In the fifth annual debate on the working methods of the Security Council today, speakers acknowledged progress towards more transparency and efficiency in the operations of the 15-member body, while calling for more meaningful engagement between it and the wider United Nations membership.
"We must recognize that some improvements were made in recent years," Portugal's representative, Chair of the Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, said, while also noting areas that needed further improvement. "Working methods is always a work in progress, never completed," he stressed.
Introducing a concept note prepared by his country along with the Indian presidency (see Background) and describing the activities of his Working Group, he pointed to improvements in consultation informality and more efficient utilization of Secretariat resources through better scheduling.
In that context, he said that there had been greater utilization of videoconferencing and better rationalization and distribution of work by readjusting mandate renewal periods and reporting cycles.
Noting also the increase in the number of open debates, for the benefit of greater transparency, he said that the Working Group was considering measures to allow more meaningful interaction with non-Council members such as ensuring that their inputs in such debates were reflected in any outcome.
Concept papers, shorter interventions and summations could also improve the debates. The annual report, in addition, would be served by providing more substantive information and reinforcing aspects related to the interaction with non-Council members.
He added that monthly assessments by Council presidencies were useful, as were informal briefings to the general membership after their terms, which could be done as a matter of regular practice. All such ideas would be included in a draft note expected to be adopted by the Working Group in the coming weeks.
In the discussion that followed, most speakers welcomed efforts that had been made to increase the efficiency of the Council, as well as to improve its engagement with other United Nations organs, the wider membership, regional organizations and troop-contributing countries, stressing that such progress should continue, along with increasing the efficiency and transparency of the Council's subsidiary bodies, particularly sanctions committees. Many commended the trend of an increased number of open meetings.
In that context, some delegations said that speaking at meetings was not enough; participation must become meaningful through ensuring that positions expressed were reflected in outcomes. Some also welcomed the widening of the Council's agenda with thematic issues, discussed in open meetings.
The representative of the Russian Federation, while noting that the procedures of the Council should continue to evolve, warned, however, that they "should not be subjected to populism".
The main objective must be increasing the Council's effectiveness and efficiency to meet its responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security. For that reason, it was important not to take on topics that were primarily in the areas of competency of the other organs of the United Nations.
In his view, valuable improvements included strengthening linkages between the Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, troop-contributing countries and relevant organizations.
Transparency and democracy could be improved by the improvement of "penholder" functions of those delegations that were the focal points of drafting outcome texts. For example, he said, there was no need for penholders to speak first and act as mentors; discussions on texts under consideration should be more informal.
The representative of the United Kingdom suggested that transparency could be improved through the engagement of non-members in informal dialogues and meetings, and through more analytic official reporting. It was most important, however, that the Council's agenda be kept up to date, he said, noting that the list of agenda items this year had included one issue not discussed since 1949, yet did not include Syria.
With that in mind, the Council must be ready to innovate and adapt to the modern world and do more to engage with Member States. In that context, France's representative welcomed a proposal for limiting the use of the veto when it was evident that mass atrocities were being committed.
While many speakers took that view, some doubted the sincerity of support for reform on the part of important countries. Liechtenstein's representative maintained that General Assembly draft resolution L.42, submitted during the sixty-sixth session by the Small Five Group (S5) contained a valuable "yardstick" for improving Council working methods.
He objected to the text's withdrawal despite its strong support. "If the Security Council is serious in its resolve to advance its working methods, it has now been given a detailed menu to do so," he said of the draft.
Singapore's representative, also a member of the S5, maintained that the permanent members of the Council had resorted to "strong-arm tactics" to ensure that the resolution "never saw the light of day". Adding that such resistance did not advance anyone's interests, he said, "I hope that it will not take a crisis of seismic proportions to precipitate a fundamental change".
South Africa's representative, in addition, said that improvement of working methods did not obviate the need for overall Council reform to make it more inclusive and more reflective of the current world.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Colombia, Azerbaijan, Germany, China, Pakistan, Togo, Morocco, Guatemala, United States, India, Brazil, New Zealand, Argentina, Luxembourg, Japan, Egypt, Switzerland, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Ireland, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Netherlands (also on behalf of Belgium), Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Slovenia, Spain, Senegal (on behalf of the African Group), Uruguay, Indonesia and Cuba.
The meeting was opened at 10:08 a.m., suspended at 1:11 p.m., reconvened at 3:12 p.m. and adjourned at 4:22 p.m.
The Security Council had before it a concept note on issues related to improving the Council's working methods annexed to a Letter dated 19 November from the Permanent Representatives of India and Portugal to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2012/853).
According to the note, today's open debate is the fifth on the topic, the last having been held in November 2011. Today's debate was designed to discuss progress, since that last meeting, on enhancing transparency, efficiency and the interaction of the Council with States Members of the United Nations, as well as concrete proposals for further improvement.
In that context, the note suggests that the meeting could include discussion on strengthening the trend of more public meetings, thereby promoting a transparent and inclusive process of negotiation within the Council, including in relation to the appointment of the chairs of the subsidiary bodies.
Topics could also include flexible use of meeting formats and further enhancing the utility of open debates while promoting the wider participation of non-Council members and developing the interaction of the Council with regional organizations and with troop- and police-contributing countries by ensuring a more substantive exchange of views.
The note further suggests that topics of discussion could include enhancing the role of the Military Staff Committee, improving the Council's interaction with the chairs of the Peacebuilding Commission and its country-specific configurations and enabling a more consultative production process for the annual report of the Security Council to the General Assembly and ensuring that it contains more substantive and analytical information.
It also proposes consideration of ways to encourage Council presidents to promote transparency through interaction with the wider membership via informal briefings and more substantive and informative monthly assessments on the Council's work and ensuring a regular interaction of the Council presidents with the chairs of other relevant United Nations bodies on issues of mutual interest.
Finally, it suggests consideration of ways to further increase transparency, interaction and efficiency in the work of subsidiary organs, particularly sanction committees.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal), Chair of the Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, noted that a year had passed since the last open debate was held on the topic of Council working methods. That meeting had been instrumental in subsequent efforts to improve the transparency, efficiency and engagement of the wider membership in the Council's work.
Describing the activities of the Working Group, he said that there was indeed further work to be done on the internal aspects of the Council's work, particularly in relation to the use of consultations and open meetings. On consultations, discussions had highlighted the need for informality through abolishing pre-organized lists of speakers and avoiding lengthy statements.
Also underlined had been the need for a better organization of resources to allow more space for meetings of subsidiary bodies, greater use of videoconferences to avoid costly presence of briefers and better work planning by readjusting mandates and reporting cycles with the view to evening out the workload throughout the year.
Turning to the external aspects of the Council's work, he said that the Working Group was considering measures to improve transparency and interaction with non-Council members, such as ensuring better follow-up to open debates by reflecting inputs of non-members in any outcome.
Concept papers, shorter interventions and summations could also improve those debates. The annual report, in addition, could be enhanced by more substantive information and reinforcing aspects related to the interaction with non-Council members.
Monthly assessments by Council presidencies were useful, as were informal briefings to the general membership by Council presidents after their terms. Those suggestions were among those to be included in a draft note to be considered for adoption by the Working Group in the coming weeks.
Adding to the ideas from the concept note prepared for the meeting (see Background), he said that to strengthen conflict prevention, "horizon scanning meetings", as organized by several presidencies in the past year, should be improved to help dissipate reservations about their usefulness. "We must recognize that some improvements were made in recent years," he said in conclusion, adding, however, that there is always room for improvement. "Working methods is always a work in progress, never completed," he stressed.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said that the main goal in improving working methods should be related to the subjects requiring the Council's greatest attention, and include the need for transparency. Rationalizing resources, deciding issues related to so-called "penholders" and a more equitable distribution of Council work during the year were also important; the recommendations of the Working Group were applicable in those areas.
Additional open debates helped increase transparency and assisted decision-making. However, it was also important that the positions of the wider membership be taken into account when texts were adopted. Those views could be made known during monthly meetings for that purpose. More interaction with troop-contributing countries and principals of the Peacebuilding Commission were also important. Transparency in the subsidiary bodies, particularly the sanctions committees, was also necessary.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said procedures were constantly evolving in the Council and should continue to be improved, but they "should not be subjected to populism". The main objective should be increasing the Council's effectiveness and efficiency to meet its responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security.
For that reason, it was important not to take on topics that were primarily in the areas of competency of the other organs of the United Nations, such as general topics. Discussions of country-specific situations, in which decisions must be taken, must be primary.
In that context, he said, peaceful settlement of disputes were the priority, and sanctions and other strong measures should be a last resort. Enhancements to the working methods included improving the linkages between the Council, the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, troop-contributing countries and regional organizations.
Use of effective meeting configurations also should be encouraged. Transparency and democracy could be improved by improving "penholder" functions. There was no need for penholders to speak first and act as mentors; discussions on texts under consideration should be more informal.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said the international community's interest in reform was obvious since the Council, in fulfilling its mandates, should be accountable to the world it represented. Improving efficiency was essential, and while more attention had been paid to bolster participation among Member States, obstacles remained and more efforts were needed to meet the international community's expectations. Any hesitation to change the Council's working methods should be overcome, he added.
Welcoming the increase in the number of open meetings, he said the Council's efforts reflected its willingness to hear other voices. Yet steps should be taken to increase the effectiveness of briefings in terms of early warnings in conflict situations. He welcomed efforts to make the current annual report more detailed, adding that monthly reports should also contain more information on consultations.
He also sought more dialogue with the international community, with special attention given to regional arrangements aimed at achieving a pacific settlement of conflicts. The Council's working methods must enhance its efficiency. Real improvements required a changed approach concerning the collective needs, he said.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said the increased participation of Member States could be seen in the growing number of open debates and briefings and the use of modern technology. An interactive and dynamic relationship with organizations and special representatives was crucial. He supported the interaction between the Council and regional organizations and looked forward to completion of its current work.
Regarding chairmanships of subsidiary bodies, he said inclusive appointments should be made. Open debates were an important opportunity for Council members to benefit from the views of other Member States, and concept papers on relevant issues should be circulated, and Council reports and monthly assessments should be improved. Reforming the working methods was part of a larger reform. In the case of the Council, reform should lend its decisions greater credibility.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said the key test of the Council would always be at preventing and resolving conflict around the globe, since its main responsibility was to make a difference on the ground.
As the Council was carrying out those duties, two principles needed to be balanced: effectiveness and transparency. The first principle was crucial, and elements that enhanced effectiveness included, among others, the Council's improved use of teleconferencing and its monthly horizon-scanning meetings.
On transparency, the Council, he said, must listen to and engage with all Member States, including through participation in informal dialogues and meetings. Official reporting should be more analytical and self-critical, he added.
The Council's agenda should also be kept fresh and up to date, he said, noting that the list of agenda items this year had included one issue not discussed since 1949, yet did not include Syria. With that in mind, the Council must be ready to innovate and adapt to the modern world and do more to engage with Member States.
LI BAODONG ( China) said the continuous improvement of the Council's working methods was evident in some areas, including more open meetings, briefings to non-Council members and other formats that had strengthened exchanges and interaction with organizations and States. The annual joint meetings with the African Union, for example, had deepened interaction with African States and allowed a swifter response to conflicts.
There was still room for improvement, he said, supporting the president's note of 2010. While recent years had seen an increased workload, including items that fell outside the Council's mandate, attention should be made to, among others, the use diplomacy. An effective monitoring mechanism should also be established to avoid overstepping Council mandates.
Further, the Council should carry out negotiations and consultations to reach consensus and all Council members should be given adequate time. He objected to "forcing through" a text. Interaction and dialogue with non-Council members should be improved, and communication should be strengthened with troop-contributing countries.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR (Pakistan) stressed the importance of more frequent open debates in improving Security Council working methods, for which effective follow-up and operationalization of the practicable suggestions that stemmed from those debates were needed.
Fundamental to improving the working methods was greater transparency, democracy and inclusion. That would enhance Council accountability to the general membership.
Working methods also impacted on the Council's substantive agenda. Political will and implementation were vital, especially in increasing efficiency, which could also be improved if the Council's periodic workload was spread more evenly throughout the year.
He called for more public meetings and more inclusive decision-making, underpinned by adequate time for proper negotiations. The "take it or leave it approach should be eschewed", he urged. Non-members needed greater access, and their views needed more sway in deliberations, decision-making and outcomes.
Given the importance of peacekeeping to the Council's work, consultations with troop-contributing States were also necessary, as was strengthened cooperation with regional organizations. He called for greater reliance on "pacific settlement of disputes" under Chapter VI of the Charter and for better interaction with the media, the Secretariat and special envoys and representatives of the Secretary-General.
On sanctions committees, he pointed to the institution of an ombudsperson for the 1267/1989 Committee as an example of the sort of best practices that could be applied to other committees. In general, the Council should focus more on international peace and security and desist in encroaching on the mandates of other bodies. Non-permanent Council members displayed much accountability because they were elected to their positions; adding new permanent members to the Council was unlikely to result in improved working methods.
LIMBIYE KADANGHA-BARIKI ( Togo) said while some gains had been made, much remained to be done to be truly transparent and efficient. Highlighting the Working Group's recommendations on issues concerning resources and reporting cycles, he said transparency, inclusivity and flexibility must guide actions, allowing all Member States to participate in work on resolutions and other projects, and he hoped that the Council would soon make decisions on those and other questions that could improve its working methods.
The Council's interaction with other United Nations organs had improved, he said, applauding more open debates. Some delegations had proposed that documents adopted by the Council at the end of those debates should reflect positions expressed by Member States.
Praising the Council's interaction with other organizations and individuals towards maintaining peace, he highlighted the fruitful dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regarding the situation in Mali, and the meetings with heads of peacekeeping missions around the world.
More attention should be paid to those meetings at a time when regional organizations were seeking solutions to intra-State conflicts. The most reassuring aspect was that the Council was aware of the challenges and was tackling them. However, more work was needed in implementing those efforts. The road ahead was long and all stakeholders should work together.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said that it was critical for the entire membership to be engaged in the Council's work, given the universal importance, not only of the maintenance of peace and security, but also of such subjects as terrorism and non-proliferation. He praised the Working Group for better distributing reporting and mandate cycles, and welcomed the use of more efficient consultations and videoconferencing, as well as the increased number of open meetings.
For the latter to be more substantive, non-members should be given more time to prepare their positions. Also important was more substantive engagement of troop-contributing countries, along with improved briefing formats. Increased interaction with regional organizations was also welcome, particularly recent interaction with the League of Arab States. Seeking the opinions of non-Council members in drafting the annual report was helpful, as was consultation on the sanctions committees' leadership. Clear and adequate information should be posted on the Council's website, and he sought further consultations on working methods.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) stressed the importance of gearing practice to needs. He welcomed the enhancement of transparency through the holding of open debates on the majority of issues, as well as regular dialogue with troop-contributing countries, although the substantive nature of the latter should be improved.
Better distribution of information had also been accomplished. Progress and innovation were still needed; the tools available could be better utilized, such as greater use of technology that allowed input from the field. More interaction with other organs of the United Nations and relevant organizations was needed.
He agreed with the recommendations to improve the work on thematic issues by mainstreaming them into work on specific situations, and he welcomed the request for limiting the use of the veto when mass atrocities were being committed or other urgent indications for exercising the responsibility to protect.
The work of subsidiary bodies could be improved. Finally, he expressed hope that a useable compilation of proposals produced in this debate would be made available.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) said that reform of both the configuration of the Council and its working methods were important. Consistent implementation of reforms should be the rule; for that reason it was important to work towards permanent working methods. He welcomed briefings to the general membership, as well as the improvements to the Council website.
He called for opening up meetings of subsidiary bodies, as his chairmanship of the Working Group on conflict prevention in Africa had done. Noting that interactions with the Peacebuilding Commission and troop-contributing countries had increased, he maintained that they should become more meaningful. More substantive engagement with the general membership was also needed.
Underlining the importance of field visits by both Council members and Chairs of subsidiary bodies, he expressed disappointment that the Council had not been able to visit key areas such as in the Middle East recently, despite invitations to do so. The manner in which Working Group heads were selected should be reconsidered.
Greater transparency was needed in that area, and decisions should be open to debate by all Member States. Stressing that ongoing consultation with the African Union had benefitted both organizations and should be continued, he expressed concern over selectivity in reception of the recommendations of regional organizations.
The use of video technology could strengthen interaction between the Council and the Union's Peace and Security Council. Finally, he stressed that improvement of working methods did not obviate the need for serious Council reform to make it more inclusive and more reflective of today's realities. Such reform must be undertaken lest the Council's legitimacy and credibility be further eroded.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said while certain progress had been made, there was room for improvement and, among others, the concept note could guide future progress.
Regarding the regularity of discussions on the agenda, he thanked the Secretariat for the broad description of reporting cycles. Spacing out mandate renewals and grouping together themes were among other useful practices. A mechanism for interaction with Member States assuming chairmanships of working groups should be considered to better prepare them for their roles.
Noting the importance of open meetings in promoting a greater degree of participation, he said there should be sufficient time for Member States to make contributions. When possible, relevant contributions should be followed up after an open debate. In addition, close cooperation between the Council and regional and subregional organizations should be bolstered to better manage crises in the short, medium and long term.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said to fulfil its mandates, the Council must be able to act quickly and with a high level of flexibility, as could be seen recently in quick turnaround meetings this month to discuss situations in Gaza and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Council had also increased the accessibility of its work to Member States and the public, with fewer private meetings and monthly assessments to provide a snapshot of its work. The Working Group should hold open meetings, which would allow the Chair to explain the Group's mandate and provide another forum in which to hear views on working methods.
Welcoming Member States' participation in open debates, he said that important interaction helped the Council to mitigate the recurrence of conflicts, and he suggested that more ways to discuss more issues in that manner should be explored. While the Council's formal meetings made headlines, much of its work occurred outside the Chamber, he said, noting that members should consider carefully the views of other Member States.
Beyond greater transparency and interaction, it was important to keep working to make the Council more effective. The increased use of video teleconferencing had provided the Council more timely information on conflicts, he said, noting the sharp increase to 26 of such conferences in 2011 compared with 1 in 2009.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) called attention to the growing realization that the Council's composition and working methods were divorced from contemporary international realities. The Council had shown little interest in consulting with those affected most by its decisions and had failed to adopt transparent and inclusive rule of procedures.
To improve its performance, Council members must conform its reforms to current global realities. The international community, as well, should be cognizant that enlarging the Council to reflect those realities would make that body more representative and more credible. Improved working methods must be transparent and inclusive and address access to information and the tendency to hold closed meetings.
In other suggestions, he said the Council's reporting cycle should be made practical and results-oriented; its work should also be better spread throughout the year; and it should implement Articles 31 and 32 of the Charter, regularly consulting non-Council members, particularly when they had an interest in the substantive matter under consideration.
Non-members should have systematic access to the Council's subordinate organs, and troop- and police-contributing countries should participate in decisions concerning peacekeeping operations. The Council should concentrate international peace and security issues, and before mandating Chapter VII measures, it should make serious efforts to peacefully settle disputes under Chapter VI, for which it should enhance its cooperation with regional organizations, particularly the African Union.
Finally, he said comprehensive reform should include expansion of both permanent and non-permanent categories, as that was essential both for credibility and confidence in the institutions.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said that the General Assembly had reiterated its call for a less opaque Security Council during a recent discussion on the Council's annual report. Her delegation would welcome closer ties between the two bodies, as well as more frequent interactive briefings and the presentation of special reports.
The Council should also consider mechanisms to follow up on suggestions made by non-members during that Assembly debate. Recent initiatives to enhance the relationship between the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission were also welcome. The informal interactive dialogue held last July under the Colombian presidency had brought up interesting suggestions on how the Council could benefit from the Commission's advisory role.
Noting that there was much room for improvement, she encouraged a dialogue between the Council and the country-specific configurations on a regular basis and in the context of mandate renewals. She meanwhile commended recent steps by the Council to strengthen its relationship with regional and international organizations.
She acknowledged the importance of informational briefings by the Council presidency at the beginning of the monthly, but felt those were also necessary at the end. In that regard, "wrap-up" sessions recently held by Brazil and Portugal should soon become a regular practice. The growing availability of information on the Council's website, including mandate cycles, was also welcome. The same should apply to the Council's subsidiary organs.
Turning to the question of interpretation and implementation of the Council's decisions, she said the establishment of objective parameters was vital to increase accountability and effectiveness and to avoid loose interpretation of mandates, especially when the use of force was authorized.
Improving the working methods, however, was only a part of the broader need to adapt the Council to the new international reality. "Only a real reform of the Council's structure will turn this body more representative, transparent, efficient and legitimate," she said.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said while some modest improvements had been made, two years after the presidential note of 2010, full and consistent implementation of reform measures remained elusive and progress was limited and slow.
A key issue for discussion was the more equal distribution of work between permanent and non-permanent Council members. Genuine consultations would improve the situation, as would granting non-permanent members a more active role in drafting resolutions and decisions. The Working Group must be realistic about its scope and potential and discussions must advance beyond "note 507".
He highlighted the relevance of draft resolution "L.42", which dealt with accountability, transparency and effectiveness. Since that text had received strong support, he asked why it had been withdrawn instead of being put to a vote. The draft's annex served as a "yardstick" in discussions on Council working methods as it stated that the body should deal with its agenda according to the membership it represented.
"If the Security Council is serious in its resolve to advance its working methods, it has now been given a detailed menu to do so," he said. The Council found itself in uncharted territory regarding accountability, two decades after the establishment of the first ad hoc tribunal on the topic. There was a clear need for the Council to engage in a comprehensive discussion of its role in the situation in Syria. In addition, it was essential that the use of the veto should not be contrary to the principles of the United Nations and that a minimum of accountability was provided in that respect.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said that many Member States were concerned at the Council's failure to achieve optimum outcomes when it did not give due weight to the mechanisms available under the Charter's Chapter VI. Mediation, conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes were not only efficient, but they were much less expensive than costly peacekeeping or enforcement operations.
In that regard, the potential of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa was still not being recognized. Indeed, New Zealand would like to see a full-scale review of the structure and functioning of all the Council's standing and ad hoc committees, working groups and commissions, as much of their work could be greatly improved.
He said that despite concerns expressed over many years, there still existed the problem of participation in the Council's work by those with a real interest in the issues under discussion. The so-called Arria Formula and interactive dialogues were useful formats to extend participation, and they should be commonplace and not an exception.
Also to extend participation, he urged the Council to consider adapting as appropriate the Peacebuilding Commission's example of country-specific configuration. He also proposed that, in 2013, there be an open Security Council debate focused on options for improving the Council's working methods under Chapter VI.
That debate could be preceded by an informal, interactive dialogue with non-Council members, which should better inform the open debate and could result in an outcome document adopted by the Council itself. Thereafter, the Council and interested non-members might consider establishing a "dialogue group" to address that and other procedural issues on an ongoing basis.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) recalled that, during its presidency of the Council in February 2000, her country had urged the adoption of a presidential note allowing newly elected members to participate as observers in consultations prior to assuming their duties.
Turning to recent developments, she said it would be unfair not to acknowledge recent strides, including the debates that offered non-Council members the chance to put forward proposals aimed at improving the body's working methods and democratizing its decision-making process. However, those achievements were not sufficient, as had become clear last May when the proposal of the Small Five Group (S5) - Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland - had been discussed.
At that time, she continued, Argentina had not considered it advisable to force a decision through a non-consensus resolution in the General Assembly. Nonetheless, there was no reason why the Security Council should not benefit from the ideas that an in-depth debate in the General Assembly, for example, could generate.
Such a debate on methodological improvements was both convenient and timely, and in no way affected the process towards the Council's deeper and integral reform. In addition, the new measures being considered by the Council concerning the process of appointing subsidiary body chairs and the exercise and role of penholders seemed to be going in a "good direction" despite the fact that, once again, discussions had been circumscribed to the Council members without the participation of the wider membership.
OLIVIER MAES ( Luxembourg) said that room remained for improving transparency and strengthening interaction with non-members. That could begin by tailoring the format of meetings and debates to relevant needs, including through Arria Formula meetings.
That facilitated exchanges and informal interactive dialogues, which allowed for increased interaction with non-members. Developments in Africa and the Middle East strengthened the conviction that the Council must ensure the best possible interaction with regional and subregional organizations.
Encouraging recent initiatives to better prepare the Council to anticipate threats to international peace and security, he pointed to the practice initiated by the presidency of the United Kingdom to invite briefings by the Department of Political Affairs. Follow-up on thematic debates should also occur, including on last month's topic on interaction between the Council and the International Criminal Court.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said that, while the Security Council's decisions were binding to all Member States, the legitimacy of those decisions "can be taken for granted". Japan, in its capacity as Chairperson of the Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, had taken the initiative of compiling presidential note 507 in 2006 and updating it in 2010.
As duly reflected in the note, significant progress had been made so far. For example, the Council engaged more frequently in interactions with non-Council members, interactive dialogues had been utilized on some regional and thematic issues and the presidency briefed non-Council members on its work programme at the beginning of each month.
However, he said, despite such progress, it was essential to further enhance the Council's transparency by steadily implementing note 507. Last May, the S5 had presented its draft resolution, which had a direct bearing on the improvement of the Council's working methods, but, in the end, the Group had withdrawn the text.
The Permanent Representative of Switzerland, Paul Seger, had explained that the Group had listened to the Council's readiness to "seriously consider" its recommendations, and that the S5 would "hold them to their promise". If the S5 saw substantive progress in the months that followed, "our efforts will not have been in vain", he had said. In that context, Mr. Kodama asked whether any tangible progress had been made since then.
ALBERT CHUA ( Singapore) said that the Council's expansion was an "intractable" issue and a "zero-sum game" in which there were winners and losers. In contrast, the improvement of its working methods was a "positive-sum game", which would benefit all Member States. Therefore, Singapore had advocated for a pragmatic approach to improve the working methods without prejudice to the separate issue of expansion. "An enlarged Council with the same flawed working methods will increase, not solve problems," he said.
While Singapore welcomed recent commitments to working methods reform by the Council and its permanent members, it was nonetheless puzzled that whenever serious opportunities for improvement were presented, they were often blocked by the permanent members themselves. Similarly, while an increased number of open meetings was evidence of the commitment to improving working methods, "meetings are just meetings" and were no substitute for genuine improvement.
Recalling the related resolution of the S5 last May, he said that the text's aims had been rather modest and that their impact would have been limited even if the resolution had been adopted. Nevertheless, the Council's permanent members had resorted to "strong-arm tactics" to ensure that the resolution "never saw the light of day".
Citing several examples of the permanent members' resistance to reform of the Council's working methods, he stressed that such continued resistance did not serve the interests of the United Nations membership or the legitimacy and transparency of the Council, or even the ultimate interests of the permanent members themselves. "I hope that it will not take a crisis of seismic proportions to precipitate a fundamental change," he added.
MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL (Egypt) said a major concrete step towards improving the working methods was to reach an agreement on the body's provisional rules of procedure, which had been in force for more than 60 years. The Secretariat should continue updating the Repertoire of the Council's Practice as a valuable source of information about the body's evolving methods for procedural and substantive matters.
The Council's annual report needed to be more comprehensive and analytical. The General Assembly should be informed about Council decisions, the reasons and backgrounds under which those decisions had been taken, as well as their impact on the ground. His delegation also expected the report to include more detailed information on the measures taken to improve the Council's working methods in order to properly assess the progress achieved.
He said that public meetings, including briefings and debates, should take into account the contributions of non-Council members, in particular those who might be directly affected by decisions.
Private meetings, informal consultations, and closed meetings should be kept to a minimum and should have written records, made available after a certain period of time, much like the practice used by some States in releasing restricted documents after a certain number of years. Urging the Council to stay within its mandate, he said that any decision to initiate formal or informal discussions on a situation in any Member State, or on other issues that did not threaten international peace and security, was contrary to the Charter's Article 24.
On the other hand, during Israel's recent military campaign against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the Council had been able to convene only one private meeting and closed consultations. "A body that is entrusted with the responsibility to uphold international peace and security should be able to do more than that," he said, adding that that was a "fresh reminder" of the urgent need to reform the Council's working methods. What was needed were not additional proposals, but political will to implement them.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland) stated that, while the Security Council sometimes lived up to its mandate, it had repeatedly failed to respond quickly to crises, such as the situation in Syria and the recent events in Gaza. "Civilians are dying or deprived of humanitarian assistance in Syria, while the Council debated procedural questions."
Recalling the draft resolution on Security Council working methods, presented by the S5 six months ago in the General Assembly and subsequently withdrawn, he underlined that "change in the Security Council must come from within the Council itself" and, therefore, his country was grateful for the initiative to convene today's open debate. The concept note was a reminder of the practical measures that could be taken to enhance the Council's transparency, efficiency, and interaction with the United Nations membership.
He urged the Council to get back to the tradition of regular "horizon scanning", as a tool of preventive diplomacy. There was also potential for improving the relationship between the Council and the International Criminal Court; the Council should consider concrete steps to increase the synergies between the bodies.
Finally, Switzerland had repeatedly suggested that permanent members who had cast a veto must explain their reasons for doing so and refrain from blocking action in cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He hoped that Council members would not simply "sit through this exercise", but instead, take up the appeals to improve its working methods "in a constructive spirit".
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the increased frequency of meetings on the Council's working methods indicated the great importance Member States attached to the matter. At the Movement's summit in Tehran, Heads of State underscored the need for United Nations Member States to fully respect the functions and powers of each principal organ of the United Nations and stressed that the Council must fully observe all Charter provisions and General Assembly resolutions.
They expressed grave concern over the Council's increasing encroachment on issues that clearly fell within the purview of other United Nations organs and stressed that close cooperation among all main organs was indispensable to enable the United Nations to remain relevant.
He said that the Movement's members also had called for more regular interaction between the Council's presidency and the wider United Nations membership to enhance the quality of annual reports. They also called on the Council to submit special reports for the General Assembly's consideration and to ensure that its monthly assessments were issued in a timely fashion. The Council should avoid resorting to Chapter VII for addressing issues that did not necessarily pose a threat to international peace and security.
Noting some of the Council's positive steps, he highlighted the increased number of public meetings, which should provide real opportunities and more meaningful exchanges, taking into account contributions of non-Council members. The application of the Arria Formula was a practical way to ensure more interaction, including with regional and subregional organizations.
To increase transparency and take a balanced approach to interaction with non-members, the Council should seriously address the shortcomings cited above and consider the relevant Charter provisions. More steps were needed, along with the necessary political will, to improve the working methods, with transparency, accountability and consistency in all activities. Above all, every effort should be made to render the Council more democratic, representative and accountable.
ANNE ANDERSON (Ireland) said there was an overriding requirement to take measures that would add structure to the Council's working methods and make them more transparent. That would ideally involve the adoption of formal Rules of Procedure and the inclusion in the annual report of an analytical element on the implementation of its working methods.
There was also a need to improve accountability in relation to the operations mandated by the Council, which were the key output of its work. That could, for example, include the provision of more detailed and timely information on all aspects of operations and missions.
She called for greater openness regarding the Council's day-to-day work. Potential areas for improvement included regular briefings to the United Nations membership on the work of subsidiary bodies and seeking the views of Member States for the Council's annual report at the time of its drafting.
Like others, Ireland was frustrated by the lack of progress on a comprehensive reform of the Council, whose discussions spanned more than two decades. But the issue of working methods was unique among the elements of prospective reform in that it applied equally to the Council as it was currently configured as to a reformed Council. Even modest success in that important area would build confidence, which would enable the Council to meet the more complex challenges of comprehensive reform.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Council was "perceived to be in paralysis", particularly with regard to the occupied territories of Palestine and Syria.
He did, however, welcome efforts to enhance Council efficiency and supported greater interaction and dialogue with non-members, as well as Japan's work to produce the Security Council handbook, known as the "Green Book". Nonetheless, the Council's Provisional Rules of Procedure had not been amended for 30 years and were now "a relic". Unlike other major United Nations organs, the Council had "refused to move with the times".
Pointing to a General Assembly draft resolution on reform, he said the Council could take on board its proposals without amending the Charter. It was time to end the status quo, preserved by Council members to protect their national interests. The world was extremely disappointed by the Council's failure to do what it was mandated to do.
One of the primary reasons for its inability to respond to recent crises in Syria and Gaza were its rules of procedure, which affected its working methods and had denied non-members the chance to present their views on the attack on Gaza or "condemn the illegal occupier and aggressor in Palestine".
Use of the veto had led to the deadlock, thereby preventing any action to resolve crises. Its use in situations involving genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity should be prohibited, as agreement on those matters would mark a tremendous improvement in the Council's working methods. Until such time, however, the Council would remain in a "time warp".
SHIN DONG IK ( Republic of Korea) welcomed progress made to date on implementing note 507, but believed more could be done in the areas of transparency, interaction with non-members and efficiency. He hoped the Council would strengthen efforts to provide regular public briefings and ensure an updated forecast of its activities.
It should also make greater use of the formats allowing for enhanced interaction with the general membership, as well as regional stakeholders, which could play a crucial role in resolving a specific conflict. Informal interactive discussions and meetings with troop- and police-contributing countries should remain an important part of Council activities.
He said that in order to deal with the ever-increasing volume and diversity of its workload, it was imperative that the Council increase its overall efficiency.
Council members had reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing its work, and he believed that better planning by adjusting mandate renewal periods and aligning the timing of reports on related issues would enable the body to work more efficiently. Cost-saving measures, such as not scheduling formal meetings on Fridays and avoiding translation of documents over the weekend, also merited continued consideration, he said.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica) said suggestions were still valid in the draft resolution submitted last year by the S5. They provided a clear road map for improving transparency, accountability, task distribution and fulfilment of responsibilities through a stronger use of the Organization's legal and political instruments.
Unfortunately, opposition to the proposal was "fierce", especially from the five permanent Council members and from those countries that considered that the status quo best protected their interests. That opposition was not defended with substantive arguments, but with the use of procedural legalities that forced the text's withdrawal.
He insisted on the need for the Council to commit to the recommendations in the draft's annex and emphasized a number of additional points, including the adoption of an action plan for the complete and systematic implementation of note 507, improvement of transparency in the work of the Council's subsidiary bodies and restriction of the Council's actions in relation to the codification and development of international law. He also emphasized the need to improve cooperation with the International Criminal Court and to strengthen its relationship with the Human Rights Council. "Collective security is everyone's security," he said, "by all and for all".
HERMAN SCHAPER ( Netherlands), speaking also on behalf of Belgium, said that encouraging improvements had already been made and working methods debates had produced results. Commending the successive elected Council members for their efforts, he did not want the further development of better working methods to be held hostage to a lack of progress on the wider debate about Security Council reform. He hoped the Council would seriously consider the withdrawn draft resolution by the S5.
He said that, while the concept note in this debate stressed the right principles, this discussion should lead to real and concrete measures that enhanced transparency, efficiency and interactivity within the Council and with the wider membership. He welcomed the concept note's suggestions, especially those aimed at enhancing the participation of the chairs of country-specific debates.
He also repeated a plea to improve those debates by inviting the country at stake to the discussions. Countries that were not Council members should be given the opportunity to contribute to certain Council debates under a formula to be decided on an ad hoc basis. He requested further clarification on some suggestions, including one on enhancing the role of the Military Staff Committee. It would be interesting, he said, to explore how that Committee could provide military advice when the Council considered the mandates of relevant operations.
SIGNE BURGSTALLER (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, commended the S5 for their committed efforts and said that the key issue was transparency.
She underscored the need for regular, informative briefings to non-members, including wrap-ups at the end of presidencies, as well as more analytical and forward-looking annual reports, connected more strongly to monthly reporting, and regular updates on the scheduling of meetings of subsidiary bodies. She added that the Nordic group was eager to contribute to transparency, fully supporting the Security Council Report website, as well as the Finnish workshop.
She welcomed the agreement to change the periodicity of mandate renewals and the increasing use of video links, as well as ongoing discussions on penholders, the appointment of Chairs to subsidiary bodies and the order of speakers in open debates. Such debates could be further improved by ensuring that outcome documents reflected input from all participants.
In the effort of conflict prevention and the ending of longstanding conflicts, enhanced cooperation with other United Nations bodies and organizations, and close engagement with troop-contributing countries was needed. She finally stressed that thematic issues should be linked better with country-specific situations and that the enhancement of due process achieved in listing and de-listing in the Al-Qaida sanctions committee should be extended to other sanctions regimes. She strongly encouraged the continuation of the annual open debates on working methods.
MATEJ MARN (Slovenia), welcoming the initiatives of the S5, said that the Council's work should reflect the interests of its entire membership. In that context, he welcomed an increase in open debates, for which the order of speakers should be reconsidered, the use of concept papers regularized and other reforms discussed with the goal of more effective wide participation.
Open briefings by the Secretariat would be useful in the context of conflict prevention and other areas and the use of the Arria Formula could provide more specific information on various situations. Briefings on international law would be valuable, and he urged that the veto not be used when it was evident that war crimes were being committed. He called for the Working Group to continue its work and to ensure that its proposals were followed up.
FERNANDO ARIAS (Spain), welcoming "positive developments toward increasing permeability" in the Council, said that some innovations could be put into practice in a more consistent manner, particularly those concerned with open debates, methods of drafting texts, informal and interactive dialogues and use of the Arria Formula.
In addition, he supported briefings by outgoing presidents, inclusion of the working methods issue in the annual report, the creation of a working group on lessons learned and the provision of more information on the composition of groups in charge of writing the first drafts of resolutions, proposing that those be circulated before they were discussed by Council members in consultations.
Deeming "appropriate" the guidelines contained in the concept note for the meeting, he trusted that they would be developed, along with the ideas put forward today, and used as basis for the elaboration of proposals to improve the Council's transparency and effectiveness. He did not see any drawbacks to permanent members committing themselves to reform measures supported by a large majority of Member States, including explanations of use of the veto and waiving it in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), on behalf of the African Group, urged the Council to build on important advances by improving its working methods. The Group was convinced that cosmetic changes did not further the fundamental need for Council reform and expansion of its membership.
Those values were inconsistent with having a Council in which Africa was unrepresented in the permanent category and underrepresented in the non-permanent category. His participation in this debate was firmly rooted in the Group's commitment to the African common position, and he continued to call for comprehensive Council reform.
He stressed the need to uphold the primacy of the provisions of the Charter regarding the two clusters, namely the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly and the Council's working methods. The Group maintained that the Council and the Assembly must work together to seek solutions to challenges facing them, including through harmonious interaction and a cooperative relationship.
Africa favoured a more accessible, democratic, representative, accountable, transparent and more effective Security Council, he said. Commending the enhanced cooperation between the African Union and the Council, he urged further enhancements, predictable and sustained funding for African Union peacekeeping operations and support for post-conflict reconstruction and development.
Sustained cooperation between the Council and regional organizations would yield immense benefits to present and future challenges. However, the Council fell short in meeting the African Common position on working methods; more was expected of it in terms of inclusivity, transparency and accountability.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay) welcomed necessary progress in the areas of transparency, inclusivity, efficiency and accountability. Recommendations made in the withdrawn draft resolution L.42 offered a good example of how to move forward, especially as suggestions did not require substantial modifications to produce positive results.
He said Uruguay placed special importance on questions regarding United Nations peacekeeping operations. Interactivity and transparency were essential with troop-contributing countries to bolster missions' effectiveness. While progress had been made in that field, more needed to be done. It was important not to lose the current momentum and he hoped today's debate would be a catalyst for further transparency and efficiency.
DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) welcomed the Council's actions to improve its working methods, but said efforts must be intensified. The Council should be more accessible and efficient, and greater transparency would enrich its decision-making and strengthen support for its actions. There should also be increased consultation with members that had a special interest in substantive matters, and Member States, especially those affected by sanctions, at their request, should be given the right of participation and of providing substantive inputs in meetings of relevant committees.
He said that draft resolutions, presidential statements and other draft documents tabled at informal consultations of the whole Council, if so authorized by their authors, should be promptly available to non-Council members.
In addition, he said the Council should hold more regular, timely and meaningful consultations with troop- and police-contributing countries, host countries, the United Nations peacekeeping secretariat, financial contributors and other countries directly concerned by operations. Additionally, the reasons for using the veto should be explained at the time of doing so and a copy of its explanation should be circulated to all Member States.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) said one of the problems facing the United Nations since its inception had been the inability to reform the Security Council. True reform at the United Nations must include that of the Council.
Changes to date had been modest and limited in scope, and they did not guarantee the wider membership's participation. Fundamental decisions were still left to the permanent members of the Council, and sometimes not even to all of them. Incidences included the adoption of resolutions without even hearing from all speakers, he said.
At the very minimum, he said, urgent changes were needed, including increasing the number of public meetings. Closed meetings and informal consultations should be held only rarely. The Council's texts should consider the views of all members. He was concerned by a growing trend in the Council to take on issues outside its mandate, and he urged it to review that practice.
The Council must strictly observe Charter principles and also be accountable to the General Assembly, presenting truly analytical annual and special reports. Turning to the question of veto, he said the practice was closely linked to the Council's working methods.
The practice was undemocratic and should be abolished as soon as possible, or, at the very least, its use should be limited. A more transparent Council would be a more accessible and effective one. There was no lack of ideas; what was needed was action.