January 2020 Monthly Forecast

THEMATIC ISSUES

UN Charter

Expected Council Action

In January 2020, Council president Viet Nam will convene a ministerial-level open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter”. Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Pham Binh Minh, is expected to chair the meeting, and Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief. A presidential statement may be adopted during the meeting.

Background

Viet Nam is organising the open debate ahead of the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter in June 2020, as an opportunity for member states to reaffirm their commitment to upholding Charter principles, particularly in the context of international peace and security. Council members could also reflect on possible actions that the Council, the UN system as a whole, regional and sub-regional organisations, and member states can take to uphold the Charter.

The concept note circulated by Viet Nam ahead of the meeting notes that in the aftermath of the Second World War, the UN Charter has helped the international community make significant strides in achieving progress towards international peace and security. The Charter affirms the primacy of conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes. The concept note highlights that the Security Council—which has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, according to the Charter—has at times experienced difficulties responding to crises swiftly and effectively.

To facilitate discussion about how the Security Council can better respond to threats to international peace and security through collective action, the concept note invites participants to discuss in the meeting how member states in general, and the Council in particular, should employ the tools provided in the Charter to uphold international peace and security; to reflect on examples of successful interventions by the Council, as well as failures and lessons learned; and to consider how to improve collaboration between various international actors to promote adherence to the Charter, among other issues.

There have been numerous Council meetings focused on the UN Charter in recent years. On 23 February 2015, a ministerial-level open debate was convened at the initiative of China with the intention of reaffirming commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the UN’s founding. The meeting was chaired by China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, and 79 member states participated, including those on the Council. Then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of sovereignty to the international order but emphasised that sovereignty comes with responsibilities and that timely “action to prevent conflict and protect human rights helps to strengthen sovereignty, rather than challenge or restrict it”, given that human rights violations “kill and displace people, divide communities, undermine economies and destroy cultural heritage”.

During its February 2016 presidency of the Council, Venezuela organised a ministerial-level open debate focused on the topic “Respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as a key element for the maintenance of international peace and security”. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodríguez Gómez, presided, while 64 member states participated, including Council members. In his briefing, Ban reiterated his emphasis on prevention “through both early warning and early action”.

Kuwait initiated a ministerial-level briefing on the “purposes and principles of the UN Charter in the maintenance of international peace and security” on 21 February 2018.  Both Guterres, who by then was Secretary-General, and Ban, briefed. The meeting was presided over by Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah. Guterres said that the tools provided in the Charter must be used with greater determination and constantly updated. In this context, he emphasised the importance of conflict prevention, the adaptation of UN peacekeeping to current realities, and partnerships between the Security Council and regional and sub-regional organisations. Ban said that in order to meet today’s international peace and security challenges, “the Security Council should undergo reforms to be more flexible in its decision-making process”, further stating that “reform of the Security Council is long overdue”.

Council Dynamics

Different political outlooks, including with respect to the interpretation of the UN Charter, are at the crux of the divide between Council members. Article 2(7) of the UN Charter, for example, contains the principle of non-intervention. It states that the UN is not to “intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”. The principle is cited often by Council members such as China and Russia in country-specific situations, such as Burundi, Myanmar and Syria, as a rationale against more forceful Council action, which in their view undermines state sovereignty. On the other hand, Article 2(7) adds that “this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII”. The exception to the principle of non-intervention is quoted by other Council members, including France, the UK and the US, as a basis for a more proactive approach by the Council. They maintain that state sovereignty should not be a shield against actions to protect civilians from massive human rights violations and are more inclined to push for coercive measures.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE PURPOSES AND PRINCIPLES OF THE UN CHARTER

Security Council Letters
1 February 2018S/2018/85 This was a letter from the Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the UN to the Secretary-General with the concept note for the ministerial briefing on the theme “Purposes and principles of the Charter of the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security”.
1 February 2016S/2016/103 This was a concept note circulated by Venezuela for the open debate on the topic of “Respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as a key element for the maintenance of international peace and security”.
3 February 2015S/2015/87 This was a concept note circulated by China for the open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: reflect on history, reaffirm the strong commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the UN”.
Security Council Meeting Records
21 February 2018S/PV.8185 This was a ministerial-level briefing on the “purposes and principles of the UN Charter in the maintenance of international peace and security”. Secretary-General António Guterres and former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the Council.
15 February 2016S/PV.7621 This was a ministerial-level open debate on the topic of “Respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as a key element for the maintenance of international peace and security”.
23 February 2015S/PV.7389 This was the meeting record of the open debate on the UN Charter, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN and to commemorate the end of World War II.