February 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2012
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Security Council Statistics in 2011

With 66 resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2011, the year saw an increase in the number of resolutions relative to 2009 and 2010, but a consistently lower total number of decisions relative to the entire 1992-2008 period (please see chart below). 

In 2011 the total number of Council decisions (resolutions and presidential statements) decreased by 1.1 percent from 2010 (from 89 to 88), the second-lowest number since 1992 (2009 was the lowest). However, when one breaks down the 2011 figures, a more interesting picture emerges, as the number of resolutions actually increased by 11.9 percent relative to 2010 (59 to 66), mostly attributable to the various situations arising from the Arab Spring. By contrast, presidential statements dropped by 26.7 percent relative to 2010 (30 to 22) and continued the downward trend set in 2006.

The apparent stagnation in decision-making by the Council is all the more surprising taking into account the marked increase in the number of formal Council meetings relative to 2010. The number of meetings grew by 11.9 percent (210 to 235), with the situations in Sudan considered at 35 meetings (an increase of 118.8 percent), Somalia at 16 meetings (an increase of 50 percent) and 23 meetings to address just one of the situations arising from  the Arab Spring—Libya. Other outgrowths of the Arab Spring that came to the attention of the Council in 2011—under the catch-all agenda item “The Situation in the Middle East”—were Syria with four meetings, not including meetings pertaining to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), and Yemen with one meeting. In total, the Council considered the Arab Spring at 28 meetings, accounting for all of the increase in formal activity in 2011.

In contrast, situations that required comparatively less attention by the Council include Nepal (a decrease of 71.4 percent relative to 2010), Iraq (a decrease of 66.7 percent each), Central African Republic (a decrease of 64.3) and Côte d’Ivoire (a decrease of 26.7 percent).

When the number of meetings per agenda item is contrasted to the number of decisions, an interesting perspective is offered into the difficulty the Council has encountered in responding to certain situations due to the absence of consensus.


Whereas “The Situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian Question” stands alone with 14 meetings and no decisions taken (one draft resolution was the subject of a veto), interestingly the seven other meetings held to address other situations in the Middle East registered the second highest decision-making ratio for the Council in 2011, allowing for the adoption of five decisions (one draft resolution was the subject of a double veto) and a decision-to-meeting ratio of 0.71. Country situations with five or more formal meetings and high decision-making ratios also included Côte d’Ivoire (7 decisions in 11 meetings, or a ratio of 0.64), Somalia (9 in 16, or 0.56), Afghanistan and Liberia (3 in 6, (3 in 6 each, or 0.50), Central African Republic and Haiti (2 in 5 each, or 0.40), Sudan (13 in 34, or 0.38) and Democratic Republic of Congo (3 in 8, or 0.37). Within country-specific items, Kosovo (Serbia) registered the lowest ratio with no decisions taken and 6 meetings held, while Libya recorded a below average ratio (6 in 23, or 0.26,).

As for other agenda items, the maintenance of peace and security (5 in 6, or 0.83) and international tribunals (6 in 8, or 0.75) registered high decision ratios, whereas non-proliferation (2 in 6, or 0.33), and the International Court of Justice (0 in 10, or 0.00, due to a stalemate in filling one of the judicial vacancies concurrently but separately from the General Assembly) registered the lowest ratios.

The attention of the Council in 2011 was also very different from region to region, with agenda items pertaining to Africa totalling 126 meetings (54.2 percent, the highest since 1990); Asia, 45 (19.1 percent); Europe, 14 (5.9 percent) and only five (2.1 percent) for the Americas (all related to Haiti). Items relating exclusively to Sub-Saharan Africa were covered in 97 meetings (41.3 percent) whereas 53 meetings (22.5 percent) considered items relating to North Africa and the Middle East.

The year 2011 also showed a marked increase in attention to situations in Africa (30.6 percent relative to 2010) and more specifically relating to North Africa and the Middle East (42.5 percent), as could be expected from the Arab Spring. Meetings relating to Asia declined (26.3 percent relative to 2010) as did those pertaining to Sub-Saharan Africa (6.1 percent), whereas the number of meetings on situations in Europe or the Americas remained practically unchanged.


As indicated in our February 2011 Monthly Forecast, quantitative benchmarks do not provide a complete picture of Council activity, productivity or efficacy. Moreover, the statistics provided here cover only one formal layer of Council activity, not the informal layers nor the vast underworld of its subsidiary bodies. One factor accounting for a lower overall number of decisions is a steadily declining number of presidential statements (from a high of 67 in 2005 to 22 in 2011) and a far greater resort to the use of press statements (whose pronouncement does not necessitate a formal meeting).

Among the possible factors contributing to the stagnation in Council activity —which in fact translates into a decrease in overall activity were it not for the Arab Spring situations—and one that seems to be in line with the global financial crisis, is a greater apprehension about the financial implications of additional peacekeeping mandates. Reluctance to increase deployments, combined with an eagerness to explore enhanced intermission operability, and improved coordination between agencies and programmes to avoid duplication of efforts, will probably accompany the Council into the future.

Unlike 2010, when the atmosphere in the Council seemed comparatively more constructive, dynamics between the members have deteriorated in the aftermath of resolution 1973. The allegations of “mission creep” voiced by some Council members in regard to the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the protection of civilians in Libya by NATO have had an obvious impact on the ability of the Council to advance other work, on Syria in particular, and has had further secondary effects on other agenda items. The interest shown by some Council members to initiate an investigation into NATO operations in Libya has likewise not contributed to a more harmonious relationship.  The increasingly complex situations arising along the border between Sudan and South Sudan have also led to some marked discrepancies between Council members. Interestingly, Palestine’s application for membership did not become as divisive an issue as some feared, in part due to the fact that the issue was allowed to take a backseat to other situations emerging from the Arab Spring and remained within the purview of the Committee for the Admission of New Members.  

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