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Sanctions Must Be Humane to Work as Tool for Promoting Peace, Stability, Outgoing Chairs of Subsidiary Bodies Tell Security Council

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While sanctions remain a tool to promote peace and stability around the world, Member States must not lose sight of their humanitarian impact and foster greater trust to ensure their adequate implementation, the outgoing chairs of Security Council subsidiary bodies said during a 16 December videoconference meeting.

The six chairs updated the Council on the work of subsidiary bodies concerning nuclear disarmament in the Middle East and Korean Peninsula, the situation of children and armed conflict, as well as arms and travel embargoes in Africa.

Philippe Kridelka (Belgium), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia and of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) concerning Iran, first updated the Council on matters related to Tehran. As his tenure as Facilitator nears its end, he stressed the need for collective action by Council members to address international security concerns and assured Member States that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme remains one of the great successes of non-proliferation diplomacy. “I encourage all Member States to take appropriate actions to support and strengthen implementation of the Plan of Action,” he said, citing the withdrawal by the United States from the instrument and Iran’s disengagement.

In his capacity as the Working Group Chair, he said children are the primary victims of the erosion of the global humanitarian situation. Over the past two years, the Council has adopted resolutions on a number of relevant matters, including on the situation on Myanmar and Syria on which Council members remain divided. He called for increased follow-up discussions and direct engagement between the Council and relevant Member States, and warned that the mandate cannot be limited to activities of the Working Group alone, and the Council must mainstream the protection of children across its agenda.

Reporting on Somalia, he said the latest extension of sanctions covered products that could be used to manufacture explosives. Over the reporting period, the Committee met 10 times, held 2 dialogues with Somalia and conducted a working visit to Mogadishu, where discussions on activities of Al-Shabaab were a priority. Due to the sensitive nature of its work, he commended the cooperation extended by Somalia to the Committee’s Group of Experts. “The sanctions regime is evolving and remains a tool to support stability in Somalia,” he said, hoping that Member States work together to make these measures more effective.

Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) updated the Council on recent activities in his capacity as Chair of the Committees established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015), concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities; resolution 1988 (2011), concerning sanctions; and resolution 1540 (2004), concerning the prevention of non-State actors from acquiring, developing and using biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. The main priorities of the subsidiary bodies on sanctions and on ISIL and Al-Qaida has been to increase transparency through political consultations to find common ground in reaching consensus, with the former working to support the peace process in Afghanistan by listing or delisting activities and granting exemptions to enable listed individuals to engage in peace and reconciliation initiatives. Meanwhile, the 1267 Committee became the first sanctions body to convene a videoconference during the COVID-19 pandemic to advance its work, he said, focusing on the reports of the monitoring team, the ombudsperson and the global threat posed by ISIL and Al-Qaida.

On the 1540 Committee, he said activities on priority areas of increasing reporting by States, raising awareness and focusing on the Comprehensive Review, included discussing related issues at bilateral meetings, attending strategic events and sending video messages. Citing other achievements, he said it reduced the number of non-reporting States from 11 to 9 , and in the past two years, received a record number of submissions, including 58 updated national reports, 66 responses on its matrices, 12 views on the Comprehensive Review and a 20 per cent increase of points of contact. Despite pandemic-related postponements and challenges, every effort was made to put the incoming Chair and the Committee in a good position to continue the Comprehensive Review in 2021. While the pandemic affected its work, decreasing output and event participation, he said, efforts were made to ensure it was able to exercise its mandate by carrying out many activities in writing or virtually.

Christoph Heusgen (Germany), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said Pyongyang had conducted a nuclear test in 2017, and its last ballistic missile launch was in early 2020, but it continues to build an atomic arsenal that poses a threat to its neighbours and could have devastating global consequences. Germany has pushed for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fulfil its obligation for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, he said, adding: “That pressure on Pyongyang must continue.” While the Committee is upholding the current sanctions system, it has been unable to reach consensus on adding new persons or entities to its list, even with ample evidence and recommendations from its Panel of Experts.

More broadly, he said the Committees are vital to ensure the 15-member Council can address threats to international peace and security. While not always popular, sanctions are an indispensable tool to guide Governments and other political actors towards peacefully resolving disputes that may impact the security of entire regions and beyond. Chairing a sanctions committee requires stamina and determination, with those elected shouldering a heavy burden, he said, echoing the related concerns of his predecessor and adding that: “It is time that the non-elected members of this Council assume their fair share.” Sharing observations from his term as Chair, he said members of the Panels of Experts, who are indispensable to the functioning of the sanctions system, receive second-class treatment compared to permanent United Nations staff in terms of remuneration, benefits, travel arrangements and other aspects of the job. This needs to change, he said. In addition, during outreach efforts to the wider United Nations membership, he said many countries were either unaware or felt burdened by the obligations imposed on them under Council sanctions. He encouraged the United Nations to provide information and training so all Member States are aware of and able to fulfil their obligations.

Günter Sautter (Germany), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, reported limited success in implementing the arms embargo amid blatant, persistent violations. Everybody must implement the arms embargo, and all foreign fighters and mercenaries must leave Libya, he said. To that end, the Committee’s priority has been monitoring sanctions, and the Panel of Experts has engaged actively with United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Addressing its other priorities, the Committee has closely followed an attempt to illicitly export petroleum, contributed to safeguarding Libya’s natural resources and is currently deliberating the listing of violators of international law and human rights, which, if approved, will be the first sanctions against individuals since 2018. As Chair, he convened two meetings on implementing sanctions with the participation of Member States from the region and relevant organizations.

On the road forward, he encouraged greater outreach to Member States in implementing embargoes. These efforts assist those who are willing but unable to implement sanctions measures and also encourage those who are able but unwilling to implement them. Due to the sensitive political nature of sanctions, greater transparency is required to ensure trust in the Committee’s work. As such, the future Chair must muster the courage to make public the reports on Libya. Sanctions committees must not lose sight of the humanitarian impacts of such measures and ensure that humanitarian exemptions are granted swiftly and reliably where appropriate.

José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017) concerning Mali, highlighted the Panel of Experts’ essential role in providing relevant information regarding the listing of individuals subject to sanctions. Its work must be supported by granting it the independence needed to carry out objective analyses. Visits to Mali provided a great opportunity to enlist support for the sanctions regime, he said, adding that such trips should be prioritized so meetings can be held with the main stakeholders, and information on listing and delisting can be collected.

During visits, he said, people initially assumed the Committee would cause damage, but once its mandate was clearly communicated, it was granted unconditional support. Emphasizing the importance of personal contact to ensure there is no attended harm, he said concerns included repercussions around problems arising from controlling bank accounts and restricting travel. While COVID-19 affected all activities, he said Committee members were able to assess the possibility of a Mali visit in the short- to medium-term. Meanwhile, videoconferences facilitated communication between members and outside players. Underscoring the urgency of such initiatives, he said the coup in Mali in August tore the democratic process to shreds and risks delaying peace and reconciliation efforts there.

Jerry Matthews Matjila (South Africa), Council President for December, provided an overview of efforts in his capacity as Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. Recalling its first substantive meeting in 2019, he said the theme was the root causes of conflict in Africa, focusing on the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources as a key driver. Indeed, many of Africa’s conflicts are fuelled by this illicit trade, with huge implications for regional stability, and arguably, international peace and security. Its second meeting, on the theme of security sector reform and the role of local participation and ownership of efforts, stemmed from the understanding that the United Nations and African Union can draw on their comparative advantages to ensure they both play a key part in supporting more effective reform-related conflict analysis.

A preparatory meeting was held in August 2019 ahead of the thirteenth annual joint Security Council-African Union Peace and Security Council consultative meeting, he said, but the pandemic forced the working group to cancel several planned events in 2020. However, it did manage to convene one virtual meeting to prepare for the fourteenth annual joint consultative meeting, and members from both the Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council held that gathering virtually on 29 and 30 September to discuss peace and security matters on the continent.

The Working Group’s mandate is very specific, playing a critical role in assisting and advising the Council on approaches to conflict prevention and resolution in Africa, he said. It also provides a platform to discuss difficult issues and gives the Council an opportunity to engage in an open, transparent and non-confrontational manner on important peace and security matters. South Africa’s approach during its tenure as Chair has been to ensure the collective task, as both elected and permanent members of the Council, to propose unique and innovative approaches towards preventing and resolving conflicts in Africa.

For information media. Not an official record.