Press Conference by Security Council President on Programme of Work for May
The Security Council’s programme for May features open debates on peacebuilding and sustaining peace and on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, its President for the month told a Headquarters press conference today.
Pascale Christine Baeriswyl (Switzerland) — whose country holds the 15‑member organ’s rotating presidency for the first time in its history — stressed the importance of working towards unity in the Council. Switzerland has long been engaged in peace processes and ceasefire negotiations around the world, and she pointed out that, during its presidency, her country will be guided by respect for international law and multilateralism. Such respect is an “existential” matter for small and medium-sized countries, she stressed, and the Swiss presidency will seek to find new approaches to conflict resolution.
On the Council’s working methods, she said that her country’s main goal is to conduct meetings professionally and in close cooperation with all Council members. Taking inspiration from her country’s own political traditions, she said discussion shall be guided by mutual respect, along with a desire to seek consensus and arrive at decisions in a fair and balanced manner. She also placed high value on voices outside the Council — including civil society, whose insights are relevant to the organ’s work.
Turning to the Council’s programme of work for May, she said that many meetings during the month are mandated — including those on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and on sanctions relating to South Sudan. Also in May, the Council is expected to adopt its annual report to the General Assembly. Further, the organ will have regular meetings on Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) and the situation in the Middle East, among others, and the annual briefing by the Chairperson of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), scheduled for 4 May. Stressing that the Council must closely follow the crises in Sudan, Afghanistan and Ukraine, she added that changing security challenges requires “fresh thinking”.
On 3 May, during its open debate on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, the Council will hear from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, one of the African Union’s youth ambassadors for peace and civil society representatives. She expressed hope that this debate will generate useful insights for the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on the “New Agenda for Peace”.
Later, on 23 May, an open debate will be held on the theme of protection of civilians in armed conflict, chaired by Alain Berset, President of Switzerland. Briefers will include the Secretary-General, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a representative of civil society.
Further, the Council will commemorate 75 years of peacekeeping during its meeting to mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The Minister for Defence of Switzerland will participate in the event.
Responding to questions from journalists on whether discussions on Ukraine will be held during the month despite not currently appearing on the schedule, she said that, if Council members ask for such meetings — specifically on the humanitarian aspects of the war there — she intends to put them on the agenda. Questioned further on whether the 23 May debate on the protection of civilians will focus on Ukraine, she responded that there are terrible crises in other places around the world, including in Africa.
Pressed on her country’s neutral stance, she replied that Switzerland has not changed anything vis-à-vis such neutrality, but underscored that this “does not mean indifference to breaches of international law or the Charter [of the United Nations]”. Switzerland’s position on the aggression against Ukraine “has been clear since day one”, she stressed, adding that “it is not a matter of neutrality to criticize violations of international law”.
As to why Switzerland does not allow the re-export of Swiss weapons, she said that her country provides humanitarian aid to Ukraine, supports European sanctions and hosts around 70,000 refugees from that country. Nevertheless, Swiss law prohibits such re-exports.
Questioned further on her country’s policy towards refugees and whether it will open its borders to Sudanese as it did to Ukrainians, she said that, despite the geographical nature of that question, Switzerland will accept refugees as its refugee policy is based on law that is the same for everyone.
In response to a question about the veto initiative, adopted by consensus in the General Assembly on 26 April 2022, she said: “We are early in history to say what exactly the effects are.” However, it clearly demonstrates that the Council has not been strong enough in its response to certain important crises, and therefore the Assembly has been taking on more responsibility. This “interesting development” might lead Council members to increase their efforts to arrive at solutions to these crises, she observed.
On the role of the Council, she said it has managed to be the most powerful body on peace and security. However, it is just one part of the peace architecture, she noted, spotlighting the role of regional organizations, such as the African Union.
To a question about Syrian refugees, she said that only a sustainable political solution to the protracted conflict will allow refugees to return home safely.
When asked about “the most catastrophic failure of the United Nations” — Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians — she said that her Government is committed to finding ways to implement the two-State solution and detailed a number of initiatives in that regard. However, she pointed out that Switzerland alone cannot bring peace to the Middle East.
On the situation in Afghanistan, she said that Switzerland had to evacuate its nationals in Kabul, expressing hope that an upcoming meeting in Doha will lead to a discussion on how to handle the situation.
For the full programme of work, please see: www.un.org/securitycouncil/events/calendar.