Introductory Remarks by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo to the Fourth Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Secretary-General, it is my pleasure to introduce his eighth report on “Overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions”. I am also pleased to be joined today by my colleague Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, whose department plays a critical role in supporting special political missions.
From the outset, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Finland and Mexico for their leadership as facilitators of this agenda item, as well as for their steadfast support of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and our special political missions.
I also want to express my gratitude to all Member States for their engagement on this agenda item.
This year’s report comes against the background of one of the most serious crises in the history of the United Nations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare global fragilities. It has upended lives, overwhelming the health system, and livelihoods, unleashing a devastating socio-economic crisis that worsens poverty and marginalization.
As the Secretary-General has stressed, the pandemic also has profound implications for international peace and security. Trust in public institutions has deteriorated where responses to COVID-19 are perceived as failing. Existing inequalities and vulnerabilities have been exacerbated. New human rights challenges have emerged. And fragile peace processes risk being derailed by the crisis.
This combination of risks is dangerous and has increased the potential for instability and violence. It threatens to reverse the hard-earned gains for peace that we have achieved over the last few years, and it underscores the magnitude of the challenge of conflict prevention before us.
The seriousness of the pandemic and its consequences require an urgent and collective response. Special political missions are playing their part in this effort. While ensuring the continuity of critical operations and core mandates, they are supporting host countries in their response to the virus, protecting our personnel and assisting vulnerable communities.
COVID-19 has, of course, impacted the work of SPMs. Their operational capacities have been limited due to measures taken to limit the spread of the virus. Travel restrictions have, in some contexts, made it considerably more difficult for missions to support dialogue and carry out preventive diplomacy and peacemaking.
But SPMs are working to mitigate these challenges. They are increasingly relying on new approaches, including greater use of technology. Digital tools have enabled them to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, from government counterparts to civil society groups, including women’s organizations. An example is the large-scale online discussion organized by the Special Envoy for Yemen in June, which gathered over 500 Yemenis – a third of whom were women – to discuss opportunities and challenges for peace in the country.
At the same time, current restrictions also underline the value of direct engagement on the most sensitive issues. In recent months, while taking the necessary health precautions, SPMs were able to initiate critical in-person activities. In September, talks held in Geneva were instrumental for an agreement between the Yemeni parties on the exchange and release of over 1,000 prisoners. The Special Envoy for Syria facilitated the Third Meeting of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva in late August. And in Sudan, the UN deployed an advance team to Khartoum to continue the preparations for the deployment of our newest mission: the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan.
The pandemic has forced many countries to consider if and how to proceed with planned elections. In some cases, lack of consensus among political parties regarding a way forward has increased tensions, especially in situations where the legitimacy of the process was already contested. We have advised the need for consensus on such matters, and SPMs with an electoral assistance mandate provide advice on mitigation measures to enable electoral activities to continue.
Recognizing the urgency of the crisis, on 23 March, the Secretary-General called for a global ceasefire.
He urged conflict parties to stop the fighting in order to create conditions for the delivery of aid and to open up space for diplomacy.
The Secretary-General’s call has been widely endorsed by Member States from across the world, as well as by the Security Council. Regional partners, civil society and religious leaders have added their voices to the call.
SPMs are playing a key role in operationalizing the Secretary-General’s appeal.
In Yemen, the Special Envoy is in dialogue with the parties to build trust and move towards a ceasefire and a resumption of the political process. In Afghanistan, the Special Representative is engaging in support of the launch of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations. And in Libya, the Acting Special Representative continues to engage with all national, regional and international stakeholders to advance the UN-facilitated intra-Libyan political, security and economic dialogue in the framework of the Berlin process.
I would like to highlight a few of the thematic issues discussed in the Secretary-General’s report.
First, the work of SPMs in the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, and the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the landmark resolution which recognized the importance of women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in conflict prevention and resolution.
Special political missions have made their women, peace and security commitments a priority.
In Syria, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General facilitated agreements between the parties securing close to 30 per cent membership of women in the Constitutional Committee.
In Colombia, the Verification Mission has engaged actively in the implementation of the Comprehensive Programme of Safeguards for Women Leaders and has promoted activities with women former combatants and candidates of the FARC party.
Much remains to be done to translate grassroots women’s leadership, which we see in abundance, into high-level positions of political power and influence.
The women, peace and security agenda has become even more critical against the background of COVID-19, which exacerbated gender inequalities and increased gender-based and domestic violence. SPMs are supporting Member States in creating new pathways for the meaningful participation of women, including in the responses to the pandemic.
Second, peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
Through their integrated work with UN Country Teams and Resident Coordinators, SPMs are playing a key role to support the implementation of nationally-owned peacebuilding priorities and the 2030 Agenda.
The Peacebuilding Fund has been instrumental in supporting these efforts. In 2019, the PBF directed 12 per cent of its investment to countries where SPMs are located. In Haiti, the Fund is now supporting key priorities agreed with the government, including community violence reduction, access to justice, and electoral violence prevention. In Burundi, the PBF is supporting local conflict prevention and resolution efforts and enhancing youth and women’s participation in decision-making.
I am grateful for the engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission on the work of SPMs, particularly in bringing its perspectives and views as part of its advisory role to the Security Council. The Commission’s engagement on the mandate reviews of our missions in Burundi, Guinea Bissau, and West Africa and the Sahel has been particularly appreciated.
Third, the youth, peace and security agenda.
In line with the important framework established by the General Assembly and the Security Council, SPMs are working to increase the inclusive representation of youth for the prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as in peacebuilding.
In Somalia, for example, we have continued to engage young women and men to promote their active political participation in the constitutional review, national reconciliation and elections. In Iraq, UNAMI has organized a series of workshops bringing together young people from 14 Governorates to discuss issues such as conflict prevention and inclusion.
The Secretary-General’s report has highlighted the critical contributions that SPMs make to advancing peace.
Working closely with a wide range of partners – including regional and subregional organizations – SPMs have helped Member States promote political solutions and address emerging challenges.
Their effectiveness, however, depends on the support from Member States. And we are very grateful for the support we receive from all of you. SPMs are a manifestation of the power of effective multilateralism – of our ability to come together to provide support to complex and fragile political processes and to help build sustainable peace.
In closing, I would like to pay a special tribute to the United Nations personnel serving in special political missions, working under challenging conditions – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic – to advance the promise of the Charter.