On Tuesday July 19, 2016, under the Japanese presidency, the Security Council held an open debate on the Security Council Working Methods. This debate was one of the highlights of its presidency of the Council and marked the tenth anniversary of the culmination of its first working methods initiative in 2006. By holding the open debate, Japan prompted Member States to look at the implementation of the Council’s previous agreed working methods, recognise useful and productive practices and identify gaps and shortcomings, as underlined in the concept note circulated before the meeting. Speakers welcomed the increased number of open debates, informal briefings and Arria Formula meetings in the last ten years, applauding the Council’s use of webcast and promotion of work through its website. In those sessions, some said, the Council had improved its interaction with the United Nations membership and civil society. However, speakers expressed their concerns about the fact that little has been done to improve ground conditions. In this vein, it was noted that the Council should engage more meaningfully with United Nations members during informal briefings and Arria Formula meetings. The need to improve the Council’s accountability has been stressed. Some speakers claimed that closed meetings and informal consultations should be the exception, not the rule. The prevalent position of the permanent members of the Security Council was debated. Speakers stressed the need for all Council members to participate equally in the formulation of outcomes as penholders. Several speakers also supported voluntary restraint of veto use in cases of mass atrocity.
Open debate aimed at giving the Security Council the benefit of contributions from both Council members and the wider membership in the process of understanding of what can be done to strengthen the work of the Security Council. While being urged to focus their interventions on up to three topics they consider most important to address in the Council’s deliberations, Member States largely concentrated on the issues, such as the accountability of the Security Council, the relationships between the Council and the Troop-Contributing Countries (TCCs), and the participatory character of the Council’s work that includes participation of civil society and those directly affected by conflict.
Several speakers supported voluntary restraint of veto use in cases of mass atrocity, pressing the Council to commit to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group’s code of conduct and the France-Mexico initiative on limiting veto use. In this regard, the representative of Ukraine stressed that exercising the veto impeded the work of the body. Developing the discussion on the accountability of the Security Council, many speakers focused on the innovations for a more transparent selection of the next Secretary-General. Switzerland’s representative said that the wider membership must be informed of the outcome of the first straw poll scheduled for 21 July and subsequent ballots.
Speakers referred to the need to increase the role of troop- and police-contributing countries in decision-making processes that lead to the deployment of peacekeeping missions. India’s representative pointed to a lack of institutionalized interaction with the troop-contributing countries. Speakers stressed that troop- and police-contributing countries must be closely consulted prior to the formulation and approval of peacekeeping mandates. Similarly, the representative of South Africa expressed that regular and timely consultation and coordination between the Council and troop-contributing countries are required, specifically when considering new or the renewal of mandates.
Finally, in 2006, the Council’s first note S/2010/507 had set forth the body’s practices to enhance inclusiveness. Since then, little progress has been made. In this vein, speakers suggested that improved interaction of the Council with the United Nations membership and civil society will contribute to the body’s legitimacy. Further, the representative of Indonesia said that there is a need to ensure that all stakeholders of special political missions and peacekeeping operations are consulted in the process of developing mandates. Moreover, the views of affected non-member countries should be considered under Articles 31 and 32 of the Charter, he said, advocating a balanced and collaborative relationship with the Assembly.
While no outcome was expected, the debate started the process of revising, consolidating and updating the Council’s comprehensive document on its working methods by adopting the Note S/2016/619 affirming the ability of newly elected members observe meetings of the Council from 1 October, as a way to help them transition into their duties.
Out of nearly 43 statements delivered, only one speaker (16%) used a specific gendered language, while eleven speakers (25.59%) referred of the process of the Secretary-General’s selection. The representative of Mexico, in this vein, openly highlighted that gender equality should be taken into consideration throughout the election process. We highlight that the number of women diplomats at the United Nations has always been low and for the last 70 years only a few have gotten seats on the Security Council. As of today, Samantha Power is the only women in the Security Council. Unfortunately, the discussion at the Security Council remain to be largely male-dominated body. In this vein, it is important to emphasize the need to put more women in the front lines on issues of international peace and security.