Talk of Reform at Security Council’s June Wrap-Up Session

by Gabrielle Jorgensen, 7 July 2015

On 30 June, the Security Council held a public wrap-up session before the transition of its presidency from Malaysia to New Zealand. Several reform topics were discussed in remarks by Member States, including the selection of the next Secretary-General and the penholder system. In his opening statement, the permanent representative of Malaysia, the outgoing president, acknowledged the need to work alongside the General Assembly and other “relevant stakeholders” on the selection of the next Secretary-General. Malaysia also briefly commented on the Council’s working methods with respect to accountability, citing a need for regular collective assessment of the Council’s performance.

The United Kingdom encouraged the Council to strive for a less formal working environment. Excess formality, even during so-called “informal” consultations and dialogues, hinders the Council’s ability to respond to and interact with one another. Private meetings should thus become an environment where prepared statements are abandoned in favor of genuine exchanges and asking direct questions. The UK argued that because people suffer when the Council is starkly divided, it is crucial to actively seek common ground on difficult issues. More informal working methods could help to facilitate this process.

The UK also addressed the selection of the Secretary-General and favored a more transparent, structured, and inclusive selection process. It suggested setting a clear timeline for each stage of the process and encouraged the Council to consider how both member states and civil society could assess the credentials of prospective candidates. The UK argued that the Security Council must take the lead in the selection process because it is mandated by the Charter to make the final recommendation to the General Assembly. Finally, the UK advocated for a female Secretary-General should her qualifications equally match those of the male candidates.

Both Lithuania and Angola welcomed the letter sent by the ACT group to the president regarding the selection of the Secretary-General, and Angola sought to find ways to practically implement its proposals. Lithuania also endorsed recent efforts to improve the transparency of the Council’s proceedings, such as holding more public meetings. Chile reiterated the need for transparency in light of the upcoming Secretary-General selection and cited public monthly wrap-up meetings as a positive step.

Spain discussed working methods at length in its statement. Spain announced that it is currently organizing the annual open debate on working methods set to take place in October. It also planned to organize a high level open debate regarding Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security.

Spain advocated for a new penholder system in which one P5 member and one non-permanent member act as co-penholders for a given issue. This would alleviate the problem of non-permanent members having inadequate time to prepare for negotiations initiated by current penholders. Spain also wished to minimize the time spent on open debates, as they fail to provide members and nonmembers the opportunity for genuine interaction. With respect to the selection of the Secretary-General, Spain advocated for transparency as a central principle, greater inclusiveness in the process, and a list of viable candidates, and the presentation of candidates with time for interaction between candidates and Member States. It also supported gender balance in the candidate selection process.

New Zealand, the incoming president, agreed with the UK on the need to engage more informally, and with Spain that the penholder system should be reevaluated. Venezuela also discussed a need to improve working methods and stated that the selection of the Secretary-General should involve the presentation of candidates sufficiently in advance in order to facilitate more interaction between candidates and the General Assembly. Venezuela supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on this issue. Venezuela also believed that the Security Council should intensify its cooperation with regional organizations.

Russia stated that the existing procedure for selecting the Secretary-General has worked fine thus far. Russia would not support any attempts to revise Article 97 of the Charter, and any proposal to include the General Assembly in the selection process would require careful study. It felt that the Security Council should focus primarily on selecting the most qualified candidate.