Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Procedure of the UN Security Council$

Loraine Sievers and Sam Daws

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199685295

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199685295.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 16 January 2019

Concluding Reflections

Concluding Reflections

Chapter:
(p.670) Chapter 10 Concluding Reflections
Source:
The Procedure of the UN Security Council
Author(s):

Loraine Sievers

Sam Daws

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199685295.003.0010

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines various issues that have arisen in connection with various proposals to reform the UN Security Council, along with their impact on the Council’s procedures. It begins by considering the proposal to increase Council membership to make it more representative of the contemporary world. It then discusses suggestions to reform the Council’s working methods and transparency and argues that the Council can be made more effective by enhancing its relationship with the United Nations’s Member States.

Keywords:   reform, UN Security Council, procedures, membership, working methods, transparency, United Nations, Member States

The time for collecting grapes ends only with the washing of the baskets.

(Portuguese proverb)

As this book has shown, the procedures of the Security Council which have developed since the founding of the United Nations are extensive, complex, versatile, and progressive. For the Council members, these procedures provide parameters for the Council’s deliberations and outcomes, and foster the Council’s orderly functioning. Whenever the Council comes to a point of decision as to how to carry forward the conduct of its work, sound procedures enable the Council members to select, from among available options, those likely to be the most efficient and effective. An awareness of the range of their procedural options enables the Council members to exercise flexibility and reinforce ‘best practices’. A reliable body of procedure promotes continuity in the conduct of the Council’s work, offsetting to some extent the constant turnover of the delegations of both elected and permanent members. Even when Council members are open to approaching a procedural situation in a new way, they like to be well informed as to past practice, so as to know whether they are following precedent or charting new territory. Wise use by the Security Council of its procedures can enhance the perception among its members that the Council is conducting its business in a fair and straightforward way. And procedure can serve as an ‘equalizer’, in that any Council member may positively influence the course of the Council’s actions by suggesting a helpful procedural approach, irrespective of how much political influence that member might have with regard to the substance of the matter under consideration.

Sound procedures are particularly important for the effective conduct of each month’s rotating Council presidency. Used adeptly, the Council’s procedures enable the President to lead the Council members through the month’s proceedings, and to resolve satisfactorily any procedural differences which may arise. Although disagreements over procedure can be settled through a procedural vote taken at a formal meeting, Council members generally prefer to work out such problems informally, (p.671) often through the facilitation of the President. Invoking established procedures can enable a President to chart a neutral course at times when he or she comes under pressure to follow an approach favoured by one or another group on the Security Council. Consistent procedures also ensure that the Council’s practice will not vary too widely from one President to the next.

In addition to the beneficial impact procedures can have on the internal functioning of the Security Council, the Council’s procedures fulfil important external functions as well. Effective procedures, sufficiently understood, permit non-Council members to follow knowledgeably the proceedings of the Security Council, and also provide greater opportunities for non-members to contribute meaningfully to the Council’s work. When the Council’s use of procedure appears appropriate to UN Member States, this can enhance their confidence in the manner in which the Council is acting on their behalf, pursuant to Article 24 of the Charter.

Despite these very positive contributions, the procedures of the Security Council are not always well regarded. Within the Council itself, members have variously complained that the Council’s procedures sometimes make it possible for different groupings of States—including, but not limited to, the permanent members—to dominate the Council’s decision-making, to foster the consideration of some situations and the ignoring of others, to unilaterally apportion responsibilities among the Council members, and to suppress more creative approaches to the Council’s work programme. Many Council members contend that the conduct of the Council’s work is ‘overly choreographed and ritualistic’.1

Criticism of the Security Council’s procedures is yet more vocal outside of the Council. Considerable criticism is heard annually in the General Assembly when the Assembly takes up consideration of the Council’s Annual Report, and during the now yearly open debates convened by the Security Council on its working methods. During these meetings, significant numbers of non-Council Member States have faulted the Council for a lack of transparency and accountability or for straying beyond its mandate. Some have complained that UN Member States have insufficient input with regard to UN peacekeeping operations mandated by the Security Council, which add to each State’s financial responsibilities to the Organization. The Council is also reproached for having maintained the ‘provisional’ status of its Rules of Procedure, which to some Member States preserves an unnecessary level of uncertainty as to their validity. While it is widely acknowledged that the Security Council has made significant efforts to devise improved working methods, particularly through its comprehensive Notes by the President of 2006 and 2010,2 it is a consistent refrain that the Council has not done enough to implement those new working methods. This criticism is usually made qualitatively, by singling out those working methods which, if implemented more fully, would give non-Council Member States greater access to the Council and more input into its proceedings and outcomes. Quantitatively, many of the working methods introduced in 2006 and 2010 are now followed as a matter of routine, and to good effect.

(p.672) Criticism of the Security Council’s procedures is not taken lightly by the Council members. If the process by which the Council consults on and adopts its decisions is seen as procedurally flawed, in the extreme this may undercut the impact of those decisions. Even decisions which are well conceived, dynamic, and appropriate to the situation before the Council could risk being undervalued if it is believed that they were arrived at through deficient procedures. For this reason, although it is clear that the legitimacy of the Security Council ultimately rests on its faithfulness to the UN Charter, Council members have been attentive to the criticisms made. While, given Article 30 of the Charter, the Council will always remain the master of its own procedure, members of the Council have made efforts to maintain a dialogue about its working methods with non-Council Member States, and to address some of the issues raised.

Dissatisfaction with the procedures of the Security Council was one key element which led to a heightened interest in Security Council reform, beginning in the 1990s. We will not here provide a detailed summary of the various proposals for Security Council reform made in the context of the General Assembly. The earlier history of those proposals is amply set out in the third edition of this book,3 and an updated history and assessment of Security Council reform will be the subject of a forthcoming book by Sam Daws.4 Here we provide only a brief survey of the issues which have arisen in connection with Security Council reform which would impact directly on the subject of this book: the Council’s procedure.

As is known, one element of Security Council reform relates to proposals for enlarging the Council to make it more representative of the contemporary world. In 1979, only fourteen years after the first enlargement of the Security Council from eleven to fifteen members, a proposal was made to increase the number of non-permanent members on the Council to fourteen, to give the Council an overall size of nineteen members. Also in 1979, at the request of ten developing countries, a new item, the ‘Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council’, was added to the agenda of the General Assembly. Discussion of this item was deferred each year for the next thirteen years. Then in 1992 the General Assembly again decided to take up the matter of Security Council expansion. UN Member States’ renewed interest in Security Council reform was in part the result of the Council’s increasing ‘activism’ after the end of the Cold War. Although it appeared the Council might now be better able to fulfil its Charter-mandated functions, at the same time the Council was intervening more readily in conflict situations than in the past, and sometimes in the type of situations which hitherto had been considered as within the domestic jurisdiction of the State concerned. In this context, the fact that many substantive decisions were being taken in private during consultations of the whole caused non-Council Member States to chafe at their declining ability to influence Council decisions. These trends helped to reignite interest in enlarging the Security Council as one means for non-Council Member States to gain greater access and influence, and to check what some saw as an excessive exercise of the Council’s powers.

(p.673) On 10 December 1993, the General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing an open-ended working group ‘to consider all aspects of the question of increase in the membership of the Security Council’.5 The Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council met for the first time in January 1994, and submitted successive annual reports thereafter. The Open-ended Working Group decided to divide the main issues of Security Council reform into two ‘clusters’: 1) increase in size of the Council and related matters; and 2) working methods of the Council and transparency. Each year, the General Assembly approved the continuation of the Open-ended Working Group’s work. Then in 2008, pursuant to Assembly resolution 62/557, the locus for discussion in the Assembly of Security Council reform shifted to ‘Intergovernmental Negotiations’ involving the full UN membership in an ‘informal plenary’. Resolution 62/557 specified that the ‘Intergovernmental Negotiations’ would be conducted on the basis of ‘five key issues’: 1) categories of membership; 2) the question of the veto; 3) regional representation; 4) size of an enlarged Security Council and working methods of the Council; and 5) the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.6

Changes to the size and composition of the Security Council and any changes with respect to the right to veto will require amendment of the UN Charter. In contrast, the power to decide on the procedures of the Security Council is vested in the Council itself by Article 30 of the Charter. Therefore, although both structural and functional issues of Security Council reform are part of the ‘Intergovernmental Negotiations’, in order to be implemented, the two aspects of Council reform may have to pass through two different processes: 1) amendment of the Charter in the case of structural reform and changes, if any, to the veto; and 2) the voluntary agreement of the Security Council in the case of new procedures and working methods which do not involve amendments to the Charter.

On 23 November 1998, the General Assembly, by its resolution 53/30, decided

not to adopt any resolution or decision on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters, without the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the Members of the General Assembly.

It would be up to the General Assembly to determine whether a particular draft resolution on the Council’s procedure and working methods would be among those ‘related matters’ which would require a two-thirds majority vote. This question was discussed in 2012 in the context of a draft resolution on working methods tabled by the ‘Small Five’ (‘S5’)—Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and Switzerland.7 In response to a query from the office of the Assembly President as to ‘the majority requirement for the adoption of the draft resolution’, the UN’s Legal Counsel, in an unpublished letter, advised that it would be ‘appropriate’ if the Assembly were to adopt the draft resolution by a two-thirds majority.8 The ‘Small Five’ characterized this advice as ‘utterly wrong and biased’. They argued, rather, that because their draft resolution did not involve amendments to the Charter, it would fall under ‘the well-established (p.674) practice of the Assembly to adopt resolutions by a simple majority’. Nevertheless, at an Assembly meeting held on 16 May 2012, the representative of Switzerland, speaking on behalf of the ‘S5’, drew attention to the lack of consensus over the majority required to adopt the draft resolution, as well as to ‘numerous’ appeals by other Member States to defer action on the text. In this context, he stated that the ‘Small Five’ had decided ‘to avoid a procedurally very complex discussion in the [General Assembly] Hall, which would have been unavoidable’, and were thus withdrawing their draft resolution.9

The ‘Intergovernmental Negotiations’ are likely to evolve considerably until the moment when the necessary majority of UN Member States agree on the components of an expansion of the Security Council. For that reason, the following observations regarding certain possible procedural impacts of a future enlargement of the Security Council are without reference to the eventual size of an enlargement, or to whether some of the new members would be permanent. The points we raise are not in any way to be seen as arguing against Security Council expansion. Rather, we draw attention to some possible ramifications of enlargement in order that thought might be given in advance to preparing for the changes that would be engendered.

With an enlarged Security Council, it will be possible that some elected members will serve their full two-year term on the Council without holding a Council presidency. This would occur, for example, when the country name of an elected member beginning its term came alphabetically just before the last Council President of the previous year. That would preclude the new member’s serving as President during the first year of its term. (This phenomenon already occurs occasionally with the Council’s present membership of fifteen.) On an expanded Council, several additional countries could be elected for the following year which, alphabetically, would be inserted before the elected member in question. That could be sufficient for the rotation to also exclude that country’s serving as President during the final year of its two-year term. As was detailed in Chapter 3, serving as Council President provides many leadership opportunities to individual Council members. Thus, elected members which are unable to serve as President on an expanded Council may feel that they have had an incomplete experience, and that they have made less of a contribution to the Council’s work than those members which did hold presidencies. Moreover, as was mentioned in Chapter 3, serving as Council President is educative, thereby improving the functioning of the Council as a whole. On an expanded Council, some elected members may therefore be somewhat less knowledgeable about the functioning of the Council than others. In addition, whereas now it is commonplace for several elected members to hold two presidencies during a term on the Council, that would happen much less frequently. This could increase the pressure on every elected member holding only one presidency to design a very full work programme in order to reflect all of its government’s priorities during a single month—as sometimes happens at present.

Enlargement of the Security Council may also cause its members to look closely at the procedures and practices of the Council’s subsidiary bodies. In particular, the understanding that subsidiary bodies will reach their decisions by consensus may become unwieldy after a Council expansion if most of the Council’s subsidiary bodies (p.675) remain ‘committees of the whole’. During the earlier years of the debate on Council expansion, it was informally wondered whether it would be more efficient for sanctions committees or counter-terrorism committees to be comprised of fewer than all the Council members, provided geographic balance was observed. However, because the proceedings in those subsidiary bodies influence so considerably the related decision-making of the Council itself, it is now thought that few Council members would choose to forgo belonging to such committees.

On the other hand, missions by Council members to the field might be conducted more frequently with fewer than fifteen Council members participating. Such ‘mini-missions’ are already sometimes carried out on the Council’s behalf, and no serious arguments have been made that they are less effective. Dispatching smaller missions to the field would be likely to facilitate better security for the participants, a responsibility which is more difficult to assure when all the Council members travel together. Smaller missions would also be advantageous in terms of reducing cost. However, in cases when fewer than all Council members undertake missions to the field, thorough, analytical, and timely reporting back to the Council by the participants would take on heightened importance.

One advantage of an enlarged Council would be that more members would be available to serve as Chairs of the Council’s subsidiary organs. With the present Council membership of fifteen, some representatives are selected to chair as many as three subsidiary bodies. This can limit the amount of time the Chair can devote to managing the work programme of each body, and can also mean that his or her delegation is overburdened. However, an increase in the Council membership may mean disappointing the aspirations of some Council members which are interested in chairing the more high-profile subsidiary bodies.

If, because of the Council’s larger size, substantive discussions among the members occasionally become unwieldy, there may be a tendency for some Council members to negotiate a common position ‘off-stage’ in smaller, less inclusive groups. In addition, with a larger number of members it is possible that more information about closed consultations will be leaked to other UN Member States or the media. While this may serve to keep the international community better informed as to the progression of discussions in the Council, it may sometimes have a negative impact on sensitive negotiations.

Enlarging the Security Council by possibly as many as ten new members will inevitably add to the length of meetings and informal consultations, especially if each Council member takes the microphone on every issue. Meetings and consultations will be much longer, and may have to be scheduled for both morning and afternoon sessions even when addressing routine matters. In addition to possibly impacting on the Council’s efficiency, this could raise the costs of interpretation, security, and other meeting services.

The minimum number of affirmative votes necessary to adopt a resolution—also known as the ‘voting majority’ or ‘action threshold’—would have to be carefully thought out as part of any decision in the General Assembly to enlarge the Security (p.676) Council. With a Council of fifteen members, a draft resolution which is not vetoed can be adopted with six Council members voting against it. A resolution adopted by such a vote inevitably conveys a message that support for it on the Council is weak. If the Security Council were to be enlarged, for example, to twenty-four members, the equivalent voting ratio would mean that a resolution which was not vetoed could receive nine or ten negative votes and still be adopted.10 Although the legal validity of such a resolution would not be in question, such a significant negative vote might mean that the resolution would be viewed as politically compromised.

One poignant outcome of enlargement would be the probable retirement of the Council’s present horseshoe table, which holds so much history. Cleverly designed extensions allowed the original table to be retained during the first enlargement of the Council from eleven to fifteen members, but it will not be possible to accommodate a larger influx of new members through a similar method.

Turning now to the reform of the Council’s working methods and transparency, three main negotiating ‘strands’ have existed side by side in recent years. First has been the Security Council’s own efforts to adopt improved working methods, both informal and formal. Foremost among the latter have been those published in the Notes by the President of 2006 and 2010, which were the result of extensive deliberations in the Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions.11 The efforts by Council members to effect improvements to the Council’s working methods are ongoing, and continue to result in additional Notes by the President.12 Other working methods, such as those related to the order of speakers during informal consultations or to the designation of acting Chairs of subsidiary bodies, have been agreed informally and are not recorded in writing.

The second negotiating ‘strand’, as was mentioned earlier, is the ‘Intergovernmental Negotiations’ established by General Assembly resolution 62/557, which designated the working methods of the Security Council as part of the fourth ‘key issue’ to be addressed by that process.

The third ‘strand’ has been that created by smaller groups of Member States which study the working methods of the Council with a view to making recommendations. One such group was the ‘Small Five’ (S5), cited earlier in the chapter. The draft resolution tabled by the ‘Small Five’ in the General Assembly in May 2012 was, in the words of the representative of Switzerland, aimed at

starting a process which would ensure that the solemn pledge [made by the UN Member States at the World Summit in 2005] to enhance the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of the decisions of the Security Council does not remain a mere phrase, but a substantive commitment.13

The annex to the S5 draft resolution contained twenty recommendations, divided into seven chapters, which included the Council’s relationship with the Assembly; transparency, legitimacy, and the distribution of work within the Council’s subsidiary bodies; and the Council’s interaction with contributors to peacekeeping operations.14 (p.677) After the ‘Small Five’ decided in May 2012 not to bring their draft resolution to a vote, in the circumstances described earlier, the group effectively disbanded.

The following year, on 2 May 2013, four of the S5 members joined with other States to launch a new group, initially made up of twenty-one States, named ‘ACT’—the ‘Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group for better working methods for today’s UN Security Council’. The ACT platform explicitly states that ‘The initiative situates itself outside of the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council’ (italics in the original).15 It is possible that the ACT work programme will eventually lead to the tabling of one or more draft resolutions in the General Assembly. The working methods issues which at the outset ACT announced it would address include: 1) monitoring the implementation of the 2010 Note by the President on the Council’s working methods; 2) supporting the improvement of the Council’s Annual Report; 3) peacekeeping operations and the role of troop-contributors; 4) accountability, including the voluntary engagement by the five permanent members to renounce the right of veto in cases of the most serious crimes; 5) prevention; 6) the link between thematic and geographic work; 7) transparency; 8) cooperation with regional organizations; 9) subsidiary bodies; and 10) penholder issues. Each of these issues has been discussed in the relevant chapters of this book, so we will not summarize here the various viewpoints which have been expressed as concerns them.

Instead we offer some general observations with respect to initiatives to reform the Council’s working methods:

Article 10 of the Charter provides that the General Assembly may discuss and make recommendations ‘relating to the powers and functions of any organs provided for in the present Charter’. Thus, although the Assembly is not prohibited from adopting resolutions with respect to the Council’s procedures and working methods, under the Charter these would have the status of recommendations. Language contained in the 2012 ‘Small Five’ draft resolution on Council working methods reflected that reality. Instead of ‘deciding’ that certain working methods should be adopted by the Council, the draft ‘invites the Security Council to consider the measures contained in the annex to the present resolution’.16 Should the General Assembly eventually adopt resolutions relating to the Council’s procedures—either as an outcome of the ‘Intergovernmental Negotiations’ or through efforts separate from the comprehensive reform process—any voluntary agreement by the Security Council to implement such recommendations will undoubtedly require the consensus of all Council members. That is because it has been the consistent practice of the Council over the last two decades to promulgate changes to its working methods in the form of a Note by the President, which is a consensus document.

It is exceptional in the United Nations for the procedures of one principal organ to have attracted such intense scrutiny from another principal organ, and for States not belonging to the Security Council to be so actively engaged in seeking to improve its procedures. This stems from the unique relationship between the UN Member States and the Council which, pursuant to Article 24 of the Charter, acts on their behalf. The optimal functioning of the Security Council is in the common interest of the entire (p.678) international community, and, to this end, all have an interest in encouraging the development and use of the best possible procedures and working methods. It is true that some of the Council’s procedures are genuinely flawed, and that in other areas of the Council’s work procedures have not been developed or are insufficient. Yet it is the view of the authors, after completing the extensive research necessary for writing this book, that the extent to which the Council has, over time, introduced significant improvements to its procedures has been underestimated. The Council has in fact made a serious and sustained effort to adopt new methods to render its proceedings more efficient and effective. These include the increased use of video-teleconferencing, greater use of informal meeting formats such as ‘Arria-formula’ meetings and informal interactive dialogues, better distribution of items across its yearly work programme, and better sharing of conference resources with its subsidiary bodies. The Council has also adopted significant new measures to increase transparency, which will be discussed further later in this chapter.

There may be several reasons why improvements by the Security Council to its procedures have been underestimated. One reason is the very intricacy of the Council’s work. In 1994, Boutros Boutros-Ghali observed, ‘I have been performing the functions of the Secretary-General of this Organization for two years, and I still do not understand how it works’.17 A similar remark could be made by anyone in the international community who has been involved in the proceedings of the Security Council over a similar time frame. The Council’s procedures and working methods are truly complex and sometimes not easily grasped. Because of that, certain improvements pass unremarked, or if noticed are sometimes not fully appreciated.

Another reason for underestimating the improvements made by the Security Council to its working methods is the sheer number of the Council’s practices. It has required more than 700 pages for the authors to describe in this book those procedures and working methods known to them, and surely there are others. Added to this is the fact that the procedures and working methods of the Security Council are both written and unwritten, and that there is no single compendium of the Council’s practice. Procedures set out in writing are found, inter alia, in the UN Charter, the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, the series of relevant Notes by the President, the Secretariat-authored Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, and the Annual Report of the Council, which is jointly authored by the Council members and the Secretariat, as well as in studies prepared by NGOs, such as Security Council Report, and by academics. And even where procedures and working methods have been set out in writing, many are subject to unwritten interpretations, as can be seen from the cases discussed in this book. Thus, in all fairness to the Security Council, to truly account for the progress made, the Council’s procedures and working methods need to be observed closely and over a fairly long span of time.

In this context, the authors would wish to sound a note of caution with respect to evaluating the proceedings of the Security Council on a primarily quantitative basis. For example, tempting though it may sometimes be, it is misleading to try to measure the Council’s transparency through statistics comparing its public and private sessions. (p.679) A straightforward adoption of a Council decision, without any statements made, may last ten minutes, whereas an open debate may last as long as ten hours, and yet both will be counted as a single ‘meeting’. Similarly, a morning of informal consultations of the whole may include a lengthy discussion of one item, or a more targeted discussion of several items, and yet in many statistics one session of consultations will be recorded for both instances. Thus, when imperfect statistics on public sessions are compared to imperfect statistics on private sessions in order to draw conclusions as to the Council’s relative ‘transparency’ from year to year, the results are bound also to be imperfect.

Moreover, it can be misleading to gauge how ‘active’ the Security Council has been during a given year by counting how many meetings or outcomes it has produced, or how many new items it has taken up. In addition to formal meetings and informal consultations of the whole, the Council members may devote considerable time and attention to a matter in other informal settings which are not usually taken into account in ‘meeting statistics’. These include the monthly luncheons with the Secretary-General, missions to the field, informal negotiating sessions, and informal discussions, which may include non-Council member participants. As to its outcomes, the Security Council may decide in one instance to adopt a single, comprehensive resolution covering several elements with respect to a particular situation. In other cases, the Council may deem it wisest to adopt separate decisions on the different elements relating to a particular situation, such as peacekeeping, sanctions, elections, and juridical aspects. Statistical analysis is questionable when it deems the Security Council to have been ‘less active’ in the former case, and ‘more active’ in the latter. In particular, caution should be exercised against over-reliance on statistics for analysing the work of the Security Council as an indicator of its level of commitment. For example, if quantification of the adoption of outcome documents is carried too far, it may give the impression that in some years the Council is devoting more attention to the substance of a matter than during other years. Such analysis has been made by some commentators with respect to the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, without regard to the fact that a spike in the number of resolutions adopted in some years was attributable merely to the need to adopt decisions responding to requests from the Tribunals for the extension of judges’ terms.

One further reason that improvements to the Council’s procedures have been underestimated is that sometimes issues are raised by Member States using the vocabulary of procedure, but which are actually about substance. When viewed generically, procedure is about the most efficient and effective way for a body to conduct its work. In the case of the Security Council, the focus on procedure has, in addition, become a focus on bringing about the Council’s greater transparency and accountability through procedural practices. In recent years, the Council has taken significant steps to enhance transparency and accountability through such measures as receiving more briefings from Secretariat and other officials in public meetings; holding monthly briefings by the President and wrap-up meetings to which non-members are invited; extending more invitations to non-Council members to participate in Council proceedings; and open meetings convened by the Council’s subsidiary bodies. The fact that (p.680) such measures have been viewed by some as insufficient is in part because some non-Council Member States, when talking about greater transparency and accountability, are actually seeking greater opportunity to participate in the Council’s decision-making. At some point along the spectrum, these concerns cease to be primarily about procedural improvements and enter the realm of the political and the substantive, because in fact what is being talked about then is not so much procedure as powersharing. Whenever a discussion, ostensibly about improved working methods, is actually about power-sharing, this risks undercutting the efforts of both sides. The authors here are not taking a position either for or against the merits of such powersharing, as this is a question to be worked out between the members of the Security Council and the wider UN membership. But the point is brought out here because the authors believe that it would be helpful if both sides would, at least to some extent, detach the issue of working methods from that of power-sharing, and discuss the issue of power-sharing directly.

The dialogue over the Council’s working methods can become more productive if the Security Council members and the wider UN membership keep in mind their shared interest in the effective implementation of effective decisions by the Council. The greatest threat to the validity and authority of the United Nations as a whole is the risk that the decisions of the Security Council will be disregarded, misinterpreted, or deliberately distorted by States and non-State entities. Not only can this impact on the particular matter at issue, but it can also embolden States and parties to other disputes to conclude that they, too, can ignore Council decisions with impunity. Some factors that have a bearing on the extent to which decisions of the Security Council are implemented are beyond the control of the Council or the wider UN membership. These include the degree to which States or parties, through particular circumstances, remain largely outside the reach of real consequences for their failure to conform to Council decisions.

Accordingly, it is vitally important that the debate on the necessity for reforming the Security Council to make it more representative, accountable, and transparent does not cast a pall over the legitimacy of the actual decisions taken by the Council in a way which could be exploited by recalcitrant States or parties. As was discussed in Chapter 7, the Charter provides absolutely no basis for selective implementation of Council decisions based on an evaluation of a Member State or party of the Council’s legitimacy. Even if States or parties view the Council as non-representative, biased, or dominated by the permanent members, they are no less obligated to implement the Council’s decisions. But the effective implementation of Council decisions requires not just passive acquiescence by the UN membership, but their active support.

In these circumstances, enhanced Security Council working methods can play a key role in building support for the Council’s decisions. If UN Member States see the Council members as making serious efforts to increase the Council’s efficiency, transparency, and accountability, this can go far in fostering the readiness of the UN membership to engage actively to promote full compliance with Council decisions. Various Member States often act as pressure groups vis-à-vis the Security Council, and (p.681) it is understandable that this is sometimes resented. But to secure its own effectiveness, it is in the best interests of the Security Council to enhance the Council’s interactivity with Member States and to engage proactively with them in discussing improvements to the Council’s working methods. If this is done with the broadest possible sense of a shared purpose, efforts to improve the Security Council’s procedures can be an important pathway to partnership.

Notes

(1.) S/2013/280 of 9 May 2013, p. 22.

(2.) S/2006/507 of 19 July 2006; S/2010/507 of 26 July 2010.

(3.) pp. 379–412.

(4.) Sam Daws, UN Security Council Reform: A Political, Legal, and Historical Analysis, Oxford, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

(5.) A/RES/48/26 of 3 December 1993.

(6.) 15 September 2008. The last report presented by the Open-ended Working Group was that of 11 September 2009 (A/63/47).

(7.) A/66/L.42/Rev.2.

(8.) The letter, dated 14 May 2012, was not published as an official UN document.

(9.) A/66/PV.108 of 16 May 2012.

(10.) ‘If the current action threshold is maintained at approximately the present level (60 per cent), the number of affirmative votes required for a decision would be: in a Council of 20: 12; in a Council of 21: 13; in a Council of 23 or 24: 14; in a Council of 25: 15; in a Council of 26: 16.’ (Report of the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council (A/52/47, p. 43).)

(11.) S/2006/507 of 19 July 2006; S/2010/507 of 26 July 2010.

(12.) See Chapter 8, Section 3.

(13.) A/66/PV.108 of 16 May 2012.

(14.) A/66/L.42/Rev.2.

(15.) ACT backgrounder of 2 May 2013. The founding members were Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Hungary, Ireland, Jordan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania (observer), and Uruguay. Singapore was the only member of the S5 which did not become a founding member of ACT. Subsequently, Maldives and Ghana became members of ACT.

(16.) A/66/L.42/Rev.2.

(17.) Youri Toropin, Language of Multilateral Diplomacy: English–Russian Explanatory Dictionary, Bloomington, IN, AuthorHouse, 2012, back cover.

Notes:

(1.) S/2013/280 of 9 May 2013, p. 22.

(2.) S/2006/507 of 19 July 2006; S/2010/507 of 26 July 2010.

(3.) pp. 379–412.

(4.) Sam Daws, UN Security Council Reform: A Political, Legal, and Historical Analysis, Oxford, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

(5.) A/RES/48/26 of 3 December 1993.

(6.) 15 September 2008. The last report presented by the Open-ended Working Group was that of 11 September 2009 (A/63/47).

(7.) A/66/L.42/Rev.2.

(8.) The letter, dated 14 May 2012, was not published as an official UN document.

(9.) A/66/PV.108 of 16 May 2012.

(10.) ‘If the current action threshold is maintained at approximately the present level (60 per cent), the number of affirmative votes required for a decision would be: in a Council of 20: 12; in a Council of 21: 13; in a Council of 23 or 24: 14; in a Council of 25: 15; in a Council of 26: 16.’ (Report of the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council (A/52/47, p. 43).)

(11.) S/2006/507 of 19 July 2006; S/2010/507 of 26 July 2010.

(12.) See Chapter 8, Section 3.

(13.) A/66/PV.108 of 16 May 2012.

(14.) A/66/L.42/Rev.2.

(15.) ACT backgrounder of 2 May 2013. The founding members were Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Hungary, Ireland, Jordan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania (observer), and Uruguay. Singapore was the only member of the S5 which did not become a founding member of ACT. Subsequently, Maldives and Ghana became members of ACT.

(16.) A/66/L.42/Rev.2.

(17.) Youri Toropin, Language of Multilateral Diplomacy: English–Russian Explanatory Dictionary, Bloomington, IN, AuthorHouse, 2012, back cover.