What's In Blue

Posted Tue 29 Nov 2011

Open Debate on Council Working Methods

The Council is set to hold an open debate tomorrow (Wednesday, 30 November) on Security Council working methods, under the agenda item “Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council”. (Presidential note S/2010/507 of 26 July last year codified 78 practices and understandings related to the Council’s working methods. It was an update of a similar earlier document, issued as note S/2006/507.) In advance of the open debate, Portugal—as President of the Council—circulated a concept note detailing specific issues that could be addressed related to the broader issues of transparency, interaction with non-members and Council efficiency (S/2011/726).

Tomorrow morning, Ambassador Ivan Barbalić (Bosnia and Herzegovina) will speak to the Council as chair of the informal working group that addresses working methods, and is likely to update participants on the group’s work (another member will take over the chairmanship in 2012). Portugal’s ambassador is likely to address the Council as the final speaker summing up the open debate. As with the last open debate in April 2010, it seems that there is considerable interest among UN members to discuss the Council’s working methods and the open debate is likely to be a full-day meeting. It appears that more than 30 speakers in total are due to participate in the open debate. (On the order of speakers, it seems there has been discussion on the possibility of having Council members and the membership at large interspersed during the open debate, a practice that has been used on previous occasions).

It seems that much of the focus of tomorrow’s open debate will be on what many UN members at large consider to be the insufficient implementation of note 507. The presidential note was seen as the positive culmination of several years’ concerted work by Japan—as chair of the informal working group—as well as the Small Five (Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland) and other member states committed to increasing the openness, transparency and efficiency of the Council. However, insufficient and inconsistent implementation to date seems to have created considerable frustration among members at large.

It seems likely that some participants in tomorrow’s open debate will call for action to address this issue, including the possible adoption of an action plan to implement the note. It has been suggested that the informal working group could be mandated to oversee such an action plan and report to both the Council and the membership at large on its progress.

It appears that another issue that some members might raise tomorrow is the P5’s exclusive role in determining the chairmanship of the Council’s subsidiary bodies.