New York: The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs told the Security Council that today’s challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, are a reminder of the wisdom of those who drafted the Charter of the United Nations 75 years ago, enshrining the potential role of regional arrangements in the maintenance of international peace and security,
Briefing Council members during their debate on United Nations cooperation with the League of Arab States, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo noted the growing evolution of cooperation with regional organizations encompasses such areas as preventive diplomacy, mediation, counter-terrorism, prevention of violent extremism, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, human rights, climate change and, most recently, a collective response to the pandemic.
Describing COVID-19 as a stress test for the global community, she said the coronavirus has exacerbated strains on the multilateral system just as the need for solidarity and cooperation has never been more critical. Indeed, participants in the Secretary-General’s November high-level interactive dialogue with 23 regional and subregional organizations agreed on the pandemic’s multidimensional impact and pledged to work together to address that concern.
Despite the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, however, the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the stalled Middle East peace process and fissures among Arab League members have exacerbated regional instability, she said, adding that they have also hampered economic and social development.
Emphasizing that close cooperation between the United Nations and the Arab League has been crucial in augmenting efforts to address various situations in the Arab world, she cited efforts to broker a ceasefire in Libya, uphold broad consensus on a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, support for Sudan’s transition to democratic governance and the pursuit of political solutions to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
She went on to caution that challenges remain, noting: “Despite our efforts, heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region persist.” However, the Secretary-General continues to call for restraint on all sides. “We urge all concerned, in the region and beyond, to opt for dialogue to address their respective security concerns,” she said. Despite important gains, including greater participation by women in peace processes, the United Nations and the Arab League recognize the urgent need to do more, she stressed.
Highlighting increased cooperation activities, she said the United Nations Liaison Office to the League of Arab States, established in 2019, has strengthened the partnership and facilitated regular contacts with special envoys. The fifteenth general cooperation meeting will advance a biennial framework encompassing activities in peace and security, development, human rights and humanitarian concerns, she added.
Underlining the Security Council’s critical role in amplifying collective efforts in the region, she said the impact of a united and actively engaged Council is incomparable. “We look to the Council, as a principal steward of Chapter VIII of the Charter, to continue to support the United Nations collaborative work with the League of Arab States to promote peace and prosperity in the Arab region.”
In the ensuing debate, delegates said that the web of pressing transboundary security threats reflects the critical need for enhanced coordination and effective new tools to deepen relations between the United Nations and the Arab League to better help States tackling a range of challenges, from COVID-19 to foreign terrorist fighters.
Speakers highlighted historical and ongoing efforts as well as current challenges, from combating terrorism to increasing women’s involvement in peace processes, with some commending the year-old United Nations Liaison Office to the Arab League and others outlining ways to forge further progress. Among other initiatives, delegates suggested the creation of a mechanism to effectively implement ceasefires and improvement of coordination initiatives. There is also need for renewed commitment to enhancing cooperation to better address and resolve crises, from Libya to Somalia, they said. Many speakers called for fresh efforts to advance a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, urging the parties to return to peace talks.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, noting that a year and a half has passed since he last addressed the Council, said the Arab region is at a delicate juncture, with COVID-19 and ongoing crises and conflicts creating a “dangerous mix” that has taken a heavy toll. The marginalization of the two-State formula by the main mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to the Government of Israel intensifying its settlement activities and threatening the annexation of occupied Palestinian lands, he noted, emphasizing that the League looks forward to the new Administration in the United States engaging in a fruitful political process. Doing so will give Palestinians renewed hope that the international community stands by their side in their quest for freedom and independence, he stressed.
It is apparent to all that interference by some regional powers in Arab affairs is destabilizing the region, he continued. In Syria, five countries have intervened militarily, undermining prospects for a political settlement while abandoning 90 per cent of Syrians to poverty in the face of sanctions and COVID‑19, he noted, declaring: “The ramifications of the Syrian crisis can no longer be ignored.” The conflict will have a deep impact on regional dynamics for years to come, he warned, calling for at least a minimal level of international consensus on the implementation of resolution 2254 (2015). Syria is an Arab country, he affirmed, underlining that those seeking to pull it out of the region will only increase the suffering of the Syrian people.
The situation in Yemen is equally dangerous, especially on the humanitarian level, he said, pointing out that some parts of the country are on the verge of starvation. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy must be supported by all parties in the next stage of the political process, building upon the momentum created by the creation of the new Government under the Riyadh Agreement, he said. A solution in Yemen is possible because the Yemeni people want it, he said, emphasizing that it is not in the interest of any Yemeni party to use the country to threaten its Gulf neighbours.
Turning to Libya, he said the Arab League is greatly encouraged by the agreement between the Government of National Accord and the LNA on a ceasefire, the launch of a dialogue and the resumption of oil production, among other steps. With the country at a crossroad, “we have to stand by our Libyan brothers” as they complete the political process and implement what Libyans have agreed themselves, he said. He went on to call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, compliance with Council resolutions, and a lasting solution to the threat posed by armed groups and militia.
Concerning other issues, he said the Arab League looks forward to ongoing coordination with the Council and the wider United Nations system, including on helping Sudan through its ongoing transition and supporting the Federal Government of Somalia to combat Al-Shabaab and prepare for elections. The Arab League is committed to supporting any effort that promotes security and stability in the Horn of Africa, he affirmed, expressing, in that regard, its firm support for the water rights of Egypt and Sudan. It also favours the successful negotiation of a legally binding agreement on filling and operating the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. The Arab League also stands with the countries of the Sahel region as they confront Boko Haram and other groups operating on the borders of the Arab world, he added. The Relief Web