It is a pleasure for me to address this Committee and introduce the ninth report of the Secretary-General on “Overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions”. I am pleased to be joined by my colleague Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support. His department plays a critical role in providing the operational support that special political missions require to discharge their mandates.
At the outset, I would like to thank Finland and Mexico for their continued leadership and engagement as co-facilitators of this agenda item.
I also want to express my appreciation to all Member States for their continued support to special political missions.
This year’s discussion comes at a critical juncture. As the Secretary-General noted in his report on Our Common Agenda, we are at an inflection point in history.
We are facing multiple, overlapping crises: the climate emergency; technological disruption; the evolving conflict landscape; and renewed global and strategic competition. Each of them is a source of significant stress, domestically, regionally and at the international level.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of these threats. It revealed our shared vulnerability, and serious limitations regarding global preparedness, cooperation and solidarity. The profound socio-economic implications of the pandemic remain a significant concern to us as a potential source of tension and instability.
The convergence of these threats has implications for international peace and security and for the effectiveness of the global peace and security architecture. They are also creating new demands for special political missions to adapt in order to better respond to this changing landscape.
This year’s report illustrated how special political missions, or SPMs, continued to play a critical role in supporting Member States to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts, despite a deteriorating global environment. Through their sustained diplomatic engagement, our missions are constantly looking to open political spaces for compromise, encouraging conflict parties to negotiate and resolve their differences peacefully.
Our work in Libya is a case in point. As a result of UNSMIL’s mediation efforts, the Libyan parties agreed to a national ceasefire in October 2020. It’s a significant milestone and one of the landmark successes in the context of the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.
UNSMIL subsequently facilitated the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which adopted a political road map in November 2020. Our mission continues to support Libyan stakeholders as they move towards the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections.
Similarly, our regional office for West Africa – UNOWAS – continues to see high demand for preventive diplomacy in the region.
It provides a platform that allows the United Nations to engage early with national authorities to prevent emerging crises from escalating and to address cross-border challenges.
Working side-by-side with ECOWAS as well as the African Union, the political engagement of UNOWAS in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, to cite just a few examples, points to the added value of our regional presences.
In situations where significant challenges remain, such as Syria, Yemen and Myanmar, our Special Envoys are undeterred in the search for political solutions.
I would like to highlight three of the thematic issues addressed in this year’s report of the Secretary-General.
First, the women, peace and security agenda.
SPMs continue to play a vital role in promoting women’s meaningful participation in peace and political processes and in supporting gender responsive peacemaking and peacebuilding. This is not simply a moral commitment for us. It is smart.
Inclusion of women and other marginalized communities broadens the ownership of peace and political processes. It helps remedy structural inequalities and address the root causes of conflict, thus making peace agreements and transitions more durable.
In Lebanon, for example, the Office of the Special Coordinator is supporting the implementation of the country’s National Action Plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and promoting the greater political participation of women – both as voters and as candidates -- in the 2022 elections.
In Central Asia, our Regional Centre (UNRCCA) recently launched the first caucus of women political leaders in the region. This informal coalition works towards promoting and fostering the role of women in supporting regional peace and security as well as in advancing sustainable development.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, several SPMs found innovative ways to promote this agenda through strategies for digital inclusion and online engagement.
In Iraq, Libya and Yemen, our missions organized digital consultations with significant participation from youth and women. These dialogues helped us better understand their views and aspirations, and to reflect them in our work.
New technologies lowered access barriers for groups that are traditionally excluded from decision-making. We see a great promise in them for our efforts to promote women’s meaningful participation in political processes, even post-Covid.
Second, the promotion of regional approaches to peace and security.
We know that many of the challenges our SPMs face are not confined to the borders of a single State. To address issues such as regionalized conflict, the proliferation of small arms, or the security implications of climate change, we must build truly regional responses.
A number of special political missions have regional mandates. They have been at the forefront of designing and implementing regional, multidisciplinary responses to a range of peace and security issues. Strengthening the UN’s partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, which remain an important pillar of our work to maintain international peace and security.
A recent example is the work of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, who is spearheading the implementation of the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the region.
The Strategy serves as an important vehicle to help Member States engage in dialogue, improve their relations, and enhance regional cooperation. The Strategy is organized around three broad areas of work: (i) peace, security and justice; (ii) sustainable development and shared prosperity; (iii) and resilience to longstanding and emerging challenges. These areas reflect the strategy’s multidimensional focus.
Similarly, in the Horn of Africa, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General is working to advance implementation of the comprehensive regional prevention strategy during a particularly challenging moment in the region. The Office of the Special Envoy has worked closely with IGAD to support ongoing mediation processes and enhance subregional capacities to address cross-border and cross-cutting issues.
Third, peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
In 2016, the twin resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council on sustaining peace ushered a new vision centered on prevention. They recognized that the human and financial cost of focusing primarily on crisis response was unsustainable and called on all of us to reorient our strategies towards a more holistic response, which links our peace and security work with the 2030 Agenda.
Through their integrated work with UN Country Teams and Resident Coordinators, SPMs play an important role in operationalizing this commitment, in support of nationally-owned peacebuilding priorities. The Peacebuilding Fund has been instrumental in backing these efforts. In 2020, the Fund directed $25.3 million in new approvals to countries where special political missions are deployed.
In Guinea-Bissau, where the closure of our special political mission last year created significant funding gaps, the PBF approved $4 million to support transition priorities. They include support to the political reform agenda, inclusive dialogue and the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.
In Somalia, where the Secretary-General renewed the country’s eligibility for PBF funding for another five years, we are now supporting reconciliation, justice, governance, and women’s empowerment.
Ensuring sustainable financing for these activities remains a critical need, and I am looking forward to the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace scheduled during its 76th session.
I also want to express my gratitude 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.
I would like to take this opportunity to brief the Committee on some of the challenges faced by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), our largest SPM, with roughly 4,000 staff members, 11 field offices and 2 liaison offices.
Afghanistan has entered a new phase with the turn of events on 15 August. The country was already confronted with multiple challenges: political, security, economic, and, most urgently, humanitarian.
Today, after decades of war and insecurity, the people of Afghanistan are facing perhaps their most perilous hour. They are looking to the international community to protect the gains made over the past two decades in education, health care and the participation of women in public life. They want their lives and livelihood, as well as basic rights and freedoms, to be protected. They want a life without fear. They want a future for their children.
UNAMA’s mandate was extended until 17 March 2022. The Security Council requested the Secretary-General to brief the Council every other month and to submit operational and strategic recommendations by the end of January. We will be evaluating the new situation carefully and consulting closely with relevant stakeholders as we move forward. The United Nations is committed to continue to deliver for the Afghan people while upholding our values.
I hope that the report of the Secretary-General, and my remarks today, help illustrate how special political missions represent a central plank in the United Nations’ peace and security work. By working to detect crises early and defuse tensions, help conflict parties achieve negotiated solutions, and support Member States in building sustainable peace, special political missions remain indispensable.
In closing, I would like to pay a special tribute to the United Nations personnel serving in special political missions, working often under very challenging conditions – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic – to advance the promise of the Charter.