posted on Wed 11 Dec 2019 5:54 PM
Peace and Security in Africa: Adoption of a Presidential Statement

Tomorrow (12 December), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a presidential statement on youth, peace and security.

The adoption follows a 2 October debate under the agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa” (S/PV.8629). Entitled “Mobilising the Youth towards Silencing the Guns by 2020”, it was convened by South Africa as the Council president in October. “Silencing the Guns” aims at ending all conflict in Africa by 2020 and is the flagship project of the AU’s Agenda 2063, which is a 50-year strategic framework for the sustainable and inclusive development of Africa. It was the focus of an open debate under the Council presidency of Equatorial Guinea on 27 February at which the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2457. The resolution underlines the need for effective implementation of relevant arms control and disarmament instruments and regimes, encourages AU member states to strengthen the regulation of natural resource management, and references the use of the Secretary-General’s good offices, when appropriate, in the context of integrating AU-UN efforts towards preventive diplomacy.

The draft presidential statement to be adopted tomorrow recognises that “today’s generation of youth form the majority of the population affected by armed conflict” as well as “the important and constructive role youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts”. In the draft statement, the Council proposes measures and “encourages Member States, further to the steps that are already being undertaken towards mobilising the Youth towards Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”, to implement them. Those include measures related to the “full and meaningful participation [of youth] in peace processes”, the promotion of inclusive development to support youth in preventing conflict and enabling durable peace, the integration of youth in efforts to promote a culture of peace, and the promotion of “the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of young survivors of armed conflict, including those with disabilities, and survivors of sexual violence in conflict”.

The negotiations on the presidential statement were difficult. (Presidential statements require unanimity for adoption). Some members apparently questioned the added value of a Council product on the issue when the draft was first circulated the week following the debate. Numerous drafts were shared with Council members by South Africa up until the end of October and various silence procedures were broken. It seems that due in large part to the continued lobbying activity of one member, the Council re-engaged on the statement in the past few weeks.

The most contentious issues in the negotiations included the scope of the presidential statement; language related to climate change; accountability; human rights; the women, peace and security agenda; countering violent extremism; reporting by the Secretary-General and the participation of youth briefers at the Council.

It appears that China argued for limiting the scope of the presidential statement, suggesting language that would have limited it to conflict-affected states. Other members seemed to have opposed that, arguing that the scope of the presidential statement should be wider. At another point, one member suggested adding language that would have limited the list of encouraged actions to be taken by member states to “where and as appropriate”, which was opposed by a number of countries. The final draft does not contain such qualifiers.

At an early stage of the negotiations, Belgium seemed to have proposed language related to climate change, which was backed by a number of countries. In the course of the negotiations, the US broke silence on this issue, echoed by China and Russia. At a later stage, silence was broken again, this time for the lack of a reference to climate change. The paragraph read “The Security Council emphasises the need for adequate risk assessment and risk management strategies, by the affected Member States and the United Nations, of ecological changes, natural disasters, drought, desertification, land degradation, food insecurity, energy access, climate change, among other factors, on the security of Africa”. The draft to be adopted does not reference climate change.

A paragraph taken from resolution 2419 on youth, peace and security on ending impunity for international crimes was added at the suggestion of one member. This was supported by a number of members but initially opposed by the US. It seems that this was agreeable to the US in the end and the draft for adoption retains the reference.

Language related to human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, was challenged by China and Russia but supported by a number of countries. As a compromise, the final draft encourages UN member states “to comply with states’ obligation to respect, promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals, including youth”.

Some members also opposed language from resolution 2419 related to reporting by the Secretary-General on youth-related issues, which was retained, however.

Language on briefings by young people to the Council was also contested. In the final draft, the Council “expresses its intention, where appropriate, to invite young persons, including their representative organisations, to brief the Council”, but limiting this to “thematic issues”.