The Security Council would organize its work in March around the theme “Preventing conflict in Africa”, Matthew Rycroft (United Kingdom), its President for that month, said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Outlining the Council’s priorities, he said it would first dispatch a mission to the Lake Chad Basin area, where members would visit Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria from 2 to 7 March. The objective was to examine the threat posed by Boko Haram and the humanitarian crisis in the subregion, he added.
On 23 March, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs would preside over a meeting on South Sudan, he continued. It would feature briefings by the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union, with the aim of helping to revive the political process and improve the international response to the famine in that country, the second in the world declared since 2000. Also on that day, he said, the Secretary of State would host a ministerial meeting on Somalia, with that country’s new President and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative expected to attend. The meeting would offer the President an opportunity to lay out his plans, and enable the Council to demonstrate support ahead of a related conference to be held in London on 11 May, he added.
March would also feature three meetings on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. On 16 March, the Council would meet with troop-contributing countries, and on 21 March, it would hear a briefing and hold consultations. On 29 March, the Council would meet to renew the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the largest, most expensive and complex peacekeeping operation.
He said other highlights would include an open debate on modern slavery, to be held on 14 March, with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development presiding. That meeting would focus on ending forced labour, human trafficking and organized crime, he said, adding: “We want to make sure the United Nations as a whole and Member States are doing everything possible to step up to that challenge.”
The Council would also hold two meetings on the situation in Syria, he said, citing an update on chemical weapons use in the country, on 22 March, and a 30 March update on the humanitarian situation there. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be the focus of a meeting on 24 March, when the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process would provide an update. The Council would hold consultations on the situation in Yemen on 29 March, and an open debate on the situation in Afghanistan on 10 March, he said.
“We want make sure an action comes out of every meeting,” he emphasized, adding that the United Kingdom presidency intended to encourage transparency and ensure interactivity, which was especially important during closed sessions, where discussions could be “a bit staid”.
Asked about the notion of anti-Israel bias in the Council, the President said he would not characterize that organ as biased against any country, declaring: “We are biased in favour of the United Nations Charter.” Emphasizing that resolution 2334 (2016) was neither “pro” nor “anti” any country, he said the text was anti-settlements. “Prevention is better than cure,” he added. The Secretary-General was expected to issue a report on that question every 90 days, which was why the 24 March briefing had been scheduled.
Responding to other questions, he said that a 23 March meeting on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would focus on a new mandate for the Panel of Experts associated with the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006). Urging any country with evidence of the use of VX nerve gas to inform the appropriate institutions, including the Security Council, he said the Council had received no such notifications thus far.
As for what to expect from the mission to the Lake Chad Basin, he emphasized the importance of taking an in-depth look at the threat posed by Boko Haram; and engaging Governments on how to address it, both individually and collectively, notably through the Multinational Joint Task Force. Council members also wanted a deeper understanding of factors related to the Boko Haram threat, he added. “This is not development in one box and humanitarian response in another,” he stressed. “Everything is interconnected.”
In each country, he continued, Council members would meet with representatives of Government, the political opposition, civil society and United Nations country teams. In Nigeria, the mission would visit camps for internally displaced people, he said. “We go with an open mind on what we’ll need to decide,” he added, noting that follow-up actions would depend on what members learned. The Lake Chad Basin crisis had been neglected in comparison to others in Yemen and Somalia, he noted, while also pointing out that although the situation in Western Sahara was not currently on the agenda, any member could open discussion on any issue.
Responding to questions about South Sudan, he said the Council would support the Secretary-General’s efforts to revive the political process, ensure that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had improved capability in terms of force command and contingents, and foster a different relationship with the Government that would allow UNMISS to enhance its access within the country.
Asked about the situation in Burundi, he said the presidency was tasked with keeping in touch with the penholder, France, and fulfil what that country believed was the best way to advance the issue. Consultations were planned, but that could change, he added.
For the Council’s full programme of work, please see https://www.un.org/en/sc/programme.