Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at Arria Formula Meeting on Article 51 of the UN Charter
Statement24 February 2021
Thank you very much indeed Mr Chair. I want to congratulate you on your maiden Arria and to say that we are delighted to be with you today. And thank you for bringing such a really interesting issue to our attention.
I would also like to thank Professor Modirzadeh for her enlightening presentation.
As Member States, of course we are each of us aware that the prohibition on the use of force set out in Article 2(4) of the Charter is the starting point for the Council’s primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. As one of the two exceptions to this fundamental rule, therefore Article 51 clearly deserves serious consideration by the Council.
As identified in the concept note for this Arria meeting, and as you’ve just set out Professor Modirzadeh, a barrier to informed consideration of Article 51 is States’ difficulty in identifying and accessing communications submitted to the Security Council pursuant to that Article.
We believe this is due to two very practical issues. The first relates to content and the fact that States when actually submitting such communications to the Council do not always explicitly state that they are doing so, and I quote, “in accordance with Article 51”.
This clearly, undoubtedly makes it difficult for the Secretariat to categorise such communications, while at the same time making it difficult for other States to search for and indeed respond to relevant communications even after they have been published as documents of the Council. Though we accept that the inclusion of such a reference is not a requirement of Article 51, we urge all States to consider adding one to communications submitted under this Article.
The second question I want to point to is how best to bring these documents to the attention and awareness of the wider membership and ensure greater efficiency in their circulation. These communications, we know, are not confidential and are published in the UN’s digital library as a document of the Council. However, they are published and circulated without explanation as to their content and so very often may get lost in the flood of communications received and circulated by the Council on a weekly basis.
As a newly elected member of the Security Council, we are acutely aware of the burden this places on States already struggling to keep pace with the high volume of correspondence received on a weekly basis from the Security Council. For those States not on the Council, and without the resources to follow such matters closely, it is even more difficult to keep track of that correspondence.
Ensuring transparency by better publicising documentation received and published by the Council is important to my country – to Ireland - as a member of the Council, the ACT group and as a representative Member State in the wider UN family. Such transparency and openness is vital to understanding not only how the Council operates, but also, importantly, how States understand their obligations under the Charter.
We therefore urge the Secretariat’s Security Council Practice and Charter Research Branch to consider ways to better and more efficiently distribute and highlight communications submitted under Article 51.
We acknowledge that such a request may require additional resources and comes at a time when the backlog in the publication of the Repertoire is still an issue. The Secretariat has worked in recent years to reduce the backlog significantly and Ireland is one of the many contributors of the Secretariat’s work in this regard.
However, additional contributions are required to ensure that the Secretariat can complete its work in a timely fashion each year and we call on all Member States to ensure their funding remains available.
If these two simple, pragmatic steps were taken, they would go some way to addressing the gap in information identified by Mexico and ensure that States are fully equipped to consider this issue in the future.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.