What's In Blue

Posted Mon 13 Jul 2020

Security Council to Adopt its Annual Report to the General Assembly

Tomorrow morning (14 July), the Security Council is expected to adopt its annual report to the General Assembly covering 1 January-31 December 2019. The adoption will take place during the first Council in-person meeting since mid-March, when extraordinary and provisional measures were implemented in UN headquarters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The introduction to the annual report is prepared under the coordination of the Council’s July presidency from the previous calendar year, except if the member holding the July presidency is to leave the Council at the end of the year; in such cases, the drafting devolves to the member next in English alphabetical order not leaving the Council at year-end.  Peru, the July 2019 president, left the Council at the end of that year and the task of drafting the report went to Russia. The country’s Permanent Representative, Vassily Nebenzia, is expected to present the report to Council members.

Article 24(3) of the UN Charter requires the Council to submit annual reports to the General Assembly.  Over the years, the process of preparing the annual report, as well as the reporting cycle, have undergone several changes. These changes came in response to calls from UN membership for more substantive reporting and better timing of the report’s discussion by the General Assembly.

The current process for the preparation, adoption and presentation of the report was outlined by the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) on the joint initiative of Lithuania and Russia in 2015 and published as a presidential note (S/2015/944). The content of that document was then incorporated, with some additional elements, into the most recent version of the comprehensive compendium of Security Council working methods, Note 507, issued as document S/2017/507. The 2017 Note 507 provided a series of deadlines for the report’s preparation process: that the “introduction shall be completed no later than 31 January”, that the Secretariat should submit its portion of the draft by 15 March and that the report should be adopted by the Council in time for consideration by the General Assembly in the spring of the same year. Some further changes, including a 30 May deadline for the adoption of the report, were contained in a Note by the president elaborated during Kuwait’s chairmanship of the IWG (S/2019/997), and are to take effect next year, with the 2020 report.

The report to be adopted tomorrow will be the fourth annual report covering a calendar year. During the first three years of using the new procedure, the Council has failed to adhere to the timelines, adopting its report in August with the presentation to the General Assembly late in August or early September, leaving diplomats little time to study the report and prepare substantive interventions. The General Assembly debates on the 2016 and 2017 reports were quite short and not very substantive. The situation last year, with the 2018 report, differed considerably. Several members of the General Assembly jointly asked the President of the General Assembly to schedule the debate with enough time between the report’s adoption by the Council and its presentation to the Assembly for members to prepare substantive interventions. The Assembly discussed the report in two sessions (on 10 and 12 September) with 27 speakers, including 14 permanent representatives, participating.

The 14 July adoption will be the earliest since the current procedures were implemented. This gives significantly longer advance notice of the General Assembly discussion and may enable a substantive discussion involving more member states.

For more information on the Security Council annual reports to the General Assembly, please see here.

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