Monthly Archives: February 2016

3 Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace

NNA – An Israeli reconnaissance warplane violated on Monday the Lebanese airspace at 9:00 a.m. over Kfarkila and executed circular maneuvers over Riyak, Hermel, and Baalbek, then left at 15:25 p.m. above Kfarkila, the Army Directorate indicated.

Also, a similar plane violated the Lebanese airspace at 9:10 a.m. over Kfarkila and executed circular maneuvers over Baalbek, Hermel, West Bekaa, and the south, then left at 16:00 p.m. over the town of Rmeish.

On the same day two Israeli warplanes breached the Lebanese airspace at 10:10 a.m. over Batroun and Chekka, then left at 14:50 p.m. above Alma Al-Shaab village, the Army communiqué added.

========Y.B.

News in Brief 29 February 2016 (PM)

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A female Aedes Aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from her human host. Photo: CDC/James Gathany

Experts to address Zika knowledge gaps 

Researchers from around the world will be meeting this week to identify gaps in scientific knowledge about the Zika virus.

The experts will look at the virus’s impact on humans and its implications for public health in the Americas region.

The Zika virus is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and has been linked to birth defects in newborns, mainly in Central and South America.

The two-day meeting opens Tuesday at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington, D.C.

Participants will hold a media briefing following the conclusion.

Women and girls critical to disaster reduction

More women than men died in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami because they were less likely to know how to swim, plus long clothing impeded their movement.

That was the message from Elena Manaenkova, Assistant Secretary-General at the World Meteorological Organization, speaking in Geneva to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The human rights body held a special session on Monday looking at disasters and climate change.

Robert Glasser, head of the UN’s disaster risk office, said empowering women and girls is a “critical ingredient” in building resilience to storms, floods and other hazards.

He said women and girls are more likely to be affected when disasters strike due to socio-economic conditions, cultural beliefs and traditional practices.

The UN official called for addressing the gender gap in areas such as decision making, resource management, and access to social protection.

Asia-Pacific overlooking benefits of migration 

Although migrants from Asia and the Pacific play a key role in development at home and abroad, the region is not fully acknowledging the benefits of migration.

That’s according to a UN report which says more than 95 million people from Asia-Pacific are living outside the country of their birth.

The region is also hosting nearly 60 million migrants.

Most of these people are temporary workers, according to the study.

The report says through their hard work and the money that they send home, migrants help drive growth in the countries where they reside while also playing a part in the development of their homelands.

It calls for action to ensure that migration is safe, orderly and responsible.

The report also offers guidance on how countries can ensure migrants have access to social protection and decent work.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration:2’40″

DRC and the Great Lakes Region

AFRICA

DRC and the Great Lakes Region

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council will be briefed by Maman Sambo Sidikou, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, will also brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement.

The Council is expected to renew the mandate of MONUSCO, which expires on 31 March 2016.

A ministerial-level open debate on the Great Lakes region is also planned in March, at the initiative of Council president, Angola, with the Secretary-General, Djinnit and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, briefing. The foreign ministers of Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are also expected to participate.

Key Recent Developments

Rebel groups continue to spread violence in eastern DRC. In his most recent briefing to the Council on 14 January, Sidikou said that there was a significant deterioration in eastern DRC, particularly in North Kivu. The operations of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against the Force Démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) have displaced FDLR fighters and ethnic Tutsis, and there has been an increase in Mayi-Mayi rebel groups’ activities against the FDLR, with reprisal attacks by suspected FDLR elements. These have resulted in civilians being caught up in the fighting and being killed, displaced, forcibly abducted or harassed, often on the basis of ethnicity and perceived collaboration with opposing groups.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist Ugandan group, continues to wreak havoc in North Kivu. The group was reportedly responsible for an attack on FARDC positions and a village near the town of Eringeti on 12 February, in which six civilians were killed and 14 others were kidnapped.

On the political front, the presidential elections scheduled for November continue to be a deeply divisive issue, given the absence of an agreed electoral calendar or a budget for the elections. Many fear that President Joseph Kabila intends to stay in power beyond the constitutionally mandated two terms, which end at the end of the year, and that the impractically dense electoral calendar and consequent delays are part of this strategy. While Kabila has not commented publicly on his political future, the government’s official line is that he will abide by the constitution. In any event, as preparations for elections are at a standstill, it seems less and less likely that presidential elections can or will be held on time.

On 28 November 2015, Kabila called for a national dialogue to address several issues, including the election calendar and funding. The main opposition parties have refused to participate, insisting that it is yet another tactic to avert elections.

The UN, AU, EU and the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) issued a joint press statement on 16 February that underscored the necessity of an inclusive political dialogue in the DRC and urged all Congolese political actors to spare no effort, within the framework of the country’s constitution, to ensure the successful holding of elections. The statement further recalled the appointment of former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo as Special Envoy by the AU Commission to facilitate the political dialogue. (Despite the request of the DRC, the UN has yet to appoint a mediator for this purpose.)

Opposition parties and civil society groups organised a “stay-at-home” strike, bringing business and civic activity in Kinshasa to a standstill on 16 February, in order to pressure Kabila to step down at the end of his term.

During his 14 January briefing, Sidikou said that the political polarisation has heightened tensions and contributed to an atmosphere of increased harassment and human rights violations, mostly against opposition members, civil society representatives and journalists. Combined with the violence in the east, he added, holding peaceful and timely credible elections seems less and less likely.

Sidikou also spoke about the Secretary-General’s proposal to reduce MONUSCO by 1,700 troops, in accordance with the DRC’s wishes to see MONUSCO downsized. He stated that the drawdown will be accompanied by a process of transforming MONUSCO into a more agile and proactive force, which will ensure that MONUSCO exercises greater operational capability, even as the force is gradually reduced in overall numbers. He added that the resumption of security cooperation would be a key aspect of this strategy and asked for the Council’s support for this approach. (Since then, MONUSCO and the DRC have signed a technical agreement on coordination of military activities.)

For its March presidency, Angola has planned an open debate that aims at looking at the Great Lakes Region holistically. With Burundi, CAR and the DRC all on the Council’s agenda, the open debate seeks to encourage more strategic thinking about achieving peace and security in the region. One aspect Angola wishes the open debate to focus on will be on natural resources as drivers of conflict in the region, together with the wider relationship between development and security in the Great Lakes. Angola, as the current Chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), hosted the ICGLR heads of state summit on 12 February, which focused on accelerating the affective implementation of the ICGLR’s “Pact on Security, Stability and Development” and its Protocols.

Relatedly, on 11 February, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) held a session on natural resources and conflicts in Africa. In a press statement after the session, the PSC recognised that fairness, transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources is critical to preventing conflict and promoting sustainable development in Africa.

The Secretary-General visited Goma and Kinshasa on 23-25 February. While in Kinshasa, he presided over the opening session of the Great Lakes Private Sector Investment Conference. Later he met with Kabila, government officials, opposition figures and civil society representatives, stressing the importance of political dialogue as a way to address challenges linked to the electoral process. He expressed hope that constructive dialogue would lead to peaceful and credible elections in accordance with the constitution. He also stated that during the election period, the fundamental rights of freedom of the press, expression and peaceful assembly must be upheld.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 27 January, the Group of Experts assisting the DRC Sanctions Committee briefed the Committee on their recent update report. The report said that there is evidence to suggest that an attack attributed to the ADF in May 2015, in which two Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed, was actually committed by the FARDC.

Some details about the circumstances of the incident, however, remained unclear.

In March, the Committee may meet to receive an update from MONUSCO on the implementation of the arms embargo in the DRC.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 8 February, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a media statement that expressed alarm over reports of escalating inter-communal violence in the Lubero and Walikale territories, North Kivu province. During the preceding weekend, at least 21 people were killed and 40 wounded, and 70 houses were burned down. There were also reports of massive displacement of civilians, looting, abductions and at least three rapes in the area. The attack may have been prompted by the killing of at least 14 members of the Nande ethnic group on 7 January, presumed to be by the FDLR. According to the statement, tensions between the Hutu and Nande communities, which have been increasing since November 2015, seem to have reached an alarming level and could lead to large-scale violence and further displacement. In January, the UN Joint Human Rights Office documented 411 human rights violations, compared to 347 recorded in December 2015. Of these violations, 52 were related to the restriction of democratic participation, compared to 45 such violations documented in December 2015.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council in March is renewing MONUSCO’s mandate and deciding whether to lower its troop level.

A major concern is the political tension surrounding the electoral calendar and Kabila’s possible attempt to remain in power.

The continued violence of rebel groups on the population in North Kivu remain a serious threat to peace and security.

Renewing cooperation between MONUSCO and the DRC is another issue of concern for the Council.

On the Great Lakes more generally, key issues are cross-border drivers of conflict that affect several States in the region, such as illicit trade in natural resources, the movement of arms and rebel groups.

Options

The Council will adopt a resolution renewing MONUSCO’s mandate in which it might lower MONUSCO’s troop level by 1,700 troops or maintain its current level. In addition, the resolution could:

  • encourage MONUSCO to implement plans to develop a more proactive and visible presence in eastern DRC and prepare for possible instability in other areas due to the political situation;
  • urge the Secretary-General to appoint a mediator to help facilitate the DRC national dialogue;
  • call on all political actors to abide by the constitution and its term limits; and
  • call on opposition parties to immediately enter into a national dialogue in order to reach consensus on an electoral calendar and hold elections on time or as soon as possible thereafter.

The Council could also consider visiting the country during the electoral period to take stock of the situation and deliver a strong political message to interlocutors.

On the Great Lakes, the Council may consider adopting an outcome document recognising the impact of cross-border issues on security and stability and the need for strategic thinking and enhanced cooperation to address these issues at the regional level.

Council Dynamics

On the issue of troop reductions, some Council members, including the UK and the US, are concerned about the DRC’s desire to downsize MONUSCO, in particular if DRC-MONUSCO cooperation does not improve dramatically. On the other hand, some countries take the view that the proposed reduction will not affect MONUSCO’s operations in the east or contribute to a deterioration in the security situation, particularly in light of MONUSCO’s plans to divert the freed resources to enhance the capacity of the remaining peacekeepers. They also emphasise that renewed cooperation between MONUSCO and the DRC in the east, which is related to the DRC’s wish to accelerate MONUSCO’s drawdown, is of critical importance to improving the security situation.    

France is the penholder on the DRC.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
Security Council Resolutions
26 March 2015 S/RES/2211 This was a resolution renewing MONUSCO and its intervention brigade until 31 March 2016.
29 January 2015 S/RES/2198 This was a resolution renewing the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
Security Council Presidential Statement
9 November 2015 S/PRST/2015/20 The Council stressed the importance of neutralising armed groups in the DRC and concern that joint operations between the Congolese army and the Force Intervention Brigade in cooperation with the whole of MONUSCO had yet to resume.
Secretary-General’s Report
24 December 2015 S/2015/1031 This was the report of the Secretary-General on MONUSCO.
Security Council Meeting Record
14 January 2016 S/PV.7603 The Council was briefed by Special Representative Sambo Sidikou on the latest MONUSCO report.
Security Council Letter
16 December 2015 S/2015/983 This letter contained the Secretary-General’s recommendation for reducing MONUSCO’s troop strength by 1,700 peacekeepers.
Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Maman Sambo Sidikou (Niger)

MONUSCO Force Commander
Lieutenant General Derick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi (South Africa)

MONUSCO Size, Composition and Cost of Mission
Strength as of 31 August 2015: 19,784 troops (including 462 military observers and 1,090 police), 840 international civilian personnel, 2,725 local civilian staff and 450 UN volunteers.

Approved budget (1 July 2015-30 June 2016): $1.33 billion

Mission duration: July 2010 to present

EU-UN Cooperation

SECURITY COUNCIL AND WIDER UN STRUCTURE

EU-UN Cooperation

Expected Council Action 

In March, the Council will hold a meeting on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations, with a focus on strengthening the partnership with the EU. Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will brief the Council. The Secretary-General may also brief. 

No outcome was expected at press time.

Background

Meetings on cooperation between the EU and the UN are starting to become a regular feature of the work of the Council, illustrating the growing importance of this relationship for both organisations. This will be the sixth formal meeting on EU-UN cooperation. With the exception of 2012, the Council has been holding these meetings annually since 2010. The Council formally endorsed the relationship in 2014 when it adopted a presidential statement on cooperation between the EU and the UN. Since 2013, Council members have also met informally on an annual basis with members of the EU Political and Security Committee.  

Key Recent Developments

The precarious situation in the Middle East caused by fallout from the Syrian conflict, as well as the refugee crisis in Europe and the heightened threat of terrorism, continue to occupy a great part of the agenda of both the EU and the Council. In 2015, Mogherini frequently visited the UN and met with the Security Council. This demonstrated the growing interaction and relationship between the two organisations in tackling challenges to international peace and security.   

In March 2015, Mogherini briefed the Council specifically on cooperation between the EU and the UN. She used this opportunity to reiterate the importance of the partnership with the UN and other regional organisations in dealing with a variety of challenges. Mogherini outlined the main issues faced by the EU, such as the situation in Ukraine, extremism, terrorism and the migration crisis. In addition, Mogherini also spoke about cooperation between the two organisations in peacekeeping and managing the Ebola crisis.  

Mogherini was back in New York on 28 April 2015 to attend the Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference and used the opportunity to meet with some Council members, in particular its EU members—France, Lithuania, Spain and the UK. The primary issue during these meetings was migrant smuggling and human trafficking in the Mediterranean, including possible endorsement by the Council of the eventual EU enforcement operation aimed at disrupting “the business model” of the smuggling. The negotiations on the draft to authorise such an operation took several months and a resolution was adopted in October 2015.

Dealing with the escalation of the migration crisis and incidents of migrants’ drowning in the Mediterranean became one of the EU’s main priorities in 2015. On 11 May 2015, Mogherini briefed the Council on the integrated strategy of  the EU to address the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean. Following the briefing, the Council held an informal interactive dialogue with Mogherini and the AU representative.  

In June 2015, the EU authorised EU NAVAFOR (renamed Operation Sophia on 28 September), an operation aimed at identifying, capturing and disposing of vessels as well as disabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. On 9 October, the Council provided legal backing for Operation Sophia by adopting resolution 2240. It authorised member states and regional organisations to inspect and seize vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya if it is suspected and confirmed that they were being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya.

Though consumed by the migration crisis in 2015, the EU continued its significant diplomatic efforts in Ukraine. The leaders of EU members France and Germany played key roles in reaching the second Minsk agreement in February 2015, which significantly reduced hostilities in eastern Ukraine and created a roadmap for a solution. Pending full implementation of the Minsk agreement, the EU maintains sanctions on Russia because of its involvement in eastern Ukraine. The EU also provides significant financial assistance to Ukraine and maintains the EU Advisory Mission, whose aim is to assist security sector reforms in Ukraine.

EU coordination and its diplomatic efforts were instrumental in the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue, which led to agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 14 July 2015. After verification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA on 16 January, the EU lifted all nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran.

Cooperation between the EU and the UN is most evident in Africa, where the two organisations work together on several peacekeeping issues. The EU provides training for security forces and assists in security sector reform in the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and Somalia. In 2014, the Council authorised an EU military mission in the CAR with responsibility for security in the Bangui area. The mission ended in March 2015. In Somalia, the EU also provides salaries for the UN-mandated AU Mission to Somalia.   

In addition to the aforementioned issues, Mogherini will likely emphasise the importance of dealing with other matters on the agenda of both organisations. These are mainly a political settlement in Syria, establishment of a unity government in Libya, counter-terrorism, countering religious extremism and the Middle East peace process.    

Key Issues

Considering the growing number of challenges and threats faced by both the EU and the UN, the main issue is to generate a constructive discussion about cooperation between the two organisations. Another issue is how to strengthen this relationship and make it more effective, especially in situations where there are overlapping agendas.    

Council and Wider Dynamics

The Council has been generally supportive of the cooperation between the UN and the EU. Considering the multitude of threats to international peace and security and the challenges they pose to both the EU and the UN, Council members seem to be eager to hold a meeting with Mogherini.

The Council’s dynamics with the EU have been affected by the rift between Russia and Western members of the Council over the crisis in Ukraine. The EU has maintained sanctions on Russia since July 2014 because of its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The lifting of sanctions is contingent on the implementation of the Minsk agreements and Russia’s compliance in that regard. Russia holds the position that sanctions other than those imposed by the Security Council are counterproductive and undermine the primacy of the Council. Despite some hostility between the EU and Russia over Ukraine, the two have managed to cooperate on other issues. During the March 2015 briefing, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that cooperation with the EU continues on an array of issues, such as “terrorism, religious extremism, piracy, drug trafficking, transnational crime, illegal migration, combating the Ebola virus, dealing with the Middle East peace process and resolving the situations in Libya and around Iran’s nuclear program”. Russia is likely to emphasise the subordinate role of regional organisations based on the provisions of the UN Charter, in particular Chapter VIII.

UN Documents
Security Council Resolutions
9 October 2015 S/RES/2240 This resolution authorised the interdiction of vessels used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
17 October 2005 S/RES/1631 This resolution addressed the issue of cooperation between the UN and regional organisations and stressed the role of regional organisations in addressing the issue of small arms.
Security Council Presidential Statement
14 February 2014 S/PRST/2014/4 This was a presidential statement on cooperation between the UN and the EU, highlighting the EU’s comprehensive approach to maintenance of international peace and security.
Security Council Meeting Records
11 May 2015 S/PV.7439 This was a briefing on the smuggling of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea.
9 March 2015 S/PV.7402 This was a briefing by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, on cooperation between the EU and the UN.

In Hindsight: Security Council Visiting Missions

THE SECURITY COUNCIL

In Hindsight: Security Council Visiting Missions

Council members appear to have a renewed interest lately in making use of the visiting mission as a tool that can serve a number of purposes. Since the Council first travelled to Cambodia and Viet Nam in 1964, it has used the visiting mission for preventive diplomacy, gathering first-hand information, supporting peace processes and mediation. In the period since the end of the Cold War through January 2016, the Council undertook 51 visiting missions to a total of some 45 countries and territories. Several locations were visited repeatedly, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) holding the record at 12 and Burundi in second place with nine visits.

Following the visit to Burundi in January this year, Council members seem to appreciate anew the usefulness of Council missions, including return visits, and the value of speeding up the deployment of a mission. The Council had previously visited Burundi in March 2015 in an attempt to address the crisis then looming. In light of the growing violence and deepening political divisions late last year, the Council resolved to dispatch another mission to the country, and after securing the government’s consent, travelled there in January. It is too early to assess the true impact of that visit, but the combination of a clear and united message from the Council in Burundi and a Burundi-focused working meeting with the Peace and Security Council of the AU held on the way back appears to have encouraged increased engagement between the government and the international community.

Several members spoke about the Burundi visit during the 29 January wrap-up session held by Uruguay at the end of its presidency (S/PV.7616). Egypt called it an example of a “genuine engagement with a crisis” and Angola said it was a “contribution to easing tensions in Burundi”. France, which led the visit, expressed interest in reviewing the Council’s methodology for preparing for missions.

It may be interesting to examine how various aspects of this practice, such as the decision to deploy a mission, mission composition and mission leadership, evolved over the years.

In the 1990s and the early 2000s, a decision to undertake a mission, the actual visit and the subsequent publication of the relevant report tended to happen in quick succession. The reports were written literally on the flight back and published just days after the Council delegation returned to New York. In one case, a Council visiting mission to Indonesia and East Timor in September 1999, at the time the first Council mission for more than four years, the decision to undertake the mission and the departure of the delegation took place on the same day. More recently, the whole process has been much slower. It has tended to take several months for Council members to reach agreement on the destination of a proposed mission, its timing and duration. For example, a mission in response to the December 2013 implosion of South Sudan took place only in August 2014. Mission reports have been issued following delays of several months and, in a few cases, well over a year.

In the 1990s, all Council missions consisted of a sub-set of Council members. The June 2001 visit to Kosovo (led by Bangladesh) was the first Council mission in which all 15 members participated. Since then, most missions have involved the full Council, though there have been some exceptions, most recently the November 2012 mission to Timor-Leste in which six members participated.

The structure of leadership of visiting missions has also evolved over the years. For several years, each mission had a single permanent representative as leader, and in the first several post-Cold War years, all were led by an elected member. The US became the first permanent member to lead a mission with the 4-8 May 2000 visit to the DRC, Eritrea and Ethiopia. For the next few years, the leadership of missions would alternate between a permanent and an elected member. The first mission with different leaders for different segments was the 2003 visit to West Africa, during which Mexico and the UK alternated. And in 2007, during a mission to Africa, the practice of co-leadership emerged, whereby the UK and South Africa jointly led the visit to Addis Ababa, Accra and Khartoum. Since then, almost all missions have had different sets of co-leads (usually a permanent and an elected member) for each segment.

Most missions over the years have involved travel to more than one country, though in the past, despite multiple destinations, the focus would be on one conflict situation, and the different stops involved interactions with the different key relevant actors. (The January visit to Africa may signal a return to this approach as the stop in Addis Ababa also had Burundi as its main focus.)

The new momentum surrounding Council visits that has developed following the January travel has resulted in a quick decision to undertake another mission to seriously troubled countries. The Council is set to visit Mali and Guinea-Bissau in early March, followed by a stop in Dakar (the seat of the UN Office for West Africa), to gain a broader, regional perspective as well as to familiarise itself better with the preventive diplomacy role performed by UN regional political offices.

All the changes in the methodology of visiting missions as well as the speed with which they sometimes occur illustrate that this is a very flexible tool and that it is up to the creativity of the lead(s) as to how to get the most value out of the missions. The past practice also suggests that, like several other Council tools, it is likely to continue to evolve. The renewed energy surrounding the visiting missions may also signal that they will happen faster, have more clearly defined goals and give rise to reports submitted in a timely fashion.

For more background on the Council’s visiting missions and a complete list of missions undertaken by the Council since 1992, please visit: Security Council Visiting Missions