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The situation in Venezuela is cause for serious concern. The protracted crisis in the country has had a grave impact on the population, with high levels of political polarization, growing humanitarian needs and serious human rights concerns. And the economic situation in the country has become dire.
The situation has both an economic and political dimension. The population is affected in a systemic way, i.e., nearly all 30 million Venezuelans are affected by hyperinflation and a collapse of real salaries; shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies; deterioration of health and education services; deterioration of basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, transport and urban services. Drastic reduction in production capacities in the agricultural, pharmaceutical and other sectors have aggravated the supply situation.
The drop in oil production recorded in recent years continued in 2018, with a decrease of about half a million barrels per day from 2017, and a consequent fall in revenues. The International Monetary Fund reported that the inflation rate hit 1.37 million per cent last year and projected real GDP in 2019 of negative 18 per cent. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, between 2015-2017, there were 3.7 million undernourished people in the country. Infant mortality rates doubled in recent years.
According to UN estimates, over 3 million Venezuelans are now living abroad, including some 2.3 million who have left the country since 2015, going mostly to other South American countries.
In the parliamentary elections of December 2015, the opposition won a large majority of seats in the National Assembly. Subsequently, the Supreme Court ruled that the Assembly was “in contempt” and that all its actions were “null and void”. In 2017, a National Constituent Assembly was established through elections in which the opposition parties did not participate.
The National Constituent Assembly took over key functions of the legislative branch and undertook a process of constitutional reform that remains inconclusive and is not recognized by the opposition parties.
Attempts to bring about political dialogue started as early as May 2016, through an initiative facilitated by three former presidents from the Dominican Republic, Panama and Spain, under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
Despite some initial progress, no concrete agreements were reached through this initiative, which was suspended by the beginning of 2017.
By mid-2017 there were efforts to resume dialogue and formal talks began in September, hosted by the Dominican Republic and with international accompaniment. Talks ended without agreement on February 2018. One of the major areas of disagreement was the electoral calendar and guarantees to ensure free, transparent and credible elections.
Subsequently, the Government went ahead with presidential elections in May 2018. President Nicolás Maduro was declared the winner over two other candidates. Most of the opposition did not participate in the elections or recognize the results.
On 10 January, Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as President for a second six-year term.
On 23 January, large scale opposition protests culminated with Juan Guaidó, president of the opposition-led National Assembly, announcing that he did not recognize President Maduro or his Government. Mr. Guaidó proclaimed himself interim President, pledging to form a transitional government and call for elections.
While the protests were largely peaceful, there were incidents of violence. The Secretary-General has expressed strong concern over reports of casualties among demonstrators and has called for a transparent and independent investigation of these incidents.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, credible local sources have reported that at least 20 people have died in the unrest. Many more have reportedly been injured and detained in violent incidents.
The High Commissioner stated yesterday “Any violent incident resulting in death or injury should be subject to an independent and impartial investigation to find out whether there was excessive use of force by the authorities, or if crimes have been committed by members of armed groups, pro-government or otherwise…I am extremely concerned that the situation in Venezuela may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.”
The High Commissioner also stressed that it is of utmost importance to uphold the right to peaceful assembly and refrain from excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force.
In a statement on 24 January, the Secretary-General emphasized the urgency for all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the protracted crisis in the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights.
He has offered his good offices to help resolve the crisis. The main concern is the wellbeing of the Venezuelan people and their ability to enjoy their full rights.
The UN has been providing assistance, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition. And the Secretary-General had asked the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to establish a mechanism to support Venezuelans leaving the country. IOM and UNHCR appointed Eduardo Stein, former Vice-President of Guatemala, as their Joint Representative to work with regional Governments to ensure that support is in place to these individuals.
As the Secretary-General has stated, in this crucial moment, it is important that all actors exercise maximum restraint to avoid an escalation of violence and confrontation.
There are divergent visions of what the future should hold for Venezuela.
But we must all be guided by the pursuit of the wellbeing of the Venezuelan people, and work together so that their needs are fully met.
We must do all we can to prevent a worsening of tensions.
We must try to help bring about a political solution that will allow the country’s citizens to enjoy peace, prosperity and all their human rights.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I thank the Government of the Dominican Republic for convening this timely open debate.
The risks associated with climate-related disasters do not represent a scenario of some distant future. They are already a reality for millions of people around the globe – and they are not going away.
A report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last October predicted more heat waves, heavier rain events, higher sea levels, and more severe damage to agriculture.
These trends represent a security risk for the entire world. However, their consequences are felt most strongly in regions that are already vulnerable, where climate change and extreme weather compound existing grievances and threats.
The relationship between climate-related risks and conflict is complex and often intersects with political, social, economic and demographic factors.
Sea level rise is an obvious primary impact of climate change, and one which ultimately threatens the very existence of coastal communities and small island states. Extreme weather is another such consequence. In the space of a month, hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria displaced around three million people along the Atlantic Coast of the Americas and the Caribbean. The worst impact was felt by small island developing states in the region.
In Haiti, for example, a series of climate-related disasters has struck the country since the devastating earthquake in 2010, and has contributed to instability and a prolonged humanitarian crisis.
Climate change also affects peace and security in indirect, but no less serious ways.
In the Sahel and the Sudan, for instance, climate change has heightened competition for diminishing land, forage and water resources, fueling tensions between herders and farmers. In the Lake Chad Basin, climate change contributes to unpredictable rainfall patterns that impede traditional livelihood options, compound socio-economic exclusion, and reduce the opportunity costs of joining armed groups.
Climate-related displacement has also become an acute problem. Frequent and longer droughts in Somalia have been a major factor in the displacement of more than 2.6 million people, which in turn drives up local tensions as well as human trafficking, child exploitation, and recruitment by armed groups.
For the Security Council, this is not news. In recent months, the Council has recognized the adverse effects of climate change, among other factors, on the stability of Mali, Somalia, West Africa and the Sahel, Central Africa, and the Sudan.
The Secretary-General, for his part, has articulated a broad vision for prevention and made it a priority to improve our ability to address wider stresses and shocks that can exacerbate crises and lead to violent conflict.
Across the United Nations system, efforts are intensifying to leverage capacities and sharpen responses.
For example, the United Nations Regional Office in West Africa and the Sahel has been working closely with ECOWAS to analyze climate-related security risks in the region, and to jointly develop regional prevention strategies.
These regional approaches are also being applied in Central Asia, where regional cooperation is fostering progress in the area of trans-boundary water management, through ongoing consultations among Central Asian states, supported by the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy.
In country-specific contexts, our missions are also building responses to the consequences of climate change. In Somalia, UNSOM and the United Nations Country Team have worked closely together to establish an effective drought response programme.
Looking ahead, the United Nations will invest in a number of actions.
First, we are strengthening our analytical capacity. The Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Environment Programme, in collaboration with practitioners from across and beyond the UN, are developing an integrated risk assessment framework to analyze climate-related security risks.
Furthermore, in response to Security Council Presidential Statement 2011/15, which requested more contextual information on the security implications of climate change, the UN is working to ensure that such analysis is better reflected in our mandated reports.
Second, the UN is seeking to strengthen the evidence base to support development of climate risk prevention and management strategies at the field level. We invite Member States and other interested actors to jointly undertake a review of good practices that will inform this work.
And third, we are strengthening partnerships to leverage existing capacities across the United Nations system, and with Member States, regional organizations, civil society, and the growing external research community. Addressing the security implications of climate change is a collective problem, which requires a collective response.
Most important, for all of us, is the recognition that deeds must follow words. Major armies and businesses have long recognized the need to prepare for climate-related risks, rightfully assessing climate change as a threat multiplier. We cannot lag behind. We must act now, with a sense of urgency and a commitment to place people, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable, at the centre of our efforts.
Given the critical role and responsibility of the Security Council, I am encouraged by today’s debate. It signals our willingness to establish a shared understanding of the impact of climate-related security risks on international peace and security.
In this regard, I would like to thank again the Dominican Republic for convening us on this subject.
 Data from OCHA.
New York, 18 January 2019. The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack at the General Santander National Police Academy in Bogotá on 17 January 2019 which left several fatalities and dozens injured.
The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of...