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UN Council Holds First Video Conference During Virus Crisis

UN Council Holds First Video Conference During Virus Crisis

Wednesday, 25 March, 2020 - 12:00
United Nations (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

The UN Security Council held its first video conference briefings of the coronavirus era Tuesday on the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, and recognized the improving political and security situation in most parts of the country except the volatile mineral-rich east.

Tuesday's videoconference talks lasted more than four hours -- and included a discussion after the session on DRCongo about how the Council can keep working.

The meeting was interrupted several times when internet connections went down, or when some participants lost power.

While the Security Council often hears from officials in the field or other witnesses via videoconference, its 15 member states had never convened that way, an expert on UN history said.

The meeting was held in English, as technical difficulties made it impossible to provide simultaneous translation into the world body's other official languages.

Russia, a veto-wielding council member, has so far refused to entertain the idea of virtual votes, and has demanded that the council meet physically if a vote is needed.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not shuttered the organization's headquarters in New York, but the city itself is under a stay-at-home order issued by the state's governor.

As for the substance of Tuesday's talks, the council issued a unanimous statement after the meeting.

Members "expressed concern at the continued instability" in eastern DR Congo and "at the current humanitarian situation, especially the current measles epidemic."

There has been growing pressure to reduce the size of the more than 18,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO.

Guterres said "MONUSCO has begun consultations with the Government on a strategic dialogue to ensure that the drawdown and exit are carefully sequenced" to sustain gains of the past two decades. The council encouraged the government to work with its members and the UN Secretariat on "a joint strategy and benchmarks for drawdown."

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