In Hindsight: Council Statistics in 2014: New Energy and Activity
Please click here for statistical graphs prepared by SCR of Security Council activity in 2014.
A mix of old and new complex crises required the Security Council’s attention in 2014 resulting in one of the busiest periods for the Council in several years. New situations like Ukraine competed with long-term conflicts like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Reversing the trend of decreasing decisions and meetings, the Council, often at the initiative of elected members, showed renewed energy in tackling both new and stagnant issues.
Overall, for the first time in three years both Council decisions and activity registered a significant uptick. The Council adopted 91 decisions in 2014 moving out of a downward trend that had resulted in 2013 having lowest number of decisions since 1991. In 2014, the Council adopted the highest number of decisions since 2008: 63 resolutions and 28 presidential statements. In addition, there were a record-breaking 138 press statements issued. Even with half of these being prompted by specific violent incidents, press statements are clearly the Council’s most likely response to many situations.
Not surprisingly given the issues that needed the Council’s attention, there was also an increase in both formal and informal meetings. There were 263 formal meetings, the second highest number in two decades. The increase in public meetings was particularly significant. Out of its 263 formal meetings, 241 were public and 22 private. The number of meetings in consultations also increased to 167 in 2014 compared to 162 in 2013, a 3 percent increase.
With the rise of groups like ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and Boko Haram, terrorism, particularly in relation to funding foreign fighters and the root causes of terrorism, led to a number of significant decisions as well as a summit-level meeting on foreign terrorist fighters. The impact of ISIS in Iraq forced the Council to renew its interest in a long-standing issue. Boko Haram was listed in the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee but otherwise, although Chad apparently pushed for some action, no formal decision was taken in 2014 on this group.
The Ebola epidemic was determined to be a threat to international peace and security with three dedicated meetings and one resolution adopted. Liberia was also given increased attention as Council members grappled with the effects of the Ebola outbreak on the country and the mandate of the mission there.
While Council activity on the Syria political front stagnated in 2014, elected members Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg were instrumental in focusing the Council’s attention on the humanitarian situation. Three resolutions drafted by these elected members were adopted and regular briefings were held from February 2014.
The deterioration in the peace and security environment in Gaza, Mali, Iraq and South Sudan contributed to an increased focus on these situations over the year. In the Central African Republic the deteriorating situation and discussion over setting up a UN mission necessitated regular meetings. The political situations in Afghanistan, Gaza and Mali also led to Council outcomes that went beyond the regular briefings or mandate renewals. While the deterioration of the situation in Yemen did not lead to more public briefings compared to 2013, it did result in the creation of the 2140 Sanctions Committee and three listings. There was also a slight increase in meetings and decisions on Sudan and South Sudan.
The situation in Ukraine accounted for 26 formal and informal meetings, 17 of which were public. Many of these meetings were driven by Lithuania and the UK with Australia taking the lead on meetings related to the downing of flight MH17. Another elected member, Jordan, was instrumental in prompting Council activity during the violence in Gaza in July and August 2014. There were 18 meetings on Israel/Palestine over the year, with 6 meetings between July and August focused on the Gaza conflict, and one presidential statement adopted.
The election of five judges to the ICJ resulted in nine meetings in November. The year 2014 also saw a move towards public briefings by sanctions committee chairs, with 16 in public compared to ten in 2013. Wrap-up meetings held at the end of the month to assess the Council’s work became a regular feature with nine held in 2014 compared to six in 2013. Holding these sessions in public became the norm following Rwanda’s initiative to hold a public wrap-up meeting during its July presidency.
The Council showed an increased willingness in 2014 to vote on divisive issues. Compared to no vetoes in 2013, there were two last year. Russia vetoed a draft resolution ahead of the referendum in Crimea, with China abstaining. Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution on referring Syria to the ICC. At the end of 2014 a draft resolution on Israel/Palestine was not adopted because it did not receive the necessary nine affirmative votes. Non-consensual decision making decreased slightly with votes taken on three resolutions. Russia abstained on three (Bosnia and Herzegovina, the ICTY and Somalia) and Jordan on one (Somalia). The DPRK was added to the agenda through a rare procedural vote with 11 voting in favour, two abstentions and two against.
In terms of the regional breakdown, Africa continued to account for the highest number of meetings but Europe registered the largest increase due to Ukraine coming onto the agenda. The Middle East also saw a significant increase largely due to meetings on Gaza and Syria. Situations in Asia accounted for five meetings, one fewer than 2013, while meetings on the Americas increased by one. Most regular thematic issues did not significantly increase although peacekeeping meetings doubled from two to four and two resolutions were adopted compared with one in 2013.
In 2014 the Council emerged from a visible slump in both activity and decisions over the last few years. A key factor was the active involvement of elected Council members who often pushed for various regular meetings and were willing to take up the pen on country-specific issues. It remains to be seen if this positive momentum in Council activity and renewed energy among members will continue in 2015.