SG warns against security incidents in Haiti, COP-16 opens in Cancun, Council renews DRC Sanctions and more from UN Direct

Elections in Haiti: today the SG expressed his concern following the incidents which marked the first round of elections in Haiti yesterday, calling on the people of Haiti and the candidates to remain calm, warning that security incidents could hamper the efforts to contain the cholera outbreak.

Security Council/DRC Sanctions: this morning the Security Council renewed sanctions against the DRC until Nov. 30, 2011, which include an arms embargo against NGOs and individuals, as well as a travel ban and asset freeze against illegal armed groups and those linked to the obstruction of humanitarian assistance, the illicit trade of natural resources and human rights violations, including sexual violence.  The Council also extended the mandate of the Group of Experts who monitor the implementation of the sanctions regime, focusing on North and South Kivu and Ituri.  The Group’s latest report is available here.  In a statement welcoming the renewal, Ambassador Rice said the sanctions play a key role in holding people accountable for crimes such as the massacre of civilians, recruitment of child soldiers and use of rape as a weapon of war.  This year’s text also supported new “due diligence guidelines” for individuals and companies who import/process/consume Congolese mineral products, which Rice said could thwart the illegal mineral trade that has long-fueled the conflict.  Today the Council also held consultations on the work of the 1718 Committee, which monitors sanctions against the DPRK relating to its nuclear program.  Speaking to the press after the meeting, Ambassador Rice strongly condemned the “outrageous action” by DPRK last week which resulted in four deaths and wounded 18 soldiers and civilians.

Rice on Wikileaks: when speaking at a press stakeout this morning on the Security Council’s 1718 consultations, Ambassador Rice was asked about Wikileaks, to which she defended the work of U.S. diplomats, saying “Let me be very clear.  Our diplomats are just that – they’re diplomats” and they do their work, which is indispensible to our national security, with enormous skill and integrity.  Pushed with a question on whether they were asked to get personal information, and she said their work involves building relationships, negotiating, advancing U.S. interests and looking to find common solutions to complex problems, which they do extremely well.  She also added that under the Obama Administration, the U.S. has made tremendous progress on rebuilding relationships and tackling issues such as non-proliferation, terrorism and climate change, and is doing so in a way that is in the interest of the American people and people around the world.

UN on Wikileaks: responding to questions on wikileaks at the briefing, the SG’s spokesperson stated that the UN is not in the position to comment on the authenticity of the documents, adding that the UN is a very transparent system and makes a great deal of its information available to the public.  He went on further to say that UN officials regularly meet State representatives to brief them on UN activities. The UN Charter, the Headquarters Agreement, and the 1946 Convention illustrate the privileges and immunities of the UN, and it expects each State to adhere to these policies and procedures. In regards to whether the SG knew about these specific documents, the spokesperson said Ambassador Rice briefed him.

COP-16: today UNFCCC’s 16th Conference of Parties opened in Cancun, which will run roughly  through December 10 (depending on when negotiations wrap-up).  The High-level Segment will be held December 7.  Speaking at Seton Hall University last week, the SG spoke to climate change as one of the three largest challenges that the UN aims to address (in addition to poverty and human beings in crisis), arguing that global involvement and assistance is required.  After noting positive results that came out of the Copenhagen conference, the SG explained, “we do not expect a comprehensive agreement. But many issues are ripe for agreement, from deforestation and adaptation to technology, capacity-building and the future of the Kyoto protocol.”

Third Committee texts: last Tuesday, the Third Committee wrapped up its work for the main part of the 65th GA, adopting a series of draft resolutions which will be considered by the full GA in December.  The resolution combating defamation of religions was adopted by the narrowest margin of victory – 12 votes – since its peak of support in 2006.  The resolution, which passed by 76-64 with 42 abstentions, saw progress from 2009 which passed 81-55 with 43 abstentions (26 votes) and 2008, which passed by 85-50 with 42 abstentions.  2006 witnessed the highest support of 111 States in favor.  This year, Argentina, Bahamas and Zambia switched from abstaining to voting against the resolution and Barbados, Bhutan, Congo, the DRC and Gabon switched from yes to abstaining.  While the resolution’s sponsor, the OIC, made some changes, such as replacing most of the “defamation” references to “vilification”, the text still equates defamation to a human rights violation and seeks to curtail free speech.  In its explanation of vote, the U.S. explained that these textual changes do not address their core concerns, e.g. “the text’s negative implications for both freedom of religion and freedom of expression”.  On Tuesday, the Committee also adopted a resolution on the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which the U.S. voted against for several reasons, including the decision to hold a high-level GA meeting September 21, 2011 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the DDPA, which it said is a “poor choice of time and venue” due to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just days earlier.

Capital Master Plan: today the CMP started installing the new glass panels on the Secretariat Building. The work is scheduled to be completed in 2012 and will lower energy consumption by at least 50% and reduce GHG emissions by an estimated 45%.

Security Council on POC: last week the Security Council held an open debate on the Protection of Civilians, which concluded with the adoption of a Presidential Statement.  The text of the statement recalled the 2002 Aid Memoire, which provides a basis for improved analysis and diagnosis of key issues, and adopted an updated version.  It also welcomed progress made by the SG in elaborating a conceptual framework, including resource and capability requirements and operational tools for the implementation of protection of civilians.  In regards to the need for systematic monitoring and reporting on progress made on POC, the Council requested the following of the SG: (1) develop a framework, outlining resource and capability requirements and developing operational tools for the implementation of POC mandates; (2) develop guidance for peacekeeping and other relevant missions on the reporting of the POC in armed conflict, with reports on country-specific situations more comprehensive and detailed info relating to POC in armed conflict; and (3) submit his next report on the POC by May 2012.