Open Debate on Security Council Working Methods
Expected Council Action
During its presidency in June, Kuwait plans to hold an open debate on working methods of the Security Council. The debate—with briefings by James Cockayne of UN University and Karin Landgren, the Executive Director of Security Council Report—will be the second such meeting organised by Kuwait, who, as chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG), made working methods one of the priorities for its 2018-2019 Council term. There is likely to be a chair’s summary issued after the meeting.
Background and Key Recent Developments
The February 2018 open debate on working methods was held relatively soon after the most recent version of the comprehensive compendium of Council’s working methods, referred to as “Note 507”, was issued on 30 August 2017. Many of the speakers, which in addition to all Council members included 42 UN members at large, focused their interventions on aspects of Note 507 that in their view needed particularly vigorous implementation or on areas of Council practice that had not been captured in the 2017 compendium. The IWG has used several of the issues raised during the debate as guidance to plan its subsequent work.
During its six formal and seven informal meetings and several informal discussions held since, the IWG has focused on issues that include the penholder system, the chairing of Council subsidiary bodies, aspects of sanctions, burden-sharing within the Council, Council visiting missions, modalities for the incoming members and the inclusion of certain types of informal meetings on the monthly programme of work and in the UN Journal. At press time, several draft notes by the president of the Security Council on these and other topics were being negotiated among IWG members.
Key Issues and Options
An important issue for the Council will be assessing the state of implementation of previous agreements on working methods as well as identifying areas where more work may be needed. In this context, the issue of burden-sharing and effective use of the Council’s collective resources is a topic some members may wish to address in their comments.
Member states not on the Council may want to focus in particular on issues related to the flow of relevant information from the Council, such as the timing of submission of the Security Council annual report to the General Assembly or the format of wrap-up sessions and interaction between the Council and members at large, for example with troop- and police-contributing countries.
Member states that have announced or are contemplating their candidacy for the Council are likely to want to contribute to the discussion about modalities for incoming members, which has been ongoing since the General Assembly moved the election of Security Council members from October to June, thus allowing elected members to prepare more thoroughly for their two-year terms.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The June debate will be the Council’s 11th open debate on working methods. Since 2010, holding this annual discussion of working methods with the participation of member states not on the Council has become an accepted practice. Earlier, there had been considerable reluctance, largely on the part of the permanent members, to discussing working methods publicly and receiving suggestions and critiques from outside the Council. Except for the first open debate, held in 1994 on the initiative of France, all have been organised by an elected member, and an elected member has presided over all of them.
Historically, there have been opposing approaches within the Council regarding the timing and desirability of committing working methods to writing. Some members, mostly but not exclusively permanent ones, have argued that detailed descriptions of a practice may deprive the Council of the flexibility to address quickly changing environments, or of the time needed to test and develop new or emerging practices.
Members not on the Council have generally been in favour of detailed codification, arguing that otherwise the Council’s work remains opaque, which makes it difficult for them to provide input on matters of concern. Some have also called for an end to the “provisional” status of the Rules of Procedure of the Security Council.
Security Council Documents on Working Methods
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|30 October 2015S/PRST/2015/19||This was the first presidential statement adopted by the Council on its own working methods.|
|31 May 2019|
|Notes by the President of the Security Council|
|30 August 2017S/2017/507||This was the Note of the Security Council containing the compendium of its working methods.|
|26 July 2010S/2010/507||This was a note which focused on enhancing Council transparency, as well as interaction and dialogue with non-Council members.|
|19 July 2006S/2006/507||This note described the outcome of the six months of work of the Informal Working Group in 2006 under the leadership of Japan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|6 February 2018S/PV.8175||This was an open debate on working methods in which the Council was briefed by Security Council Report’s Executive Director Ian Martin.|
|19 July 2016S/PV.7740||This was an open debate on working methods.|
|20 October 2015S/PV.7539||This was an open debate on working methods.|
|20 October 2015S/PV.7539 (Resumption 1)||This was an open debate on working methods.|
|23 October 2014S/PV.7285||This was the fifth annual open debate on working methods.|
|23 October 2014S/PV.7285 Resumption 1||This meeting was an open debate on working methods.|
|29 October 2013S/PV.7052||This was meeting record from the Council’s annual debate on working methods.|
|29 October 2013S/PV.7052 Resumption 1||This was the annual open debate on working methods.|
|26 November 2012S/PV.6870||This was an open debate on the Council’s working methods. As chair of the informal working group that addresses Council working methods, Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal) noted that working methods attracted great interest from the wider membership and that while some improvements had been made recently, progress on the broader issue was a “work in progress and never completed.”|
|26 November 2012S/PV.6870 (Resumption 1)||The resumption of the Council’s open debate on its own working methods.|
|30 November 2011S/PV.6672||An open debate on working methods presided by Portugal on the Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council (S/2010/507).|
|30 November 2011S/PV.6672 (Resumption 1)||This was the resumption of the open debate on working methods presided by Portugal on the Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council (S/2010/507).|
|22 April 2010S/PV.6300||An open debate on working methods presided by Japan.|
|22 April 2010S/PV.6300 (Resumption 1)||The resumption of an open debate on working methods presided by Japan.|
|27 August 2008S/PV.5968||An open debate on working methods presided by Belgium.|
|27 August 2008S/PV.5968 (Resumption 1)||The resumption of an open debate on working methods presided by Belgium.|
|16 December 1994S/PV.3483||This was the first open debate on Security Council working methods presided by Rwanda.|