Security Council: Working Methods

Note: A complete summary of today’s Security Council meeting will be made available after its conclusion.



FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Security Council President for September, speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, said that annual open debates on the Council’s working methods have served to collectively engage in a reflection with the wider United Nations membership on the topic. Since 2017, 15 new notes by the President on its working methods have been adopted under the auspices of the Informal Working Group, which have added to the normative “acquis” contained in Note 507 to enhance the Council’s efficiency, transparency and effectiveness. As the world faces armed conflicts, adverse effects of climate change and the use of new and emerging technology for terrorist purposes, the Council is expected to act efficiently, transparently, and effectively on behalf of the rest of the UN membership. However, challenging political dynamics worldwide and divisions within the Council have prevailed, critically affecting the Council’s ability to deliver on its responsibilities, he warned, stating: “At stake is not only the Council’s reputation but the overall reputation of the United Nations.”

Nonetheless, he reported that the Council has maintained its levels of activity in 2022 and remained actively seized of 41 items on its agenda so far, fully resumed open debates with high levels of participation and adopted decisions regularly to maintain UN operations worldwide. “The workload is ever-growing, and the stakes could not be greater,” he pointed out. Highlighting major milestones achieved by the Informal Working Group in the past 18 months, he said that it adopted a programme of work setting out the main priorities and planned actions for the coming year, allowing all Council members to comment and make proposals. The Informal Working Group also adopted its first annual report in 2022 (document S/2022/1032) in line with the practice of the Council’s subsidiary bodies. The annual report includes activity summaries and a set of selected indicators in a first attempt at tracking the implementation of Note 507 and presidential notes. These indicators are crucial to get a better overview of how the Council is performing and what are the gaps remaining. Under the auspices of the Informal Working Group, the Council adopted two additional president’s notes on working methods, with the first (document S/2023/612) laying out the procedure for observing minutes of silence orderly and and the second (document S/2023/615) reaffirming the Council’s commitment to making every effort to agree provisionally on the appointment of subsidiary bodies Chairs for the following year no later than 1 October.

The Informal Working Group has also addressed many other topics, including how to improve the selection of subsidiary body Chairs and ensure a more equitable distribution of labour among Council members, he continued. As well, it addressed the access of elected members to confidential documentation of the Council predating their membership, the practice of monthly assessments, cooperation with other UN principal organs, the mainstreaming of gender into the Council’s work and the participation of civil society in Council meetings and ensuring their protection against reprisals. In April, emulating a well-established practice of the General Assembly, the Council rolled out a live list of speakers for open debates. As well, the successful launching of the Interactive Handbook of the Working Methods of the Council is a timely innovation for the incoming elected members. “While not in and of themselves the solution to the conflicts on the Council’s agenda, the working methods are a ‘means to an end’ and can build the path towards finding solutions,” he said, inviting proposals from the wider membership for further discussions.


BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), recalling that the Council’s first meeting in 1946 took place in the United Kingdom, quoted Dag Hammarskjold: “The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.” Observing that the Council has outlasted the League of Nations by 51 years and has helped to prevent a third world war, she stressed: “Our vision remains for a Council that is able to solve problems though interactive debate, building consensus, responsible and inclusive penholdership.” There are times that the Council is most effective when it holds frank discussions in private, she observed, adding that Member States should agree on press elements for transparency. Noting that it has been 50 years that the United Kingdom has vetoed a Council resolution, she spotlighted the General Assembly resolution addressing when a permanent member blocks action to maintain international peace and security. In that regard, the Russian Federation has violated the Charter of the United Nations by invading its neighbour and attempting to “defend indefensible”, while using the Council as a platform for propaganda and disinformation, she said.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) underscored that, as the Council carries out its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, it acts on behalf of all Member States. Further, it has shown it can work in unison towards a common goal to address a specific practical issue regarding its working methods. He welcomed the expansion of the use of co-penholding, citing as an example the United States’ work with Mexico and Ecuador to achieve a resolution regarding the situation in Haiti, as well as its work with Ireland to achieve an important humanitarian carve-out for the sanctions regime. He also spotlighted the work of African Member States to joint co-penhold a resolution on Niger and voiced support for the flexible work on penholding codified in Note 507. However, he highlighted the unfortunate practices by the Russian Federation, shown most recently on the Mali sanctions resolution; that Council member’s defiant actions killed that sanctions regime. The actions of the Russian Federation were in bad faith and disrespectful of the Council’s work. Its approach to working methods undermines the Council’s unity, he said, urging them to alter their approach to the Council’s working methods.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) reiterated his country’s support for the candidatures of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan as permanent Council members, along with a more significant African presence – including amongst permanent members. An expanded Council “could have up to 25 members”, he said. He also underlined the need to strike an appropriate balance between public diplomacy and working behind closed doors, stating that “the current balance is not correct”. While public meetings allow greater transparency, there must be enough space for consultations amongst permanent members to address thorny topics through compromise. Underscoring that the best working methods “will never replace a spirit of responsibility and compromise”, he noted that the Council has recently been used as a platform for disinformation, with speakers expounding at great length “to expose debatable – or even fantasy-based – positions”. He added that France – along with Mexico – has put forth an initiative that proposes the voluntary, collective suspension of the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocity.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that Council reforms must aim towards effectiveness and efficiency of its primary functions, adding that the “populist rhetoric” harms this cause. Noting that individual Council members use the organ to further “their narrow national interest”, he said that its agenda “is growing ever longer with domestic political issues, human rights and climate”. Often, the real reasons for the eruption of conflict are “deliberately hushed up”, he stressed, adding that, consequently, some UN missions and peace operations receive vague mandates with inappropriate functions. Pointing out that some States use sanctions regimes as “levers of political pressure under the international, UN umbrella”, he said that penholders are often guided by the nature of their own relationship with certain countries. Moreover, the Western countries have eight votes “in their pocket” and use them as a “hidden veto”, he observed, adding that, for this reason, the Council should not be expanded by “like-minded Western States”. Also recalling that only three delegations continue to act as penholders, he called for expanding this circle by non-permanent members, in particular African States.

ZHANG JUN (China) stressed that the Council should focus on its core mandates and emergencies. Noting he does not support thematic debates that hog resources, he voiced opposition to individual Member States using the Council to discuss specific human rights issues. The Council should be committed to practical issues, ensuring its documents are readable and practical, he said, adding that resolutions should avoid running to 10 pages. The frequent holding of certain meetings should be reduced, including those on Syria. The core Council members should not talk to the camera but listen to each other. More informal consultations and greater engagement with non-Council members should be held and there should be better quality control over briefing content. However, some Members only care about bringing different voices to the Council without achieving consensus. Sanctions should be approached in a prudent manner and be lifted to reflect the situation on the ground. Penholdership should be reformed and adjusted to reflect equity, equality and openness. More African members should serve as penholders on African issues and more non-permanent members should serve as penholders. The use of veto is closely related to the imbalance in the Council, he added.

HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), also speaking for the nine other elected Council members (Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates), said that the Council has much to gain from a more inclusive and transparent penholdership practice. Towards that end, the elected members have put forth a proposal that encourages a more equitable role, he said, expressing hope that this proposal can be swiftly adopted. He also underlined the need to ensure that all Council members have adequate opportunity to participate, engage, discuss and influence the organ’s decisions. He therefore called for sufficient time to be provided – not less than 24 hours for consideration of products placed under the silence procedure – and to avoid, when possible, sending drafts over the weekend. In addition, the Council should actively seek the valuable advice that the Peacebuilding Commission can provide, including on preventative diplomacy and cooperation with local actors.

He went on to say that the Council must “strike a healthy balance” between public and private meetings to both enhance the transparency of its work and to encourage consensus-building. On that, he supported efforts to agree on elements to be communicated by the Presidency after closed consultations. Noting that targeted sanctions are an important tool to address threats to international peace and security, he nevertheless underscored the importance of accountability and transparency in the work of subsidiary bodies. Further, the establishment of independent review mechanisms would strengthen the rule of law in such regimes, and the Council must ensure that sanctions are neither intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences on civilian populations nor adversely affect activities carried out by humanitarian organizations. He also pointed out that the Council “continues to lack a truly representative composition” and called for restraint on the use of the veto, especially regarding actions aimed to prevent mass atrocities.

GERARDO PEÑALVER PORTAL, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, called for a comprehensive and deep-seated reform of the Council, including its working methods, to make it a more transparent, democratic and representative body. The transparency of informal consultations should be guaranteed and there should be records of informal consultations. “Informal meetings behind closed doors should be the exception, not standard practice,” he emphasized, adding that the annual reports should be exhaustive and analytical. The Council must adhere to its mandate, not usurping the functions of other UN organs or expanding the scope of the definition of international peace and security, to the detriment of the General Assembly. It is vital to adopt the Council’s rules of procedure and put an end to its “provisional” status. Further, the Council should be expanded in both categories of membership and correct the inadequate representation of developing countries. The veto power should be terminated. Until that happens, new positions in the permanent category should have the same rights and prerogatives of the current permanent members, including veto power.

HYUN-WOO CHO (Republic of Korea) said the Council must take measures to ensure that veto powers are not exercised in a way that contradicts its previous decisions. These decisions are usually the result of extensive, meticulous negotiations designed to address threats to international peace and security. The exercise of the veto in May 2022, which brought the first formal debate in General Assembly history under the item “Use of the veto”, was a clear example of a self-contradictory veto. He urged penholders to engage with relevant non-Council members in a more systematic manner. He also urged the Council to adopt inclusive methods of work to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness. A good example would be to strengthen the Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role to the Council, accompanied with broad consultation with diverse partnerships, including regional organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society. The Council should ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, he stressed.

STEFAN PRETTERHOFER (Austria), associating himself with the statements to be delivered by Norway and Ireland, said that Council must acknowledge the link between climate and security, poverty, human rights, development and peace. Welcoming the meeting of the Co-Chairs of the Intergovernmental Negotiations framework on Security Council Reform, he reiterated the call for the organ’s wider membership. Moreover, he underscored the importance of a more consistent consultations with “affected” Member States, including countries concerned, regional neighbours and troop- and police-contributing countries. To make the monthly presidency wrap-up meetings more inclusive and interactive, he encouraged Council presidencies to organize them in a “Toledo-style format” – by engaging with the wider membership – and send invitations to all Member States. Recognizing that, over the past 18 months, the Council has been unable to act in the face of the blatant breach of the Charter by its permanent member, he welcomed the veto initiative.

MERETE FJELD BRATTESTED (Norway), speaking for the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, stressed the need for a more transparent, effective and inclusive Council. Its presidencies should complete their monthly assessments in a more timely manner. Since that work is undertaken in a national capacity, assessments can be more analytical, and do not require unanimity. The Group welcomes the Council’s consistent production of special reports in line with resolution 76/262 and expects this to continue. Expressing support for the early and broad circulation of live speakers’ lists and concept notes for open debates, she asked for more details included on the Council’s programme of work including wrap-in and wrap-up sessions, Arria-formula meetings and informal interactive dialogues. The Council should return to its agreed practice of sharing all draft resolutions “in blue” with the wider membership before adoption. It is vital to “democratize its procedures”, including co-penholdership on all files, systematic consultations with affected countries and greater accountability of the use of veto. Urging a more consistent and broader approach to the acceptance of Rule 37 requests, she encouraged a standardized approach to prioritizing and encouraging group statements in open debates and welcomed efforts to ensure a greater number and diversity of female civil society briefers, and their safe participation without reprisals.

CHRISTINA MARKUS LASSEN (Denmark), also speaking for Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden, said that opportunities for the wider membership to engage meaningfully in the Council’s work are key to ensuring that the organ can draw on their perspectives, knowledge and capacity. Additionally, the Peacebuilding Commission can offer valuable advice in support of the Council’s work. Welcoming efforts to include more female civil-society briefers, she underscored that continued attention to their safe participation – and the deeply concerning issue of reprisals – is critical. She also underlined the “invaluable innovation” that elected members bring to the Council, stating that their ability to participate meaningfully in the Council’s work is indispensable. On that, she urged more burden-sharing among all Council members in the context of penholdership, systematic consultations with affected countries and promoting greater accountability for the use of the veto.

Regarding the veto, she said that its use must come with transparency and accountability. Permanent members should refrain from using it in the case of mass atrocities, “including the crime of aggression”, she stressed. Emphasizing that the General Assembly’s resolution on the veto – resolution 76/262 – is an important accountability mechanism, she also expressed support for the presence of a dedicated chapter on the veto in the Council’s annual report. Council members should continue innovating and engaging towards a more transparent, inclusive, accountable – and thus, more effective – Council. Also calling for consistent implementation of the organ’s working methods, she expressed hope that the recommendations made today by the broader membership will be taken into account in the Council’s future work to adapt and improve its working methods.

RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile), associating himself with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group and the Like-Minded States Group on specific sanctions, called for greater transparency and accountability regarding the Council’s decision-making. Welcoming consensus reached on the orderly conduct of the minutes of silence and the continued functioning of the sanctions bodies, he stressed that achieving greater inclusiveness in its decision-taking and actions has become an unavoidable imperative. Highlighting the participation of civil society representatives in informative sessions, he encouraged more women to speak as briefers. For his country, the defending and strengthening of multilateralism is a priority, in which Council reform is fundamental, to provide legitimacy for decisions on international peace and security.

BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), associating himself with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said that the Handbook – launched by Albania and Japan – will make the organ’s work more accessible. Noting that global challenges demand that States work together, he added: “We do not always need to agree, but we should always listen to each other.” He underscored the importance of making open debates more efficient by identifying their aims and outlining guiding questions in concept papers, which should be issued “early enough” before the debate. While supporting the return to the practice of Council’s field missions, he said that visiting the field and gathering first-hand impressions can “never truly be substituted”. However, new technology can facilitate and expedite flows of information and should be used regularly. Moreover, as an incoming Council member, Slovenia intends to join the mainstreaming of women, peace and security agenda into the organ’s work, he said.

MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy) said reform is necessary to regain public trust in the Council. Permanent and non-permanent Council members should work together and the distribution of duties among the organ’s members should be fairer and more balanced, including in the use of penholdership and co-penholdership. The views of Member States affected by the Council’s work should be considered. He supported the invitation of briefers to the organ’s meetings and greater inclusivity that lets Council members hear different points of view. Public meetings should be held as much as possible and the holding of closed meetings should be kept to a minimum. The improvement of working methods is part of a broader discussion of Council reform to make it more democratic and inclusive of Africa and the global South. A root cause of the Council’s inaction is linked to the power of the veto, whether it is used or threatened. He supported all initiatives meant to restrict its use.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) called for more-frequent open meetings – both involving the Council and its subsidiary bodies – underscoring that the organ works on behalf of the general membership. As such, its meetings should – as a general rule – be visible to all Member States. Further, there must be serious engagement between the Council and the general membership, who should be informed more regularly regarding the Council’s decisions. Member States should also be able to express their opinions to the Council regarding the organ’s products. Turning to the issue of penholdership, he stressed the need to ensure that it “does not become an exclusive right for a limited number of permanent members that serves their interests and ignores the priorities of other States” – particularly those playing important roles on the issues under consideration or those that are directly affected by them. It is “inconceivable”, he added, for the Council to take decisions on specific issues without the involvement of the regional mechanisms that are in charge of them.

ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), recalling the words of his country’s President at the opening of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Jakarta, said the regional organization is “a large ship” that holds responsibility over millions of people who sail together. Likewise, the Council is a large ship that must sail on amid rocky waters and turbulences. “Its working methods are the screws and bolts that keep the ship together and allow it to continue on its course,” he said. Against this backdrop, the Council should promote greater participation of the UN membership and UN entities, to gain broader perspectives and transparency. It is also vital to hear from the Peacebuilding Commission. As well, he called for more effective coordination with regional organizations, whose knowledge, cultural nuances and localized solutions can be overlooked in broader discussions. These organizations’ views can amplify the Council’s work. Members must refrain politicizing the Council’s established rules and working methods. Improving working methods is a continuous process that requires Members to set aside differences, he stressed.

MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) observed that the flow of communication between the Council and UN membership is critical to fulfilling Charter obligations, notably Articles 24 and 25. In addition, by only inviting selected non-Council Member States to open debates, the Council risks creating a “two-tier” system which defeats the very purpose of the format. For informed assessments of situations of concern, it is important to hear relevant experts, including women and civil society briefers. It is also important to hear from briefers who may not speak in an official UN language, as long as interpretation is provided. She noted that the increased use of Arria-formula meetings is only desirable if the format’s original purpose is honoured, bringing attention to understudied topics and voices and not distracting from its work. Nonetheless, despite a multitude of crises, the Council continues to be paralysed, unable to act on many core threats to international peace and security, she pointed out.

NGUYEN HOANG NGUYEN (Viet Nam) called for greater unity and responsibility among Council members in addressing urgent issues related to international peace and security – including regarding countries and regions in conflict or at risk of conflict that deserve greater attention. He urged members to set themselves as leading examples in compliance with international law, particularly respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the principles of non-interference and resolving disputes through peaceful means. The Council also needs to foster greater transparency, inclusiveness and efficiency, with more public meetings, which facilitate interactive exchange and consensus building. “Closed meetings and informal consultations should be kept to a minimum and as exceptions,” he affirmed. He further urged the organ to engage more with non-Council members and relevant regional organizations, and to consult more with the troop- and police-contributing countries on issues concerning UN peacekeeping missions.

MICHAEL ALEXANDER GEISLER (Germany) said: “We need a Security Council that facilitates constructive debate and is able to take necessary and bold decisions,” stressing that it must undergo a reform to fulfil its mandate, composition and the way it operates. Further, the Council presidencies should give non-member States a possibility to participate in the organ’s discussions. Welcoming the increase in the Peacebuilding Commission’s written pieces of advice and briefings of its Chair to the Council, he spotlighted an improvement in quality and relevance of advice provided under the guidance of Kenya and now, Brazil. “And I think there is room for more: we should foster an even stronger focus of the PBC’s [Peacebuilding Commission] advice on matters pertaining to conflict prevention,” he emphasized. Reiterating support for civil society briefers, he said the Council should protect them, because “pressure and intimidation of civil society representatives who brief this Council are inexcusable and simply unacceptable”.

NAME TO COME (MEXICO), noting the positive work of the Informal Working Group, also stressed that the Council can benefit from the advice of the Peacebuilding Commission, which would strengthen the collaboration between the Organization’s main organs. The adoption of General Assembly resolution 72/262 on the veto initiative has strengthened the relationship between the Assembly and the Council. Its relevance is rooted in its efforts to remedy the Council’s inaction, he pointed out, adding that the veto does not promote unity or efforts to seek resolution of issues. Rather, it is an “an act of power” and a clear example of the abuse of a working method. He also reiterated the importance of the Council addressing communications from any Member State regarding a controversy that might jeopardize international peace and security. It is unacceptable that the Council does not consider these issues, even if it regards activity by non-State actors. Any rupture of international peace and security should be considered, he emphasized.

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