The Annual Report of the Council was again discussed - independently from the general Security Council reform debate - as promoted by ACT.
Earlier this month, a joint meeting was held on the Security Council’s Annual report (agenda item 29) and on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council (agenda item 123). The latter agenda item deals with five aspects of security council reform: categories of membership; veto; regional representation; size and working methods; and the relationship between the General Assembly (GA) and the Security Council.
The 22 countries that form the grouping ACT (Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency - see here a link to their factsheet) believe that discussions on the Security Council’s annual report should be separated from the overall negotiations on Security Council reform. ACT, as a group, does not take a position on enlargement of the Council, focussing on the working methods of the current Council instead. It seems clear that this group does not expect other reform issues of the Security Council to see progress any time soon. The slow-going deliberations on Security Council reform started almost twenty years ago.
ACT members Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, Ireland, and Maldives spoke. Their permanent representatives made the following points, among others:
- We have seen improvements in the annual report and we have welcomed Security Council notes S/2010/507 and S/2012/922. However, implementation of these notes has been lacking.
- The annual report should be further improved: it should be more substantive and analytical. When preparing the annual report, all Member States should have a chance to provide input through open meetings. We would like to see more information on results achieved - including positive ones - as well as any shortcomings in the work of the Council. Add an element of evaluation; create an implementation plan, allowing the implementation of decisions to be reviewed by all Member States. It would be good to receive information on the eb and flow of specific debates, overall priority setting, new trends and challenges.
- Wrap-up sessions and informal briefings could increase and improve.
- The monthly assessments of the Council should be compiled and added to the annual report, providing a month by month overview of the Council’s work.
- More information could be provided on the Council’s subsidiary bodies.
- The issue of working methods is not adequately reflected in the annual report. It doesn’t list all debates held on the issue. The working group on this issue lacks transparency.
- We note that there is no reference to the letter sent to the Council from 57 Member States about referring the situation in Syria to the ICC. This letter is only mentioned in the documentation section.
- The interaction between the Council and General Assembly could be further improved. Open thematic debates are a welcome development, but maybe time limits should be observed as to interventions.
- We welcome the proposal from France for permanent members to refrain from using their veto in case of mass atrocities. [It is unclear if this proposal has been taken up by the Security Council. It is not mentioned in the annual report, as Hungary noted at the meeting]
India, Germany, and Brazil (three of the G4) made statements as well.
India noted that better interaction between the most representative organ (GA) and the most “empowered” one (Council) was facilitated by the annual meeting on the Council’s report. India too would like the report to be more analytical, though it believes that a solution can best be achieved through “thorough reform” of the Security Council, explaining that there is an “umbilical” relationship between working methods and other aspects of Security Council reform. India made a number of points about peacekeeping (impartiality and neutrality of peacekeepers; risks related to more robust mandates; threats to peacekeepers from non-governmental forces and militias; and zero tolerance for terrorism). India took the opportunity to refer to the joint debate earlier this month, listing the number of countries asking for concrete outcomes by 2015 (26) and those in favor of text-based negotiations to begin (23), and those in favor of expansion with both permanent and non-permanent members (58).
Brazil made a number of observations about current situations before the Council, mentioning successes as well as failures. Brazil too referred to the numbers speaking at the joint debate (90).
Germany did not specifically refer to expansion of the Security Council, though it noted that the bloodshed in Syria “begs the question whether the Security Council as we see it today [is] still able to effectively address current and future challenges.” Germany feels that the penholdership for Security Council resolutions - “de facto monopolized by the permanent members" - should be performed by non-permanent members also. Similarly, the chairmanship of subsidiary organs of the Council should not automatically go to the permanent five.
Two African countries - but not the C10 - also spoke: South Africa and Benin. Benin’s statement closely resembled some of those made in the joint debate, focusing primarily on expansion. South Africa too noted that there have been some improvements in the annual report, but stressed that it remains a factual and chronological, but not analytical, account. Monthly briefings are important, and the relationship between the AU and the Council should be noted. South Africa mentioned the influence of countries non-member of the Council - in regard to the Council's debates on Western Sahara for instance - even at times outstripping the role of non-permanent members. As to taking up working methods separately, South Africa noted that it should not “divert attention from general reform.”
At this plenary meeting, none of the UfC countries or Permanent Five spoke. With its ten interventions, the meeting lasted a mere one hour and ten minutes.