What's In Blue

Posted Tue 15 Jun 2021

Working Methods Open Debate

Tomorrow (16 June), the Security Council will hold its annual open debate on its working methods. The meeting will be 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. This year, the debate will focus on the theme “Agility and innovation: lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The expected briefers are Ambassador I. Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) as the chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG); Loraine Sievers, co-author of “The Procedure of the UN Security Council (4th edition)”; and Karin Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report. Council members will participate in person, while non-Council members will submit their statements in writing. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines plans to prepare an analytical summary of the statements made during the open debate, including by the briefers and those submitted by member states in writing.

Estonia, the Council’s president in June and the vice-chair of the IWG, is organising this annual debate in cooperation with the IWG chair Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  The concept note prepared by the IWG Chair ahead of tomorrow’s debate highlights several interim measures introduced by the Security Council to adapt to the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain its continuous functioning in accordance with Article 28 of the UN Charter. These include measures relating to voting procedures and the holding of meetings via videoconference (VTC). The concept note indicates the need for the Council to reflect periodically on its interim working methods to ensure their continued relevance and refers to the ongoing discussions in the IWG in this regard.

At tomorrow’s meeting, King is likely to provide an overview of the work of the IWG over the past year and a half. She may talk about the implementation of note S/2017/507 by the president of the Security Council and the subsequent notes on working methods adopted in 2019 (S/2019/990 to S/2019/997) and highlight efforts to improve existing procedures and practices. Sievers may provide an overview of the evolution and reform of Security Council working methods. She might also share her views and perspectives in relation to the interim working methods introduced during the COVID era. Landgren’s intervention is expected to place emphasis on the review of COVID-era interim working methods considering the gradual resumption of face-to-face meetings. She may discuss the importance of Security Council visiting missions and provide recommendations in that regard.

Member states are expected to reflect at tomorrow’s debate on some of the key lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to advance the Council’s overall working methods in the future. They may consider working methods practices during the pandemic that can be incorporated into the Council’s work during ordinary circumstances. As the Security Council should remain prepared for future situations or events that may affect the continuity of its work in the post-COVID period, member states may consider what aspects of the Council’s working methods need to be improved and what other digital innovations could be explored. Members may also discuss the balance between transparency and efficiency in the Council’s work, which was the subject of discussion at last year’s debate. In this regard, the concept note invites members to consider whether the balance between public and private meetings should be reconsidered in light of the availability of virtual meeting formats.

The Council held its most recent open debate on working methods via VTC on 15 May 2020 during Estonia’s last Council presidency. At last year’s debate, the ten elected Council members presented a joint statement—as they had done during the 2019 annual working methods debate—and may possibly do so again this year. In addition to Council members, representatives of 41 other member states delivered statements, some of them speaking on behalf of groups of states such as the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT), the Like-Minded States on Targeted Sanctions, or the group of 24 former elected members from all regional groups. This pattern is likely to be maintained at tomorrow’s debate.