Belgium’s two-year tenure as a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council comes to an end on 31 December 2020. During this time, Belgium played a role as a consensus seeker and bridge builder and worked closely with its European allies.
Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès stressed that “cooperation among EU members of the Council has never been more intense,” during her speech at a December webinar entitled ‘Belgium in the UNSC 2019-2020: Multilateralism & the Security Council’, organised by Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations.
For the first time, both Belgium and Germany were members of the Security Council at the same time. German Ambassador to the UN, Susanne Baumann, who also took part in the webinar, said “the goal of both countries consisted of strengthening the EU voice in the Security Council.” According to Baumann, “our action was coherent, we coordinated our voting and we published many press statements to ensure the European position was seen and heard.”
The high-level European commitment of both countries saw its biggest success in the Belgo-German penholdership of the resolution on cross-border humanitarian access to Syria. Despite frequent use of vetoes and many frustrating debates, “we did manage to keep the main crossing points open for a full year until next summer, a lifeline for the Syrian population,” Wilmès acknowledges.
According to the Belgian minister, another responsibility stood out for the country, “our presidency of the Working Group on children and armed conflict.” Under the Belgian chairmanship of the working group, progress was made in the form of 12 consensual texts, on issues otherwise fiercely divisive among the 15 members of the Council, such as the situation in Yemen or Myanmar. “This work is crucial, as last year the UN verified more than 25,000 grave violations against children in 19 country situations,” Wilmès continued.
Professor of International Relations at the University of Antwerp, David Criekemans, closed the webinar noticing that, while geopolitical tensions rose in the Council, a European dimension is taking root. “Belgium’s contribution to this soft form of Europeanisation in the Council might become an inheritance for the future,” he said.
This is the sixth time since 1947 that Belgium has occupied a seat on the UN Security Council. Early next year, Minister for Foreign Affairs Wilmès will report on the outcome of the Belgian 2019-2020 mandate to the Belgian Council of Ministers and to the Parliament.