Annual Report of the Security Council
Expected Council Action
In October the Council is expected to adopt its annual report to the General Assembly covering the period from 1 August 2012 through 31 July 2013. The US—which, as Council President in July is responsible for drafting the introduction of the report—is expected to address the Council. It is unclear whether other members will also speak at the adoption of the report, which is due to be presented to the General Assembly in November.
Under Articles 15 and 24 of the UN Charter the Council is required to submit an annual report to the General Assembly on the “measures that the Security Council has decided upon or taken to maintain international peace and security”. For the wider membership, it is meant to serve as a transparency and accountability mechanism of the Council, which as stated in the Charter “acts on their behalf.”
Most member states, though, have over the years viewed the annual report as not very useful. They have argued that the report should help them better understand the reasons the Council made its decisions. Efforts have been undertaken to improve its readability and analytical content.
Initial modifications of practices relating to the annual report were contained in a 1993 Note by the President of the Council (S/26015). The Council decided to no longer regard the draft annual report as a confidential document up to the point of its adoption. Instead, the Council agreed that the draft report could be made available to member states prior to adoption, and that the report would be adopted in a public session of the Council. The Note also agreed to format changes and recommitted the Council to a timely submission of the report to the General Assembly.
Largely at the initiative of Singapore, in 2002 the Council undertook its most concerted effort to date to improve the report (S/2002/199). An introduction was added that attempted to address the calls for more analytical content. To make the annual report more readable, its length was reduced from approximately 600 to 300 pages. The reporting period was also adjusted to its current timeframe, amending the previous format that ran from 16 June to 15 June, thus splitting two monthly presidencies in half.
Moreover, at the 2002 adoption, all 15 members intervened, reflecting on the Council’s effectiveness and suggesting ideas about how it could perform better. The debate was seen as in line with the 1993 Note establishing that Council members “who wish to do so may comment on the work of the Council for the period covered by the report”. The interaction was cited, in addition to the new introduction, as a further opportunity to evaluate the performance of the Council. At the time Council members heralded the changes, and praised the introduction, describing it as an “analytical overview”. However, 2002 was to date the only occasion when the report was discussed publicly by the full Council.
In 2012 some members had considered having an exchange among all or most of the 15 members about their views of the Council’s work over the prior year. The adoption was scheduled for 30 October. However, this was delayed due to Hurricane Sandy which struck New York and caused the UN to shut down for several days. The adoption was moved to 8 November and only its drafter, Colombia, spoke during the session.
A key issue is how to make the report more analytical. In 2002, the introduction was eight pages and focused on the main aspects of the Council’s work. Introductions in recent years have tended to be longer (the 2012 introduction was 54 pages) and included a factual summary of each meeting or Council decision, largely based on end-of-presidency assessments prepared by the relevant member states.
Whether the Council is currently prepared to engage in assessing its performance and effectiveness is a closely related issue.
Analysis of all the decisions taken annually may be an impossible challenge. Still, there are ways to produce a more substantial and useful report. This could include:
- producing a more analytical introduction of the reporting period, similar to that in 2002;
- analysing the broader policy questions that the Council dealt with over the past year;
- analysing statistics or trends on Council resolutions and presidential and press statements, by comparing this data with previous years and assessing significant variations in the number of outcome documents or favoured product formats; and
- reflecting divergent views to overcome the difficulty of producing a consensual analysis.
During the adoption of the report in October the Council could:
- simply adopt the introduction following a presentation by the US; or
- have members exchange views about the text and the performance of the Council over the year in review.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Prior to the formal adoption of the introduction, the draft is circulated for comments and approval to the full Council and to the five elected members that left the Council at the end of the previous year. Many Council members argue that consensus on an analytical text about its decision-making is not possible, or that the process is unnecessarily time consuming.
Some Council members contend that criticism of the report coming from the wider membership is unfair because the Council has in recent years made other improvements to enhance transparency. For example UN members have access to all Council decisions and other documents on its much improved website, and internal debates can be followed through a number of tools.
UN Documents on the Security Council’s Annual Report
|Notes by the President of the Security Council|
|26 July 2010 S/2010/507||This was a note which focused on enhancing Council transparency, as well as interaction and dialogue with non-Council members.|
|1 January 2002 S/2002/199||This note indicated a change in the period covered in the annual report.|
|30 June 1993 S/26015||This note indicated that the Council agreed to take all necessary measures to ensure the timely submission of its annual report to the General Assembly.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 September 2002 S/PV.4616||This was the public discussion of the draft report of the Council to the General Assembly.|