In Hindsights

  • Of the five articles in the UN Charter assigning functions to the Secretary-General, Article 99 is the most important in the context of international peace and security. It grants the Secretary-General the authority “to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. In this way, Article 99 allows the Secretary-General to initiate a Security Council discussion. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld underscored that “[it] is Article 99 more than any other which was considered by the drafters of the Charter to have transformed the Secretary-General from a purely administrative official to one with an explicit political responsibility”. The drafters of the Charter were fully aware of the weight of vesting this task in the Secretary-General: as the report of the UN Preparatory Commission points out, “the responsibility it confers upon the Secretary-General will require the exercise of the highest qualities of political judgment, tact and integrity”.

  • In June, the General Assembly elected five new members to serve two-year terms on the Security Council. This event highlights the interactions between these political organs of the UN system, which also include the election of the UN Secretary-General by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Council, and the simultaneous voting of both organs for members of the International Court of Justice, among other forms of engagement. It seems useful, in the wake of the elections to the Council, to consider how the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly can be strengthened.

  • The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly is expected to hold elections on 7 June for five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the term 2020-2021. (For more detailed information, please see our 14 May research report Security Council Elections 2019.)

  • 30 April 2019

    Arria-Formula Meetings

    The “Arria-formula” is the most flexible meeting format the Security Council has at its disposal. It has been used every year since March 1992, when Ambassador Diego Arria of Venezuela wanted fellow Council members to hear an eyewitness account of atrocities occurring in the former Yugoslavia. Unable to find a formal way to hold such a meeting, Arria invited Council members to meet with the witness in the UN delegates’ lounge. This was deemed useful; several similarly informal briefings were soon held, and the term “Arria-formula meetings” was born.

  • Not knowing in advance which subsidiary bodies a new member would chair left insufficient time to prepare—either to secure the right expertise within their teams, or even to have a proper handover from the exiting chair. Permanent members opposed several efforts aimed at changing the practice, but in 2016, the new election timetable prompted Council members to agree on several new practices for the incoming members’ longer preparatory period, including an earlier and more consultative process of appointing the chairs of Council subsidiary bodies.

  • Under the UN Charter, the Security Council’s only clear obligation to the UN General Assembly is to submit an annual report for its consideration, as set out under Article 24(3). For nearly three decades, the annual report has been criticised by the UN membership. The Council has, however, made efforts to address some of the problems.

  • The fractured state of Council relations, particularly among the permanent members, was reflected in the difficulty of obtaining consensus on Council resolutions. This is not entirely new: the number of vetoed and non-consensus resolutions has been rising for eight years. In 2018, three resolutions were vetoed, while four tabled drafts failed due to insufficient votes. A lower number of resolutions was adopted—54, against 61 in 2017—of which nine had fewer than 15 votes in favour.

  • Over time, the Security Council has come to view upholding individual criminal accountability as integral to its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. In some situations, the Council has approached this accountability as a practical tool that can have impact on the ground, aware, as well, that persistent impunity for gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law may hamper its own ability to maintain or restore international peace and security.

  • A core task of the Security Council is to design the mandates of UN peace operations and assess their implementation. Central as mandate-crafting is to its work, the Council’s products have been criticised for not responding adequately to realities on the ground, for being circumscribed by political and cost considerations of member states rather than driven by what the situation demands, and for lacking strategic focus.

  • In September, the Council undertook its 63rd visiting mission since 1992 when it visited the DRC for the 14th time. The Council has utilised visiting missions more often in recent years, having conducted 13 missions covering 26 countries between January 2016 and October 2018, with five missions in both 2016 and 2017.

  • 28 September 2018

    Emergence of the E10

    In October, the five incoming members of the Security Council—Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, IndonesiaandSouth Africa—will begin attending meetings of the Council, both formal and informal, as well as meetings of the subsidiary bodies. Starting on 1 January 2019, these five members will make up the E10 together with Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, PeruandPoland.

  • 31 August 2018

    South Sudan Arms Embargo

    With the adoption of resolution 2428 on 13 July, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan until 31 May 2019. The imposition of an arms embargo on South Sudan is a major development. Some Council members had proposed an arms embargo more than four years ago—then-elected member Australia raised this in the Council in May 2014, for instance (S/PV.7168)—but until this July, the proposal had failed to garner sufficient support.

  • July marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The statute established the ICC’s jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. 17 July also marked the activation of the court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, as decided by the 16th session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties held between 4 and 14 December 2017.

  • In recent months, the usual divisions in the Security Council on Israel/Palestine have been exacerbated, largely resulting from different interpretations of the violence that has occurred along the Gaza fence, where Palestinians began protesting against Israel on 30 March. Regarding these events, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov has said in his recent briefings to the Council that Israel must exercise restraint and use lethal force only as a last resort “under imminent threat of death or serious injury”, while Hamas must refrain from committing acts of violence and creating provocations (S/PV.8265 and S/PV.8256).

  • The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly is expected to hold elections on 8 June for five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the term 2019-2020. (For more detailed information please see our 21 May Research Report: Security Council Elections 2018.)