What's In Blue

Posted Wed 30 Jan 2013

Council Wrap-Up Session

Tomorrow morning (Thursday, 31 January), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a private meeting under the agenda item “Implementation of Note S/2010/507”. The meeting was convened by Pakistan—as Council President in January—as a “wrap-up session” of the Council’s work for the month. It seems member states from the wider UN membership will be able to attend under Rule 37 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Council. (Although Rule 37 provides for non-Council members to be invited, as a result of the decision of the Council, to participate without vote, in the discussion of an issue that affects their interests, it seems unlikely that non-members of the Council will speak during this meeting.) All Council members are expected to speak with Pakistan kicking off the discussion.

Apparently Pakistan was initially keen to have the wrap-up session as a public briefing but there were some Council members that preferred to keep it to a private meeting format. In the past it seems that P5 members in particular have been unenthusiastic about the wrap-up sessions. Factors which led to the general discomfort about these sessions was the disagreement they generated within the Council about the issue of involving non-members and a sense that they needed to do more than just rehash issues already discussed during the month.

While these wrap-up sessions have not been a common fixture on the Council’s monthly programme of work in recent years, the 31 January meeting is not unprecedented. Wrap-up sessions emerged as a response to the concerns about transparency and the availability of information about the work of the Council. In 2001, members agreed that interactive wrap-up sessions at the end of a presidency were a possible way of providing more information to the larger membership. The aim of these sessions was to analyse the events of the month, assess the Council’s actions and look for possible lessons learned. Some of the sessions also had a specific focus such as conflicts in Africa and UN peacekeeping.

The sessions were also meant to be interactive and members were encouraged to be as evaluative and reflective as possible in their interventions. Occasionally, as was done following the June 2001 wrap-up session under the presidency of Bangladesh, points from the discussion and possible follow-up were issued as a Council document (S/2001/835).

Since June 2001, an additional 12 wrap-up sessions, some public and some private, have been held, sometimes with the participation of the Secretary-General. No P5 member has ever scheduled one at the end of their respective presidencies. In 2001, starting with Bangladesh, three other non-permanent members (Colombia, Jamaica and Mali) scheduled wrap-up sessions in 2001. The following year was the highest on record for wrap-up sessions with Mauritius, Mexico, Singapore, Syria, and Colombia holding them. After a peak of five sessions in 2002, the number of wrap-up sessions decreased to three in in 2003 (Syria, Pakistan and Mexico), none in 2004 and only one in 2005, at the end of the March 2005 presidency of Brazil (S/PV.5156). Pakistan scheduled a wrap-up as Council President in May 2003.

As this is the first session in a while, it is unclear what approach or outcome Council members may be comfortable with at this point. It appears however that the discussion will likely be divided into two areas: the issues that had been expected at the start of the month and those that were taken up due to urgent developments. (Mali and the Central African Republic are among the issues that came onto the programme of work in January as a result of a crisis.)

In recent months there have been several suggestions to revive this practice. The presidential note on working methods agreed on 12 December 2012 (S/2012/922) suggested that formal wrap-up sessions be organised when appropriate. During the open debate on working methods on 26 November 2012 (S/PV.6870 and resumption 1), Iran—speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which Pakistan is a member—said that the NAM “appreciates the holding of informal wrap-up sessions at the end of each presidency to evaluate what has been achieved” while the Nordic countries stressed the need for “interactive wrap-up sessions at the end of each presidency”. Such sessions have also been encouraged by other member states in recent years as a means of increasing Council accountability and transparency.

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