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I should be grateful if you would arrange to have this letter and the attached assessment (see annex) circulated as a document of the Security Council.
The purpose of the present report is to present a general account of the activities of the Council during December 2002. The report is divided into five sections: monthly summary; objectives proposed by Colombia; the situation in Africa, Asia and Europe; thematic issues; and concluding observations.
As the following information indicates, the Council’s workload during the month of December was among the heaviest of the year:
(a) Thirty-two formal meetings;
(b) Twenty-one meetings for informal consultations;
(c) Adoption of ten resolutions (see appendix);
(d) Adoption of ten presidential statements (ibid.);
(e) Eleven press communiqués (ibid.).
Objectives proposed by Colombia
In addition to the work that the Security Council was to deal with during December, Colombia set four general objectives during its presidency.
The first objective was to provide opportunities to reflect on the work done by the Security Council during the 2001-2002 term of the five outgoing non-permanent members of the Council. This objective was met by the holding of a special event with the ambassadors of the States members of the Council, the general content of which is described in the present report, and a final wrap-up session for which terms of reference had been established for the purpose of reviewing the work done in 2002 and setting priorities for 2003.
The second objective involved the presentation, for the first time in an open meeting, of the final reports relating to the special responsibilities assumed by the outgoing members whose terms ended in December 2002 (Ireland, Mauritius, Norway, Singapore and Colombia). Those responsibilities included the chairmanships of the sanctions committees established pursuant to resolutions 661 (1990), 864 (1993), 1267 (1999) and 1343 (2001) and the chairmanships of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa and the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations.
The third objective was to give special consideration to the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2002/1300). The importance of the issue called for special attention, which Colombia sought to provide in the form of an open meeting and a substantive presidential statement that sets the pattern for the Council’s work in the coming years.
Lastly, the fourth objective was to highlight the seriousness of the food crisis in Africa as a threat to international peace and security by means of a specialized briefing by the Executive Director of the World Food Programme. The accomplishment of those objectives is described in the relevant sections of the present report.
The situation in Africa, Asia and Europe
The Security Council dealt actively with the specific situations under consideration. This section presents a narrative of developments.
Middle East (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force)
On 17 December, in a closed meeting in which troop-contributing countries participated, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) over the preceding six months (S/2002/1328). At the close of the meeting, Council members, meeting informally, exchanged comments on the report and voiced their unanimous support for the Secretary-General’s recommendation to renew the mandate of UNDOF for six months. At the end of that exchange of views, the President submitted for consideration by the Council a draft resolution renewing the mandate for that period, which was adopted unanimously that same day as resolution 1451 (2002). The President also submitted a draft presidential statement describing the situation, which was adopted the same day (S/PRST/2002/37).
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
In a public meeting on 16 December, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, Terje Roed-Larsen, briefed the Council on developments in the peace process since the previous briefing on 12 November. The Special Coordinator referred to escalating violence (stressing the death of three United Nations civil servants); the security situation; humanitarian and economic conditions; the activities of the “quartet” and the status of the road map it had outlined; and the situation in Lebanon, including the systematic violations of airspace over the southern part of the country and the Blue Line. Council members discussed the briefing in informal consultations immediately following the public meeting. Their discussion revolved around the topics raised by the Special Coordinator and included a number of references to the ministerial meeting of the “quartet” scheduled for 20 December 2002 in Washington, D.C. The death of United Nations personnel in the occupied territories came up repeatedly in the discussion. During the meeting, the Syrian Arab Republic circulated a draft resolution on behalf of the Group of Arab States for consideration by Council members.
On 19 December, in informal consultations, the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic indicated that the draft resolution on Israeli attacks against United Nations personnel was ready to be put to a vote. Some delegations said that they still had no instructions from their capitals with regard to such a vote.
In informal consultations held on 20 December, the Syrian delegation, under “Other matters”, called for a vote on the draft resolution submitted on behalf of the Group of Arab States. The delegation of the United States of America said that it was not prepared to support the text and submitted an alternative text to Council members. Some members expressed their willingness to allow additional time in order to arrive at a text acceptable to all 15 Council members. After a brief discussion, the Syrian Arab Republic reiterated its desire to put the text to a vote immediately, and the President decided to proceed in accordance with that request. There were 12 votes in favour of the draft resolution, two abstentions (Bulgaria and Cameroon) and one vote against, by the United States. The text could not be adopted, as a permanent member had voted against it. The United States spoke in explanation of vote before the vote. After the vote, Norway, Bulgaria, France and the Syrian Arab Republic also spoke in explanation of vote. Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine also made statements.