UAE takes leading Security Council role at a pivotal moment

Month-long presidency is an opportunity for the Emirati delegation in New York to apply the country’s foreign-policy principles to an array of challenges

Members of the UN Security Council meet in New York. The UAE will lead the body for the next month amid a disastrous war in Sudan and a rapidly changing diplomatic picture in the Middle East. Reuters
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This is a vital moment for an Arab voice to take a leading role at the UN. As a disastrous war develops in Sudan and countries in the Middle East wrestle with a rapidly changing diplomatic picture, the UAE today assumes the presidency of the Security Council.

Although the role is one that is shared on a rotating basis, it provides an opportunity for the Emirati delegation in New York to apply the country’s foreign policy principles to an array of challenges in the Middle East and beyond. This can be seen in the agenda for the UAE’s month-long presidency.

Next week, Emirati diplomats will host an event to develop closer ties between the Arab League and the UN. On June 13, Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Minister of State for Food Security will host a debate on the links between climate change and security challenges, particularly in parts of the Middle East and Africa. The UAE’s consistent work against extremism will be the backdrop to an event it will host the following day that will focus on the fight against hate speech and intolerance.

However, the Security Council’s focus, sadly, is often focused on armed conflicts. In Sudan, an important part of the Arab world and Africa, six weeks of fighting has displaced nearly 1.4 million people, including more than 350,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries. Yesterday, another internationally brokered truce collapsed almost immediately and reports said Sudan's military suspended ceasefire talks in Jeddah with its opponents in the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

A man walks past a burnt-out bank in southern Khartoum last week. The conflict in Sudan is an acute security crisis for the Arab world and Africa. AFP

Meanwhile, looting has become widespread and aid agencies are unable to get essential supplies to millions of desperate Sudanese because of the fighting.

Worryingly, Sudan’s war appears to be turning into a drawn-out, medium intensity conflict. This is partly because of the proliferation of armed groups involved and the difficulty in controlling them. Then there is the ongoing militarisation of the civilian population. Sudan’s army is calling up reservists and able-bodied retired soldiers, and there are reports that the Defence Ministry has said that men who wished to defend themselves, their families and property should go to the nearest military base for weapons. The Governor of Darfur – a province with a bleak history of serious bloodletting – has called on residents to arm themselves to fend off attackers and looters. In a country of more than 500 ethnic groups, the potential for more violence is worrying in the extreme.

There is a danger that if the war does become a protracted one, the international community – already beset by other global challenges – will gradually lose interest in working towards a ceasefire and a political settlement. Here, the role of Arab nations such as the UAE becomes critical both in terms of keeping the conflict high on the international agenda and in encouraging mediation between the rival factions. Thus the UAE’s leading role on the Security Council, far from being merely procedural, will be of real consequence.

Last week The National ran an exclusive interview with the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, during a visit to Abu Dhabi. Ms Weber rightly identified the need for international involvement, particularly from the African Union, to end the conflict. She added that the EU fully supported the idea of a “task force that encompasses the League of Arab States, the EU, the Quad [the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE]".

The UAE has already made clear its concern about the Sudan conflict and the effect it is having on the country’s civilians. For the next month, the Emirates will be in the spotlight when it comes to UN Security Council issues. Unfortunately, given current events, the need for a high-level voice championing stability and conflict resolution is more important than ever.

Published: June 01, 2023, 3:00 AM