2010 Round-up: Importance of Protecting Civilians during Armed Conflict Grows as Security Council Remains Active in Tackling Conflict-Related Crises Worldwide

Friday, January 7, 2011
Department of Public Information

Security Council

2010 Round-up

Total Number of Public Meetings for Year Rises As 15-Nation Organ Adopts 59 Resolutions, Issues 29 Presidential Statements

The Security Council remained actively seized of a wide range of conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere during 2010, but the protection of civilians in armed conflict, particularly women vulnerable to sexual violence, continued to grow in importance as part of the 15-nation organ's responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

In total, the Council convened 181 public meetings, up slightly from the 171 held in 2009, with 79 of them concerning Africa. The 15-member body adopted 59 resolutions and issued 29 presidential statements. Once again it strove for consensus, with only six resolutions requiring a vote and none occasioning a veto by a permanent Council member.

Among major decisions taken during 2010 were the lifting of restrictions on Iraq, imposed nearly 20 years ago, in a high-level event presided over by the Vice-President Joseph Biden of the United States. The Council also terminated long-standing sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone during its civil war.

In addition, as the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia made headway on their completion strategies, despite some delays, and as Austria's tenure as Chair of the Committee on International Tribunals neared its end, the Council agreed on the framework for residual mechanisms to take up the courts' remaining tasks, preserve their records and help foster the rule of law.

Leading up to the presidential election stand-off that gripped Côte d'Ivoire at the end of 2010 and into 2011, most of the Council's 12 meetings on the West African country were devoted to overcoming obstacles to holding the long-delayed vote, a critical part of the peace accord agreed by rival parties. Following the November presidential run-off election, the Council strongly backed the results, certified by the Secretary-General's Special Representative, as well as efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to resolve the situation.

No new missions were established this year, but, in recognition of progress in Burundi, as well as the need to safeguard its gains of past years, the Council created the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) to transition from the previous integrated office know as BINUB to a significantly scaled-down United Nations presence.

The Council twice reinforced the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) following the devastating 12 January earthquake, as the Mission recovered from the destruction of its headquarters and the greatest loss of staff from a single event in the history of peacekeeping, to play a major role in facilitating aid, besides carrying out its mandated security tasks.

Following three short extensions, the Council also decided to terminate the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) as a lack of progress in the peace process was described in briefings. The mammoth United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was transformed from the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) into the "Organization Stabilizing Mission" (MONUSCO), in the context of reviews aimed at the operation's reconfiguration, drawdown and eventual exit.

The Government of Chad requested the termination of the United Nations in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), which the Council carried out by the end of the year. The major concern in that situation was ensuring the security of civilians, for which the Mission was first deployed in 2007, because of the threats to hundreds of thousands of people displaced from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region and other areas. Over the year, the Council monitored the ability of the Governments of the Central African Republic and Chad to take over responsibility for humanitarian protection, urging donors to help them build capacity.

In many conflicts – most notably those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Somalia but also elsewhere — the continued suffering of civilians, particularly the effects of sexual violence, was a cause for deep concern, expressed in seven meetings under the agenda items "Women and Peace and Security", "Children and Armed Conflict" and "Protection of Civilians". Margot Wallström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, stressed in an April meeting that far from being a "niche" issue, protecting civilians from sexual violence and other conflict-related mayhem was integral to the Council's work.

Boosting the effectiveness of United Nations protection strategies became a major focus after the world was horrified by the mass rape of hundreds of villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in late July and early August, while the prime responsibilities of States and, most importantly, perpetrators, in stopping the violence was also stressed.