Sweden’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council, January 2017


Sweden had three priorities for its month-long Presidency of the United Nations Security Council. Here is what we achieved:

Photo: UN Photo / Rick Bajornas

1. A good start for new UN Secretary-General António Guterres:

On 10 January, Sweden, in close cooperation with Mr Guterres, held a ministerial-level open debate on conflict prevention. The Minister for Foreign Affairs chaired the meeting, which also marked Mr Guterres's first formal appearance in the Security Council. The initiative received record support among the Member States, who gave the Secretary-General their support to resolutely pursue the conflict prevention agenda. The impact was considerable, with 93 countries taking part, 15 of them with a ministerial or deputy ministerial presence.

As President, we have actively supported the Secretary-General's ambition of proactive and close relations with the Security Council. Informal meeting arrangements have been used where appropriate to increase the scope for dialogue. Consensus was reached on a number of messages on Syria. An in-depth discussion was held on the way forward for South Sudan in connection with a lunch for the Secretary-General and the Security Council.

As President, Sweden hosted the lunch for the Secretary-General and the members of the Security Council. [The format was deliberately informal, to allow discussion without expectations.]

2. Raised UN efforts on conflict prevention and the link between women, peace and security:

In addition to the open debate on conflict prevention, the prevention perspective was also applied by the Security Council in practice.

Gambia: On 19 January, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution expressing support for President Adama Barrow and full political support for the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure a peaceful transition of power. This came after Sweden, in collaboration with others, primarily Senegal, actively worked to secure a clear response from the Council. The international community taking a clear stance on this matter sent an important signal in a very tense situation.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): On 4 January, at a critical stage, the Security Council unanimously expressed full support for the national mediation efforts led by the Catholic Church in the DRC. At Sweden's initiative, the importance of the inclusion of women was stressed in the Council's statement. The Security Council subsequently also welcomed the political agreement at a Council meeting on 11 January.

That the Security Council, under Sweden's leadership, unanimously expressed support for political negotiations and national and regional mediation in these two potential conflicts is a success for the UN's conflict prevention work. The unequivocal pressure from the international community for a peaceful solution made agreements on transitions of power in both of these countries possible, despite the imminent risk of violence.

Lake Chad: An interactive briefing was held on 12 January concerning the situation in the Lake Chad area of the Sahel region. The meeting focused on long-term prevention efforts and the importance of combating radicalisation and tackling the root causes of the challenges in the region.

Somalia: To highlight the issue of women's participation in the political process, Sweden invited Asha Gelle, a prominent representative of a Somali women's rights organisation, to the Council's meeting on 27 January. She briefed the Council on women's participation in the country's electoral process and on future challenges.

In January, Sweden has also begun its work as co-chair of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security. In the course of the month, in connection with Council meetings and negotiations, we have continuously raised the importance of women's role and participation in political processes. At Sweden's initiative, the updated sanctions regime for the Central African Republic includes a separate listing criterion for sexual and gender-related violence.

3. Improve the Security Council's working methods:

At Sweden's initiative, civil society and representatives of women's organisations were invited to participate in the Security Council. In so doing, Sweden wanted to help give a voice to those who are affected by the Security Council's decisions and to focus on women's agency in maintaining international peace and security.

Civil society was represented at the deliberations on Lake Chad on 12 January through the participation of Fatima Askira, a representative of the Borno Women Development Initiative in north-eastern Nigeria.

At the meeting on the DRC on 11 January, the Council was briefed by the Congolese Archbishop who had led the national mediation.

On 6 January in New York, Sweden hosted a briefing for representatives of civil society on the Security Council's programme of work for January. This was the first time a country holding the Presidency of the Council had conducted such a briefing for civil society.

In addition to inviting representatives of civil society and women's organisations, in January Mali's Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop was invited to consultations on the UN operation in Mali, MINUSMA.

As part of the ambition to open up the work of the Security Council, we have actively used social media, including a popular video blog. To make information accessible to the interested general public, a weekly newsletter was published on the Government's website about work on the Security Council. [Sweden held an informal and interactive briefing about the Presidency in New York – instead of the traditional formal briefing without a question-and-answer session – for all Member States.]

During its Presidency, Sweden has endeavoured to improve the tone of debate and the negotiating environment, which left a great deal to be desired in 2016. The results of the January meetings of the Security Council can be found in the annex.

Part of the ambition to work for results has been about strengthening the follow-up of the Security Council's discussions. Example: At Sweden's initiative, the deliberations of 18 January on the UN MINUSMA mission in Mali were followed up with an extraordinary meeting of the troop and police contributor countries to discuss how the mission's capacity can be improved.

Sweden has also focused on pursuing key cross-sectoral issues – international law, human rights, gender equality, a humanitarian perspective – in country situations where the Security Council has more of an operational role than a role through freestanding, thematic initiatives.

During our Presidency, we have worked closely with regional organisations for increased impact and support. The deliberations on the DRC and Gambia have been mentioned above. A few other examples: when the situation in Sudan/Darfur was discussed on 12 January, the chair of the African Union (AU) High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, and South Africa's former president, Thabo Mbeki, was invited at Sweden's initiative to brief the Security Council. This was the first time in more than two years that he had taken part in the Council's discussions. And when South Sudan was discussed on 23 January, Sweden invited the chair of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), Festus Mogae, to brief the Council. By 27 January, the Security Council had adopted ten press statements, two Presidency statements and three resolutions.

This was Sweden's first month as member of the UN Security Council. Throughout our membership of the Council, we will continue to work in accordance with the ambitions stated in the programme for Sweden's membership of the Security Council. Sweden will continue to talk with countries, and not just about them.