What's In Blue

Posted Mon 30 May 2016

Wrap-Up Session on the Council’s Work in May

Tomorrow morning (31 May), the Security Council will hold a public wrap-up session for the month of May. Egypt, Council president in May, has circulated a concept note describing the objectives of the meeting and suggesting issues that members may wish to take up. The wrap-up session is convened under the agenda item “Implementation of the Note 2010/507”, which is used to discuss the Council’s working methods. With this in mind, Egypt’s concept note suggests that Council members, besides assessing aspects of the Council’s work in May, reflect on how working methods have affected the substantive aspects of the Council’s work this month. To this end, it suggests looking at five meetings in May through this lens. They are the public briefing on the political and humanitarian situation in Aleppo on 4 May, the visiting mission to Somalia, the briefing on healthcare in armed conflict, the debate on “countering narratives and ideologies of terrorism” and the AU-UN consultative meeting. Members are encouraged to focus on two or three of these topics and may also choose to bring up other areas for discussion.

The Egyptian concept note presents key points for each issue that may help Council members reflect on how particular working methods can make the Council more effective. For example, agreeing the format of the 4 May Syria briefing was contentious among Council members. Russia, supported by Angola, China and Venezuela, wanted to have the briefing in consultations, in which case the Secretariat’s briefing and statements by other Council members regarding the negative implications of the escalating hostilities around Aleppo on the humanitarian situation, as well on the credibility of ongoing UN mediation, would not have been public. But at least nine Council members (the number required to adopt a procedural decision should a procedural vote be called for) were in favour of a public briefing. Ultimately the meeting was public, thus informing the larger UN membership, as well as other actors via webcast. This may have contributed to overcoming some of the differences regarding a press statement that the humanitarian leads – Egypt, New Zealand and Spain – had drafted expressing the Council’s outrage at attacks against civilians and civilian objects, which was eventually issued on 12 May. Council members may discuss when best to meet in public in order to send strong messages to the parties to a conflict, or, on the other hand, when is it better to meet privately regarding a sensitive situation.

The timing of the visiting mission to Somalia is a second issue that members are invited to focus on. During their May mission, members were able to engage in dialogue with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and other representatives of the government of Somalia, regional leaders, and Somali civil society and women’s groups on the security and political challenges facing Somalia ahead of the election expected later this year. At the end of their visit to Mogadishu, Council members felt that they were able to send a clear message to the Somali government about the need for the endorsement of the electoral model in order for the elections to move forward. During the visit Council members had urged the president to use all the constitutional tools available to him in this regard. A promising development shortly after the Council’s return to New York was the presidential decree on the modalities of the electoral process issued by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on 22 May 2016. As suggested by the concept paper, Council members may reflect on the importance of timing of a visiting mission in influencing national authorities and key players. Members may also address how such a mission can be useful if timed to feed into discussions on the renewal of the peace operations. In the case of Somalia, it was decided that the AU Mission in Somalia would be reauthorised until 8 July, so that Council members would be able to consider the mandate further in light of what they had learned during the visiting mission.

Each of the three thematic issues of the month is also suggested as a focus. The briefing and resolution (S/RES/2286) on healthcare in armed conflicts introduced some novel working methods. Members, especially those who were involved in the process, may be keen to have a wider discussion about the role the elected members can play in being more proactive in the drafting of Council decisions. The process was led by five elected members – Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and Uruguay – a departure from the standard practice in recent years, during which the permanent members, particularly the P3, have held the pen on most resolutions. Furthermore, the drafting and negotiating process was marked by significant outreach to different constituencies over an extended period of time.

The debate on countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism resulted in a presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/6) requesting the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) to present a proposal on a “comprehensive international framework” to counter terrorist narratives and ideologies. During the wrap-up session, Council members may discuss the possible inputs by member states into the process led by the CTC. Given the divisions among member states regarding the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, Council members might reflect on how to ensure a more inclusive consultation process in the development of the comprehensive international framework.

On the issue of UN-AU cooperation, this session will provide an opportunity for members to compare the two formats used for discussions between the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the UN Security Council: the informal meeting and the joint consultative meeting. It seems that the informal meeting was more substantive than the joint consultative meeting, which appears to have become over-formalised. Given the challenges in agreeing to an agenda and to the joint communiqué from the joint consultative meeting, some Council members may suggest the need for a new approach to this meeting. In this context, Council members could brainstorm about ways to maintain a dialogue with the AU PSC throughout the year in order to forge a common vision, to the extent possible, on issues of common interest. These include more regular informal discussions including through VTC, joint visiting field missions and the invigoration of the efforts of the African members in the Council (supported by the AU permanent observer) to liaise with the AU PSC.

As has been the case in the past, some members are likely to cover topics that were discussed but have yet to be agreed on. One issue in this category might be the difficulty getting agreement on transitional arrangements for incoming Security Council members who will be elected in June. This early election will more than double the nine or ten weeks that the newly elected members have had in previous years to prepare for their term before they take their seat in the Council..

Anticipating the need for new arrangements, the chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa (Japan), placed this topic on the agenda of the Working Group’s 26 April meeting and presented a non-paper on the transitional arrangements. The non-paper posed a number of questions on areas such as when the newly elected members should be invited to start attending all Council meetings; when the Council should agree provisionally on the appointment of Chairs of the subsidiary organs for the following year; and how the Chairs of the subsidiary bodies should be decided.

Several differences emerged during the working group’s discussion, in particular with regard to the date from which the new members would be invited to attend Council meetings and which meetings this would apply to, as well as the process and target deadline for selecting the chairs of Council subsidiary bodies. New Zealand proposed that the process, which had previously been facilitated by a member of the P5, be facilitated by the president of the Council, with a target date of 30 September. Furthermore, Egypt and New Zealand jointly suggested that the chairs would be well placed to serve as co-penholders for decisions concerning situations under sanctions. In early May, Ambassador Yoshikawa circulated a draft Note by the President based on the discussions and some of the proposals subsequently submitted, and placed the text under silence. The silence was broken twice and there are still some unresolved differences. It seems that Russia objects to the proposed timing for some of the transitional measures and the range of meetings new members would be allowed to address. The US is apparently opposed to the Council presidency facilitating the process of the selection of the chairs of Council subsidiary bodies. Several informal discussions have taken place over the past two weeks, with little progress made. Some members might want to reflect on the need to resolve these differences speedily given that the election for Council seats takes place at the end of June.

Another issue that was not fully resolved in May and will continue to be discussed in June is the next steps for the Council in the Secretary-General selection process. There were a number of informal discussions among different groups of Council members in May, culminating in a discussion under “any other business” on 26 May. The key issues covered were communication from the Council to the UN membership on the commencement of the process in the Council, meetings with nominated candidates, and timing of straw polls. It seems that while there has been agreement to meet with the candidates, France as the Council president in June will now need to work on modalities for these meetings. In addition, it seems that following the meeting, Russia circulated two documents, one, a draft letter from the president of the Council to the president of the General Assembly, and the other, a paper on modalities for the straw polls. Discussion on these different drafts are expected in the coming month.

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