ACT group formally launches Security Council Code of Conduct

by Jessica Kroenert
26 October 2015

On 23 October 2015, the ACT group formally launched their year-long initiative on the Security Council Code of Conduct in a meeting hosted by Liechtenstein, the primary drafter of the Code. Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein Christian Wenaweser opened the meeting with the announcement that 104 Member States have signed on to the Code of Conduct, with Guinea-Bissau and Moldova joining just that morning. Foreign Minister Aurelia Frick added that of this number, the Code enjoyed the support of nine current members of the Security Council, including the UK and France as permanent members, as well as three of the five newly elected non-permanent members who begin their terms in January.

In her statement, Foreign Minister Frick reiterated that the purpose of the Code of Conduct is to contribute to greater political accountability at the United Nations. From this point forward, Ms. Frick noted that the next steps would be to ensure the application of the Code to the Council, and to increase the number of Member States committed to it. Minister Frick thanked all who have supported the initiative, noting with appreciation the complementary efforts of the French/Mexican initiative to restrain the veto, as well as giving special thanks to civil society organizations, without whom, she suggested, the success of the Code of Conduct would not have been possible.

Amnesty International, as one such civil society supporter of the initiative, was represented as a panelist at the meeting, with Ambassador Wenaweser also giving special thanks to Human Rights Watch, the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court for their support. In his statement, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty recognized two former detainees from Syria who were present at the meeting, as a reminder of the lack of Security Council action in Syria due to the use of the veto four times by Russia and China. He added that Russia and China were not the only "abusers" of the veto power, arguing that the United States repeatedly used the veto to prevent holding Israel accountable for human rights violations. Mr. Shetty commended the Code of Conduct as potentially "game changing."

Other panelists included President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft and High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who both expressed their support of the effort. In his statement, President Lykketoft commended the efforts of the ACT group and characterized the Code of Conduct as an “excellent example” of states coming together to improve the UN system. Commissioner Al Hussein expressed that the Code had his full support and the backing of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Following the panelists' comments, a number of Member States spoke in support of the initiative, with several states also vocalizing support for the France/Mexico political declaration. In addition, many states called attention to the conflict in Syria, in an effort to bring urgency to the discussion at hand.

Notably, France and the United Kingdom spoke in their capacity as permanent members of the Security Council, pledging not to use their respective vetoes in cases of mass atrocities, and calling on other P5 states to pledge the same. Ambassador Rycroft of the UK added that he looked forward to pursuing issues of accountability, coherence, and transparency in the UK’s upcoming November presidency of the Security Council.

Sweden and Germany in their statements expressed support for the Code of Conduct in the context of their broader support for the overall reform of the Security Council through the Intergovernmental Negotiation process taking place in the General Assembly. Both expressed their support for a more representative Council.

Australia noted the significant capacity of all Member States on the Security Council to push forward measures to prevent or end mass atrocity situations, insisting that elected members must not be deterred from taking action by the threat of a veto.

Panama lauded the Code of Conduct and the French/Mexican political declaration as an important first step for the eventual elimination of the veto altogether.

Finland called attention to the critical role of the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Secretary General in bringing cases of human rights violations to the attention of the Security Council in a timely manner.

Costa Rica simply noted that they would be referring to the list of supporters of the Code of Conduct when considering which Member States to elect to the Security Council and the Human Rights Council.

Other Member States who spoke in support of the Code of Conduct at the meeting included Luxembourg, Norway, Austria, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, and Poland. The Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect spoke as a representative of civil society.

To see which states supported the Code of Conduct at the time of the launch, please see the complete list.