United Nations Security Council: Open debate on working methods

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Joint statement submitted by Permanent Representative, H.E. Craig J Hawke, 16 June 2021.

On behalf of Angola, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and Uruguay.


We are honoured to submit this statement on behalf of 35 countries, representative of all regional groups, that have had the privilege of being elected by the United Nations General Assembly to serve on the United Nations Security Council over the past decade: Angola, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and Uruguay.

Elected members, past and present, continue to have a particular interest in the working methods of the Security Council. Getting working methods right and making them fair is essential to the work of this body. It goes to the heart of its performance, and accountability to the broader UN membership and to the UN Charter. Good working methods, big and small, help create an enabling environment for each and every Council member to be fully involved, to contribute to informed discussions, and to play a full and meaningful role in the Council’s work. This becomes even more important when there is disunity in the Council on an issue and seemingly no space for a political solution.

The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 necessitated the Council to adapt its working methods to ensure business continuity, while maintaining the required transparency. We thank Estonia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for convening this meeting to reflect on lessons from this time for the future. We welcome this opportunity and, in line with your concept note, would like to share some current, as well as longer-standing observations and proposals, in the hope they are given due consideration by Council members:

  • We commend the Council’s efforts to return to in-person meetings in the Chamber, and look forward to the participation of the wider UN membership as observers of these meetings and, when health and safety permits, participants also.
  • We encourage the Council to fully return to the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Council as soon as possible, in order to allow, e.g., procedural votes on the scheduling of meetings and the participation of briefers. In this regard, we encourage dialogue among Council members towards considering virtual Council meetings as "formal Council meetings", in order for the Council to be better prepared in the exceptional event that circumstances similar to those experienced with COVID-19 are repeated.
  • We encourage the Council to continue to enable briefers to address it virtually. Remote solutions allow for Council members to invite briefers who can deliver insights from the field to add value to Council deliberations. We continue to encourage the inclusion and meaningful participation of civil society representatives, including women, youth, and persons with disabilities as briefers.
  • In the interests of transparency and visibility of the Council’s work to the broader membership, we encourage the inclusion in the UN Journal of all virtual and in-person Council meetings. We continue to encourage the President of the Council to conduct regular engagement with other Heads of UN principal Organs. We also encourage Council Presidents to include all informal meetings in the monthly Programme of Work, and to continue efforts to make Programmes of Work as user-friendly as possible for the wider UN membership.
  • We encourage the extra efforts made to agree public remarks following virtual meetings during COVID-19. In this vein, we encourage Council members to establish the norm of agreeing to public remarks following all closed meetings, in the interest of transparency and inclusion.
  • We commend the regular discussions of the Council, including under the leadership of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as the Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, towards improving the working methods of the Council with a particular focus on transparency, efficiency and agility. We encourage continued discussions with the Secretariat with a view to draw lessons from the Council’s experience during COVID-19, to look at improving the current circumstances, and to put in place adequate contingency planning for similar future challenges.
  • We encourage Council members to be as candid and interactive as possible in the start-of-presidency briefings and end-of-presidency wrap-up sessions. Between these sessions, we encourage Council members to consider other ways throughout the month to keep the wider membership updated on the Council’s work and outcome documents under consideration.
  • Council members should continue to think creatively about tailoring the format and focus of meetings to secure the best chance of a meaningful outcome from the Council’s deliberations.
  • Council members should reflect on and have a frank discussion about the ever-increasing workload and proliferation of meetings. While noting the importance of keeping attention on situations on the Council’s agenda, the Council should be prepared to be innovative and adapt its approaches to ensure it is making best use of its time. Rather than scheduling routine meetings on every Secretary-General report the Council should dedicate more resources to acute crisis situations.
  • We recognize the Council’s efforts to implement Note 507 and subsequent notes adopted in 2019 (S/2019/990 to S/2019/997). We commend positive steps for the early inclusion of newly elected Council members in the work of the Council.
  • At the same time, we urge the Council to finally establish the principle of a fair and equitable division of labour, including chairing of subsidiary bodies which should be a shared responsibility of all 15 members as well as penholdership, so that all members’ insights and initiatives are best made use of. This spirit should also apply to negotiations of products.
  • Chairs of Council subsidiary bodies should be closely consulted and involved in the deliberations, drafting, and preparation of relevant Councils outcomes and initiatives related to the committees they chair, given their expertise and knowledge accumulated, among others through periodical travels to regions applicable to their work, which should be resumed when possible.
  • The casting of, or threat to cast, a veto has a significant negative impact or ‘cascade effect’ on working methods of the Council, including where working methods are not applied uniformly, consistently, and to the exclusion of elected members.
  • When the Council agrees outcomes, it should revisit and implement them consistently, rather than only considering them at its regularly scheduled deliberations.
  • Council members should continue to pursue innovative ways to engage with affected countries to ensure their participation, in particular when making decisions, as requested by the Charter; as well as with troop- and police-contributing countries, regional and sub-regional organizations, and with concerned countries in the case of Council sanctions committees. Without proper coordination with the main stakeholders, the full effective implementation of the Council’s decisions will not be possible.
  • Council members should continue to create informal spaces for more meaningful Council discussions focused on identifying collective approaches and solutions to the situations seized by the Council.
  • Council members should continue to promote more interaction with the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) — an advisory body to the Security Council — taking into account that the PBC plays an important role in preventing the recurrence of conflict, and where possible, consider relevant joint outcomes of the Security Council and PBC.
  • Council members should make better and more frequent use of situational awareness briefings.
  • Council members should utilize AOBs in accordance with the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure to ensure emerging threats are addressed in a timely manner. The Council should do its best in closing the gap between early warning and early action.
  • We encourage the Council to circulate a draft Programme of Work ahead of adoption, and share concept notes of Council briefing and meetings with all Member States as soon as possible to ensure transparency and awareness of the Council's monthly activities.
  • The guidelines of the subsidiary bodies should be revised in order to allow the bodies to carry out their mandates and duties more effectively. More rule of law-elements need to be inserted.
  • Council members should continue to explore ways to develop and enhance provisions regarding Council visiting missions in an effort to promote greater efficiency and flexibility, including utilizing different composition formats when planning visiting missions, such as sending smaller groups of Council members.
  • We encourage smaller groups of like-minded Council members to speak out in the form of joint oral or written statements if Council actions or press statements are blocked and no consensus is reached, particularly when it comes to pressing issues.
  • The Arria-formula format evidently remains of value to Council members. In order to retain the Arria-formula’s original benefit, it should, however, be avoided to use the meetings as a platform to influence public opinion rather than to inform Council decisions. In this regard, we encourage Council members to use the format in such a manner that it should not be to the detriment of issues on the Council‘s agenda, as well as to seek balance between open and closed Arria-formula meetings.
  • The Council should continue pursuing efforts to strengthen fair and clear procedures in sanction regimes of the Council in order to respect international due process standards. This could be achieved through creating appropriate, tailored review mechanisms, similar to that of the 1267 Ombudsperson system for other sanction regimes.
  • We appreciate the efforts made by the Council to submit the annual report of the Security Council to the General Assembly on time. However, we encourage the Council to provide a much more detailed and analytical report, which will augur well with the objective of Council’s transparency and keeping the membership well informed of Council issues.

The Council must live up to its own undertakings enshrined in Note 2017/507 of the President of the Council, and subsequent notes adopted pertaining to the Council’s working methods. This must be matched by a change in culture, and the courage and will to do things differently and exercise the powers conferred under the Charter to ensure prompt and effective action on behalf of UN members. The experience of operating under COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to look critically at the way the Council works and has innovated, with a view to further improve its agility — the capacity to quickly adjust to the evolution of circumstances that may impact its operation — as well as effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. Council Members have our full support in this endeavour.

Thank you.


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