What's In Blue

Posted Thu 21 Nov 2013

2013 Finnish Workshop for Incoming Council Members

The 11th workshop for incoming members of the Security Council will be held for two days (21-22 November), starting this afternoon,in Long Island, New York. The workshop is organised by the government of Finland in cooperation with the Security Council Affairs Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs and Professor Ed Luck, the Dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego. Former High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is slated as the keynote speaker at the opening dinner. The programme, called “Hitting the Ground Running,” aims to provide incoming Council members with an intensive introduction to the demands, expectations and frustrations of being an elected member of the Council, to take stock of the performance of the Council over the past year and to consider opportunities for improvement in its work.

The “Finnish Workshop” is traditionally attended by the permanent representatives of the fifteen current members of the Council and the five incoming members. (On 17 October, Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were elected to be the incoming members by the General Assembly. Following weeks of uncertainty, Saudi Arabia confirmed in a 12 November letter addressed to the Secretary-General that it will “regrettably not be in a position to assume its seat in the Security Council.” On 17 November, Jordan officially announced its candidacy and at press time, had been endorsed by the Arab Group. It is unclear however, as an extraordinary election to fill the seat has not been held, whether Jordan will be participating in the workshop.)

The workshop aims to cultivate an informal and interactive environment for frank discussion among current and incoming Council members at permanent representative level. Following the workshop a non-attribution report, taking into consideration the Chatham House rule nature of the workshop, is published as an annex to a letter from the Permanent Representative of Finland to the President of the Security Council. As in previous years, the workshop is organised around the three sessions on: the State of the Council in 2013; Working Methods and Subsidiary Bodies; and Lessons Learned.

In the first session, participants are likely to assess the performance of the Council in the last year. The discussion may touch on the ability of members to find consensus on highly divisive issues, to assess the normative and operational roles of the Council and how a balance can be struck between the two. The challenges in responding to the Syrian crisis and the success in negotiating a resolution on the verification and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons may feature prominently in the discussion.

There may also be discussion of the more robust approach to the long-standing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) authorised by the Council this year, and the friction among Council members over the work of the International Criminal Court, which was brought into stark relief by the failed adoption on 15 November of a draft resolution to defer proceedings against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Samoei Ruto of Kenya under Article 16 of the Rome Statute. The situations in the Central African Republic and Mali, among other agenda items, may also feature prominently in the discussions.

The second session will focus on working methods and subsidiary bodies. In the context of working methods the issue of transparency within the Council—between permanent and non-permanent members—as well as between the Council and the greater UN membership and with civil society has been a constant topic. It is likely to feature in the meeting again this year. There is also likely to be discussion of the recent debate on working methods which took place on 29 October. Issues that may be taken up include how to enhance the efficiency and interactivity of the open debates, improve the annual report of the Security Council to the General Assembly and whether Council transparency has been enhanced by monthly wrap up meetings or informal briefings on the work of the Council at the end of month. The recent increase in the use of the “Any Other Business” slot for updates from the Secretariat may also be covered.

In addition, the manner by which chairs of subsidiary bodies are selected and the P3 (France, the UK and the US) penholder oligopoly may be discussed. A related issue that could come up is the participation of all Council members in early negotiations on Council decisions. One idea raised during the debate that could be discussed is that of co-penholdership allowing elected members to be more involved in the drafting process.

The third and final session of the workshop will allow outgoing members (Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo) to reflect on their two years on the Council and to provide insights into the lessons they have learned along the way. This session offers an opportunity for the outgoing members to highlight the challenges and opportunities of being on the Council. Topics that may feature in this session include the institutional culture of the Council, mission organisation and interaction with the permanent members of the Council.

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