With India in its eighth two-year tenure as an elected-member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), following is the tenth analysis in the ICWA series of ‘India in the UN Security: Monthly Recap’ by Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations.
Kenya took over the monthly Presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC) in October 2021, during which it organized three signature events. These were a UNSC Debate on 12 October to explore the theme of diversity, State-building and sustainable peace; a UNSC debate via videoconference on 28 October to spotlight cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations, including the African Union; and an Open Debate on 21 October to focus on women, peace, and security, paying particular attention to investing in women and peacekeeping, in consonance with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
For the first time after the declaration of the global pandemic in March 2020, the UNSC undertook a physical mission to Mali and Niger between 22-26 October.
4 resolutions were adopted during October 2021. These were UNSCR 2600 on 15 October 2021 regarding Haiti; UNSCR 2601 on 29 October 2021 regarding children and armed conflict; UNSCR 2602 on 29 October 2021 regarding the situation in Western Sahara; and UNSCR 2603 on 29 October 2021 regarding Colombia.
Three Presidential Statements were issued in October. These were on the Great Lakes Region (20 October), Sudan and South Sudan (27 October) and cooperation between the UN and regional/sub-regional organizations (28 October).
The Security Council issued 7 Press Statements during October. These were on the attack on UN peacekeepers in Mali (4 October); on the terrorist attack in Kunduz Afghanistan claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province-ISIK (9 October); on the terrorist attack on Kandahar Afghanistan (15 October); on the sharp deterioration of the situation in Abyei, hosting the UN interim security force, including lack of cooperation from South Sudan (15 October); on Yemen condemning the Houthi cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia and calling for a nationwide ceasefire and access for humanitarian aid (20 October); on the successful holding of elections in Iraq on 10 October in which the UN mission UNAMI played a supportive role (22 October); and on the military takeover in Sudan (28 October).
India collaborated closely with Kenya in the UNSC in realizing these outcomes.
On 4 October the UNSC was briefed by the UN Secretariat on the allegations regarding use of chemical weapons in Syria. The UN said that there were unaddressed discrepancies and insufficient cooperation. Syria had refused to issue a visa to one member of the monitoring team. There was a sharp exchange between Russia and the USA on this topic.
India said it had taken note of the upcoming visit of a Syrian delegation to The Hague to engage with the Declaration Assessment Team.
On 27 October, the UNSC had its regular meeting on the political and humanitarian dimension of the crisis in Syria, with briefings by UN Special Envoys Geir Pedersen and Martin Griffiths respectively. There was deadlock among the 45 participants in the Small Drafting Body of the Constitutional Committee which met for its sixth session between 18-22 October in Geneva. This prevented the adoption of an agreed text, and lack of consensus on having another meeting before the end of 2021. More than 90% of Syria’s population was now living below the poverty line, and faced an acute water crisis, food shortages and a resurgent Covid-19 pandemic. The United States blamed the Syrian government for causing the political deadlock and affirmed its intent to mitigate the Covid-19 crisis through special funding of $108 million through USAID. Russia called on the Special Envoy to make more efforts to facilitate a Syrian-led political process through an intra-Syrian dialogue, noting that all requests so far by the UN for delivery of humanitarian assistance to Syria had been accepted by the government of Syria. China accused Turkey of cutting off Syria’s water supplies by its illegal invasion in the north-east, supported the continuing efforts of the Special Envoy, and called for the lifting of unilateral Western sanctions against Syria.
India called on “external actors” to stop adversely affecting the constitutional committee meetings. India felt that Syria’s recent engagement with Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, and the opening of the border between Jordan and Syria, would help movement of people and essential goods.
At the UNSC briefing on Yemen on 14 October, UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg said all the Yemenis he had consulted were agreed that their country cannot be effectively ruled by one group alone and that a durable peace will require pluralism. The issue of sequencing of possible interim steps remained a preoccupation that overshadowed the need to start discussing the parameters for an overall political settlement of the conflict. Noting that General Abhijit Guha (of India) completed his tenure as Head of UNMHA at the beginning of this month, he expressed his appreciation for his work. The United States supported the Special Envoy’s initiatives, and “called out Houthi obstruction”. The UK and Russia supported the UN Special Envoy’s efforts, with Russia welcoming his initiative to have separate meetings with the envoys of the P5 on Yemen. China commended the Special Envoy’s approach of “positive pragmatism”. It called on all parties concerned to receive the Envoy’s visits “unconditionally” to find a political solution to the crisis and wanted regional countries to play a more active role in bringing about peace in Yemen.
India said the ongoing hostilities and the cycle of violence further jeopardized the chances of a comprehensive ceasefire, which must be the immediate priority of the international community. Noting the efforts of the Special Envoy, India underscored the urgent need to address the economic consequences of the conflict, since this could exacerbate the misery of the people. India called for the full implementation of the Riyadh and Stockholm Agreements, and supported the efforts of the UN mission to implement the Hudaydah Agreement.
The quarterly UNSC open debate on Palestine/Middle East on 19 October discussed the briefing by Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who advocated a holistic approach to achieve sustainable peace in the region. He called all new Israeli settlements illegal under international law, and a substantial obstacle to peace. The United States called for a more balanced approach through a frank and direct dialogue. France called on Israel to roll back new settlements, and informed the Council that together with Germany, Egypt, and Jordan, France was working on the re-establishment of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians. China reiterated its offer to host an international peace conference and called on Israel to desist from constructing new settlements. Russia prioritized the need for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population and called on Israel not to take unilateral actions to undermine peace and stability.
India said it was committed to the establishment of a sovereign, viable and independent State of Palestine, within recognized and mutually agreed borders, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, taking into consideration the legitimate security concerns of Israel, so that a durable and lasting solution to the conflict could be achieved. It was important that the international donor community supported the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip through the Palestinian Authority.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefed the UNSC on 6 October on the expulsion of seven UN humanitarian workers by Ethiopia, which he called a violation of Ethiopia’s obligations under the UN Charter. The Ethiopian Ambassador rejected this view, saying that the Security Council should not discuss the decision of a sovereign State exercised within the domain of international law and sovereign prerogative. The United States called the Ethiopian move “reckless” and an “affront” to the UNSC. China regretted the Ethiopian action and called for a dialogue and “quiet diplomacy” to resolve the matter. Russia called the action “regrettable” and called for a “mutually respectful dialogue”. Ethiopia assured the Council it would make available necessary information to the UN Secretary-General and work to resolve it.
India said that the unfortunate expulsion of senior UN officials coordinating humanitarian assistance had the possibility to adversely impact the humanitarian situation. India called for de-escalating the situation through engagement and dialogue, based on. the founding principles of humanitarian assistance, i.e., humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.
The military coup in Sudan and the situation in Abyei (the region disputed between Sudan and South Sudan) were discussed together on 27 October in the UNSC. In a Press Statement, the UNSC called upon Sudan’s military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional government.
Before commencing the meeting, a UNSC Presidential Statement was adopted asking the UN Secretary-General to set up a dedicated team to assist the electoral process in South Sudan for implementing the road map (including the drafting of a constitution) as agreed to in the Peace Agreement of 2018. Due to the uncertainties in Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, the UN Secretary-General proposed that the mandate of the UN Interim Force for the Security of Abyei (UNISFA) should be reconfigured and extended by six months. China and Russia supported the UNSG’s proposal.
India supported the UNSG’s proposal to reconfigure and extend UNISFA. It pointed to the rapprochement between Sudan and South Sudan, aided by the African Union. This had been evident during the recent visit of India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Shri V. Muraleedharan to Khartoum and Juba.
The Head of the UN’s peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bintou Keita, briefed the UNSC on 5 October. She informed that the MONUSCO transition plan involved an integrated approach to silence the “guns in the east”, foster political dialogue leading to credible and transparent elections in 2023, and long-term support for strengthening national institutions. France supported the withdrawal of MONUSCO in 2022 through a “credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful” process. The United States supported the phased withdrawal of MONUSCO. Russia said the withdrawal of MONUSCO had to be carefully implemented, due to the continuing activities of armed groups in eastern DRC. Both China and the UK supported an active role for international financial institutions while MONUSCO handed over its functions to Congolese authorities.
India felt that the DRC had registered positive progress during the past three months. The reform measures in the DRC concerning the Independent National Election Commission would strengthen the electoral process. MONUSCO’s withdrawal would require a clear plan for security sector reform in DRC.
On 29 October, the UNSC was briefed by El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), following the UNSC’s field visit to Mali and Niger. Political uncertainty and a humanitarian crisis continued to stall Mali’s democratic transition. Attacks against Malian and UN peacekeepers continued. Countering such attacks needed to be considered both in the national and regional (Sahel) context. The United States supported the role of the regional ECOWAS organization to assist Mali, but not an UN-backed G5 Sahel force. It called for exploring “non-UN” bilateral and multilateral security options. Russia supported Mali’s efforts to reach out for assistance, and the African Union’s proposal for deployment of a standby force in the Sahel. China said that a “security vacuum” should not be allowed in Mali, and MINUSMA must be strengthened.
India said the UNSC’s visit to Mali was useful to know the political and security realities on the ground. Mali’s cooperation with ECOWAS, and the role of the newly appointed Algerian Special Envoy, were positive developments. India reiterated its call for greater UN support, including financially, for the Joint Force of G5 Sahel. MINUSMA’s mandate had to be calibrated with the strengthening of Malian security forces.
The UNSC was briefed on 18 October by Mankeur Ndiaye, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN’s mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), MINUSCA. He said that the increasing attacks by illegal armed groups was undermining security and progress in institutional stability. Faustin Archange Touadera, President of the CAR, welcomed MINUSCA’s assistance, as well as the recent visit by the 2127 UNSC Sanctions Committee to assess progress made by the country. France, the United States and UK expressed concern at the activities of Russia’s private military contractor the Wagner group in CAR. Russia countered that if the CAR complained about the group’s activities, it would “closely examine them”.
India pointed to the positive signs in CAR including the formation of the new government with increased representation of women, holding of the second ordinary session of the National Assembly, and progressive extension of state authority and rule of law institutions. The declaration of a unilateral nation-wide ceasefire on 15 October was an important step and fulfilment of a commitment made by CAR at the Third Mini-Summit of the ICGLR (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) held last month in Luanda. While appreciating the support of regional bodies in supporting the CAR to counter challenges to peace and security, India said that the security situation remained fragile and volatile due to the activities of illegal armed groups. Both MINUSCA and CAR authorities needed to cooperate purposefully and work in harmony.
The UNSC was briefed on 20 October on the Great Lakes Region by Huang Xia, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary‑General. He said that attacks in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were exacerbating a fragile humanitarian situation, and these armed groups were financed through the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources. He noted the positive political developments symbolized by meetings between the President of the DRC and his counterparts from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, as well as the continued commitment of the President of Angola — the current Chairman of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region — to support national reconciliation efforts in the CAR. France stressed that the UNSC should impose sanctions to counter illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources, and MONUSCO should assist in mitigating the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region. Russia called for “African solutions” to African problems. The United States called for greater cooperation to prevent the illegal trade in natural resources.
India highlighted the interlinkages of security and socio-economic factors cutting across the region and called for a sustained and well-coordinated approach. Member-states had the fundamental responsibility to counter threats from armed groups especially in eastern DRC, with the support of the international community. To restrict illegal trade and exploitation of natural resources, a regional certification mechanism for minerals must be supported and expanded.
Latin American Issues
On 4 October the UNSC was briefed by Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Haiti and Head of the UN Mission BINUH. The situation in the country was fragile following the 7 July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the 14 August earthquake, which affected more than 800,000 people. National and local elections had to be further postponed. The United States said that for Haiti to chart a path to democracy, free and fair elections must be held as soon as conditions permit.
India supported efforts for all Haitian stakeholders to find inclusive solutions to socio-political challenges, including drafting of the new Constitution.
On 16 October the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2600 co-sponsored by the USA and Mexico, extending the mandate of BINUH by another year and calling for a review within six months on how to make BINUH more effective.
In its meeting on 14 October the UNSC was briefed by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Colombia on the status of implementing the Peace Agreement signed in 2015. The UN said that reconciliation efforts and the creation of transitional electoral districts to ensure the democratic representation of people from the most conflict-affected areas were major successes in the implementation of the Peace Agreement over the past five years. UNSC members expressed concern about continuing violence including on former combatants and human rights defenders, and the spread of illegal armed groups.
India said progress made in the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement, especially in the last three months was reassuring. The disputes between illegal armed groups over territorial control and strategic illegal trafficking routes had intensified and needed to cease. India supported Colombia in its response to these complex challenges. This had been reiterated during the visit of India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi to Colombia in September 2021, and the recent visit of Vice President and Foreign Minister Ms. Marta Lucia Ramirez to India.
On 29 October the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2603 extending the mandate of the UN verification mission in Colombia by another year.
The UNSC was briefed on the situation in Kosovo by the head of UNMIK Zahir Tanin on 15 October. The UN said that the lack of trust between the parties to the dispute led to violent confrontations over ordinary issues. The United States felt that NATO and its KFOR was better suited to deal with such issues, while Russia favoured the continuation of UNMIK in Kosovo. France said that Serbia and Kosovo shared a common European future.
India reiterated its principled position of supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia and called for all outstanding issues to be resolved through peaceful negotiations.
India reiterated on 29 October, after the adoption of UNSC resolution 2601 on the Right to Education, that the resolution should not be interpreted as applicable to non-armed conflict situations. The decision of the UNSC should not be detrimental to the working of other organs of the UN by going beyond the mandate of the Security Council.
In a briefing to the UNSC on 6 October on Small Arms, Japan’s Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that “The misuse, illicit transfer and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition, remain a defining factor in undermining peace and security at the national, regional and global levels and have deeply aggravated situations for vulnerable populations already suffering from conflict”. The United States, France and Russia placed this in the context of UN peacekeeping. China said that member-states have primary responsibility to counter this challenge, while UN peacekeeping missions should use new technologies to deal with it.
India said this was a complex and multidimensional problem, with cross-cutting impact on development, security, humanitarian, and socio-economic aspects. The primary responsibility for addressing this problem lies with the Member States. The flow of illicit arms and weapons to non-state actors and terrorists drives and sustains conflicts, and the Council should use its powers for an arms embargo to deal with this.
The 12 October UNSC Debate on the theme of Diversity, State-building and Sustainable Peace was presided by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who said that poor management of diversity is leading to grave threats to international peace and security. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said that the precondition for sustainable peace is a shared understanding of the root causes of a conflict by a broad range of stakeholders in society. Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki spoke of the need to prioritize political approaches to resolving disputes rather than a purely security-driven approach. Fawzia Koofi, the former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan, stressed gender equality in addressing issues of sustainable peace, saying that women should be enabled have face-to-face meetings with the Taliban through the UN. The UN Secretary-General addressed the debate and said that inclusion is foundational to resilience and sustainable peace. As countries look to build sustainable peace, they need to include and involve all segments of the population in the process of rebuilding communities and sustaining peace.
Representing India, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, said countries facing conflicts or emerging from them, face multiple challenges in their path of peacebuilding and sustaining peace. These are related to causative factors to the conflict, and primarily involve ethnicity, race, and religion, which are dominant identity markers in society. India’s own context offers a unique manifestation of unity in diversity. India has much to offer on how diversity of identities, whether ethnic, regional, religious, linguistic or others, can come together and live as one nation – the common thread binding us, being the identity of being an Indian first, and all others later. In Africa, a similar approach has been followed recently in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to free and open society; and Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Burundi, each of which have been examples of successful transition of post-conflict state building and South Sudan, where we are witnessing the transition. He said that increasing spread of terrorism in Africa was a matter of serious concern. On Afghanistan, the change in authority in Kabul was neither through negotiations, nor inclusive. India had consistently called for a broad based, inclusive process that involves representation of all section of Afghans.
On 21 October, speaking at the UNSC Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, the UN Secretary-General warned that increased armed conflicts were setting back women’s rights across the world. The United States called for greater participation of women peacekeepers to uphold women’s rights in conflict situations. China said that women were at risk in Afghanistan due to the hasty withdrawal of the United States, and supported a larger role for women peacekeepers, giving the example of Chinese women peacekeepers in UNIFIL in Lebanon. Russia called for a focus on women, peace, and security only in conflict situations, and supported greater access to finance and technologies for women.
India recalled the contributions made by Indian women during the formative period of the UN, including the first woman to be elected President of the UN General Assembly, Vijayalakshmi Pandit. India advocated women-led development, including in bridging digital divides. In UN peacekeeping, India had taken the initiative by deploying the first ever all-female Formed Police Unit in Liberia in 2007. India had been the first to contribute to the UNSG’s Trust Fund for Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in 2017. Indian women UN peacekeepers like Major Suman Gawani of UNMISS had been recognized in 2019 for their role as mentors with the award of the UN Military Gender Advocate of the year. The UN must ensure that women’s rights should be fully respected, and their voice duly included in shaping Afghanistan’s future as agreed by the UNSC in August 2021.
On 28 October the UNSC held a High-Level Debate via videoconference presided by President Uhuru Kenyatta to spotlight cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations, including the African Union.
Speaking on the occasion, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar noted that offering "external” solutions to African problems without African involvement has not served the interests of the African people. The African Union and its sub-regional bodies had contributed significantly to preventive diplomacy and mediation efforts. India supported the call of the UN Secretary General to support African counter-terrorism operations with sustained financing, including through assessed contributions. Nearly seventy percent of Chapter VII mandate UNSC resolutions are on Africa, for which a strong and effective partnership between the United Nations with the African Union (AU), must be the foundational edifice. As had been highlighted by India in its campaign for reformed multilateralism, the continued denial of African representation in the permanent category of membership of the UNSC was a blot on the collective credibility of the UNSC.
India’s participation in the UNSC in October 2021 contributed significantly to the Council’s discussions, especially on African issues. The inability of the Council to integrate these contributions into its decisions reflected the increasing disconnect between the P5 who dominate UNSC decision-making, and the views of its elected members.