What's In Blue

Working Methods Open Debate

Tomorrow morning (5 September), 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 upon by the Council in 2017. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania), the chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG), will brief.

Tomorrow’s meeting takes place in the context of increasingly fraught dynamics among some Council members, which have often led to procedural wrangling. Invitations to member states under rule 37 and to briefers under rule 39 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure have become particularly controversial. (Rule 37 provides for the participation of non-Council members in discussions in which their interests are specially affected, while rule 39 focuses on the Council’s invitations to members of the UN Secretariat and other persons whom it considers competent to supply it with information or give other assistance.)

As well, Council members were unable to reach agreement on the provisional programme of work for September, due to Russia’s apparent objection to the inclusion of Ukraine on the programme. Instead, Albania (September’s Council President) has circulated a “plan of work”, which was published on the presidency’s website and social media. Council members had similarly been unable to agree on last month’s programme of work because of objections raised by Russia to the programme proposed by the US, August’s Council President. (For more information, see our 1 August and 1 September What’s in Blue stories.)

Albania has circulated a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s meeting. It says that the open debate’s objective is to serve as a platform for dialogue between Security Council members and the wider UN membership to assess the latest developments in the Council’s dynamics, to discuss the importance of constant development of the Council’s working methods, and to identify possible new areas of improvement in the implementation of Note 507 and subsequent notes, as well as to highlight the need to develop new notes.

The concept note proposes several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s open debate, including:

The concept note also suggests that members could assess in their statements the accountability mechanism created by General Assembly resolution A/RES/76/262 of 26 April 2022, which stipulates that the General Assembly will convene for a meeting within ten days whenever a veto is cast in the Security Council. It further proposes that members discuss the Security Council’s visiting missions and consider other means to interact with people on the ground, including by using technology.

Ambassador Hoxha is expected to provide an update on the IWG’s work, including its programme of work for 2023 and its first annual report, covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2022, which includes an annex with selected indicators on the implementation of Note 507 and subsequent notes. He may also provide information on two presidential notes adopted in August: on the orderly conduct of a minute of silence and on the chairing of subsidiary bodies if the chairs have not been agreed on by 1 January.

The Council’s ten elected members (E10) have presented a joint statement at the annual working methods debate since 2019. Last year, there was a small break in E10 unity, when Brazil and then-member India, while associating themselves with the E10 statement, also delivered a separate statement highlighting the need for reform. This year’s joint statement will be delivered by Ecuador, the E10 Coordinator for the month of September. Besides highlighting some of the IWG’s activities, the E10 statement is expected to emphasise the need for more meaningful participation of elected members as penholders and co-penhoders. In this context, the statement may mention that the IWG is currently discussing a draft presidential note proposed by the E10 in May, which encourages a more equitable role for E10 members as penholders. The IWG is also discussing a presidential note drafted by France on best practices for penholders. The E10 statement might cover engagement with the wider UN membership—including the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)—as well as highlight the importance of incorporating gender perspectives in the Council’s work and the need for more effective sanctions regimes. The need for comprehensive reform of the Security Council may also be underscored in the joint statement.

Among the issues that may be raised by some permanent Council members (P5) are the controversy around rule 37 and rule 39 invitations as well as the role of the presidency in determining certain procedural matters, such as the civil society briefers and the convening of meetings at the request of member states. The lack of agreement on the programme of work for the last two months may also be raised.

Working methods continue to be an issue of great interest to the wider UN membership. Among the areas speakers are likely to cover are the importance of the wider membership participating in Council open debates and wrap-up sessions. The role of the General Assembly in advancing accountability in the use of the veto may also be raised by some members. Since the adoption of General Assembly resolution A/RES/76/262, vetoes have been cast in the Security Council on five draft resolutions, concerning sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the renewal of the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism in Syria in both 2022 and 2023, refer­endums held in four regions in Ukraine, and, most recently, the renewal of the Mali sanctions regime. Members may also emphasise the need for the Council’s annual report to be more analytical and for the monthly assessments by Council presidents to be issued in a timely manner.

For more information, see the brief on Security Council working methods in our September Forecast.

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