Security Council Open Debate: Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Conflicts in Europe
21 February, 2017
Nikki R. Haley (centre), United States Permanent Representative to the UN, with Michele J. Sison, Deputy US Permanent Representative, at the Security Council debate on the topic, “Maintenance of international peace and security: Conflicts in Europe”. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
From territorial disputes in Nagorno-Karabakh, to the crises in Ukraine, and post-war peacebuilding in former Yugoslav republics, the February 21 Security Council debate on ‘Conflicts in Europe’ posed an opportunity for UN Member States to respond to conflicts on the European continent and bolster stability in the region. Prior to the debate, the Council’s current President, Ukraine, submitted a concept note framing the debate’s focus in the context of improving best practice sharing, addressing implementation gaps, and developing tools to resolve the relevant crises. Overall, the discussion yielded a number of positive outcomes related to the need for the peaceful resolution of conflict, the implementation of key agreements such as the Minsk Protocol, and broad condemnations for the use of force. However speakers at the debate fell short on a number of fronts: Peaceful rhetoric failed to translate into concrete commitments, speakers were unsuccessful in integrating substantive gender perspectives in the discussion, and disarmament language was almost entirely absent.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres introduced the debate, emphasising that despite perceptions of inactivity or detente in many European conflicts, true security will remain elusive until such a time that peace agreements are adopted and successfully implemented. Guterres was succeeded by the Secretaries-General of the European Union, Helga Schmid, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Lamberto Zannier, who delivered briefings which highlighted coalition building, multilateral cooperation, and security sector reform.
The situations broached by the 53 member states present included the crisis in Ukraine; territorial disputes in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, Cyprus, and Macedonia; and post-conflict situations in former Yugoslav Republics such as Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, and Kosovo. The debate reflected representatives’ widespread support for the Minsk Agreement and the Normandy Format for negotiations in Ukraine. Overall, the speakers emphasised the need for greater UN regional partnerships with organisations such as the OSCE and increased conflict prevention efforts. It is worth noting that despite the ambitious agenda set forth in the debate concept note, the discussion lacked any impactful discussion regarding best practices, overcoming implementation gaps, and the development of conflict prevention tools. Instead speakers relied on generic statements of support, without offering solutions.
At least 10 of the 53 statements delivered (19 percent) included condemnations for the use of force, naming it as a root cause of the conflicts under consideration and a primary catalyst for related issues such as the refugee crisis. However member state representatives failed to draw crucial connections between the use of force and the requirement of disarmament and demilitarisation for peace, only 3 representatives (6 percent) made any reference to monitoring, withdrawing, or abolishing weapons stores.
Within the scope of WILPF’s focus regions, this debate provided a strong platform for discussion of the situations in Ukraine and Bosnia. Of the 53 statements delivered, 38 (72 percent) addressed the conflict in Ukraine, a majority of which levied criticism towards the Russian Federation for the unlawful annexation of Crimea, its support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine, and the violation of multiple ceasefires. The preservation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty garnered significant support as speakers called for the immediate implementation of the Minsk Protocol.
The post-conflict situation in Bosnia was addressed by 9 of the 53 representatives present (17 percent), many of whom endorsed continued attention on reconciliation efforts within the state. In particular the representative of Croatia recognised their state’s responsibility to bolster peace among its neighbors, and the representative of Brazil and the Secretary-General expressed concern regarding the erosion of security related to growing separatist sentiments involving Republika Srpska, and reaffirmed the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace. A handful of representatives also placed a limited focus on the crisis in Syria, by proxy of Russian Influence and emphasising the prospects of recent peace efforts in Astana.
The issues central in this debate provided member state representatives clear avenues to integrate gender perspectives in their statements, whether by addressing the persisting barriers to restoration and justice for sexual and gender-based violence in Bosnia; the gendered dimension of displacement and rights abuses, including rape as a weapon of war, in Ukraine; or highlighting the impact of engaging women’s peace activists in Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet these avenues were not taken, though general references to women’s inclusion and protection were integrated by a handful of states, no substantive context was offered.
Of the 53 statements delivered, 8 (15 percent) referenced issues relevant to Women Peace and Security. It is notable that each of these references lacked broader context, and in many cases were dropped into speeches as if mere afterthoughts. There are a few exceptions, the representative of Norway highlighted that the participation of women has a positive and measurable impact on the success and longevity of peace. The representative of Sweden called for women to be included in disarmament efforts. Finally, the representative of the OSCE underscored the role of women in peace processes and highlighted the role of UNSCR 1325 as an implementation tool. Other themes discussed included the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, the disproportionate impact of violence on the lives of women, and the need to protect vulnerable populations, including women.
Based on the trends observed in this debate, WILPF offers the following recommendations for the Security Council in addressing Conflicts in Europe:
Implementation- The Women Peace and Security Agenda must be considered, not as an afterthought, but as an essential prerequisite for peace. All peace processes and agreements should include gender-specific provisions, and facilitate the direct engagement of women’s civil society.
Disarmament- The Security Council must challenge and analyse the consequences of militarised security as the dominant world order. The Council must stigmatise and sanction arms proliferation to ensure human security and feminist peace.
Participation- The holistic implementation of the WPS Agenda is dependent on the Security Council promoting the meaningful participation of women who are committed to peace and justice in peace and social transformation processes at all levels.
Justice- For transformative peace, the Security Council must address gaps in women’s access to justice, particularly in situations like that of Bosnia and Herzegovina where impunity for sexual violence in conflict endures.
The Meeting Record is available here.
States Represented at this meeting included:
Netherlands, Moldova, Montenegro, Sweden, Uruguay, Norway, Cyprus, United States, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, France, Senegal, Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Italy, Egypt, United Kingdom, Japan, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Belarus, Estonia, Poland, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Venezuela, Armenia, Romania, Slovenia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Malaysia, Serbia, Albania, Uzbekistan and Bulgaria, as well as the Observer for the Holy See, and a representative of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.
European Union, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Secretary-General