I would like to thank you for organizing this virtual open debate on Security Council working methods. The task of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions is crucial to ensuring that the Security Council functions in a transparent, effective and efficient manner. I wish to commend the current and previous chairs of the Working Group for their efforts in contributing towards this objective.
Today’s debate takes places against the backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic that, among other things, has affected how the UN system conducts its business.
We commend the work done by the presidents of the Security Council (China, the Dominican Republic and now Estonia) in these past few weeks to ensure continuity of work while work-from-home orders were put in place. Members of the Council have developed mechanisms to ensure that it continues to deliver on its mandate, adopting resolutions, and ultimately serving those affected by threats to international peace and security. At the same time, under these extraordinary circumstances, living up to the principles of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness for the Security Council have gained a new importance and may necessitate some innovative procedures going forward.
The world relies on the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security, even when meetings do not take place at the iconic horseshoe table. We welcome the emphasis on ensuring transparency when devising the interim working methods under COVID-19 by the Council presidencies. We encourage Council members to further enhance existing procedures for transparency and inclusiveness of the Council’s work by allowing the delivery of oral statements by member states in open meetings even if they are held as VTCs. The enormous interest and high-level participation at the Arria-formula meeting marking the end of the Second World War in Europe is an illustration of the interest of Member States to continue contributing to the discussions of this august body.
The Security Council will require agility and flexibility to operate virtually in the ‘new normal’ of a post-COVID19 world. We see merit in the Council sharing with the broader membership its reflections and assessment of how the Council adjusted to the virtual ways of working. Such a reflection on the practices employed could provide useful guidance for future scenarios when in-person meetings might be impossible. This could include not only lessons related to the conduct of meetings and the adoption of resolutions, but how the Council operated during these difficult times more broadly speaking.
Concerning the broader issue of working methods beyond those specific to COVID-19, I woud note that the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform have been discussing proposals aimed at enhancing the working methods of the Council. I have had the honor of overseeing the process as co-chair of for the third year in a row, and I am encouraged to note the convergence between the work of the IGN and the Informal Working Group. To complement this work, in my national capacity, I would propose three recommendations that would significantly enhance the effectiveness and transparency of the Security Council more broadly.
First, achieving a more balanced division of labor for penholdership is not simply a question of inclusiveness, but could contribute to a more effective Council. We note that discussions have been ongoing for some years now on the necessity of expanding the penholder system to include more elected members. We recognize that some progress has been made, notably the inclusion of some chairs of sanctions committees as co-penholders. However, this is far from a systematic practice. Chairs of sanctions committees can in fact add considerable value and an important perspective in drafting Council outcomes, and should therefore be consulted, if not serve as co-penholders.
Second, improving the interaction with troop- and police-contributing countries is not a new request, and another area where progress has certainly been made over the years. One of the eight Presidency Notes adopted under Kuwait’s chairmanship of the Informal Working Group included a provision allowing relevant participants in Council meetings, including troop- and police-contributing countries to have access to the reports of the Secretary-General at least four working days before they are discussed in the Council. Nonetheless room for improvement remains. Importantly, simply having more meetings with TCCs and PCCs does not enhance their relationship with the Council. The Council should strive to establish a more substantive and interactive three-way dialogue among the Council, the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries throughout the mandate cycle of missions to consider planning, design and implementation of mandates.
Finally, the UAE has highlighted in previous open debates the need to build and support the capacity of States so that they can abide by their legal obligations arising from Council resolutions. This starts with the Council adopting shorter resolutions with clearer language that takes into consideration the wide spectrum of capacity of states to be able to implement them. The Council should also more systematically ensure that new legal obligations are explained to the entire membership, for example through meetings with the various Chairs of the Sanctions Committees, allowing the membership to ask questions.
The coronavirus has thrown a curveball at the Security Council. The UN’s founders could not have imagined the Council functioning virtually. But in fact the adjustments by the Security Council to the new circumstances have allowed for fulfilling its primary functions. Let us use this opportunity to demonstrate to the world the ability of the Security Council to be nimble and flexible to fulfill its primary function while at the same time adhering to the principles of efficiency, effectiveness and transparency.