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“Safeguard international law and human rights”: Germany’s Security Council Presidency ends

BU: In July Germany held the Presidency of the UN Security Council.

BU: In July Germany held the Presidency of the UN Security Council., © Felix Zahn/photothek.net

31.07.2020 - Article

Global health, climate and security, and sexual violence in conflicts: all these issues were on the agenda during the German Presidency of the Security Council in July. In addition, the cross-border resolution on Syria was extended, ensuring access for humanitarian assistance.

We set a clear focus for our Presidency: to safeguard international law and human rights and to protect the most vulnerable.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasised this as the end of the German Presidency approaches. From tackling COVID‑19 to humanitarian assistance for Syria – there were many issues on the agenda, and major goals were attained. Of course, though, there is still a great deal to do – from making progress on the substance to reforming the Security Council.

COVID‑19: Resolution on global ceasefire

The early part of Germany’s Presidency was dominated by pandemics and security: What impact is COVID‑19 having on global security? And how can the Security Council respond appropriately to health risks? Under the presidency of Foreign Minister Maas, the Security Council adopted a resolution on COVID‑19 in which the members call for a global ceasefire.

After the meeting, Foreign Minister Maas stressed:

The Security Council finally sent a key message of political unity by endorsing the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. The parties to conflicts around the world are now called upon to silence their guns for 90 days in order to give the people in crisis areas the pause for breath that they so desperately need. They should also grant humanitarian aid workers access so that they can carry out their vital work.

Climate and security: Informal Expert Group

Climate change is another question becoming more and more central to the work of the Security Council. Climate change is triggering new conflicts and exacerbating existing ones, for example in the Lake Chad region, the Sudan or Afghanistan. That is why Germany put the issue back on the agenda, and in doing so has the support of the vast majority of UN member states. Now an Informal Expert Group is being established, so that climate and security can be made a fixture in the Security Council’s work.

During the meeting, Maas emphasised:

The fight against climate change should not divide us. We fight it to save ourselves. And we fight it for the people around the world who are already facing violence and displacement as a result of climate change. They cannot afford to wait.

Fight against sexual violence

The fight against sexual violence in conflicts was already a focal point of Germany’s Security Council Presidency back in April 2019. A new Security Council resolution put survivors’ rights to the fore and laid the foundations for calling perpetrators to account more swiftly and more effectively. Germany has now built on that: an open debate looked at the concrete steps needed now to implement this. For example, survivors must be guaranteed access to the necessary medical and legal support. In addition, women must play a central role in peace processes, because lasting and sustainable peace is impossible without gender equality.

Foreign Minister Maas said:

We must make good on the obligations we have entered into with Resolution 2467 – in order to protect and support survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, and to make them a focus of our efforts.

Syria: cross-border resolution extended

The Security Council’s core task is, as it always has been, to maintain international peace and security. It therefore looks daily at the numerous crises and conflicts around the world, irrespective of which country holds the Presidency. In July, therefore, the Security Council focused on Syria: following a long struggle, the cross-border resolution was extended, ensuring access for deliveries of humanitarian assistance to the country.

As the month neared its end, Maas took stock:

There are many things for which we still do not have a solution, but at least we know the direction. We will not slacken, and will continue to work to strengthen the UN and the Security Council – because only with an international order based on reliable rules can we all move forward together.

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