In Hindsights

  • The women, peace and security (WPS) agenda was inaugurated in 2000 with the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325. Trepidation marked the agenda’s 20th anniversary last year, with difficult Council dynamics characterising engagement on this issue in 2019-2020. Against this backdrop, the “presidency trio” initiative on WPS led by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico during their consecutive presidencies (September, October and November) may be understood as an initial attempt to find a way forward for the agenda at the Council.

  • The practice of extending a peace operation’s mandate—usually for a brief period—through a “technical rollover” has become fairly common. The term has not been used in Security Council decisions, however, and is rarely found in UN documents. Frequently, a technical rollover refers to an unaltered mandate that is extended by a concise resolution for a shorter period than is customary.

  • 30 September 2021

    The GERD and Water Security

    Council practice in recent years has shown a growing concern about water security issues. At one level, the Council’s discussion of the GERD could be viewed as an evolution of this practice. But while other Council discussions on water security have been at the thematic level or broad in focus, this case pitted the direct interests of influential member states against one another in a strategically important region.

  • More recently, and particularly in the past decade, the Council has expressed itself more frequently on humanitarian affairs, including in politically difficult environments. The proliferation of humanitarian crises in country situations on the Council’s agenda has undeniably contributed to this development.

  • On 9 July, in an astonishing show of unity on a perennially contentious issue, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2585, re-authorising the cross-border mechanism to deliver humanitarian assistance into Syria’s northwest. Not since the adoption of resolution 2332 in December 2016 had the Council reached consensus on the cross-border humanitarian aid delivery mechanism for Syria. And, unlike in December 2019, January 2020 and again in July 2020, the Council voted only on one draft text.  

  • In recent years, few thematic issues addressed by the Security Council have aroused as much attention, or controversy, as climate change and security. While it is not a formal agenda item, climate change and security has increasingly become a focus of signature events spearheaded by Council presidents. More and more, the Council is also emphasising the need for risk assessments and risk management strategies for climate change and ecological changes

  • The 75th session of the UN General Assembly is scheduled to hold elections for the Security Council on 11 June for five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the term 2022-2023.

  • The Arria-formula meeting format was conceived as the Security Council emerged from its stagnant Cold War period and members were open to wider information sources than government officials and the UN Secretariat on the many conflicts on its agenda.   

  • Mercenaries, the proverbial soldiers of fortune, have been part of conflict for almost as long as conflict has existed.

  • Secretary-General António Guterres’ five-year term concludes on 31 December 2021. The process of selecting and appointing the next Secretary-General officially commenced when the British Ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, acting in her capacity as president of the Security Council, and General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, issued a joint letter on 5 February to all member states, soliciting candidates for the position. 

  • Despite new working methods put in place in 2016 to facilitate a more efficient and transparent process, getting agreement this time was protracted and challenging.

  • 30 December 2020

    Looking Back to Look Ahead

    Every January, five new members take their seats for a two-year term on the Security Council. In 2021, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway are the incoming five (I-5) replacing departing members Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa. While we don’t have a crystal ball, the events of 2020 may provide an indication of what these members can expect in 2021.

  • The Security Council presidency, which rotates monthly in English-language alphabetical order, is an opportunity for Council members to showcase their foreign policy interests and goals. The “signature event”—convened as a debate, open debate, briefing or, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as open videoconferences (VTC)—is a prime vehicle for doing so.

  • Security Council procedural votes—which require nine votes in favour to be adopted and cannot be vetoed by a permanent member—remain rare, with a recent high of four such votes in 2018. From 1946 through 1989, there were 153 procedural votes, and since 1990 there have been only 28. Since the end of the Cold War, most procedural decisions—adopting the agenda for a particular meeting; adding a new item to the “seizure list”, as the list of all formal agenda items is known; or inviting an individual to participate in a Council meeting—have been arrived at by consensus during consultations.  

  • The Security Council’s annual report to the General Assembly has been one of the most belaboured aspects of the Council’s working methods. Numerous initiatives undertaken by member states since 1993 have aimed at making the report more useful to its principal addressee, the General Assembly, and to the general public. The most recent of these initiatives culminated in the adoption on 27 December 2019 of a note by the president of the Security Council, tightening the report’s preparation timeline with the aim of presenting it to the General Assembly before the beginning of summer, starting with the report for 2020.