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Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for November (1 November 2019)

The United Kingdom’s presidency of the Security Council in November will highlight the importance of reconciliation in peacebuilding, and the plight of individuals in ongoing situations of concern around the world, that country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“We’d like to slightly turn the dial around to look at the problems of ordinary citizens in conflict situations,” Karen Pierce said as she briefed correspondents on the Council’s agenda for the month.

A 19 November open debate on reconciliation, she said, will build on a previous meeting on the role of mediation as part of an effort to clarify successful components of endeavours to achieve sustainable peace. At the reconciliation meeting, her delegation and others will include a focus on averting persecution of religious minorities, such as Christians in the Middle East, she added, while acknowledging that other delegations planned to focus on other issues.

In that meeting, and in meetings on ongoing situations in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and other agenda items, representatives of civil society will be invited so that individual stories can be heard, she said.

She stated the importance of promoting practical steps to address the impact of rape as a weapon of war, the targeting of hospitals, and attacks on the media and other violations of international law, as part of underlining the “value of the rules-based international system with the United Nations at its heart”.

Noting that averting the unacceptable use of chemical weapons is part of that effort, she said that the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will address the Council in a private meeting on 5 November.

Asked by correspondents why that meeting will not be open, she explained that the Council finds itself in an odd place of disunity on an issue that involves the critical issue of weapons of mass destruction. While acknowledging the importance of transparency, she said it is hoped that the arrangement will allow a meaningful and serious discussion without “playing to the gallery”.

Asked if Turkey’s use of white phosphorus and its incursion into Syria will be discussed at the private meeting, she said that she had no knowledge of that matter and did not know the priorities of the Director-General, but Council members might broach the issue, clarifying however that the substance is only prohibited as an incendiary weapon.

The political process in Syria will be the subject of a 25 November briefing, she said, with developments in the Constitutional Committee likely to be central. In answer to questions, she stated that the topic of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/Da’esh) as an ongoing threat might come up in that discussion, but is not the subject of a scheduled meeting, nor is the topic of foreign terrorist fighters. Belgium is interested in addressing de-radicalization in an Arria formula format, however, she added.

A briefing on Yemen is planned for 22 November, at which time developments in talks in Riyadh will certainly be discussed, she said. If there is a final signature on an agreement there, a statement might be issued before that date. She expressed hope that there will be a civil society representative on Yemen, although that speaker has not been settled upon yet.

Several meetings on African situations are planned, she said, including a briefing by the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohamed, on her visit to the continent, under the agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa”. Developments in Somalia will be addressed in a 21 November briefing, which will look at conditions leading up to elections planned over the next two years, preceded by the vote on a text on the Panel of Experts on sanctions on the country.

On Libya, she said the 18 November briefing concerns the activities of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Replying to questions, she said that migrant rescue operations are not specifically on the agenda, but the issue might be raised. The African Union and Equatorial Guinea have asked for attention to Guinea-Bissau, which might occur in a closed session, possibly resulting in a presidential statement.

Responding to questions about Lebanon, Iraq, Ukraine, Cyprus and other areas of concern not specifically on the agenda, she said the Council is closely following developments and will hold meetings if members ask for them. On a closer relationship between the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, she said some members support a closer relationship, but others do not feel that human rights are directly under the Security Council’s purview.

Asked about the completion of the open debate on women, peace and security held in October, she said that 44 delegations remained on the speakers list and they should be heard. “Somehow, we have to make sure that the business of the Council isn’t impeded while accommodating the needs of the Secretariat,” she added.

For the full programme of work, please see:

For information media. Not an official record.