What's In Blue

Posted Thu 14 May 2020

Working Methods: Open VTC

Tomorrow, 15 May, the Security Council will hold an open video teleconference (VTC) in lieu of its annual open debate on working methods. The meeting is being conducted under the agenda item “Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council (S/2017/507)”, referring to the most recent version of the comprehensive compendium of working methods agreed by the Council in 2017 (S/2017/507), with a theme of “Ensuring transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the work of the Security Council”.

Estonia, the Council’s president in May and the vice-chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG), together with the IWG chair, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, prepared a concept note ahead of the debate (S/2020/374).  The concept note defines efficiency as “weighing of results or performance against resources” in contrast to effectiveness, defined as “weighing of results against expectations”. It also acknowledges “a tension perceived between transparency and efficiency” referring to cases when the Council has used closed meetings to consider certain disputes or situations. But it also highlights the “general recognition among Council members that transparency and efficiency can be secured jointly … and can be done against the backdrop of an effectively functioning Council”.

Among the questions put forward in the concept note ahead of the debate, member states are being asked to consider ways in which the Council can improve the efficiency of its work while retaining transparency. On the topic of Council effectiveness, the note asks “what measures can be undertaken by the Council to enhance its effectiveness and transform situations on the ground?” and “how can the wider membership participate in enhancing the Council’s effectiveness?”.

In the context of the recent and rapid adaptation of the Council’s working methods due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the note asks how the Council can improve its agility when it is functioning under ordinary circumstances, and “adapt its agility to continue functioning effectively during extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances”.

The briefers during tomorrow’s meeting will be Ambassador I. Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Chair of the IWG; Karin Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report; and Professor Edward C. Luck of Columbia University.

King is likely to provide an overview of the work of IWG over the years and of the most recent working methods developments in this context. She will also address the issue of implementation of the IWG outcomes.

Landgren’s intervention is expected to place particular emphasis on working methods related to Council’s interactions with other actors, including member states and other UN bodies.

Luck will most likely provide a historical perspective on the process of working methods reform and evolution.

The most recent open debate on working methods was held on 6 June 2019 during the presidency of Kuwait, the IWG chair in 2018–2019. For the first time in an open debate, the ten elected Council members presented one joint statement. In addition to Council members, 28 representatives of other member states delivered statements, some of them speaking on behalf of groups of states including the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency group known as ACT; the Like-Minded States on Targeted Sanctions; and a group of 22 former elected Security Council members from all regional groups.

The 2020 meeting is being held under the temporary and extraordinary measures necessitated by altered working conditions at the UN due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual meeting will be held as an open VTC, with the statements of the briefers and Council members webcast live and later to be archived on UN Web TV. Member states not on the Council are expected to submit their interventions in writing no later than the day of the meeting. (There have so far been two meetings held in this format, on 21 and 27 April, during the presidency of the Dominican Republic. The first was on the “Middle East, including the Palestinian question”, while the second focused on “Youth, peace and security”. Their compilations have not yet been posted but are expected to be issued as documents S/2020/341 and S/2020/346, respectively.)

Estonia will produce a compilation of all the statements, both delivered orally and those submitted in writing, to be issued as an official document of the Security Council. In its capacity as chair of the IWG, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines plans to prepare an analytical summary of interventions of member states.

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