With India in its eighth two-year tenure as an elected-member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), following is the eleventh 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
Mexico, an elected member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), and one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations held the Presidency of the Security Council for November 2021. Mexico organized three signature events during the month: a high-level open debate on “Exclusion, Inequality and Conflicts” a high-level open debate on “Peace and Security through Preventive Diplomacy”; and an open debate on “Small Arms and Light Weapons”.
4 UNSC Resolutions were adopted during the month. Resolution 2604 (3 November) on Bosnia Hercegovina; Resolution 2605 (12 November) on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA); Resolution 2606 on Sudan/South Sudan (15 November); and Resolution 2607 (15 November), on Somalia. India voted in favour of all four Resolutions.
The UNSC adopted 3 Presidential Statements during November 2021. These were on “Exclusion and Inequality” (9 November), “Preventive Diplomacy” (16 November) and Libya (24 November).
7 Press Statements were issued by the Council in November. These were on Afghanistan (3 November); Ethiopia (5 November); Iraq (8 November); Myanmar (10 November); Iraq (15 November). Yemen (18 November); and Colombia (24 November).
On 3 November, India joined the members of the UNSC in adopting a Press Statement condemning the 2 November terrorist attack in Afghanistan against the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital in Kabul. The attack was claimed by Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), an entity affiliated with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and resulted in dozens being killed and injured.
The UNSG’s Special Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Deborah Lyons briefed the UNSC on 17 November. She said that an inclusive government continued to be an issue, with the composition of the cabinet “entirely male, essentially Pashtun and almost all Taliban”. There was a general curtailment of Afghan women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms, ranging from limiting their right to work to the absence of women from major decision-making fora and from senior echelons of civil service. The Taliban had not been able to prevent terrorist attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K), which stepped up attacks from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021 across all provinces. The dire humanitarian situation was entirely due to the financial sanctions that had paralyzed the economy.
The United States affirmed it was the largest contributor of aid to the country, committed to providing $474 million in 2021 alone. China called on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider the resumption of financial support. Russia supported the formation of a genuine inclusive Afghanistan Government following a moderate foreign policy and respecting human rights, said that eradication of terrorism and drug threats remained the key objective. Russia would send food and medicine to Afghanistan and called for a United Nations sponsored international donor conference.
India said it was ready to deliver urgent humanitarian aid consisting of food grains and medicines to the people and highlighted the “Delhi Declaration on Afghanistan” adopted recently at the Third Regional Security Dialogue of National Security Advisors on Afghanistan hosted by India.
The situation in Myanmar was considered at a private meeting of the UNSC on 8 November, convened at the initiative of the UK as the UNSC “pen-holder” on Myanmar. Dato Erywan bin Pehin Yusof, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam, briefed the Council in his capacity as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Special Envoy for Myanmar. In keeping with the system of rotation within ASEAN, from January 2022, Cambodia would take over this role on Myanmar.
India supported the consensus UNSC Press Statement issued after the meeting, which expressed concern at further recent violence across Myanmar and called for an immediate cessation of violence to ensure the safety of civilians. The Council reiterated its concern at developments in Myanmar following the declaration of the state of emergency imposed on 1 February, and its call on the military to exercise utmost restraint. The UNSC fully supported ASEAN’s positive and constructive role in facilitating a peaceful solution in the interest of the people of Myanmar and their livelihoods and reiterated its call for the swift and full implementation of ASEAN’s Five Point Consensus.
The situation in Iraq featured twice during the month in the UNSC. On 8 November, India supported the consensus in the UNSC for a Press Statement, strongly condemning the 7 November 2021 assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al‑Kadhimi. On 23 November, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), briefed the UNSC on Iraq’s recent national elections, held under the 2005 Constitution and conducted in a generally peaceful manner. This was a hard-won victory for the country, despite taking place in the shadow of an unprecedented wave of violent countrywide demonstrations in 2019 and 2020.
India stressed that any concerns regarding the elections or its results should be addressed through legal and peaceful means within Iraq’s Constitutional framework. India condemned all terrorist attacks by ISIL against the people of Iraq.
On 18 November India supported a unanimous UNSC Press statement on Yemen. The UNSC strongly condemned the ongoing seizure of and intrusion into the compound formerly used as the United States Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, by the Houthis, during which dozens of local employees were detained. The members of the Security Council called for an immediate withdrawal of all Houthi elements from the premises.
On 30 November, Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, reported to the UNSC on recent incidents and new developments on the ground. He said that in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, clashes, attacks, search, and arrest operations as well as other incidents resulted in the deaths of four Palestinians and one Israeli civilian. China called for the convening of a United Nations-brokered, international peace conference, with participation by all permanent Council members and stakeholders in the Middle East peace process. Russia said the Middle East Quartet is the sole internationally recognized mechanism to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The United States observed that the Council’s monthly meetings on the situation in the Middle East focus almost exclusively on Israel’s actions.
India welcomed recent international meetings of key actors in providing a framework for dialogue on the Middle East. These included the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee — a 15-member organ that coordinates development assistance to the Palestinian people, chaired by Norway — and a meeting of envoys of the Middle East Quartet, consisting of the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the United Nations.
The UNSC met on 8 November to discuss urgent action to de-escalate the looming conflict in Ethiopia. It adopted a Press Statement on Ethiopia, which expressed deep concern about the expansion and intensification of military clashes in northern Ethiopia. The Members of the Security Council further expressed serious concern about the impact of the conflict on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, as well as the stability of the country and the wider region. The Security Council extended its support for the African Union’s regional peace initiative and urged the Ethiopian authorities and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and its allied forces to enter a ceasefire, allow for unhindered humanitarian access and engage dialogue towards a political solution.
India supported the Press Statement issued by the UNSC. Speaking at the meeting, India emphasized the importance of mutual trust, engagement, dialogue, and reconciliation to address all issues related to the ongoing conflict and supported the African Union initiative.
On 12 November the UNSC adopted Resolution 2605 on the Central African Republic (CAR). China and Russia abstained in the vote. The Resolution extended the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2022 outlining a range of mandated tasks from civilian protection to the promotion and protection of human rights.
China abstained as it felt the Government’s suggestions were not given full consideration. Russia abstained for a similar reason. There was an exchange of words between the United States and Russia over the role of Russian nationals contracted by the government of the CAR on “committing egregious human rights abuses.”
India voted in favour of the Resolution, noting that the CAR is at an important juncture in its tenuous journey to peace. Highlighting the ceasefire and the ongoing preparations for local elections, which indicate the country’s commitment to put in place a democratic framework. India said these efforts require support from the Council and the international community, adding that it was essential to have good working relations between MINUSCA and the Government.
At the biannual briefing by the UN Secretariat on 12 November on the G5/Sahel, the UNSC was informed that UN troops deployed to combat violent extremism in the Sahel region needed more predictable funding and broader international support. The UNSC expressed concern about the alarming security and humanitarian situation and commended the work of the Joint Force in protecting civilians and curbing extremist activities. The need for funding a UN Office for Sahel was supported by France, Niger, Kenya, Tunisia, St Vincent & the Grenadines. The United States, China, and UK did not support financing a UN Office for Sahel through UN resources.
India supported a UN Office for Sahel. It said that the Council’s indecision on providing finances for the Joint Force in Sahel was allowing terrorists to expand their grip, underscoring the need to fight them more effectively.
On 15 November India joined the UNSC in unanimously adopting Resolution 2606 extending the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in Sudan/South Sudan until 15 December 2021. The Council recognized that the current situation in Abyei and along the border between Sudan and South Sudan continued to constitute a threat to international peace and security.
India supported UNSC Resolution 2607 on 15 November (adopted with two abstentions) to enforce the arms embargo on Somalia till 15 November 2022. It authorized Member States to inspect vessels in Somali territorial waters and on the high seas extending to and including the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf which they had “reasonable grounds” to believe were carrying charcoal or weapons or military equipment, including components for improvised explosive devices, which were not meant for Somalia’s National Defence Forces. The Resolution renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts on Somalia and asked the Panel to consider gender as a cross-cutting issue. The Council requested the Secretary‑General to provide an update, no later than 31 July 2022 on any further developments towards the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti.
Russia abstained on the Resolution because sanctions on Eritrea had been lifted in 2018. Russia also objected to introducing gender issues without consensus as a “political” element into the work of the Panel. China abstained on the Resolution because it did not provide “sufficient adjustments” for lifting sanctions on Somalia.
After a briefing on 17 November by the UN Secretariat on the situation in Somalia, the UNSC urged the Somali leadership to conclude the election process by the end of the year.
India hoped that Somali leadership and institutions would complete the electoral process within the agreed timelines. The security situation in Somalia continued to remain critical, with most incidents perpetrated by Al‑Shabaab. India welcomed the recently adopted Somalia Sanctions Resolution with a larger focus on sanctions on Al‑Shabaab. It was necessary for the international community to do more to meet the country’s humanitarian needs.
The UNSC was briefed on Libya on 24 November by Jan Kubis, the outgoing Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on the Paris International Conference for Libya which was convened on 12 November 2021, as well as the Declaration issued by the participants and their commitment to the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement and supporting the United Nations-facilitated, Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process. He outlined progress made in the run-up to the elections, which included the confirmation by the Election Commission of a plan to hold the first round of presidential elections on 24 December following the launch of a nationwide distribution of voter cards to more than 2.8 million registered voters.
The United States asked the Council to target “election spoilers” to promote accountability and emphasized that with over 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya, it was essential to continue discussions on implementing the withdrawal of foreign forces. Russia welcomed progress on the military track — with the 5+5 Joint Military Commission synchronizing the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters — and supported their evacuation to uphold the ceasefire. China said that the presence of foreign forces represented the main obstacle to durable peace and looked forward to progress on the 5+5 Joint Military Commission Action Plan, calling on all countries, “without exception”, to cooperate.
India joined consensus in the UNSC Presidential Statement issued after the meeting, which welcomed the Paris International Conference for Libya and the Libya Stabilisation Conference convened on 21 October 2021 in Tripoli. India said that the involvement of external forces in Libya’s internal affairs had negatively impacted political progress, and the international community needed to plan for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups and non-State armed actors. India welcomed UNSMIL’s readiness to render assistance in that process.
At the UNSC semi-annual debate on 4 November on Bosnia-Hercegovina the Council reauthorized the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA). Russia had earlier objected to the appointment of Christian Schmidt of Germany as the new High Representative for Bosnia-Hercegovina, a position created by the 1995 Dayton Accords, on the grounds that Russia and the Bosnian Serb Republic had not agreed to this appointment.
India cautioned that the political disagreement could undermine the progress made on the ground in Bosnia-Hercegovina and supported a dialogue between the parties under the General Framework Agreement for Peace.
The Presidential Statement issued after the UNSC Open Debate on Exclusion and Inequality on 9 November, chaired by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico, underscored the importance of a holistic approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, conducted in accordance with applicable international law. The Council reaffirmed its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.
India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh said that intra‑State conflicts are attracting more attention from the Council, and international peace and security efforts must be inclusive, in tandem and without politicizing humanitarian and developmental assistance. He called for implementing the Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security more robustly. He highlighted the need for ensuring the equal participation of UN member-states in decisions of the Council, especially from Africa.
On 10 November, the UNSC received its annual briefing from the UN Secretariat on UN Peacekeeping Operations, with a focus on women, peace, and security (WPS) issues. Priorities included the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes under the UN’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) agenda; the digital transformation of UN peacekeeping, which was launched by the UN in partnership with India in August to harness digital technologies’ potential for effective delivery of mandated tasks; and mainstreaming of gender perspectives in the design and implementation of all UN police activities.
India said that it had built on its experience of deploying the UN’s first all-women peacekeeping unit in Liberia in 2007, and currently contributed 175 police personnel to various United Nations operations. Giving examples of the outstanding work done by women UN peacekeepers from India in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, India said that women peacekeepers, particularly women police officers, can play an important role in understanding and responding to the specific needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments. India reiterated that women must be given equal opportunities and that a zero‑tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and abuse must be observed.
India joined a consensus Presidential Statement issued by Mexico on behalf of the UNSC on 16 November at the Open Debate on Preventive Diplomacy. The Statement stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach to sustaining peace, recognised the contribution of the UN’s principal organs to the maintenance of international peace and security, and expressed its continued commitment to fostering regular interactions with other principal organs, in accordance with their respective mandates, on matters relating to preventive diplomacy tools and mechanisms.
India opposed “recent attempts to assume the work in this Council, which are better done in specialized agencies and organs created for the purpose”. Characterizing the UNSC as “rooted in 1945”, India called on member-states to show a “collective commitment to reformed multilateralism” to fully harness the capabilities of UN Member-States. Advocating a greater focus on the provisions of the UN Charter’s Chapter 6 on preventive diplomacy, India underlined that there was a “clear recognition of the importance of a comprehensive sustainable development, inclusive economic growth, and political processes in preventing conflict as well as undertaking effective peacebuilding efforts”.
On 22 November, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Council President for November, presided over the UNSC debate on the impact of Small Arms and Light Weapons on the peace and stability of local communities, countries, and regions.
India reiterated that the primary responsibility for addressing illicit transfer of small arms “lies with Member States”. India called on the UNSC to act on three areas: (i) removal of the “thriving illicit network for procurement and transfer of small arms and financing for such procurement and logistical activities”; (ii) effective implementation of Council-mandated arms embargoes, as the flow of illicit arms and weapons to non-State actors and terrorist groups drives and sustains conflicts; and (iii) address the danger posed by such illicit transfers to the safety and security of UN peacekeepers by giving due attention to this issue during the consideration of peacekeeping mandates.
India’s participation in the UNSC in November 2021 revealed the inability of the Council to overcome the continuing polarization among the P5, which contributed to the festering of disputes on the Council’s agenda. India continued to caution against efforts to burden the Council and reduce its effectiveness by bringing issues that were being handled under the mandates of other UN organs/bodies on the UNSC agenda without implementing calls for “reformed multilateralism”.