In Hindsight

  • 28 December 2017

    The Demise of the JIM

    Six draft resolutions were vetoed in 2017, the most since 1988, and five of them focused on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the OPCW and the UN was the centerpiece of the Security Council’s efforts to determine responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It was established throughresolution 2235on 7 August 2015, largely a result of negotiations between the US and Russia. Three consecutive vetoes by Russia led to its termination at the end of 2017, dismantling what had been one of the rare examples of Council action on the Syria file.

  • 30 November 2017

    The Peacebuilding Commission

    For much of its existence, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)—created as an advisory body to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council—has been looked at cynically by some members of the Security Council as not providing much added value to the Council’s work. The UN general membership and staff in the UN Secretariat have also often viewed the PBC as something of a disappointment. Council members, particularly the P5, have questioned its ability to advise on conflict-affected situations and have found its meetings redundant, duplicating discussion and information provided by the Secretariat during Council sessions. The PBC’s supporters, in turn, have criticised the Council for not being receptive to working with the PBC, thus limiting its ability over the years to demonstrate its value. Tensions have existed since the PBC’s creation in 2005, which occurred as Security Council reform stalled, with the P5 seeing the PBC as a forum created by member states to discuss peace and security issues, encroaching on the prerogatives of the Security Council.

  • 31 October 2017

    Children and Armed Conflict

    The children and armed conflict agendahashad a difficult few years. Increasingly complex crisishaveled to a deteriorating situation for children in conflict situations and a rise in violations against them.

  • 28 September 2017

    Note 507

    Following weeks of negotiations over most of the summer, the Council reached agreement on 30 August on a new version of the compendium of its working methods, commonly referred to as “Note 507”. The document was elaborated under the leadership of Japan, in its capacity as chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, the venue for most discussions regarding the Council’s working methods.

  • 1 September 2017

    Mandating Peace Operations

    More than two years ago, the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) issued its report, with recommendations to ensure better design and delivery of UN peace operations. Since then, there has been little discussion by the Council of the...

  • The year 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the Security Council’s earliest consideration of climate change. During the past decade, it has been a matter of some controversy whether or not the Council is an appropriate body to address this issue. Numerous Council members have underscored the security implications of climate change, but China, Russia and other countries have expressed concern that the Council’s engagement on this matter encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN organs, notably the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. Despite the political tensions associated with addressing climate change, the Council has over time managed to engage with this issue in two open debates, in formal meetings covering a wide range of emerging threats to peace and security, and in informal Arria-formula meetings.

  • On 15 June, the Security Council adopted apresidential statementon Yemen, which focused on the country’s humanitarian crisis and confidence-building measures related to Hodeidah port. It was the Council’s first product on the Yemen war in nearly 14 months, with the exception of the annual resolution that it adopts to renew the Yemen sanctions regime. In total, the Council has adopted five decisions on Yemen since the start of the Saudi Arabia-led intervention on 26 March 2015:resolution 2216, two resolutions to renew the sanctions measures and two presidential statements. This output contrasts with the Council’s activity regarding other major wars and humanitarian crises, such as those in South Sudan and Syria.

  • In the past few years, the Security Council has devoted more and more time to open debates. From 90 hours in 2013, the cumulative duration went up gradually to more than 160 hours in 2016. Most open debates in the last several years have been thematic, with situation-specific ones, other than the quarterly Middle East open debate, being rare exceptions.

  • In the first half of April, the Council was engaged in a series of contentious meetings and negotiations on Syria that culminated in Russia’s eighthvetoof a Syria resolution since October 2011.

  • The Council has created several tools with considerable potential to enable its members to increase their own access to and understanding of gender-related conflict analysis in the various country settings on its agenda. Council members have adopted new practices as well as continued using existing ones to respond to some of the recommendations of the three UN peace and security reviews conducted in 2014-2015 on peace operations, peacebuilding and implementation of resolution 1325 to this same end. Our research report,Women, Peace and Security: Closing the Security Council’s Implementation Gap, examines significant recent developments in the Council, most notably the establishment of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security and, for the first time, inviting women’s civil society representatives to brief the Council at country-specific meetings.

  • One of the most important tasks the Security Council is mandated by the UN Charter to perform—and one of the things that it does least well—is to prevent violent conflict. In recent years, wars have erupted in the Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, among other cases, while political solutions to long-standing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur, for example, have proved elusive, with civilians suffering the brunt of the fighting. Humanitarian crises have become more pronounced, and there are now some 65 million people displaced by conflict worldwide, the highest number since the establishment of the UN in the wake of World War II.

  • The Council on 23 December 2016 issued a rare rebuke of Israel with the adoption ofresolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements as having no legal validity and constituting a major obstacle to a two-state solution. The Council’s consideration of the text on the issue, the first resolution adopted on Israel-Palestine in nearly eight years, elicited extreme pressure from the government of Israel and the incoming US administration on the Council member which had tabled the draft resolution, demonstrating how such pressure—external to the Council—can attempt to thwart Council initiatives even where consensus has been reached among its members. The story of resolution 2334, however, also demonstrates how elected members can play an instrumental role ingalvanisingthe Council on even the most contentious issues.

  • The UN Charter envisioned a symbiotic relationship between the Security Council and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the UN. However, the Council has scarcely made use of the ICJ as an instrument, or “tool”, in the exercise of its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. In its latest research report on the rule of law of 20 December 2016, Security Council Report examines the relationship between the Security Council and the ICJ, including options for enhancing that relationship to assist the Council in its work.

  • Most conflicts on today’s Council agenda are accompanied by severe human rights violations perpetrated on civilian populations by insurgents and in many cases, also by governments or those linked to them. A surge in human rights violations has often been a sign ofpotentialoutbreak of a conflict, or a predictor of increased instability and conflict escalation. The need for human rights information and analysis has come to be generally accepted as an aspect of the reality the Security Council needs to consider in order to be effective in fulfilling its main objective, the maintenance of international peace and security. But this acceptance came only relatively recently, after decades of questioning the appropriateness of Council’s concern with human rights, and the level of Council’s interest has fluctuated from year to year.

  • On 13 October, António Guterres was appointed as the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations. The General Assembly has appointed eight other Secretaries-General, but the road to this decision was a very different one from previousyears,when the selection of the Secretary-General was opaque and tightly controlled by the permanent members. This time, active involvement of civil society and members of the General Assembly in insisting on greater transparency and a more clearly defined selection process led to substantial changes that allowed both the General Assembly and elected members of the Security Council to play significant roles in the process.