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German presidency of the UN Security Council: looking back

The UN Security Council in New York

The UN Security Council in New York, © Thomas Imo/photothek.net

02.05.2019 - Article

Discussions focused on disarmament, protection of women and girls in armed conflict, upholding humanitarian principles and the current crises in Libya and Venezuela.

Germany held the UN Security Council presidency in April. Looking back on the month’s activities, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that, “although the state of the world leaves no room for complacency, we did achieve a great deal during our one-month presidency of the Security Council.”

Protection from sexual violence in armed conflict: Resolution 2467

Protecting women from sexual violence in armed conflict: Minister Maas meeting with UN Secretary-General Guterres, lawyer Amal Clooney and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad
Protecting women from sexual violence in armed conflict: Minister Maas meeting with UN Secretary-General Guterres, lawyer Amal Clooney and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad© Thomas Koehler/photothek.net

Protecting women from sexual violence in conflict ranked high on the agenda during the German presidency. After lengthy debates, the Security Council passed Resolution 2467, thereby setting out new protection measures for women and girls. In future, those responsible shall be held to account to a greater extent, including through targeted sanctions. Moreover, this resolution for the first time places a focus on the rights and needs of survivors of sexual violence. It also recognises the fact that boys and men can also become victims of sexual violence.

Nuclear disarmament – Security Council adopts a common stance

At the initiative of Germany, the Security Council for the first time since 2012 addressed the subject of nuclear disarmament. The declared aim of the meeting was to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty in particular, as a cornerstone of the world’s nuclear order. The debate proved successful: all members of the Security Council, including the five nuclear-weapons states, reaffirmed their commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to all of the obligations it contains, including nuclear disarmament.

Franco-German friendship in New York

One special aspect was how closely Germany coordinated its agenda with France – because France held the presidency in March and was then followed by Germany in April. Parts of the two European partners’ back to back presidencies were jointly planned. This put Franco-German friendship on display, also in the international arena.

Placing a focus on humanitarian assistance – a joint initiative with France
Placing a focus on humanitarian assistance – a joint initiative with France© Thomas Imo/photothek.net

Humanitarian assistance – a joint Franco-German initiative

In the course of their jumelage – the dual presidency of France and Germany – Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Heiko Maas chaired two meetings that examined ways to better protect both humanitarian aid workers and the humanitarian space. Increasingly, humanitarian aid workers are themselves being targeted in armed conflicts, in addition to being denied access to those in need. In many conflicts, conflict parties are no longer honouring the current humanitarian standards that the international community has developed over several decades. Germany and France have therefore launched an initiative to better protect aid workers and are seeking to strengthen humanitarian principles and rules.

Current crises: Libya and Venezuela

The Security Council is the most important body of the United Nations for guaranteeing peace and security worldwide. This is why meetings of the Council focus on current developments and crises. In April, two such cases stand out – Libya and Venezuela. Due to dramatic developments in Libya, Germany repeatedly saw the need to convene urgent meetings of the Security Council. These sent a clear message, calling for an immediate ceasefire and the return to a political process under the auspices of the United Nations. Regarding Venezuela, the focus was on the humanitarian situation of people in the country.

“We knew that, where great powers cling to unreconcilable positions and where there is no willingness to compromise, there is also nothing we can do in New York to bring about peace through negotiations,” Foreign Minister Maas said. However, even in discussions on Venezuela and Libya, efforts to break the ritual cycle of tit for tat exchanges and instead focus attention on the humanitarian situation of the affected populations were at least partially successful.

President of the Security Council in May: Indonesia

The presidency of the United Nations Security Council is held by each of the 15 members of the body in turn for one month. In May, it is Indonesia’s turn, taking over the presidency from Germany. Next summer, Germany will again assume a one-month term as president of the Council.

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