On behalf of the Secretary-General, I am pleased to address this Committee on his seventh report entitled “Overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions”. I am also grateful for the presence of my colleague USG Atul Khare, whose services my department relies on for operational support to SPMs.
I would like to thank Finland and Mexico, as co-facilitators of this item, for their leadership and engagement. I also thank all Member States for the constructive interactive dialogue that we held last July. The focus then on adapting special political missions to evolving peace and security contexts was timely.
Today’s discussion is a further opportunity to exchange views on a range of policy issues which are elaborated in greater detail in the report. While, the report covers several thematic areas, I would like to focus my briefing on four areas, namely:
- Conflict prevention and sustaining peace;
- Regional partnerships;
- Women, peace and security; and
- Youth engagement
Throughout the year, special political missions continued to prioritize their core mandates of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and sustaining peace.
In Syria, the efforts led by the Secretary-General with the support of his Special Envoy resulted in an agreement in late September between the Syrian parties for a credible, balanced and inclusive Syrian-owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee.
This was the first political agreement between the Government of Syria and the opposition. The Constitutional Committee was formally launched on 30 October and its Large Body of 150 members met on 31 October and 1 November in working sessions under the chairmanship of its two Co-Chairs. This week the work of the Constitutional Committee has continued, in the first working sessions of a Small Body of 45 members.
The Special Envoy for Yemen continues his engagement with all parties and stakeholders in the region. This includes providing support to the parties in implementing the Stockholm Agreement. Despite ongoing challenges and the fragility of the situation, the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement has made encouraging progress with the Yemeni parties and has had a positive deterrent effect.
In Myanmar, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General has been working closely with the authorities to help resolve the Rohingya crisis. This engagement, focuses specifically on addressing the humanitarian crisis, promoting the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and forcibly displaced persons, and ensuring accountability for human rights violations.
In February, the Secretary-General tasked his Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in West Africa and the Sahel to lead an inter-agency mission to Burkina Faso. The aim was to assess the repositioning and organization of the UN presence there to address the challenges of intercommunal violence, terrorism, governance and long-term development needs. We are about to establish five offices in the country to carry out this agenda. We are leveraging PBF funds to address some of the funding gaps and we are keeping the Peacebuilding Commission engaged on these issues.
As outlined in the report of the Secretary-General, most of the activities undertaken by special political missions are conducted jointly or in consultation with regional and subregional partners. Their engagement and support remain essential for the successful implementation of the mandates of our missions.
In West Africa, our regional office, UNOWAS, is working closely with regional stakeholders, especially ECOWAS and the African Union, to advance preventive diplomacy and support political processes.
In Guinea-Bissau, UNIOGBIS and UNOWAS are working closely with other members of the Group of five international partners, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, to ease political tensions and advance the electoral process.
In Nigeria, Senegal and Mauritania, ahead of presidential elections held this year UNOWAS engaged with national stakeholders, alongside our regional and international partners, to encourage democratic consolidation in the region.
In East Africa, we are strengthening our cooperation with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to advance conflict prevention in the region, including in Sudan and South Sudan.
And in Somalia, we are working in tandem with the African Union to advance peace and security and to strengthen state and local institutions.
Finally, in Central Asia, the regional center for preventive diplomacy, UNRCCA, continues to engage with the five Central Asian Countries -- and increasingly with Afghanistan -- to reinforce regional capacities in preventive diplomacy and support efforts towards greater regional cooperation and stability.
In this regard, UNRCCA revitalized its work to facilitate regional cooperation on transboundary water management, in close collaboration with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.
Special political missions continued to champion and support the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. In June of this year, I issued a new DPPA Women, Peace and Security Policy to ensure that gender-sensitive analysis is systematically integrated into all our work. It also aims to better align our support to women’s meaningful political participation in peacemaking contexts around the world. Special political missions are increasingly integrating gender perspectives into the implementation of their mandates
The establishment of consultative Women’s Advisory boards and groups to our Special Envoys in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, demonstrated the importance we attach to working to ensure that the voices, concerns and needs of women are consistently heard and integrated into peace processes. This is in addition to our efforts to press for women’s direct participation in mediation efforts and political processes more broadly.
In Guinea-Bissau for instance, UNIOGBIS provided technical support to the advocacy efforts of women’s organizations. These efforts were instrumental in the adoption in August of the Parity Law on the Participation of Women in Politics and Decision-making Spheres.
In Afghanistan, UNAMA and UN Women held a series of nation-wide dialogues around women, peace and security. The dialogues reflected on opportunities and challenges for the meaningful participation of women in peace processes. These platforms provided an opportunity to hear women’s concerns and priorities, and to amplify their voices.
In July, I visited Afghanistan with the Deputy Secretary-General and the Executive Directors of UN-Women and UNFPA – an all-women delegation. The objective was to engage with national stakeholders, particularly women officials and women’s groups to support their roles in peace and political processes and their efforts to maintain the gains made for women’s rights in a peace settlement.
Globally, we need to scale-up all efforts aimed at promoting women’s meaningful participation and empowerment in peacemaking and peacebuilding processes.
It is equally important to ensure adequate, predictable and sustainable financing. In that regard, since 2015, the UN Peacebuilding Fund, has exceeded the Secretary-General’s 15 per cent target for gender-responsive peacebuilding. Last year, 40 per cent of its funding was allocated towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.
I have also asked my staff to prioritize the use of our Multi-Year Appeal funding for initiatives to promote women’s participation in contexts as diverse as the Great Lakes region, Colombia and Iraq.
Special political missions have been actively engaging youth in different aspects of their work, including through building their capacities and supporting their participation in peace processes.
In Central Asia, UNRCCA launched the “Preventive Diplomacy Academy”, an initiative aimed at increasing cooperation and trust between communities in border areas throughout Central Asia and Afghanistan. The initiative hopes to foster a culture of mutual understanding and mitigate conflict risks.
As part of this initiative, UNRCCA is organizing a series of workshops and outreach activities bringing together young people aged 18 to 29 to support their initiatives in inter-cultural dialogue, leadership and conflict management.
In Colombia, as part of the Mission’s strategy to advance youth, peace and security, a network of youth focal points was established across the mission’s regional and subregional offices. The aim is to integrate youth perspectives into the Mission’s verification and liaison activities.
I would like to pay a special tribute to the United Nations personnel serving in special political missions, working under challenging conditions to advance the promise of the Charter. I want to particularly honor the memory of Clive Peck, Hussein Abdalla Mahmoud El-Hadar and Seniloli Tabuatausole who lost their lives on 10 August when a car bomb exploded in Benghazi, Libya.
Our colleagues in Somalia are often subjected to mortar attacks targeting the UN compound, while those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, also face considerable risks while discharging their duties.
My Department is working closely with the Department of Safety and Security on risk management strategies and security mitigation measures. We cannot compromise the lives of our staff. We greatly value and appreciate their commitment and dedication.
As I conclude, I wish to thank this Committee and the broader Membership of the United Nations for the continued support to special political missions and to my Department. I reiterate our commitment to continue working with Member States and other partners to prevent conflicts and sustain peace. I look forward to your views and questions.