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Finnish Workshop for Incoming Council Members

The 12th annual workshop for incoming members of the Security Council will be held for two days (13-14 November), commencing tomorrow 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 Edward C. Luck. Gareth Evans, who currently serves as Chancellor of the Australian National University, is slated to be the keynote speaker at the opening dinner.

The programme, called “Hitting the Ground Running,” aims to provide incoming Council members with an informal and interactive environment for frank discussion among current and incoming Council members. It introduces the new members to the demands and expectations of being an elected member of the Council, takes stock of the Council’s performance over the past year and provides a rare opportunity to have a less structured discussion about the quality of the Council’s work. Following the workshop, a report, taking into consideration the Chatham House rule nature of the discussion, is published as an annex to a letter from the Permanent Representative of Finland to the President of the Security Council (i.e. the substance of the discussions is shared but no comments are attributed to any of the participants, other than the keynote address and opening statements by the host and the President.)

The “Finnish Workshop” is traditionally attended by high-level diplomats from the fifteen current members of the Council and the five incoming members. (On 16 October, the five incoming members—Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, and Venezuela—were elected by the UN General Assembly to serve on the Council for 2015-2016.)

As in previous years, the workshop will have three sessions on: the State of the Council in 2014; Working Methods and Subsidiary Bodies; and Lessons Learned.

In the first session, participants are likely to assess the performance of the Council over the past year. In the period since the last workshop, the Council has had to manage a multitude of simultaneous crises, including in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, as well as the impact of Ebola in West Africa. Council members have the opportunity at this workshop to reflect on how well the Council has fared in managing these crises, whether the Council has been sufficiently proactive in its work, and what opportunities exist for improved engagement on various agenda items and other emerging challenges to international peace and security. This has been has been a challenging year for the Council and incoming members may be particularly interested in lessons learnt from the difficulties of coping with multiple crisis.

There may also be some discussion on the direction of UN peacekeeping, given that peacekeepers are increasingly called upon to operate in dangerous environments and fulfill robust mandates in ways that are not always perceived as consistent with traditional peacekeeping principles (e.g. in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali). Additionally, some participants may wish to discuss the Council’s response to the Ebola epidemic, as the Council has determined that the epidemic constitutes a threat to international peace and security (S/RES/2177), calling for efforts to contain the spread of the disease and ensure that it does not undermine the political, security and economic stability of countries hardest hit by Ebola in West Africa.

The second session will focus on working methods and subsidiary bodies. A theme that has been discussed in several past workshops is how the Council’s working methods can be adapted to make the Council work more efficiently and effectively. Another recurring issue has been the process of selection of the chairs of Council subsidiary bodies and whether and how the Council’s working methods tend to benefit the permanent members more than the elected members. Also raised may be the P3 (France, the UK and the US) penholder oligopoly. While the P3 have taken the pen on most Council outcomes, the efforts of Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg on the humanitarian track in Syria have provided one example of the proactive drafting role that elected members can play. These inter-related themes are all likely to figure in the discussion this year.

The third and final session of the workshop will allow outgoing members (Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea and Rwanda) to reflect on their two years on the Council and 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 in New York, relationships between the mission in New York and capitals, and interaction with the permanent and fellow elected members of the Council.

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