Statement by Karin Landgren, Executive Director, Security Council Report, at the Security Council Open Debate on Working Methods
Mr President, excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting Security Council Report to address the Council’s open debate on working methods for the fifth year. Our appreciation goes to Albania and Ambassador Ferit Hoxha as the Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, and to all the elected Council members who have energetically fulfilled this role in decades past.
In 2022, the Security Council may be the object of greater critical global focus than ever in living memory. Tough questions about the Council nonetheless reflect expectations that its members will act effectively to defend the UN Charter and to prevent and respond to violations.
Such questions also go to the heart of SCR’s mission as an independent, impartial think tank seeking to help advance the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of the Security Council. I thank Council members, other member states, colleagues within the UN, and our counterparts in civil society, without whom SCR could not work as we do. In this connection, SCR acknowledges with deep gratitude Ms. Hasmik Egian, newly retired after six years as the Director of the Security Council Affairs Division of the UN [SCAD], and we add our appreciation to all our SCAD colleagues for their dedicated work I also acknowledge Ms. Loraine Sievers for her work in this field.
As the UN’s founders knew, peace is to be made among adversaries, not among friends. Working methods may offer some bridging elements in today’s difficult context, when used in ways that boost trust, build knowledge and broaden ownership. Broadening ownership of the Security Council’s work can also enhance the Council’s legitimacy.
In the past year, the Council has grappled with crises that include the war in Ukraine and upheaval in Afghanistan, in Haiti, and in a number of countries in Africa. And there have been significant steps towards broadening member states’ ownership and engagement with international peace and security. Resolution 2623 referring the situation in Ukraine to the General Assembly—the Council’s first “Uniting for Peace” resolution in four decades—was followed by General Assembly resolution 76/262, stipulating that it will meet following any veto that is cast in the Security Council. These initiatives recognise the role of ownership by the wider UN membership in situations where the Council is deadlocked, and also respond to a 2005 World Summit recommendation that the Council continue to adapt its working methods so as to increase the involvement of non-Council member states in its work.
It is too early to predict how this initiative will evolve. But how best to broaden ownership leads me to reflections on Council penholding, a term which does not fully convey its demanding nature of drafting, convening discussions, and negotiating outcomes.
Elected members share the pen on Afghanistan and the Syria humanitarian file, among others. But there was a real breakthrough in 2019, through co-penholding between a permanent member and an elected member, when Germany and the UK shared the pen on Darfur, and on Libya sanctions—particularly significant as Germany also chaired the Libya Sanctions Committee. Germany and the UK set an important precedent. Today, the US shares the pen with Mexico on Haiti, and with Albania on Ukraine.
Pen-sharing among permanent and elected members broadens ownership, builds knowledge, and can contribute to more coherent Council strategies for peace, particularly when the co-pen is the chair of a relevant subsidiary body or otherwise brings in an added perspective, such as regional expertise. But currently, there is no shared penholding with any sanctions committee chair—individuals who follow developments in their country situations closely and are likely to have valuable insights to contribute to Council penholding.
In respect of boosting trust, Council visiting missions offer a chance for members to engage with each other less formally, as well as to be exposed, together, to facts on the ground. Pre-COVID, the Council undertook four or five visiting missions a year.
With travel again becoming more feasible, it is worth recalling the impact of visiting missions. SCR witnessed and reported on Council members’ reactions during their visit to the Lake Chad Basin in March 2017, which produced resolution 2349 addressing the negative security, humanitarian and environmental dimensions of the Boko Haram crisis in the region. Council visiting missions to Colombia in May 2017 and July 2019 signalled the Council’s political support for the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement.
With a growing focus on the role of regional and subregional organisations in addressing ongoing or emerging conflict within their regions, the Council might also prioritise visits to engage with them on conflict prevention, in particular.
There are other ways of stepping up engagement with the field: virtually, such as Council members’ recent encounters with Colombia and Yemen via VR headsets, a modality still in its infancy and with considerable scope for development, and “mini-missions”, which at an earlier time gave the Council flexibility for speedy and direct engagement when needed.
A practical suggestion here would be that the Council adopt a more systematic way of deciding on visiting missions. One possibility would be to have the IWG at the start of the year consult and select three possible situations that could benefit from a Council visit, which could then be supplemented by other trips.
A systematic approach to Council travel should build in the field trips by subsidiary body chairs as a way of enhancing joined-up strategies at a time when sanctions have become such a contested instrument despite being one of the rare concrete means the Council uses to influence State actions that violate the UN Charter.
The Council continues to show that it has a range of tools. While these will never compensate for the political will needed to respect the Charter, working methods are a day-to-day way for every Council member—and potentially every member state—to see this institution performing as best it can in response to a dangerous, inequitable and fast-changing world.