Joint Statement of Elected Members at the UNSC Open Debate on Working Methods
Statement16 June 2021
Thank you Mr. President
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the current 10 elected members (E-10) of the Security Council: Estonia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Viet Nam.
Mr. President, allow me to express our appreciation to the Estonian presidency for convening this meeting and inviting the written participation of other Members of the United Nations. This is unfortunately necessary in a period where we still need to observe a lot of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Chair of the Security Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and other Procedural Questions (IWG); Ms. Karin Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report; and Ms. Lorraine Sievers, co-author of The Procedure of UN Security Council for their insightful briefings.
When the pandemic struck last year, no one had a grasp of the journey it has taken us on as we were not prepared for it. We should commend the Council for its quick response in formulating the COVID related working methods to adapt to the situation and ensure business continuity. It is important that we reflect on these working methods and formalize those which can continue to enhance the work of the Council. “Agility” has taken up a strong place in our work, as a critical element for the effective functioning of the Council, particularly during this extraordinary season.
The effects of the pandemic should not affect the value placed on transparency, accountability, efficiency and building of effective bridges between the Council and other organs and agencies of the United Nations. Actually, the pandemic has clearly demanded that we deliberately pause and look back and consider how best to move forward ensuring that the work performed and lessons learnt during this period are not lost to history. On the contrary, the work of the Council must be recorded for posterity so that this unprecedented season can also serve to improve the working of the Council.
Therefore, as we emerge from the pandemic we need to look to the future and agree on working methods which can withstand pandemics and any other major future disruptions of the normal working of the Council. We may start by agreeing that VTC meetings are considered formal meetings of the Council where the same Provisional Rules of Procedure apply- allowing for the participation of non-members, the possibility to vote in real time on procedural and substantive matters, to provide fully for multilingualism, and ensure the attendant record keeping- rather than developing again temporary special measures. As a first step, we will continue to engage actively as the E-10 in the work of the IWG under the Chairpersonship of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to secure the eight draft notes currently under discussion.
As we adjusted to the new reality, there was more scrutiny on how the Council would continue executing its mandate. This promoted calls for more transparency from the Council including through the holding of more public meetings, wider representation by stakeholders such as women, civil society, youth, among others and interaction with the media. This resonates with the progressively improving working methods, implementation of note S/2017/507 and the provisional rules of procedure.
The Council has been using VTCs for meetings and consultations with increasing frequency. One of the benefits of working in a virtual format is the ability to secure the attendance of briefers from a wide range of stakeholders from across the world. Unfortunately, the year 2020 saw a significant decrease in the number of female Rule 39 briefers.
The monthly Presidency of the Council has a particular role contributing to the promotion of transparency of the Council’s work through engagement with the wider UN membership, the media, civil society and other stakeholders, which includes briefings on the programme of work, conducting wrap-up sessions and producing monthly assessments. We welcome also the growing practice of Presidencies making and publicising monthly commitments on the implementation of Note 507 and the eight related Notes of 2019, and we emphasise their key role in creating and testing new practices under their presidencies.
This journey has not been devoid of challenges which however, also present great opportunities for the Council to seize. One of the greatest challenges to operational continuity of work is the technological capacity of the Secretariat, and the political will to ensure that virtual open debates can include the participation of the wider membership of the UN. Written contributions by non-Council Member States are not an appropriate substitution for their participation in such debates. A progressive approach would be consideration of holding meetings that combine in-person and virtual participation to attract a wide spectrum of briefers in choice events.
The Council greatly benefits from understanding the physical setting of conflicts, which is why field visits are of great importance. This important aspect of the Council’s work has been greatly impeded by the precautionary travel restrictions necessitated by COVID-19 in the past year. However, with technological creativity and advancement, visits may be done virtually as we have already witnessed. We urge that these virtual visits be conducted only where travel is not possible, and be coordinated in corresponding frequency as would have been in-person visits to allow the Council to continue being more agile, responsive and contribute to the Council’s prevention mandate.
Mr. President, at a time when the Council is under increased scrutiny, we should continue striving for more transparency, efficiency, effectiveness, democracy, inclusivity, accountability and balance. The Council needs to strike a healthy balance between public and private meetings, to both enhance the transparency and visibility of the Council’s work, and encourage more interactivity of discussions and consensus building. In this regard, for effective participation, and in line with the promotion of multilingualism, the E-10 urges that effort be invested in ensuring that interpretation is provided, including in closed meetings. We also welcome the current engagement of the IWG on analysing ways to strengthen and improve the practice and procedure concerning the circulation of communications for the consideration of the Council.
The E-10 views that these ideals would be best achievable through a more equal distribution of work among all members of the Council in the spirit of burden-sharing. We therefore urge that cooperation be fostered among the outgoing, current and incoming elected members to help maintain the critically needed continuity. To help ensure this smooth rollover of E-10 membership, capacity building should be conducted for incoming members immediately upon their election. The envisaged capacity building would incorporate Chairs of subsidiary bodies to help incoming members have a clearer understanding of what entails Chairing of Subsidiary bodies. This should also help demystify penholdership arrangements and create linkages between penholderships and co-penholderships.
In order to promote transparency and the fair and equitable distribution of work- including current penholders agreeing to co-penholdership arrangements with E-10 members who have valuable experience to contribute, the provisions of Note 507 on the selection of Chairs of subsidiary bodies must be implemented. In particular, the informal process of consultations should start with incoming members as soon as possible after the elections and in conjunction with the envisaged capacity building.
The selection process must be carried out in a transparent manner and ensure the views of incoming members are taken into account in the allocation of roles. The expertise of elected members should be an additional factor in the process. In this regard, the consensus proposal by elected members needs to be respected. To promote efficiency and a smooth transition, the selection process should be done in a timely manner to allow incoming members to understand better and monitor closely the work of the subsidiary bodies they would Chair during the observation period commencing 1 October.
Targeted sanctions are an important tool to address threats to international peace and security and hence critical to the execution of the mandate of the Council. The E-10 underscores the importance of accountability and transparency in the work of sanctions committees. The working methods must align with international due process standards. We strongly believe in the need to increase the efficiency of UN sanctions through strengthening fair and clear procedures in sanctions regimes, including by creating review mechanisms similar to that of the Ombudsman of the 1267 Committee for other sanctions regimes. Additionally, the Council should take into account the efficacy of sanctions through evolving phases of conflicts and respond accordingly by periodically reviewing and suspending, lifting or strengthening measures as appropriate.
With respect to the working methods of subsidiary bodies, including Sanctions Committees, a transparent, open and evidence-based methodology needs to be followed. Any agenda items being introduced for consideration, and holds placed on listing requests or other matters of the Committees’ business, need to be supported in writing, with necessary justification by the requesting Member, to promote transparency and accountability, and ensure efficient record keeping. This would also help maintain the credibility of the work of the Committees and, in turn, the Council.
To satisfy both the Council’s efforts to be both agile and promote transparency and the prevention of conflicts, we urge continued targeted periodic engagements with regional organisations. This should not only be limited to signature events, but also in covering topical arising issues such as exchange of experiences in regional management of the pandemic. Engagements with regional organisations also speaks to the importance of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter in executing the mandate of the Council.
Mr. President, on this note, the E-10 members recall that in the Council VTC on working methods of 2020, the critical and urgent need for reforms in the Security Council to reflect contemporary realities was underscored. While the Council needs to be more efficient, representative, transparent, accountable and democratic, it is the only UN organ that has been left behind in having a truly representative composition. The use, or threat of use of the veto, also continues to prevent the Council from acting on vital topics. We call for restraint on the use of the veto, especially on actions aimed to prevent and end mass atrocity crimes- the very heart of this Council’s mandate- these imbalances should therefore, be addressed.
Finally, the E-10 reassures of its commitment to live up to the responsibility bestowed upon us through election by the Members of the United Nations- to efficiently and effectively execute the Council’s mandate, and drive forward improvements in its methods of work.