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UNSC - Photo:Photo: Ivan Brody
Photo: Ivan Brody

SC: Working Methods

Joint statement from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway by Ambassador Mona Juul on the Working Methods of the Security Council, 15 May 2020.

| Security Council

This statement is issued on behalf of the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, on the occasion of the Security Council’s consideration of the "Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council (S/2017/507)” and the Working Methods of the Council.

The Nordic countries welcome the decision of the Estonian Presidency to invite briefings from the Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation (IWG), Professor Edward Luck and Security Council Report. Security Council Report is an invaluable resource for Member States, civil society, and the general public alike. They provide indispensable research and insight into the everyday work of the Council and the important topics on its agenda, we welcome their participation.

This year’s discussion of the Council’s working methods comes at an unprecedented moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused people the world over to adapting to working remotely including, remarkably, the Security Council.

This shift in the way the Council conducts its business has underscored the importance of its methods of work, and put to test its ability to uphold principles of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, but also of accountability and inclusivity. The Nordic countries firmly believe that these principles are mutually reinforcing and cannot be put aside for sake of expediency or convenience. In times of crisis, they are more important than ever to ensure the continued legitimacy of the Council.

We therefore commend the efforts of the successive Presidencies since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis to facilitate the continuation of the work of the Council under these exceptional circumstances. In particular, we welcome the Dominican Republic’s efforts to provide much needed transparency, including through facilitating the inclusion of non-members’ inputs in the written records of open format VTCs.

We commend also the Estonian Presidency for further advancing these efforts by: adopting new and innovative digital solutions to make the open meetings publicly accessible, enabling better inclusion of women and civil society organizations in the Council’s briefings and allowing for all Member States to deliver statements in the Arria format.

The Nordic Countries also welcome the common guidance on working methods for the Council Presidencies of Estonia, France and Germany.

While important steps in the right direction have been made, the situation remains still less than ideal. We note with concern that these sessions are not considered to be official meetings of the Council.

We see a role for the IWG to consider conducting a lessons learnt exercise once the current crisis subsides, to establish best practice, and to ensure that the Council is well equipped should it face another situation where meetings in-person become impossible.

The annual “Hitting the Ground Running” retreat (which is hosted by Finland in cooperation with the Security Council Report and Professor Luck from Columbia University) for the Council and the newly elected members has become an important forum for informal discussions concerning Council’s working methods. It further offers an opportunity to exchange views on the best practices adopted during the current pandemic that could become established procedures in future.

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On working methods more broadly, we recall the fundamental principle that Article 24 of the Charter enshrines the Council’s responsibility to act on behalf of the entire United Nations membership.

For us, this means that the Council has a responsibility to undertake broad engagement and consultation with non-members, particularly concerned states. The Council needs to talk with countries, not only about them.

Interaction with the broader membership should be improved and enhanced in all aspects. In this respect, we welcome the Presidential Note on Wrap-Up Sessions adopted last year. We find these sessions to be a very valuable resource and an important opportunity for dialogue.

The Council must ensure transparency and accessibility of its work to all. These principles are what inspired Norway, together with Security Council Report, to publish “The UN Security Council Handbook: a user’s guide to Practice and Procedure” last year. We hope this guide provides a useful look into the working methods and decision making of the Council.

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Both permanent and elected members share the Charter obligation to maintain international peace and security. Therefore, all members should also have equal opportunities to shoulder the work of the Council. We welcome the prominent role that elected members have taken in improving the working methods of the Council over the years, but more needs to be done to ensure a balanced division of labour. We welcome the ongoing work in the Council towards an agreement on a Presidential Note on penholdership arrangements.

The Nordic countries encourage full implementation of the ACT Code of Conduct by all Council members, and calls upon the permanent members not vote against any credible draft resolution before the Security Council on timely and decisive action to end atrocity crimes.

We hope also that greater strides can be made this year to improve the timeliness and the analytical nature of the Annual Report of the Security Council to the General Assembly, especially ahead of the new Presidential Note on the Annual Report due to take effect next year. In this respect, we also continue to urge each Presidency to submit their Monthly Assessments for inclusion in the Annual report, and to consider other ways of circulation when consensus is not possible. We find these assessments particularly valuable to provide context, and to complement the information presented in the introduction of the annual report.

We call on the Council to also further strengthen its relationship with the Peace Building Commission.

The Nordic Countries also wish to underline that the Council itself must continue to be open to the voices of civil society, including women, who can provide expert views and firsthand experience on the issues on the Council’s agenda. The practice of inviting civil society and UN system briefers should be maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond especially since the situation in relevant countries may change profoundly and rapidly.

The Nordic countries would also like to emphasise that the Ombudsperson mechanism as a key element in the preservation of the integrity, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of UN targeted sanctions related to  terrorism. The Office of the Ombudsperson provides important due process guarantees and we recommend that the necessary arrangements are made to ensure its continued ability to carry out its mandate independently and effectively.

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Global cooperation is needed now more than ever.  It is therefore only natural for the world to look to the UN and the Security Council to set the tone and direction for both response and recovery to the enormous challenge we all face. An integral part of a relevant and strong UN, is an efficient, transparent and inclusive Security Council.