Research Report

Posted 2 May 2023
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Security Council Working Methods in Hard Times

To read the full report, please download the PDF here.

In the space of about three years, the Council has grappled with two major crises—the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine—that could have threatened its ability to function. Yet, except for a brief moment at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council continued to operate, adapting its working methods to new realities. These twin crises have both changed and challenged how the Council exercises its role, illuminating the role of working methods as the Council’s foundation for functioning in hard times.  

While the Council has shown its ability to adapt and innovate when necessary, there has been a cost in efficiency and transparency. Not only practicalities but geopolitical tensions have shaped the Council’s use of its working methods in these years. Relations among the permanent members were fraught before the pandemic, and the two crises deepened divisions and escalated tensions. Not surprisingly, negotiations on Council outcomes became harder and yielded a high number of non-unanimous decisions.  

Security Council Report’s report of 2 May, Security Council Working Methods in Hard Times, analyses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis on the Council’s working methods and on its transparency, effectiveness, and accountability. These events affected many aspects of life in the Council: how it meets, how it votes, whom it invites to participate in its meetings, and whom it hears from. They presented elected Council members with challenges but also opportunities to make a difference in the work of the Council. The report also covers the work of key groupings that helped shape the Council’s working methods during this period, including the Security Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT).