The Jakarta Post
Even the august forum of the United Nations Security Council was not spared from the far reach of the COVID-19 pandemic, as member states began adapting to the new realities of the global health crisis by resuming activities virtually – including for voting in new council resolutions.
Diplomatic activities at the UN headquarters have been significantly reduced after the state of New York became yet another epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, but discussions on world peace and security had to go on, as UN member states discovered.
The pandemic has also forced the council to vote in writing, while the results were announced in a teleconference. Negotiations were also conducted virtually, where possible.
On Tuesday, Security Council members held a video conference with deputy UN special representative for Afghanistan Ingrid Hayden to discuss the latest situation in the war-torn country, which has had to contend with the contagion on top of recent efforts to bring about lasting peace between the US-backed government and the Afghan Taliban group.
The council urged the warring parties to heed the UN secretary-general’s call for an immediate ceasefire and guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Afghanistan.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire – for all conflict around the world – on March 23 so countries could shift their resources to respond to the pandemic.
Indonesia underlined the importance for all Afghan political leaders to unite, set aside their differences and put the interests of the people first, according to its mission to the UN.
Earlier on Monday, in a historic first, the Security Council adopted four resolutions virtually, including one on the safety and security of UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) abroad – a priority issue Indonesia has flagged for its two-year non-permanent term on the council.
As the largest contributor to peacekeeping forces among council members with 2,705 deployed personnel, Indonesia co-sponsored the draft resolution and played an active role in its negotiation, Ambassador to the UN Dian Triansyah Djani said on Tuesday from New York.
"UN peacekeeping forces have shown real dedication and sacrifice to bring about peace," he said in a statement, underlining the safety and security of UN peacekeeping forces as a top priority.
Deployed in conflict-addled regions around the world, the UN Blue Helmets are at the forefront of the UN Security Council’s efforts to bring about world peace and security, but ground forces are often left to fend for themselves when it comes to illnesses and other physical conditions.
The UNSC resolution encourages, among other things, increased support and medical facilities for the evacuation and/or treatment of members of the force who are in critical condition.
The three other resolutions passed were related to the extension of the mandate by the UN Security Council.
Resolution 2515 extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts for North Korea to April 30, allowing them to continue to report its work on the implementation of a resolution related to North Korea.
Meanwhile, Resolution 2516 extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) to June 30. With this extension, UNSOM is expected to continue to support Somalia as it approaches election season in late 2020 or early 2021.
Through Resolution 2517, the Security Council will maintain a total of 6,505 UNAMID troops until May 2020 to help keep the peace and support the transitional government in Sudan.
Council members were also briefed on the latest developments in the Isreali-Palestinian conflict.
“As the region continues to confront the enormity of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the broader geopolitical tensions, the situation on the ground remains fragile,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Secretary-General’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, according to a transcript on the UN website.
Mladenov said that credible negotiations had yet to be launched, and Israel had not taken steps to cease all settlement activities and respect related legal obligations during the reporting period.