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Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council

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Provisonal Rules of Procedure

Article 30 of the Charter of the United Nations states that the Security Council shall adopt its own rules of procedure, including the method of selecting its President. The Security Council adopted its Provisional Rules of Procedure at its first meeting held on 17 January 1946, and has since amended them eleven times. Although the Provisional Rules have not been amended since 1982, the Security Council has clarified its working methods and procedure by notes of the President (see S/2013/515, S/2012/937, S/2012/922, S/2010/507S/2008/847S/2007/749S/2006/507 and S/2006/78) and other means.

The Repertoire covers the practice of the Council in relation to the Provisional Rules of Procedure. The relevant chapters or parts of the Repertoire relating to procedural issues generally highlight any discussion in the Security Council on the interpretation of the Rules of Procedure and provide examples citing any unusual cases.

The information included here is divided into 10 sections:

Contents

Meetings and records

Agenda

Representation and credentials

Presidency

Secretariat

Conduct of business

Participation

Voting

Languages

Status of the Provisional Rules of Procedure

A. Meetings and records

Article 28 (1) of the Charter, which states that the Security Council shall be so organized as to function continuously, and rules 1-5 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure cover the rules for holding and convening meetings. Issues relating to the procedure for requesting meetings, holding High-Level meetings or holding meetings away from Headquarters were included in the Repertoire. In addition, from the volume covering the period 1996-1999 onwards, the Repertoire featured procedural developments relating to meetings concerning such topics as the format of formal meetings and meetings with the troops-contributing countries (TCCs).

Rules 48-57 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure are concerned with access to information about Security Council meetings and documents. The Repertoire covers issues related to the publicity of meetings and records, such as several cases in which the Council decided to publish verbatim records after private meetings, the way the Council handled speakers’ requests to publish supporting documents as part of their statements in verbatim records, and instances when the requirement laid in rule 49 concerning the timing of the issuance of verbatim records was waived.

Starting with the 2008-2009 volume, both topics of meetings and records are jointly covered.


Meetings

Publicity and records

Meetings, publicity and records

B. Agenda

Rules 6-12 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure govern the agenda of the Security Council. The Repertoire, in general, covers the following topics: (1) the provisional agenda, (2) adoption of the agenda, and (3) matters of which the Security Council is seized. The original volume of the Repertoire covering the period 1946-1951 contains additional materials under a section entitled Consideration of the adoption or amendment of rules 6-12.

1. The provisional agenda
Information on the practice of the Security Council with regard to the preparation and communication of the provisional agenda is found under this topic. This is relevant to rules 6-8 and 12 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure.

2. Adoption of the agenda
Adoption of the agenda contains material dealing with questions that were discussed in connection with the adoption of the agenda, such as consideration of requirements for the inclusion of an item in the agenda, the effect of the inclusion of an item in the agenda, order of discussion of items on the agenda, the scope of items on the agenda vis-à-vis the scope of discussion, phrasing of items and postponement of consideration of items. It also provides instances when votes were taken concerning the provisional agenda. Much of this material relates to rule 9 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure. From the 2008-2009 volume onwards, new agenda items introduced during the period are covered here.

3. Matters of which the Security Council is seized

(1) The agenda: matter of which the Security Council is seized

This relates to the agenda items under the Council’s consideration. Under this heading, an overview of the Council’s decisions with regard to the addition, retention and deletion of items of which the Council is seized is provided. This is relevant for rules 10 and 11 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure.

(2) Agenda items discussed by the Security Council

This contains tables of the agenda items under the Council’s consideration during a given period, on the basis of the statements prepared by the Secretary-General on items of which the Council is seized or has maintained on its agenda (“seizure statements”) in accordance with rule 11 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure. From 1969 to 2007, the Repertoire presents the agenda items discussed by the Council in 3 tables: (a) the new items introduced during the period under review, (b) the retained items that continued to be under the Council’s consideration and (c) the deleted items. From 2008 onwards, given that newly added agenda items are treated under "Adoption of the agenda" above, there are only two tables: (a) one indicating both deleted and retained items; and (b) the other presenting the agenda items discussed during the period under review.

C. Representation and credentials

Rules 13-17 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure govern the representatives of Member States who serve on the Council and the process of providing them their formal credentials to serve on the Council. Case studies in the Repertoire include instances where questions were raised on the credentials of representatives, for instance, following a change of Government. 

D. Presidency

Rules 18-20 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure govern the procedural aspects regarding the presidency of the Security Council. This covers the monthly rotation of the presidency, instances of the temporary cession of the chair by the President in consideration of issues in which his country is directly involved and other related issues.

In addition, other parts of the Repertoire touch upon other functions of the Presidency under the Provisional Rules of Procedure:

  1. For materials relating to conduct of meetings, including the President’s power, see Conduct of business
  2. For materials relating to the President’s efforts to inform non-member States and others about Council decisions and deliberations, see publicity and records
  3. For the presidential functions in connection with agenda, see agenda
  4. For the presidential functions in connection with voting, see voting
  5. For the presidential functions in connection with applications for membership to the United Nations, see Membership in the United Nations

E. Secretariat

Rules 21-26 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure delineate the specific functions and powers of the Secretary-General in connection with the meetings of the Security Council. Up to 1988, other functions and powers of the Secretary-General than those of an administrative nature in relation to the working of the Security Council, such as the exercise of his powers under Article 99 of the Charter, can also be found in the studies below.  From 1989 onwards, those non-administrative functions are included in the section on Relations with the Secretariat. Furthermore, for the period of 2004-2007, the Repertoire also covers topics such as briefings by the Secretariat, documentation, notification, distribution of statements, communication with the Secretariat and outside, and newly elected members. The 1946-1951 volume also contains a section called Appendix to Provisional Rules that covered procedure for dealing with communications from individuals and non-governmental organizations.

F. Conduct of business

Rules 27-36 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure set out the conduct of business in the Security Council. Topics covered in this section include the order of speakers, the ability to create subsidiary organs, points of order, order of voting, suspension of meetings, amendments, and submission of proposals or resolutions by non-members of the Council. Materials relating to rule 28 concerning subsidiary organs of the Security Council are found here.

G. Participation

Articles 31 and 32 of the United Nations Charter and rules 37 and 39 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council provide for invitations to be extended to non-members of the Security Council, to participate, without vote, in certain circumstances. In general, Member States of the United Nations are invited under rule 37, and other persons are invited under rule 39, which include representatives of United Nations organs, subsidiary bodies, or agencies and funds and programmes, regional or other international organizations or other individuals such as experts, representatives of certain organizations including NGOs, entities or individuals specifically invited in their personal capacity.  In the first two volumes (1946-1951 and 1952-1955) of the Repertoire, there are studies on consideration of the terms and provisions of Article 32 of the Charter. However, the procedure regarding participation in Council proceedings is generally organized in the Repertoire under the following two sections:

1. Basis of invitation to participate:
The section includes information on the basis for inviting non-members of the Security Council to participate in the Council proceedings. In general, invitations for the following groups are treated separately: (a) persons invited in an individual capacity; (b) representatives of the United Nations organs or subsidiary organs; (c) Member States of the United Nations; and (d) non-Member States and other invitations. The Repertoire has covered materials relating to the basis of invitations and case studies where the decisions to extend an invitation gave rise to discussion, was voted on or where requests for invitations were denied. From 1993 onwards, invitations are considered by the rule invoked, either (a) rule 37 which is used to invite Member States, (b) rule 39 or (c) invitations not expressly extended under rule 37 or rule 39.

The Repertoire also includes comprehensive lists of participants under rule 37 and rule 39 by agenda items and meetings since the 1989-1992 volume. From the 2008-2009 volume onwards, the comprehensive list of participants under rule 37 and 39 is not featured under "Participation" but in the comprehensive meeting tables in the annex of the volume:

Rule 37

Rule 39

 

2. Procedures relating to participation
This section covers procedures relating to the participation of the invited representatives/individuals after an invitation has been extended, such as the stage at which invited representatives/individuals are heard and limitations placed on participation by the invitees.   

H. Voting

Article 27 of the United Nations Charter and rule 40 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure govern voting in the Security Council. In particular, according to Articles 27 (2) and 27 (3), Security Council decisions “on procedural matters” shall be made by an affirmative vote of 9 votes while Council decisions “on all other matters” shall be made by an affirmative vote of 9 members “including the concurring votes of permanent members” provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under Article 52 (3), a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting. The Repertoire focuses on the practice of the Security Council in relation to decision-making and voting. The materials are presented under the following categories. From the 2008-2009 volume onwards, material on conduct of business relating to decision-making and voting are added (rules 31-32, 34-36 and 38), notably on sponsorship of draft resolutions.

1. Procedural and non-procedural matters
Most votes in the Council do not indicate by themselves whether the Council considers the matter voted upon as procedural or non-procedural. It can be determined, however, because permanent members do not have a “veto” over procedural matters. Therefore, if there is a negative vote by a permanent member, and the motion is still adopted, it is procedural in nature. Under this category, the material is presented in 2 groups: (a) cases in which the vote indicated the procedural character of the matter; and (b) cases in which the vote indicated the non-procedural character of the matter. The list of cases in which the vote indicated the non-procedural character is essentially a list of draft resolutions that were not adopted due to the negative vote of a permanent member.

2. Proceedings of the Security Council regarding voting upon the question whether the matter was procedural within the meaning of Article 27 (2) of the Charter
On certain occasions the Security Council has found it necessary to decide, by vote, the question whether or not the matter under consideration was procedural within the meaning of Article 27 (2). This question has come to be termed, after the language used in the San Francisco Statement on Voting Procedure, “the preliminary question”. This section provides any instances of votes to determine whether or not a matter was procedural and was included in the following periods:

3. Abstention, non-participation and absence in relation to Article 27 (3) of the Charter
This category presents cases (i) when the proviso of Article 27 (3) is applied, which is called “obligatory abstention” in the Repertoire, (ii) when a Council member, including a permanent member, voluntarily abstains, i.e., “voluntary abstention”, (iii) when a Council member, including a permanent member, is absent or does not participate in the vote. Had the permanent member voted against the proposal, no decision could have been taken.

4. Adoption of resolutions and decisions by consensus or without a vote
This category provides procedural and other information on all instances where the Security Council adopted decisions, including resolutions, without a formal vote or by consensus. It generally includes tables of those decisions organized by their type, such as resolutions adopted by consensus, resolutions adopted without a vote, presidential statements placed on the record at the meetings, presidential statements issued only as Security Council documents, Council decisions recorded in letters or notes from the President of the Council. During the period covering 1975-1980, the list of presidential statements agreed upon by the Council with some members disassociating themselves from the matter is also included.

5. Decisions and discussions relating to decision-making procedures

Under this category are covered discussions or decisions relating to decision-making and voting in general, including Notes by the President that clarify Council procedure.

I. Languages

Rules 41-47 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure set out the official and the working languages of the Security Council, rules for interpretation and the languages of the meeting records and published resolutions and decisions. The above rules were amended to include the following languages among the working languages: in 1969, Russian and Spanish; in 1974, Chinese, while deleting rule 43; and in 1982, Arabic. The Repertoire covers the practice in the Council with regard to languages, such as instances where there were speakers in one of the non-working languages under rule 44, or any discussions of appropriate procedure relating to languages, translation or interpretation.

J. Status of the Provisional Rules of Procedure

Article 30 of the Charter provides that the Security Council shall adopt its own rules of procedure. Since the adoption of the provisional rules of procedure at its first meeting held on 17 January 1946, the Council's rules of procedure have remained provisional. Relevant discussions in the Council concerning the status of the provisional rules of procedure are covered here.

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