots and sticks”. Meeting on 27 March to extend UNSOM’s mandate for another year, the Council adopted resolution 2408 (2018), strongly condemning the attack, as well as another on 23 February that killed 18 people. It also called upon Member States to support Somalia in implementing its National Strategy and Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism.
In two separate meetings on 15 May, the Council adopted resolution 2415 (2018), reauthorizing member States of the African Union to maintain their deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until 31 July 2018. Delivering another briefing, Special Representative Keating outlined the gains made against Al-Shabaab in the first months of 2018, noting that the recent approval of Somalia’s security transition plan, and its endorsement by the African Union, marked a milestone in the country’s path towards assuming full responsibility for its own stability. Meeting again on 7 June, the Council issued a presidential statement welcoming Somalia’s recent security, economic and political reforms, including the peaceful election of a new Speaker of the House of the People and resumed parliamentary activity.
The Council held two meetings on Somalia on 30 July, first adopting resolution 2431 (2018) to reauthorize AMISOM for an additional 10 months. In a subsequent briefing, Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, welcomed the 9 July signing of a Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship between the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea. As Council members hailed the “landmark rapprochement” between the two nations, Eritrea’s representativE requested that they move urgently to lift the sanctions imposed against his country. Meanwhile, concerns about the situation in Somalia continued, with the Council meeting on 13 September to discuss such lingering challenges as political differences and continued attacks by Al-Shabaab and other spoilers.
Underlining that security concerns in Somalia also extend to maritime affairs, the Council adopted resolution 2442 (2018) on 6 November, deciding to renew for one year its authorizations of international naval forces to join in the fight against piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia. Rounding out the year, members convened on 14 November to adopt resolution 2444 (2018), thereby lifting the arms embargo, travel ban, asset freeze and targeted sanctions previously imposed on Eritrea in light of the region’s improving relations. However, the same resolution also renewed sanctions against Somalia and replaced the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group with a new Panel of Experts explicitly tasked with overseeing those measures.
Among the press statements issued on matters relating to Somalia, Council members welcomed, on 25 January, the country’s political commitment as well as security-sector, economic and political reforms made to date, calling upon all parties to make 2018 a “year of implementation”. Statements issued on 25 February and 4 April condemned in the strongest terms deadly attacks perpetrated against civilians and AMISOM personnel, respectively. On 10 July, the Council commended the signing of the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship by the President of Eritrea and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, as well as commitments by both parties to resume diplomatic ties and open a new chapter of cooperation. On 20 September, members welcomed the subsequent signing of the Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation by the leaders of those countries. Following another deadly terrorist attack, Council members issued a statement on 10 November condemning that incident in the strongest possible terms.
The Council met twice on Western Sahara over the course of 2018. On 27 April, it adopted resolution 2414 (2018) by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (China, Ethiopia, Russian Federation), thereby extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2018. Emphasizing the need for renewed commitment by the parties to advance the political process in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations, the Council called upon the parties to work in an atmosphere “propitious for dialogue”. Meeting on 31 October, the Council again voted to extend the Mission’s mandate for six months, adopting resolution 2440 (2018) by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Bolivia, Ethiopia, Russian Federation).
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/7.
Press Statements: SC/13461 (22 August).
Convening on 26 February, the Council held its first meeting of the year on the situation in Burundi, where political unrest that began in 2015 still had not been fully resolved. Briefing members, Michel Kafando, Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General, said human rights and humanitarian concerns remained prominent despite progress in pushing forward the inter-Burundian dialogue facilitated by the East African Community. He described the overall situation as calm but vulnerable to volatility, a concern echoed by Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration, on the same day. He also reported that one quarter of Burundians remained food-insecure, while the number of those in need of humanitarian assistance had tripled in the last three years.
In a presidential statement adopted on 5 April, the Council welcomed the renewed commitment by the African Union and the East African Community to a peaceful resolution of the political situation in Burundi through an inclusive dialogue based on the Arusha Agreement. However, it expressed concern over the dialogue’s slow progress and called upon all stakeholders to participate actively and unconditionally. During a 24 May meeting convened on the heels of elections in which Burundians voted for a new constitution, Special Envoy Kafando said the country was poised to enter an important new phase in the settlement of its political differences. However, if inclusive dialogue failed, he warned, the results of the constitutional referendum could be challenged and the situation would devolve, with human rights violations and socioeconomic and humanitarian deterioration likely. On 21 November, he again characterized the situation as calm but fragile, noting that the dialogue process still had not led to a political agreement among the parties. After three years of support for the regionally-facilitated dialogue, the time had come for partners to re-evaluate how best to support Burundi, setting the stage for potential changes in 2019 and beyond, he emphasized.
In a 22 August press statement, Council members reiterated their concern over Burundi’s political situation as well as the slow progress of the inter‑Burundi dialogue. They nevertheless welcomed the announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would not seek another term in 2020, a step widely seen as a first step towards reducing political tensions.
Central African Republic
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/14.
Press Statements: SC/13226 (27 February), SC/13236 (6 March), SC/13275 (3 April), SC/13291 (11 April), SC/13346 (17 May), SC/13364 (4 June), SC/13378 (11 June), SC/13465 (27 August), SC/13588 (18 November).
In the Central African Republic, 2018 began amid continued violence — unabated since 2012, when the country first spiralled into civil conflict, despite the adoption in 2017 of the African Union-led “African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation”. Meanwhile, discussions among Council members concerning the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) steadily devolved throughout the year.
Meeting on 30 January, the Council adopted resolution 2399 (2018), extending its sanctions regime — including an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze on listed individuals and entities — until 28 February 2019. Also by that text, sanctions would also apply to those involved in targeting civilians, in ethnicity- or religion-based attacks, in the recruitment or use of children in armed conflict and in criminal networks. On 22 February, Parfait Onanga‑Anyanga, Special Representative and Head of MINUSCA, stressed the widespread violence, atrocity crimes committed against civilians and the ominous humanitarian situation, going on to underline on 21 June that it was still “not too late” to stop clashes among armed groups and to build an effective, accountable and inclusive State.
Issuing a presidential statement on 13 July, the Council strongly condemned the rise of incitement to ethnic and religious hatred and violence in the Central African Republic — as well as manipulated hostility towards MINUSCA and other international actors — while urging armed groups to end all forms of violence, lay down their arms and engage constructively in the evolving peace process. On 23 October, Special Representative Onanga‑Anyanga emphasized that the work of the United Nations in the country was “clearly not yet over”, adding that efforts were still needed to stabilize the security situation, combat armed groups and support millions in need of humanitarian assistance. Emphasizing the need to move now from a phase of containment to one of transformation, he said the Mission should focus on helping to implement the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation.
Following the 15 November adoption of resolution 2446 (2018) — a “technical rollover” renewing MINUSCA’s mandate for one month, pending agreement within the Council — members extended the mandate for another year as delegates voted, on 13 December, to adopt resolution 2448 (2018). By a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council decided to maintain MINUSCA’s current troop level of up to 11,650 military personnel to ensure effective capability in protecting civilians. Speaking after the vote, the Russian Federation’s delegate said that he, too, supported MINUSCA, but not the manner in which the resolution was negotiated. Warning that the “Western three” nations had usurped the Council’s penholder system, he said those States seemed to approach African countries as “exclusive turf”, disregarding the rules of transparency, the role of regional actors and the suggestions of other Council members.
In a 27 February press statement, Council members renewed their support to President Faustin-Archange Touadera and his Government and welcomed efforts to advance national reconciliation as well as dialogue with armed groups. They further reaffirmed their support for the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and its road map, underlining that the plan constitutes the main framework for a political solution. On 6 March, the Council condemned in the strongest terms an attack against education workers in the country’s north-west, which resulted in the deaths of one education consultant with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), two Government officials and three members of the organization Bangui Sans Frontières. In subsequent press statements issued on 3 April, 11 April, 17 May, 4 June, 11 June, 27 August and 18 November, the Council condemned — also in the strongest terms — deadly attacks against bases, convoys and other elements belonging to MINUSCA and its personnel.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/11.
The Council met repeatedly in 2018 to discuss Libya’s complex security landscape and its languishing political progress. Various officials reported throughout the year on the population’s increasingly urgent demand that the United Nations help rid their country of corruption, redistribute its oil wealth — which continued to be plundered by a handful of bad actors — and combat the still–rampant transnational criminal networks.
On 17 January, Ghassan Salamé, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the Council that the “fragile and shaky status quo” on the ground was not sustainable. In particular, he warned of “individual predatory agendas” that continued to dominate life in Libya at the expense of the collective good. Elaborating on those predators who continued to ransack Libya’s oil wealth for their own gain, he said on 21 March that a popular movement was now growing, with average Libyans increasingly eager to destroy the networks of oil smugglers and human traffickers. “This spirit provides new hope, a hope we must nurture,” he said, emphasizing that momentum against corruption was particularly critical to ensure the successful holding of elections by the end of 2018.
Briefing on a separate but related issue on 9 May, Chief Prosecutor Bensouda of the International Criminal Court presented her fifteenth report on crimes committed in Libya during 2011. While outlining the investigative progress achieved, she warned that the cause of justice would be undermined unless accused perpetrators — including Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al‑Werfalli, Saif al‑Islam Qadhafi and Al‑Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled — were handed over to the Court. “The Libyan people deserve answers,” she said, emphasizing that suspects must not be sheltered. On 21 May, Special Representative Salamé returned to the Council to report that underneath Libya’s many challenges — including economic corruption, trafficking, violent clashes and terror attacks — lay the people’s desire to leave nearly a decade of violence and instability behind. Issuing a presidential statement adopted on 6 June, the Council reaffirmed its full support for the United Nations Action Plan for Libya and called upon the parties to work in a spirit of dialogue and compromise. It also welcomed the Government’s preparations for the holding of credible, inclusive and peaceful elections.
On 11 June, the Council adopted resolution 2420 (2018), extending its authorization of Member States to inspect vessels suspected of violating the Libya arms embargo off the country’s coast. Meeting again on 16 July, the Special Representative warned members of potential economic collapse in Libya, as well as the breakdown of public services and more frequent and intense outbreaks of violence. “The country is, in fact, in decline,” he said, noting that violent incidents witnessed in recent months were particularly worrisome. Earlier in June, he said, a coalition of armed groups attempted to seize control of facilities in the Oil Crescent, with the Libyan National Army then announcing its intention to transfer the management of oil production to a non-recognized corporation. The subsequent loss of some $900 million in oil revenues only further frustrated a Libyan populace weary of the endless plundering of their resources, he said.
Tensions boiled over at the end of August, when violence among rival militias consumed Tripoli, prompting authorities to roll out tanks and heavy artillery in residential neighbourhoods. Special Representative Salamé reported on 5 September that while a ceasefire agreement had brought a fragile peace to the city, it had teetered on the brink of all-out war mere days ago. UNSMIL was now working to sustain the ceasefire, he said, adding that the Mission also intended to hold consultations and to help establish a Special Monitoring Mechanism for Libya. Days later, on 13 September, the Council adopted resolution 2434 (2018), extending UNSMIL’s mandate for one year and spotlighting its critical mandated tasks — including supporting key Libyan institutions, monitoring and reporting on human rights and helping the Government stabilize post‑conflict zones, including those liberated from ISIL/Da’esh. Ms. Bensouda briefed the Council again on 2 November,reiterating that the fight against impunity in Libya will not succeed as long as outstanding fugitives remain at large.
Meeting again on 5 November, the Council adopted resolution 2441 (2018) by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), thereby extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts overseeing sanctions relating to the illicit export of oil from Libya until 15 February 2020. Among other things, the resolution added — for the first time — gender-based violence to the list of crimes for which individuals may be subjected to Libya-related sanctions. Members stood divided on that change, with the Russian Federation’s representative warning that the new category will distract the Panel of Experts from their work while pointing out that sexual violence fell under the purview of the Human Rights Council. In a final appeal for Council support on 8 November, Special Representative Salamé — outlining “fragile but palpable” improvements in Tripoli’s security situation — warned that although the country produced more than $13 billion in oil revenues in just the first half of 2018, it was at risk of embodying “the tragedy of lost opportunity”. Indeed, Libya’s people grew ever poorer in 2018 as criminals stole billions from national coffers.
The Council issued three press statements on Libya in 2018. On 19 July, it welcomed the recent announcement that the National Oil Corporation was resuming its work on behalf of all Libyans, stressing that its operations should continue unimpeded. On 6 September, members condemned the violence that unfolded in Tripoli and called upon all parties to exercise restraint, protect civilians and engage seriously in national reconciliation. They also welcomed the result of the UNSMIL-led mediation — reached on 4 September — intended to de-escalate the violence and ensure the protection of civilians. On 27 December, the Council condemned in the strongest terms a terrorist attack on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tripoli on 25 December.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Against the backdrop of unfolding diplomatic developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Council met on 21 March to adopt resolution 2407 (2018), by which it extended the mandate of its eight‑member Panel of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) concerning that country until 24 April 2019. By that text, the Council requested that the Panel — tasked with overseeing a broad range of sanctions — submit its midterm report by 7 September 2018 and its final report by 14 March 2019. However, tensions among permanent members escalated on 17 September, when the Council convened to review the Panel’s midterm report. The representatives of the United States and the Russian Federation, in particular, exchanged accusations of interference in the Panel’s work, with the former emphasizing that the latter — having agreed to the sanctions — had since been caught cheating and attempting to cover up its violations. Dismissing those allegations, the Russian Federation’s representative warned that the Panel had become Washington’s “hostage”.
As the United States took up the Council presidency in September, its Secretary of State convened a meeting on 27 September to discuss progress towards denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “President [Donald] Trump has made abundantly clear that if Chairman Kim [Jong Un] follows through on his commitments, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people,” he said, adding that the “international pressure campaign” led by the United States had resulted in the first significant diplomatic breakthrough in decades. However, he cautioned that the enforcement of sanctions must continue until denuclearization is both final and verified, citing violations by some countries — including some Council members — of the sanctions imposed under resolution 2397 (2017).
Press Statements: SC/13153 (5 January), SC/13172 (22 January) SC/13180 (25 January), SC/13185 (27 January), SC/13251 (15 March), SC/13258 (21 March), SC/13314 (23 April), SC/13323 (1 May), SC/13376 (11 June), SC/13385(18 June), SC/13386 (18 June), SC/13408 (2 July), SC/13444 (3 August), SC/13457 (15 August), SC/13467 (27 August), SC/13498 (11 September), SC/13545 (18 October), SC/13551 (23 October), SC/13596 (20 November), SC/13612 (10 December), SC/13649 (26 December).
Despite several incidents of deadly violence, a brief ceasefire and the holding of parliamentary elections brought Afghanistan closer to peace by the end of a tumultuous 2018.
On 8 March, as the Council adopted resolution 2405 (2018), extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in support of the country’s full assumption of leadership and national ownership of its security, governance and development, it heard from prominent women’s rights advocates who stressed that the rights of women are intricately linked to the outcomes of Afghanistan’s peace process. Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of UNAMA, also highlighted President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s proposal to begin talks with the Taliban without preconditions, saying said it was up to the Taliban to respond. Briefing the Council again on 26 June, he described such “extraordinary” events as President Ghani’s 7 June declaration of a unilateral ceasefire from 12 to 19 June, recalling that it was echoed days later by the Taliban with their own ceasefire from 15 to 17 June. The three overlapping days of calm marked the first time in 17 years that both sides had honoured a truce, he noted.
A few days after the conclusion of Afghanistan’s voter-registration process. on 23 July, the Council issued a presidential statement noting that 8.9 million people — including more than 3 million women — had registered to vote. The statement recalled that the Government, political leaders, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission bore the primary responsibility for creating the conditions necessary for credible elections to take place. On 17 September, with preparations under way for both elections, the Special Representative briefed the Council on the poll’s far-reaching implications for the peace process. He stressed that political challenges could jeopardize tight timelines and derail the elections unless all political leaders engaged constructively and peacefully to ensure that voting timelines were met. In a 23 Octoberpresidential statement, Council members welcomed the holding of parliamentary elections on 20 October, underlining that they were carried out under difficult security conditions and constituted an important moment in Afghanistan’s democratic development.
Briefing on 17 December, the Special Representative reported that 4 million Afghans had defied undeniable threats to vote in October’s parliamentary elections. The polls represented a key step on the path to representative democracy, he added, while also noting major irregularities and calling for improvements in that area ahead of the 2019 presidential election. He also highlighted the progress made during November’s Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, saying the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict has never been more real. Citing the creation of a team to negotiate directly with the Taliban, he said the next step would be for Government and Taliban representatives to meet.
Throughout 2018, the Council issued 13 press statements condemning, in the strongest terms, terrorist attacks in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Gardez, Jowzjan, Kunduz, Takhar, Herat, Zabul and Farah.
Press Statements: SC/13331 (9 May).
Meeting on 13 February — five months after violence first began to force some 688,000 Rohingya civilians to flee Myanmar for Bangladesh — the Council heard a briefing on the situation by Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He warned of a dangerous new crisis now looming, with restrictions on humanitarian access posing a serious concern. The monsoon season would begin in March, he said, pointing out that an estimated 107,000 refugees were living in areas of Bangladesh that are prone to flooding or landslides. “We are now in a race against time,” he stressed.
Council members were able to witness conditions on the ground first hand as they undertook a mission to both Bangladesh and Myanmar in late April. Briefing on their findings on 14 May, the mission’s co-chairs recounted their meetings with Rohingya refugees who told haunting stories of mass rapes, attacks against children and the razing of entire villages. They also reported on their meetings with Government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, the capital. Stressing that the visit had “awakened our collective conscience” relating to the need for robust concerted action, they said no safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons to Rakhine State could take place without first addressing the root causes of the crisis, including issues relating to citizenship for the Rohingya. Other delegates underscored the urgent need to increase humanitarian funding and help prepare the refugees for the coming monsoon rains.
On 28 August, the Council considered the report of the independent fact-finding mission dispatched to Myanmar. Briefing members, Secretary-General António Guterres said the massive refugee emergency that began in Rakhine State had become “one of the world’s worst humanitarian and human rights crises”. Expressing regret that the Government had refused to cooperate with United Nations human rights entities and mechanisms, despite repeated calls to do so, he stressed the crucial need for unity among Council members in ensuring an end to patterns of violations against ethnic and religious minorities, and that genuine democracy takes root. Tegegnework Gettu, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), also briefed, outlining efforts to create suitable conditions for the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Joining the briefers was Cate Blanchett, Goodwill Ambassador for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who recalled her encounter with one of the 720,000 stateless Rohingya people.
Meanwhile, Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on Myanmar, told Council members on 24 October that impunity for horrific violations against the Rohingya represents a threat to international peace and security. Underlining the continued existence of an “unaccountable military that acts with complete impunity”, he noted that the Mission found sufficient evidence to warrant the prosecution of senior armed forces officials on charges of genocide. The Rohingya expected the Council to take action in response to the war crimes committed against them, he added. That meeting was preceded by a procedural vote called by the representatives of Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea and the Russian Federation, who objected strongly to holding a country-specific human rights-related briefing in the Security Council. The briefing was approved by 9 votes in favour to 3 against (Bolivia, China, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan).
Following their visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar from 28 April to 1 May, Council members issued a press statement on 9 May detailing their activities. Members said they were “struck by the scale of the humanitarian crisis and remain gravely concerned by the current situation”.
Press Statements: SC/13523 (24 September).
Protests that swept Iran at the end of 2017 prompted an emergency meeting of the Council on 5 January. It featured a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General Zerihoun, who said that with the very limited United Nations presence on the ground, the Secretariat could not confirm the extent of the violence. The representative of the United States said the demonstrations were a fundamental expression of human rights. Iran’s representative described the meeting as a preposterous example of interference in the internal affairs of a Member State.
Briefing on 27 June, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo said that, nearly three years after its unanimous endorsement by the Council, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue was at a crossroads in the wake of the decision by the United States to withdraw. Since the Plan’s entry into force on 16 January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consistently reported that Iran was abiding by its nuclear-related commitments, she noted. In the ensuing debate, the representative of the United States said that standing up to Iran was a mission that all Council members should share, while her counterpart from the Russian Federation expressed surprise that the report mentioned Washington’s withdrawal only in passing. Further rifts were exposed on 12 December, as the latter’s Secretary of State stressed that Tehran — continuing its ballistic missile and warhead tests — was in open defiance of the JCPOA. Ms. DiCarlo, meanwhile, emphasized that those concerns, alongside the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States, must not be allowed to erase gains made under the agreement.
A Council press statement issued on 24 September condemned a terrorist attack perpetrated during a military parade in Ahvaz on 22 September, which killed at least 24 people, including children, and injured 60 others.
The Council issued two additional press statements on terrorist attacks in the Asia-Pacific region. Its statement on 14 May (document SC/13336) condemned in the strongest terms attacks on Christian churches and a police station in Surabaya, Indonesia, on 13 and 14 May, which led to 18 deaths and many more injuries. In a statement issued on 24 November (document SC/13600), they condemned — also in the strongest terms — an attack on China’s Consulate-General in Karachi, Pakistan, one day earlier, which killed two Pakistani police officers and two civilians.
Meeting on 10 January to review progress towards implementing Colombia’s landmark 2016 peace agreement, which marked the end of more than five decades of hostilities between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP), Council members also considered the status of a temporary ceasefire reached in late 2017 between the Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Speaking during that meeting, Vice-President Óscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo of Colombia described 2017 as his country’s least violent year since 1975. However, he expressed concern — echoed by Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia — about reports of ceasefire violations by ELN members. On 19 April, Special Representative Arnault offered further details of the Verification Mission’s work, as well as efforts by the Government to reintegrate former FARC-EP members and ex‑combatants. He reported that millions of Colombians turned out to vote in congressional elections in March, marking the FARC’s “milestone” transition from an armed faction to a political group.
Briefing the Council again on 26 July, the Special Representative spotlighted several additional positive developments, including the election of President Iván Duque and the inauguration of a new Congress that included members of the now‑disbanded FARC‑EP. However, he cautioned that a rash of violent attacks against activists, human rights defenders and former FARC‑EP members could still jeopardize Colombia’s fragile and hard-won gains. Adopting resolution 2435 (2018) on 13 September, the Council decided to extend the Verification Mission’s mandate for another year. On 10 October, Special Representative Arnault underlined the importance of ensuring strong Government commitment to the peace process, while outlining further advances in political participation by former FARC-EP members. However, even as the peace agreement continued to hold, major challenges remain in reintegrating former rebel fighters into society and ending attacks against civic leaders and activists, he emphasized.
In four statements issued on 10 January, 19 April, 27 July and 11 October, respectively, members reiterated their full and unanimous support for the Colombia peace process, while welcoming positive developments achieved throughout 2018.
Press Statements: SC/13419 (12 July).
With the new United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) now fully operational — having replaced the previous United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in 2017 — the Council heard on 3 April that preparations had begun to transition away from peacekeeping by the end of 2019. Briefing the Council on those plans, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix said MINUJUSTH would eventually make way for a new United Nations presence focused more on long-term sustainable development. Reviewing the Mission’s progress in its mandated tasks — including helping the Government strengthen rule-of-law institutions, supporting the Haitian National Police and carrying out human rights monitoring — he said the move to a non-peacekeeping presence would be based on lessons learned both in Haiti and elsewhere.
On the heels of that briefing, the Council adopted resolution 2410 (2018) on 10 April by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), extending MINUJUSTH’s mandate until April 2019, again under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The Council maintained the Mission’s seven formed police units and 295 individual police officers until 15 October 2018, while affirming its intention to adjust those numbers by 15 April 2019 while taking Haiti’s evolving security situation into account. The Council further requested that the Secretary-General pinpoint specific dates and indicators for achieving his previously identified benchmarks, with the goal of transitioning tasks and responsibilities to the Government. While many delegates welcomed those stipulations, several raised concerns that the United States, the penholder, had ignored their positions against a Chapter VII designation.
Further to those benchmarks and indicators, Assistant Secretary-General Keita outlined, on 6 September, the progress made in transitioning MINUJUSTH within the targeted time frame. In particular, she emphasized that a dedicated intervention would be needed to ensure that the development plan for the Haitian National Police is fully implemented. Citing protests against planned fuel-price increases and the continued threat posed by armed groups, she stressed that the authorities must address the root causes of the country’s socioeconomic challenges. On 12 December, Helen Meagher La Lime, the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative, called upon the Council to continue its cooperation with the Government, saying that despite setbacks and slow progress, options for reconfiguring the United Nations presence were still feasible. Meanwhile, Haiti’s delegate decried the falling levels of official development assistance (ODA), pointing out that, even with reduced support, his country remained a “clear success story”.
The Council issued one press statement on the situation in Haiti on 12 July following unrest over fuel prices. While acknowledging the right to peaceful assembly, members strongly condemned the violence, which resulted in several deaths, and called for an immediate end to all forms of violence as well as accountability for those responsible.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/12.
Tensions simmered once more among Council members and other stakeholders over the situation in eastern Ukraine through most of 2018, with delegations sharply divided over sovereignty issues and alleged aggression by the Russian Federation. Matters escalated rapidly towards the end of the year following a November naval confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian vessels in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
On 29 May, the Council heard a briefing on the ongoing eastern Ukraine conflict by senior political and humanitarian officials of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who emphasized that the escalating violence embodies a threat to the global rules-based order. The parties concerned should cease hostilities and resume negotiations to reach a political solution, Council members emphasized. In a presidential statement issued on 6 June, the Council condemned continuous ceasefire violations. On 30 October, it heard a briefing by senior United Nations officials on the rise of civilian casualties, with Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo calling upon all parties to recommit to implementation of the long-stalled Minsk agreements.
Ukraine requested an emergency Council meeting on 26 November, following the seizure of three of its naval vessels by Russian Federation warships in the Kerch Strait waterway near the Crimean Peninsula. While many Council members called for a return to negotiations under the Minsk agreements, others stressed the need to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while urging both parties to exercise maximum restraint. The meeting followed a vote in which Council members — by of 7 votes against (France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) to 4 in favour (Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation), with 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Peru) — declined to convene a meeting on a related provisional agenda item, titled “Violation of the borders of the Russian Federation”.
Adopting resolution 2398 (2018) on 30 January, the Council renewed the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for six months and endorsed implementation of recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s strategic review of that mission. It also welcomed efforts by the Greek Cypriot leadership and Turkish Cypriot leadership to reach a comprehensive and durable settlement. On 26 July, it adopted resolution 2430 (2018), authorizing a further six‑month mandate renewal and calling upon the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to commit to a settlement process, using United Nations consultations to restart negotiations.
On 7 February, Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Council that establishing the Specialist Chambers in Kosovo had been a major achievement. Recent attempts to abrogate the 2015 law supporting its work are cause for grave concern, he said, also noting that the assassination of Kosovo-Serb politician Oliver Ivanović in January sent shockwaves across the region. In another briefing on 14 May, Special Representative Tanin cautioned that rising political temperatures were threatening to derail efforts for lasting peace. Such positive developments as the new border agreement with Montenegro and recent talks in Brussels were being undermined, he added.
Returning to the Council on 14 November, Special Representative Tanin emphasized that new momentum in talks between Serbia and Kosovo should be accompanied by the implementation of previous agreements and other measures to build trust between communities in Kosovo. On 17 December, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix briefed the Council on escalating tensions, especially in northern Kosovo, following the decision to establish a Kosovar army. Reporting that Kosovo also increased tariffs on goods imported from Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina from 10 per cent to 100 per cent, he said the mayors of four ethnic Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo responded by ceasing all official communications with Pristina. Attending that meeting, President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia described the formation of a Kosovo army as a violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). Meanwhile, Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo described the step as a “natural step” in Kosovo’s development as a sovereign and independent State, stressing that its force posed no threat to anyone and pledging to respect every existing international agreement while maintaining close cooperation closely with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Bosnia and Herzegovina
On 8 May, Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, highlighted as he briefed the Council that with general elections scheduled for 7 October, the international community must coordinate its efforts to ensure the country remained united, stable and prosperous. The past six months had seen a worrying escalation in inflammatory rhetoric that challenged the fundamentals of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he recalled. On 6 November, the Council renewed its authorization of the European-led multinational stabilization force (EUFOR Althea) for a further year, unanimously adopting resolution 2443 (2018). It further urged the parties to work constructively in implementing the results of the general election at all levels and to refrain from polarizing policies and rhetoric.
The Council convened a high-level meeting on 18 January to discuss prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Speakers, including Secretary‑General António Guterres and President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, highlighted the importance of nuclear non‑proliferation treaties and of strengthening trust among political leaders of the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East. Some delegates sounded the alarm over recent threats to the integrity of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, while others warned that the use of chemical weapons by various parties in Syria seriously threatened the long-held global taboo against those weapons.
In a surprising turn of events, non-proliferation issues — especially the use of chemical weapons — took centre stage again in March, as the Government of the United Kingdom accused the Russian Federation of attempting to murder two individuals with a nerve agent in the town of Salisbury. Outlining those allegations on 14 March, the United Kingdom’s representative said that Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found “slipping in and out of consciousness” and were now in critical condition following what experts suspected was exposure to the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. Noting that the substance was of the type formerly developed by the Soviet Union, she said that her country’s Government believed it was “highly likely” the Russian Federation was responsible for the attack. Refuting those allegations, the latter’s delegate emphasized that his country completed the destruction of all existing chemical weapons in 2017. Having requested another meeting to discuss that incident, he told the Council on 5 April that by seeking to pin responsibility for the Salisbury incident on his country, the United Kingdom was engaged in “a theatre of the absurd”.
Convening on 12 April, to address the increasingly frequent use of weapons of mass destruction more broadly, Council members cited multiple recent incidents, vowing to redouble efforts to keep deadly agents out of the hands of terrorists and other non-State actors, as they heard a briefing by the Chair of the “1540 Committee” created for that purpose. “It is clear that we stand on the cusp of a nightmare” in which weapons of mass destruction could be used with impunity, said the United Kingdom’s delegate. Further to the Salisbury allegations, the Council met on 18 April to hear a report from Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who summarized the findings of a technical team deployed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the site. She said environmental samples confirmed the United Kingdom’s findings regarding the identity of the toxic chemicals as well as their “high purity”.
Tensions over the incident continued to escalate when, during an emergency session on 6 September, the United Kingdom’s delegate briefed fellow members on her country’s decision to bring charges against two nationals of the Russian Federation in connection with the reported Salisbury attack. In addition to the Skripals, she said, several additional individuals were contaminated by the nerve agent and one of them had died. The Russian Kingdom’s representative rejected the allegations as a vehicle for “anti‑Russian hysteria” and part of a “post-truth world” crafted by Western countries. The Government of the Russian Federation had sent numerous requests to London inviting cooperation on the investigation, but the British authorities, who cared little about the real facts of the case, had consistently refused, he stressed.
During a 26 September meeting held against the backdrop of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, Heads of State and Government as well as senior Government ministers and other high officials expressed concern that the recent spike in chemical attacks revealed the erosion of a critical international norm. President Donald Trump of the United States said that his country’s long-standing leadership against the scourge of chemical warfare was most recently illustrated by its imposition of new sanctions against the Government of President Bashar al‑Assad in Syria. Noting that the Russian Federation and Iran enabled those attacks, he said the latter continued to spread prohibited weapons across the Middle East – one reason why the United States had decided to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme. President Emmanuel Macron of France, meanwhile, emphasized, however, that the international community remained united around efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, despite Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement. Describing that deal as an “imperfect but a decisive step”, he said a long‑term solution, not merely sanctions, was needed.
International Criminal Tribunals
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/6.
On 19 March, the Council requested that the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals — now home to any outstanding work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda — present its latest progress report by 15 April 2018. Adopting a presidential statement on that date, members requested detailed schedules for the proceedings currently under the Residual Mechanism’s consideration, and factors relevant to the projected completion dates of cases and other matters over which it had jurisdiction.
During a briefing on 6 June, meanwhile, Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, told the Council that it had begun to stand on its own for the first time since its founding, despite unexpected challenges due to resource constraints. Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the Residual Mechanism, also briefed the Council, highlighting its effectiveness in planning, restructuring and refining its operational methods. However, further efforts were needed to assess the effects of its high workload and organizational downsizing on staff morale, he emphasized. Adopting resolution 2422 (2018) on June 27, the Council reappointed Mr. Brammertz. In a final briefing for 2018 on 11 December, Mr. Meron and Mr. Brammertz once again outlined the progress achieved while sounding the alarm over reports of genocide denial by convicts released early.
International Court of Justice
On 28 February, the Council decided that a vacancy on the International Court of Justice would be filled by an election in June. Adopting resolution 2403 (2018) on that date, the Council noted with regret the resignation of Judge Hisashi Owada from the Court, to take effect on 7 June. Pointing out that the Statute of the Court requires that the Council fix a date for the election, members decided that 22 June would be the date when meetings of the Council and the General Assembly would be held concurrently for that purpose. On 22 June, the Council, meeting independently from but concurrently with the General Assembly, elected Yuji Iwasawa of Japan to the International Court of Justice until 5 February 2021.
Threats to International Peace and Security
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/9.
Throughout 2018, the Council met to discuss a range of issues related to the threats posed by terrorist groups and ideologies, in particular on the heels of major military setbacks and territory losses that had driven ISIL/Da’esh back into the shadows. Briefing members on 8 February, Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism, said those losses had forced ISIL to focus on smaller groups of individuals who were committed to carrying out attacks. While the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and Syria had almost ended, returning fighters remained a threat, and the group was now using social media — including dark web tools — to coordinate attacks, extort officials and generate income. On 13 February, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism, underscored the continued importance of implementing resolution 2341 (2017) which called on Member States to develop their own strategies to reduce the risks posed to critical infrastructure by terrorist attacks. He also emphasized the need for countries to strengthen cooperation and information-sharing practices, highlighting the cross-border nature of today’s terrorist threats.
Adopting a presidential statement on 8 May, the Council strongly encouraged Member States as well as relevant regional, subregional and international organizations to enhance those crucial forms of cooperation and to develop strategies to prevent terrorists from benefiting from transnational organized crime. They also asked States to secure their borders and to investigate and prosecute terrorists and the criminals working with them. In a wide-ranging briefing on 23 August, Mr. Voronkov warned that — despite its recent losses — ISIL had morphed from a regional group into a “covert global network”, with a weakened yet enduring core in Iraq and Syria and an expanding presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Also addressing the Council that day were Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and Joana Cook, Senior Research Fellow with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, at King’s College, London. Ms. Cook said one in four ISIL/Da’esh fighters were women and minors — an unprecedented number — and outlined possible motivations driving women recruits, including promises of an ideologically pure movement in which women had “a perceived stake”.
On 3 October, the chairs of various Security Council subsidiary bodies related to counter-terrorism efforts provided substantive briefings about their work, emphasizing that the United Nations must stay flexible and able to adapt quickly to terrorist groups’ ever-evolving and increasingly creative tactics. However, the chairs of other subsidiary organs expressed concern on 17 December that expanding divisions among Council members had begun to hamstring their work. On 21 December, the Council adopted a presidential statement affirming that no further adjustments were necessary to targeted measures specified in resolution 2368 (2017) against individuals and entities included on the ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaida sanctions list. Through the statement, the Council also stated its intention to continue to evaluate the implementation of such measures and make adjustments, as necessary, to support their full implementation.
Cooperation with Regional Organizations
On 18 July, the Council was briefed by Sahle-Work Zewde, Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, on what she described as the two organizations’ increasingly close cooperation. Noting that neither the African Union nor the United Nations could address the complex issues facing Africa alone, she cited an increasing use of joint missions, briefings, reports, statements and press releases, especially following the April 2017 signing of an official joint framework between the two organizations. Smaїl Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, agreed, adding: “This renewed commitment has indeed moved the partnership from an ad hoc approach into a more structured and predictable one.” During a related debate on 6 December, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, addressed the Council. More than 60 speakers also shared their visions for more structured cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations. Many voiced support for a proposal — included in a draft resolution being negotiated by Council members — to finance African Union-led peace operations with United Nations assessed contributions.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Meetings: 8 March.
On 8 March, the Council received its annual briefing by the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Angelino Alfano, also Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy. Emphasizing that the crisis in Ukraine was putting the values shared by his organization and the United Nations to the test, he called for confidence-building, dialogue and political will to solve the situation. In addition to Ukraine, he said, the OSCE focused on protracted conflicts in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria, all under the common principle that no nation can be secure in isolation.
Organization of American States
Meetings: 5 September.
On 5 September, following a meeting the previous day which saw Council members sharply divided on whether to include the situation in Nicaragua as an item on its September agenda, the organ received briefings by Gonzalo Koncke, Chief of Staff to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS,) and Felix Maradiaga, a civil society leader and former Secretary-General in Nicaragua’s Ministry of Defence. Mr. Koncke described the recent political crisis and violence in Nicaragua, which had claimed more than 300 lives, while Mr. Maradiaga said tens of thousands of people were fleeing to neighbouring countries. While speakers expressed concern over the violence, many remained split over whether that escalating crisis merited the Council’s consideration.
Issuing two press statements related to the United Nations cooperation with regional organizations, the Council on 25 January expressed their support for the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia — which marked its tenth anniversary in December 2017 — and reaffirmed the importance of preventive diplomacy. On 19 July, the Council issued a Joint Communiqué — alongside the African Union Peace and Security Council — describing the organizations’ recently concluded twelfth joint consultative meeting.
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/10.
Amid several system-wide reviews of United Nations peacekeeping operations, Council members held discussions throughout 2018 on how best to improve mission efficiency and hold peacekeepers to exacting standards of conduct, all while improving their safety in increasingly dangerous contexts around the globe.
Meeting on 28 March, Secretary-General António Guterres called for a “quantum leap in collective engagement” to support peacekeeping in challenging, complex security environments. In 2017, he said, the United Nations lost 59 peacekeepers through malicious acts — a sharp increase from the previous year. He called on all stakeholders to mobilize under the new “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative, underpinned by the recognition that no one entity could meet today’s challenges alone. On 9 May, members received briefings from three of the United Nations missions in Africa — the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) — as the Organization marked the seventieth anniversary of its peacekeeping operations. Robust mandates, civilian protection and orderly mission exits were among the themes spotlighted, with participants also discussing a new report on “Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers” — known as the Santos Cruz report.
Adopting a presidential statement on 14 May, the Council underscored that the “primacy of politics” should be the hallmark of the United Nations approach to conflict resolution, with political solutions guiding the design and deployment of the Organization’s peacekeeping operations. On 12 September, officials briefing the Council stressed that the more than $7 billion spent annually on peacekeeping operations must achieve its best possible value on the ground, as members discussed how to improve mission performance and address failures. Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, outlined progress made since the Council adopted a landmark resolution on peacekeeping reform a year ago, including the establishment of a clear framework of performance standards and assessments and ad hoc investigations to clarify the causes of shortfalls in mandate implementation.
In that vein, the Council on 21 September adopted resolution 2436 (2018), aimed at enhancing the performance of peacekeeping personnel at all levels. By its terms, members called upon the Secretary-General to ensure that all peacekeeping missions had capable and accountable leadership, and to include in his reports a summary of actions taken to improve mission performance and address challenges. On 6 November, Council members turned their attention to the police components of peacekeeping operations, as Alexander Zuev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, underlined the need for a “people-centred, mission-oriented, modern and agile” police presence. Speakers also highlighted the importance of gender responsiveness, the fight against organized crime and the protection of human rights. Adopting resolution 2447 (2018) on 13 December, the Council underscored the importance of helping rule-of-law institutions achieve sustainable peace in countries hosting peacekeeping and political missions.
Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
The Secretary-General’s new “sustaining peace” agenda picked up steam in 2018, merging with the critical principle of peacebuilding and the increasingly prominent role of the Organization’s Peacebuilding Commission. On 25 April, Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to strengthen their focus on conflict prevention, address its root causes and step up funding to those critical activities. “Building and sustaining peace requires addressing the roots of conflict, which often lie in poverty, exclusion, inequality, discrimination and serious violations of human rights,” he said. On 26 April, the Council — acting in parallel with the General Assembly — adopted resolution 2413 (2018) which spotlighted a raft of proposals by the Secretary-General on ways to accelerate the “peacebuilding and sustaining peace” agenda.
On 29 June, Council members turned their attention to the crucial role of the Peacebuilding Commission in those efforts. Ion Jinga (Romania), the Commission’s current chair, outlined such strategic priorities as ensuring that a sustainable peace takes root in Africa’s Sahel region. On the Commission’s convening and advisory roles, he said the body hoped to plan its future calendars to better time its activities with those of the Security Council, also outlining ongoing efforts to strengthen its relationship with the African Union. In a meeting convened during Côte d’Ivoire’s Presidency on 5 December, members examined the concepts of peacebuilding and sustaining peace through the lens of that country’s successful emergence from conflict, and subsequent economic recovery, in 2011. In a presidential statement adopted on 18 December, the Council encouraged the Peacebuilding Commission to present concise and targeted recommendations on efforts to sustain peace in specific situations, ahead of upcoming reviews of various United Nations operations mandates.
Women, Peace and Security
Amid expanding recognition of the perils of sexual violence in conflict and the use of rape as a weapon of war — including more frequent references to those crimes in countries’ peace agreements and their addition to some military mandates and sanctions lists criteria — Council members held an open debate on women, peace and security on 16 April. A range of briefers provided their perspectives. Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, stressed that while significant normative and operational progress had been achieved, words on paper were not yet matched by facts on the ground. Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed reported a sharp reduction in reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence, while also emphasizing that more remained to be done to address that scourge. In fact, she said, sexual violence had been one of the major drivers of forced displacement in Myanmar and many other countries in recent months. Razia Sultana, senior researcher at Kaladan Press, elaborated further on the plight of Rohingya women and girls.
At a second debate on that issue on 25 October, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), addressed the equally systemic challenge of better integrating women into such critical processes as peacekeeping, mediation and peace negotiations — even within the United Nations itself.
Protection of Civilians
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/18.
The Council met several times throughout the year to debate issues related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. On 22 May, Secretary-General António Guterres said more than 128 million innocent people around the globe were in need of humanitarian assistance, a staggering figure driven mainly by conflict. However, he also cited reasons for hope, pointing out that Afghanistan had recently adopted a policy to prevent civilian casualties, Somalia had instituted mechanisms to track civilian harm and 19 African nations had adopted a communiqué on protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons. Yves Daccord, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), voiced concern over the enormous gap between such civilian protection policies and action on the ground. “We all know what reality looks like,” he said, describing children left orphaned or permanently disabled after their homes were hit by air strikes. Meanwhile, Hanaa Edwar of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association said civilians in her country had endured armed conflict entailing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the past 15 years.
The Council adopted resolution 2417 (2018) on 24 May — condemning the starving of civilians as a method of warfare and the unlawful denial of humanitarian access to civilian populations — with members welcoming it as a landmark expression of unity on those critical issues. It then adopted a related presidential statement on 21 September, whereby members expressed their collective outrage today over the fact that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in situations of armed conflict. Reaffirming their strong condemnation of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by all parties to armed conflict — and calling upon those parties to comply with their legal obligations — it further reaffirmed that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and that States bear the primary obligation of ensuring the human rights of all individuals within their respective territories and subject to their jurisdiction.
Children in Armed Conflict
Meetings: 9 July.
Meeting on 9 July to adopt resolution 2427 (2018) on the protection of children in armed conflict, the Council committed to taking concrete action in response to serious abuses and violations of human rights — including those of children — which could constitute early indications of descent into conflict. Expressing concern over the regional and cross‑border nature of such violations and the high number of children killed or maimed by indiscriminate attacks against civilians, it urged all conflict parties to uphold their obligations under international law. Briefing the Council, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), warned that thousands of children are slipping through safety nets around the world. She recounted her 2017 visit to Yemen, where there are not enough respirators or medicine to go aro und, and where mothers hold their frail, acutely malnourished children, declaring: “We have a duty to act.” Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, said rehabilitation and reintegration — not retribution — must be the centrepiece of all efforts to engage with children formerly recruited by or associated with armed groups. Jenny Londoño, a consultant at a Colombian non-governmental organization, described her own recruitment at age 13 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP), agreeing that recruited children are, themselves, victims of crimes.
Maintenance of International Peace and Security
Presidential Statements: S/PRST/2018/1.
Preventive diplomacy took centre stage in the Council’s consideration of issues related to the maintenance of international peace and security in 2018, with a range of related thematic issues — from the role of youth to the threats posed by climate change — also considered. Adopting a presidential statement on 18 January, members expressed concern over the growing number of conflicts worldwide and underlined the urgent need for redoubled prevention and resolution efforts. Further to those discussions, Secretary-General António Guterres said on 21 February that the United Nations must rebalance its approach to international peace and security, effectively discharging its power to overcome emerging threats, prevent genocide and end the killing of civilians. Among the core tools to achieve those objectives were negotiation, enquiry, meditation, conciliation, judicial settlement and other measures falling under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, he said.
Delegates throughout the year also underlined the need to focus more attention on the root causes of conflict. On 23 March, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, joined David Beasley, the World Food Programme’s Executive Director, to urge the Council to play a greater role in breaking the link between hunger and conflict. In a similar vein, the author of a high-prolife study on the relationship between youth populations and peace and security told the Council on 23 April that — contrary to common perception — young people were not a nagging problem but rather powerful agents for resolving and preventing conflicts. During a debate on 17 May, delegates stressed that the Council, as the “gate-keeper” and upholder of international law, must swiftly rectify its failures to act against the backdrop of escalating humanitarian crises and languishing conflicts. “Our credibility depends on it,” said Sweden’s delegate, pointing out that many situations on the Council’s agenda — from Syria to Crimea to the “widespread and coordinated” violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar — stemmed from breaches of international law.
On 6 June, the Council adopted resolution 2419 (2018), further underscoring the critical role of young people and calling for their meaningful representation in the negotiation and implementation of peace agreements. On 25 June, participants in a debate on the complex web of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa called on Council members to overcome their differences and unite to tackle those escalating challenges. Several delegates backed a proposal to establish a mechanism aimed at fostering dialogue and building trust in the region. On 29 June, members considered ways to stem the increasing numbers of casualties resulting from explosive hazards, with officials stressing that mine action, in particular, is a precondition for stabilization, peacebuilding and ultimately sustainable development. Then, on 11 July, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed joined other briefers in emphasizing that climate change and its impacts — including desertification, droughts, floods and food insecurity — all posed grave threats. Delegates, however, diverged over the extent of the Council’s responsibility to address those phenomena
Addressing the Council on 29 August, Secretary-General General António Guterres reiterated his call for members to be “bold and creative” in harnessing the tools of mediation and preventive diplomacy. On 10 September, he addressed the Council’s first-ever meeting on the links between corruption and conflict, warning that the former could serve as a driver of the latter and was often linked to the illicit trafficking in arms, drugs and people, as well as terrorism and violent extremism. Appearing before the Council again on 16 October, Mr. Guterres said competition over land, water, minerals and other natural resources will increasingly fuel conflict unless efforts are stepped up to manage them for the benefit of local populations. Finally, in a far-reaching debate on the fate of multilateralism on 9 November, he said the global order established in the wake of the Second World War — with a proven track record of saving lives, generating economic and social progress and preventing war — was now under immense stress. Echoing those concerns, delegates voiced concern that a rising tide of nationalism and deepening divisions were threatening to derail strides made in reducing poverty and preventing a cataclysmic world war.
The Council held two meetings related to its own working methods. On 6 February, more than 50 speakers took the floor during a debate dedicated to hearing suggestions to improve the Council’s efficiency, transparency, inclusiveness and accountability. Ian Martin, Executive Director of the website Security Council Report, told delegates that the ongoing strategic reviews of United Nations peacekeeping operations offered an opportunity to make progress on those fronts. Raising concerns about the Council’s penholder system — which were echoed by a number of delegates — he said that in practice, three permanent members were the sole penholders on the overwhelming majority of country situations on the Council’s agenda. Meanwhile, speakers diverged on which — if any — limitations should be imposed on the use of the five permanent members’ veto power, as well as whether or not the Council should take up broad, thematic topics. Meeting on 4 September amid gridlock over the organ’s proposed programme of work for the month, the representative of the United States — Council President for September — made a case for adding a meeting on human rights violations in Nicaragua. Other members voiced concern about holding such a meeting, noting that the situation in Nicaragua did not constitute a threat to international peace and security. Ultimately, the Council’s work moved forward without a formal adoption of a September programme of work.