Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. - AFP

After weeks of divisions, including Sino-American, the UN Security Council meets for the first time this Thursday to discuss the Covid-19, a session that is similar to "group therapy" according to some diplomats .

This videoconference and in camera meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. GMT with as chief medical officer Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the Organization, was requested last week by nine of the ten non-permanent members led by Germany, exasperated by the Council's paralysis in the face of an unprecedented global crisis.

Unify a split instance

According to diplomats, "positions are moving in the right direction" and Washington would have agreed to no longer insist at the UN on "a virus of Chinese origin", a term which aroused the fury of Beijing.

During the session, the UN Secretary General was to focus on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in countries and peace missions on the Council's agenda. And try to unify this body which is also divided between, on the one hand, the five permanent members, and on the other the ten non-permanent members.

"The objective is to work, to bring the Council together, to resolve the differences and to reaffirm the need to move towards a decision as quickly as possible" on a resolution, summarizes a diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Two projects to negotiate

Two competing draft texts are under debate: the first, initiated by Tunisia and obtained by AFP, is carried by the ten non-permanent. It calls for "urgent, coordinated and united international action to limit the impact of Covid-19" and "calls for an immediate global ceasefire to allow an adequate humanitarian response".

As in challenge to the group of permanent members, the project has been negotiated since March 30 between the only non-permanent members: Germany, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Estonia, Vietnam, Tunisia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , and South Africa. No vote has been scheduled yet.

The second, centered on support for a "cessation of hostilities" demanded in March by the head of the UN to facilitate the fight against the pandemic and on a "humanitarian pause", is proposed by France. It is discussed so far only between the five permanent members (United States, Russia, China, France and United Kingdom), which is "very frustrating", confide anonymously to AFP several diplomats from countries non-permanent members.

Before a negotiation at 15, it is necessary to settle the differences between the “Big Five”, retorts one in Paris, otherwise it will not work. For this, France has been trying for two weeks to organize a videoconference of the leaders of the five countries, complicated by the recent hospitalization of the British Boris Johnson and a reluctance of China to commit to a date without having clarified the content of the session. .

"Missing in action"

While the voice of the head of the United Nations is regularly heard, that the General Assembly unanimously adopted by its 193 members a week ago a resolution calling for "cooperation", the attitude of the Council of security since the start of the rout.

"Missing in action", regrets an ambassador on condition of anonymity, mentioning the absence so far of any declaration or adoption of a text. "This is the first time that I have seen two solar systems in the Security Council," added a diplomat from a country that is not part of it. "It's very curious this double dynamic" between permanent and non-permanent, he adds.

In the past, movements common to the ten non-permanent members have already intervened, but above all for humanitarian causes, notes Richard Gowan, specialist of the institution at the International Crisis Group. "It is important to recognize that the main driving force behind the cooperation of the ten non-permanent members is the bad behavior of the five permanent members," he said.

"Agreeing on the great crisis of our time"

Several of these non-permanent workers "waged a fierce campaign to win their seat in the Council" and "are dumbfounded by the bickering between China and the United States" which prevents this body from "agreeing on the great crisis of our time, ”says the expert.

"Either way, we need each other," said a Western ambassador, anonymously. "The permanent cannot pass a text without the voices of the non-permanent, the non-permanent cannot impose a text on the permanent because they have a veto." We must necessarily get along and we will try to get along ”.

In the Security Council, at least 9 votes out of 15 are necessary to have a text adopted, without a veto from one of the five permanent members.


Human culprit in the transfer of new viruses from animals to humans


Coronavirus: The United Nations is organizing the global debate on the Internet for its 75th anniversary

  • Covid 19
  • Crisis
  • UN
  • World
  • Coronavirus