We thank Azerbaijan for convening this important debate, we congratulate Ambassador Perceval on her chairmanship of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, and we note that this debate has now become an annual fixture on the Council’s programme. Having said that, we think that once a year is not enough; working methods are too important to be relegated to an annual discussion.
Over the past 12 months, we have seen occasions when better working methods might have improved the quality and effectiveness of outcomes. The Council’s engagement with troop-contributing countries while establishing the Force Intervention Brigade in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could have been much better. Its slow reaction to unfolding political, security and humanitarian crises in Mali and in the Central African Republic are further examples.
We are pleased, however, to observe some minor but positive changes. Presidential note S/2013/515 will be a useful aid to transparency. Wrap-up sessions are now convened with greater frequency, following Pakistan’s lead in January. Last week’s briefings direct from Addis Ababa and Entebbe were an obvious improvement in the use of technology. But much more must be done to enable the Council more effectively to perform its most neglected Charter responsibilities — those under Chapter VI, concerning conflict prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes.
As New Zealand stressed in this debate last year, preventive initiatives are less costly in terms of resources and lives than peacekeeping or peace enforcement, and are more likely to deliver lasting outcomes that address the root causes of conflict. The Council’s attempts over the past year to better fulfil its preventive function by resurrecting horizon-scanning was an important recognition of a problem that must be addressed.
We do recognize, however, that some States have concerns about that format. We have a very open mind on the name, format and modalities, which for us are much less important than the underlying purpose of enabling the Council to look ahead and assess emerging threats to international peace and security, thereby facilitating early and effective responses in supporting or leading mediation and conflict prevention measures. The case of Syria graphically underlines what happens when there is insufficient attention to emerging situations at early stages.
New Zealand also emphasizes that it is not just the Security Council itself which has responsibility for better using the available tools to facilitate effective preventive action by the Council. Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations allows the Secretary-General to bring emerging threats to the Council’s attention — a power that should be used more often.
The Council’s monthly programme of work might be a useful aid to transparency, as was just emphasized by the representative of Costa Rica, but it must not become a procedural fetter on the ability of the Secretary-General or Council members to discharge their Charter responsibilities to prevent conflict. Discussions on emerging crises are often going to be very sensitive and are therefore not always best suited to formal Council meetings, and that reality could also be better reflected in Council working methods.
In that same context, it is necessary to find better ways to engage with the States concerned. New Zealand also sees potential for a greater role for Council subsidiary bodies, particularly the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, to help facilitate more active Council roles in conflict prevention. That could lead the Working Group to focus more closely on subregional or country-specific challenges, or to act as a mechanism for more meaningful interaction on conflict analysis and preventive initiatives between the Council and regional and subregional organizations.
Similarly, advances in working methods are needed to address wide concerns held outside the Council about its working partnership with regional and subregional organizations. They have an inherent advantage in identifying emerging threats, they are better placed for early threat identification, they often know the players, and they have a greater stake in preventing conflict. The Council would be much better placed to respond to such threats if it had improved processes for engagement with regional organizations, and we strongly urge that.
Much of what we achieve at the United Nations relies on momentum, so we encourage Council members to take to heart the many messages emerging from today’s debate. The range of issues raised by Member States indicates our widespread interest in and concern about working methods. We know that takes time; we know that it takes energy. But given the challenges and expectations of today’s world, real and substantial change is needed in the way the Council functions if it is to deliver on its responsibilities; and that is what New Zealand urges today.