Against the backdrop of increasing donor fatigue and the spiralling economic repercussions of the war in Ukraine, the Security Council today adopted a presidential statement emphasizing the urgent need for funding to address ongoing crises in the Middle East and North Africa, while praising cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States in a range of critical areas.
According to the presidential statement (to be issued as document S/PRST/2022/1) — which was issued by the United Arab Emirates in its capacity as President of the Council for March — the 15-member organ welcomed strong cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States and reiterated its intention to consider further steps to collaborate in the fields of conflict early warning and prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustaining peace, promoting respect for international law and addressing root causes of conflicts.
Members recognized that organizations such as the League are well positioned to understand the root causes of armed conflicts in their regions, while noting the dire humanitarian consequences of ongoing conflicts in the Arab world and emphasizing the urgent need for funding to address those challenges.
Briefing the Council at the meeting’s outset, Secretary-General António Guterres said the need for solutions to crises across the Middle East and North Africa has become all the more acute against the profound ramifications of the war in Ukraine. Many nations across the Arab world — including Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — import at least half their wheat from Ukraine or the Russian Federation, while, across the region, supply chains have been disrupted and food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Emphasizing that the poor are being hardest hit, he warned that the confluence of factors is “planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe”.
He also cited clear evidence that the war in Ukraine is draining resources and attention from other trouble spots in desperate need. At a recent humanitarian pledging conference for Yemen, he was deeply disappointed that the United Nations appeal for assistance to some 20 million Yemenis in need received less than a third of the funds so urgently needed. Meanwhile, political instability is once again flaring in Libya and the Syrian people feel abandoned by the world as they enter an eleventh year of war. Outlining a range of other matters — from economic challenges in Lebanon to the ongoing transition in Sudan — he praised the deepening cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, stressing that peaceful multilateral solutions are needed now more than ever.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said today’s meeting is taking place against the backdrop of a major shift in the global geopolitical landscape. A prompt and peaceful outcome to the crisis in Ukraine would avert “disastrous consequences” for the economies of developing countries, he said, voicing concern that the Arab world “will be overlooked or forgotten”. Addressing the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and elsewhere, he also drew attention to Iran’s ongoing interference in the affairs of States across the region. While the League seeks a good relationship with Iran based on the principles of sovereignty and non‑interference, he cautioned that “unfortunately, this goal is still not within reach”.
Also briefing the Council was civil society member Razan Farhan Alaqil, who described herself as a Saudi Arab youth and emphasized that young people represent 60 per cent of the population of the Middle East and North Africa. Stressing the need to include youth in all aspects of the United Nations work — from efforts to prevent, manage and settle conflict, to post-conflict peacebuilding and programmes to ensure the non-recurrence of conflict — she said young people are effective and efficient actors and deserve a seat at the decision-making table.
As Council members took the floor, many welcomed today’s presidential statement, as well as the growing cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations more broadly. While united in their calls for the peaceful resolutions of conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa, speakers voiced divergent opinions on the specifics of particular situations, including the drivers of — and preferred solutions to — conflicts in Syria, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and elsewhere.
Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates and Chair of today’s meeting, said in his national capacity that the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and crises in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere have had high costs for the region. Demanding an end to foreign interference in Arab affairs, he called for more efforts to strengthen the role of Arab women in peace and security issues and for the further empowerment of youth. Meanwhile, more work is needed to combat terrorism and violent extremism and encourage peaceful coexistence among religions and cultures in the region, he said, calling for more collaboration between the League of Arab States and the United Nations in such crucial areas as artificial intelligence, outer space and renewable energy.
The representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, underscored the important role of regional organizations working alongside the United Nations to resolve regional crises. Calling a new mechanism for promoting cooperation between the United Nations and the Arab Group in New York, he also urged the holding of informal meetings with the Arab Summit Troika and other means of finding “Arab solutions to Arab problems”. Meanwhile, the Security Council must “speak with one voice” and limit its veto use on questions related to Arab crises, he stressed, also calling for an urgent end to all foreign intervention in internal Arab State affairs.
The United Kingdom’s delegate said regional cooperation has a vital role to play in conflict‑prevention. Welcoming the League of Arab States’ continued suspension of Syria’s membership and stressing the responsibility of President Bashar al-Assad for the suffering in that country, he also condemned the ongoing Houthi terrorist attacks emanating from Yemen, and said the League’s members must remain steadfast in support of a two-State solution in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Meanwhile, he underlined the collective role of all States in tackling climate change — which is a driver of conflict — and echoed concerns that the conflict in Ukraine has contributed to a bleaker humanitarian context in the Arab region.
The representative of the Russian Federation, striking a different tone on Syria’s suspension from the League of Arab States, said Damascus should be reinstated as all States must be able to participate in that platform on an equal footing. Noting that many crises remain unresolved due to foreign interference and the legacy of colonialism, he stressed the need to overcome the stalemate on the region’s central conflict, that between Israel and Palestine. He called on States to seek diplomatic solutions and reject the use of sanctions, while spotlighting his country’s concept of Collective Security in the Persian Gulf as important initiative in which the League of Arab States could play an important role.
Also participating was the Minister for Foreign Affairs of India, as well as the representatives of Mexico, Ireland, Norway, Ghana, Albania, Brazil, United States, Kenya, France, China and Gabon.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:13 p.m.