At a Time of Global Crisis, Where Is the UN Security Council?

A Statement by the Executive Committee of the World Refugee & Migration Council

At a time of unprecedented alarm about global public health and the plight of the world’s vulnerable populations, including refugees, the United Nations Security Council has been silent and inactive while G7 and G20 leaders this week coordinate their responses to a global pandemic. Under the UN Charter the Security Council has broad authority for ensuring international peace and security but is failing to carry out its vital coordinating leadership role in the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Security Council’s leadership should rise to the challenge at this perilous time:

  • It should express and encourage strong support for the UN’s key agencies, especially the World Health Organization, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the International Migration Organization, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which are underfunded, and the vital role they are playing in this crisis; 
  • It should remind governments everywhere of their obligation to include the most vulnerable in their responses to the virus as Canada has done with its own commitment to provide additional humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities; and 
  • It should stress that every country respond to the pandemic in ways that are consistent with international law and human rights and recognize the enlightened self-interest in protecting refugees. 

The Security Council’s silence is a troubling symptom of the deep dysfunction that has beset its 15-member body in recent years. As Canada campaigns for one of those seats in this year’s election, it should pledge in its platform to bring the Security Council back to life and face up to its responsibilities. UN member states — and indeed the peoples of the world — deserve no less.

The World Refugee & Migration Council through its work on behalf of refugees across the globe is acutely conscious of the critical need to steward international collaboration and investment for those most vulnerable, the displaced and dispossessed of the world.

Signed by:

The Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, former Foreign Minister of Canada and Chair of the World Refugee Council

Ms. Rosemary McCarney, Canada’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva)

Dr. Jonathan Fanton, President Emeritus of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Fen Osler Hampson, Chancellor’s Professor, Carleton University, and Executive Director, World Refugee Council

Mr. Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (New York)

The Hon. Allan Rock, former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada and Canada’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (New York)