Press Briefing on Programme of Work for March

Briefing by Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York.

New York, 1 March 2018

Good afternoon!

Thank you so much for hosting us for this briefing. First of all, it’s a great honor for the Kingdom of the Netherlands to have the presidency of the Security Council, for the first time since November 2000. And let me also thank our colleagues from Kuwait for the tremendous work they have done in the past couple of weeks. I think all of us in the Council thanked them this morning several times for their great efforts.

Let me propose we do the following: First, I sketch a little bit the context of our presidency. Then I’ll say something about the approach we will have as chair. And then, maybe it would be useful to go a little bit through the Programme of Work and certainly issues that are not on the agenda, but which might be of relevance for you. Then of course, we will have Q&A’s.


Maybe first on the context. This is a split term with Italy. You were all here when Sebastiano Cardi, my colleague from Italy, and I, decided to split the term when in 2016 we ended up 95 against 95 votes after five rounds of elections. Last year, we worked very closely together with Italy and this year again, Italy works very closely with us. So, as part of this split term, we have one year, which also means that in this year we are very ambitious. And the cooperation between Italy and the Netherlands continues. For instance, in their team we had Dutch people and now we have an Italian colleague who works in The Hague. It’s a good example of European cooperation.

Secondly, people think very often that I represent the Netherlands in Europe, and I do. But the Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of four countries: the Netherlands in Europe and Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, three autonomous countries in the Kingdom, in the Caribbean. In the coming year you will see Prime Ministers from Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten in the chair of the Netherlands. Not during the presidency, though.

I mentioned that this is the first time since November 2000 that we have the UNSC-presidency. 2000 was the last time we were on the Council. This morning, I didn’t know it was the fifth or the sixth time, but it’s in between. Because the first year we were on the Council was in 1946 and it was just one year. Usually terms are two years, so finally with this one-year period we make up a full term again. So, let’s call it the sixth time we are on the Council.

Then something about our constitution and why we attach so much importance to the presidency. In our constitution we have an article which says that any government has to promote and protect the international legal order. I understand that’s unique and that we are the only country in the world which has this very strong command for any government. First of all, it means there’s continuity between governments, but it’s also because as the country we are in, we attach enormous importance to strong international multilateral institutions. It also means that as a chair to get consensus in the Council, to get good cooperation, to get resolutions, is a result in itself. Because it contributes to the international legal order. And that also goes for the Security Council, as the highest organ when it comes to peace and security in the world, that is for us of great importance.


This brings me to my second point, the approach we will take as President of the Security Council. It is also something we committed to this morning during the breakfast that we had with the other colleagues, we will try to be respectful, conscientious, inclusive, transparent and aimed at reaching consensus. This really is what we are committed to. 

Note 507 is of real importance to us. It’s made by Japan after two years of working very hard on working procedures. There’s a lot of practical things on how we can make the work of the Council more effective. Amongst others, a very useful paragraph is paragraph 22 of note 507 which gives a clear indication that it’s the obligation of the chair to encourage others to stick to time limits. So we are going to try to start the meetings as much as possible on time and also we are going to encourage our colleagues to make shorter statements. This both applies to Council members and to countries who participate under Rule 37.

After meetings, we will try to brief you on what happened, also to keep the wider public informed. A bit more on transparency and connections, we have developed an app for Perm Reps, which gives information about the colleagues but also further information. We’ve added a link to the website of the Security Council. Frankly speaking, that is suboptimal. So this year, we are going to work with Dutch experts to upgrade the website to make sure that if you type in a question, it will actually result in an answer.  And also that all the information of the Security Council in general will be more accessible. On the one hand, there is an enormous demand for that by the wider membership, but I think it’s also useful for the press corps because currently that information is not yet very accessible.

Provisional Programme of Work

There are four peace operation mandate renewals. On UNAMA, UNMISS, MONUSCO and UNSOM: Afghanistan, South Sudan, DRC and Somalia. And there’s a renewal of the Panel of Experts on DPRK. Let’s just go step-by-step through the Programme.

Tuesday, March 6:
We will have a meeting of Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) who are active in MONUSCO and UNMISS. What we are committed to is to get input from the TCCs for the mandate renewal, to have this interactive.

Wednesday, March 7:
We will have a briefing on MONUSCO/DRC. With a briefing by the SRSG on the situation on the ground.

Thursday, March 8:
Afghanistan is on the agenda. This is probably the first meeting where we added a layer of our own. We have a debate on UNAMA, on the resolution of the UN mission in Afghanistan. But it’s on the 8th of March, which also marks International Women’s Day. So we will try to focus this on the issue of Women, Peace and Security. Both on substance, but also in presence. The meeting will be presided over by my minister, Sigrid Kaag, and certainly the delegation of the presidency will be completely female. We have encouraged all members of the Security Council to come to the meeting with as many female colleagues within their delegation as possible. Also as a political signal that Women, Peace and Security translates to the highest level when it comes to peace and security.

In the afternoon, there is an OSCE briefing. Italy is the current OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Italian Foreign  minister Alfano will come over and we are very honored that he wanted to do that. Once a year, there is a meeting where the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office comes to the Security Council. Italy asked: “We’re working so closely together, can we do that in March?” We said immediately yes. So the afternoon will be about the cooperation between the UN and the OSCE and certainly issues in the wider region where the OSCE is responsible.

Monday, March 12:
We will have an oral briefing by OCHA, also on the implementation of resolution 2401. You know all that happened with the resolution last weekend and the debate we had this weekend.  This meeting will be a moment again to take stock where we are with a briefing by OCHA followed by consultations on the implementation of that resolution.

Tuesday, March 13:
We will have a briefing by the Chairperson of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee. That’s the Kazakh colleague.

Thursday, March 15:
There will be a briefing on the Middle East. Staffan de Mistura will come to brief on the political track on the Syria file.

Monday, March 19:
We will have a briefing on DRC. The week before, Mark Lowcock together with minister Sigrid Kaag will visit the DRC and we want them to debrief, especially on the humanitarian situation in the DRC.

Tuesday, March 20:
The morning seems empty, but it has a reason. You have seen the recent meetings on chemical weapons in Syria in the Chamber. What we are going to do, is bring the Director General of OPCW Üzümcü, here to New York. We want to have a good conversation between members of the Council and him. We wanted to do that in closed consultations, but because Mr. Üzümcü is from the OPCW and not the UN, he cannot attend formal closed consultations. So we have an Informal Interactive Dialogue. It’s a closed meeting, but we will try to brief you afterwards on what happened there. It’s an attempt on behalf of the presidency to try to bring the chemical weapons file a bit further.

Thursday, March 22:
It’s World Water Day. There will be a High-level Water Event in the General Assembly chaired by Mr. Lajčák and several colleagues will be there. What we have tried to do is make a connection with what will happen in the General Assembly on water and the work of the Security Council. We will have a briefing on the Lake Chad Region where the nexus water-climate change-security is a key issue. Amina Mohammed will come to brief and minister Sigrid Kaag will also participate.  

Friday, March 23:
We will discuss a related issue, the connection between hunger and conflict. Something we’ve had a number of sessions on in the past year and a half and we build on that in this coming meeting.

Monday, March 26:
There will be a meeting on the situation in the Middle East where Nickolay Mladenov will come to brief on the implementation of Resolution 2334, followed by closed consultations.

Wednesday, March 28:
We think this is really the signature event of our presidency: an Open Debate on UN Peacekeeping.  As I’ve said before, we have three priorities in general: prevention, improving peacekeeping and accountability. This is really going to be a big event. The Secretary-General has asked us to work very closely together with him to have a launching platform for improvement of peacekeeping operations. You may have seen the Cruz report, earlier the Cammaert report on South Sudan. Today we mourn the death of four peacekeepers from Bangladesh in Mali last night. I think, together with the Secretary-General, we are also concerned about so many peacekeepers being killed. The challenges are between the mandates on the one hand and the available means on the ground on the other hand. The Secretary-General has already started the process of improvement in peacekeeping operations after the Cruz report. On this day, we will try to bring together all those who have a role to play in peacekeeping, so troop contributing countries, those countries who finance peacekeeping operations, the line of command and all those relevant. And for the Secretary-General it was quite clear this is not a one-time event, he will try to start a process for the rest of the year to get peacekeeping missions more fit for purpose.

At the end of the day, we will have the end-of-presidency reception.

Thank you for your attention.

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