3 May 2008
Briefing correspondents on the Security Council’s programme of work for the month of May, John Sawers of the United Kingdom highlighted an open debate on post-conflict peacebuilding on 20 May as “the centrepiece” of his country’s Presidency of the Council this month, aiming to address a gap in the international capability to rapidly respond to the immediate needs on the ground, restore law and order and get the government and economy functioning following the end of a conflict.
He said his delegation would be circulating a concept paper on the issue, and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband was planning to come to New York to chair that meeting and would be inviting some of his colleagues to attend, as well.
With no mandate renewals due in May, the Council would have time to focus on several thematic issues, he said, including counter-terrorism efforts (6 May); security sector reform (12 May), and protection of civilians in armed conflict (27 May). The Council would also be briefed on UNAMID deployment in Darfur on 13 May, and on Sierra Leone and Burundi by the Peacebuilding Commission.
Those familiar with the work of the Council knew that there was as much meaning in the footnotes to the programme as the actual work programme itself, he continued, drawing attention to the issue of Somalia. In that connection, two draft resolutions were being considered in the margins of the Council: one on the overall United Nations engagement in Somalia and the second on the issue of piracy.
On 31 May, the Council would be leaving for a 10-day visit to Africa, including a visit to Nairobi in order to consider the question of Somalia, as well as the Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire.
Asked about the piracy resolution, he replied that a draft had not been circulated in the Council yet, but the focus was on the problems of piracy off the coast of Somalia. That was the overwhelming concern of those who were leading on the drafting of the text. Of course, the issue of piracy was new to the Council, and it was bound to take “a little while for this resolution to move forward”.
To a question on whether any changes would be made to the format of the Middle East meeting this month, he said that his delegation was not planning to do that. Two Middle East debates had already taken place this year, and the custom was to have one every three to four months, so he did not think that another open debate was needed at this stage. He did look forward to the briefing from the Secretariat on the matter.
Responding to a question about the difficulties in issuing a statement on the situation in Gaza, he said it was difficult to secure unanimous agreement in the Security Council on Middle East issues, in general. His delegation had tried that several times in recent months, but no agreement had been reached. The Secretary-General had been public with a range of concerns expressed at the United Nations. He continued to do so, not least through his presence at the Quartet meetings, which had just taken place in London. At the moment, there were no proposals on the table and he did not have any plans to take any forward at this stage.
Asked about the absence of Zimbabwe in the footnotes, he said that he would not read too much into that, either way. Zimbabwe was not a formal item on the Security Council agenda, but was considered “from time to time, in different ways”. There had been a helpful briefing earlier this week by the Secretariat, and a request had just been received to circulate the contents of that briefing in a paper. It was helpful for the Council to be able to consider situations before they reached a stage of being a threat to international peace and security.
Speaking in his national capacity, he added that the United Kingdom was very concerned at the extraordinary delay in producing the results of the election. It was very important to take the issue forward in a way allowing the will of the people of Zimbabwe to be upheld, and making sure that the outcome of the elections were respected by the authorities in Zimbabwe.
To a question whether the United Nations should be involved in a possible second round of elections in Zimbabwe, he said, also in his national capacity, that the Secretary-General had made an offer of assistance to the Zimbabweans with their election procedures. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had also made such an offer. While it was not clear whether a second round would be needed, should there be one, it should be properly monitored, with observers on the ground being able to determine if the elections were free and fair.
Asked if food security should be addressed by the Council, he said that, while there were security dimensions to that issue, at this stage, the overall question was addressed in the forums, where everybody could take part on an equal footing to try to address, first of all, the development and humanitarian aspects of food security. A meeting of the Economic and Social Council in May would be devoted to that issue, and an event hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was planned in Rome in June.
With the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) being in the footnotes, a correspondent wanted to know if the Council intended to take a decision on the future of the Mission in May. Mr. Sawers replied that such a decision certainly needed to be taken, and the Council was engaged in informal consultations on that issue now. There was a possibility that the issue would come back before the Council this month.
Asked to comment on the opinion that groups of countries and “big countries” came up with their own resolutions and themes of discussion, which they then imposed on others, he said that any member of the Council had the right to bring any issue before the Council, and it required a procedural vote or consensus for it to be included on the agenda. At the same time, it was recognized that the United Nations of 192 countries could not be addressing all the issues, all the time. Some 30 years ago, a so-called contact group of countries had come together and helped to steer Namibia from conflict and South African trusteeship to independence. There had been several similar examples since. It made sense for the parties who had the most influence and were most concerned to come together in that way. That did not constrain the rights of any Council member to take part in full consideration of any subject. It was as much a matter of style and manner, as it was a matter of substance.
To a further question, he replied that things could get difficult from time to time, but he continued to believe that there was value in small groups preparing difficult, contentious dossiers and then allowing time for the full Council to consider what was in the best interests of the United Nations and international community.
Responding to a comment that there was no mention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in today’s presidential statement on Myanmar, Mr. Sawers said that the Council had reaffirmed its statements of 11 October and 15 November 2007 and all the expectations expressed in those statements. The presidential statement of 11 October mentioned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi twice, the importance of genuine dialogue with her and all concerned parties and ethnic groups. The press statement of 15 November made clear that she should be released and, as an immediate measure, the conditions of her detention should be relaxed. Today’s statement made clear that the Government of Myanmar should establish an atmosphere conducive to an inclusive and credible process, including the full participation of all political actors and respect for fundamental political freedoms.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said it meant that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had to be released and had to play a full part in the political process in the country, along with everyone else. He was concerned that the referendum that was due to take place in Myanmar in eight or nine days was severely constrained; that there had not been a proper debate on the constitution. Indeed, there were real limits and constraints on the people campaigning against the constitution that was being put forward. Frankly, the conditions for a free and fair process were not yet in place. It was essential that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political actors and ethnic groups were allowed a full part in the political process, and all fundamental political freedoms were respected.
Asked to confirm a report that he had walked out of a contentious meeting of the Council in April, during which a Member State had charged that genocide was taking place in the occupied territories, he said that he had certainly not walked out, because he had not been present at the meeting. What happened was that some inappropriate remarks were made by a delegation and a number of Council members got up in protest. The President of the Council had called a rapid end to the meeting, on the basis that the remarks were inappropriate.
Source: 7th Space Interactive