General Assembly Urges Steps to Address Shortcomings of Security Council’s Reporting System, Increase Its Transparency

21 November 2013
GA/11458

General Assembly Urges Steps to Address Shortcomings of Security Council’s Reporting System, Increase Its Transparency

21 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/11458
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

56th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Urges Steps to Address Shortcomings of Security

Council’s Reporting System, Increase Its Transparency

 

Delegates Call for More Effective Evaluation of 15-Member Organ’s Actions

Despite improvements, measures were needed to address shortcomings and increase the transparency and coherence of the Security Council’s reporting system and working methods, the General Assembly heard today as it met to consider the annual report of that body.

The representative of Hungary said that the report before the Assembly on that topic did not adequately reflect either the Council’s working methods or the view of the general membership.  Furthermore, the narrative offered little information on the plenary debate.  Of particular concern was the lack of a reference to France’s well-received 2012 proposal that permanent Council members voluntarily refrain from using their veto power in situations of mass atrocities.

While acknowledging encouraging indications in the report regarding the Council’s “growing transparency”, Ireland’s representative felt that the value of the material, which was abundant as it pertained to detailed handling of individual items on the Council’s agenda, would be enhanced by occasional reflections on the effectiveness or impact of specific actions taken.  In this context, the report contained several examples where decisive Council action had produced important breakthroughs, yet these had not been clearly captured.

Switzerland’s representative, speaking on behalf of the 22 States comprising the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, known as ACT, proposed several concrete suggestions regarding the report’s preparation.  These included monthly assessments that should form an integral part of the annual report, providing a useful narrative on how the Council’s work evolved month by month.  Similarly, it was crucial that Member States could examine the report’s content in depth and have time between its adoption and the Assembly debate.  Moreover, the Assembly’s debates on the report and the question of equitable representation and increased membership should be separated.

Other delegates, however, took the opportunity to address those issues, with Benin’s representative calling reform of the Council “critical” given the new realities and current global and geopolitical situation.  That reform must address the injustice that Africa had faced and continued to face, having been left out of deliberations on issues and contemporary problems that largely concerned States in the region.  Expansion of the Council must include two permanent and at least two non-permanent seats for Africa, he said, noting that African issues made up 60 per cent of the Council’s work and 50 per cent of peacekeeping missions.

With several delegates drawing attention to the Council’s discussions and action on Syria, Germany’s representative said that that issue had led to the question of whether or not the body was able to fulfil its mandate, also pointing to France’s proposal for Council permanent members to voluntarily wave their veto right on questions of grave crimes against humanity.

Also calling for reform as the real solution for a more credible, legitimate and representative Council, the representative of India, a major troop-contributing country, underscored, among other things, increasing threats to peacekeepers and the need for robust measures as well as visible steps to prosecute those responsible for harming them.  Echoing a sentiment expressed by other delegates, he added that establishing a timeline for Council reform was crucial.  The current situation was unacceptable considering the 2005 call for “early reform”.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Slovenia, Brazil, Maldives and South Africa.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a. m. on Monday, 25 November to consider the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to consider the Report of the Security Council: 1 August 2012-31 July 2013 (document A/68/2).

Statements

PAUL SEGER (Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the 22 States comprising the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, known as ACT, noted that the Group had launched this year as an initiative to improve the working methods of the Security Council.  At the same time, the Group took no position on the reform, composition and enlargement of the Council and would remain outside that process.  The annual Council report, which was the “highest expression” of the relationship between that body and the Assembly, had been adopted by the Council only one week before the scheduled debate.  It was crucial that Member States could examine its content in depth before commenting on it, as well as have time between its adoption and the Assembly debate.  There had been improvements in recent years in the preparation of the report, and the Group called for full implementation of the measures agreed by the Council.  The Group was convinced that the whole reporting process could benefit from increased interactivity with the wider membership.

In this context, he proposed several concrete suggestions regarding preparation of the report.  These included monthly assessments that should form an integral part of the annual report, not only by way of a document reference number, thus providing a useful narrative on how the Council’s work evolved month by month.  Furthermore, efforts should be made to enable the exchange of views and engagement with the general membership during the report’s preparation phase.  The Group encouraged Council members to use the format of a public meeting when the report was adopted.  Implementing that measure would enhance the Council transparency.  The Group suggested that the Assembly’s debates on the Council annual report and the question of equitable representation and increased membership should be separated.

ASOKE K. MUKHERJI ( India) said the report was an important means for facilitating action between the Assembly and the Council.  The Charter had bestowed a profound gravitas on the report, with the Assembly membership repeatedly emphasizing that the report should be more analytical rather than a listing of events.  The real solution for a more credible, legitimate and more representative Council rested in comprehensive Council reform, including expansion in permanent and non-permanent membership but in its working methods.  The Council’s work largely focused on Africa, including the authorization for deploying an intervention brigade in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).  As India was a major troop-contributing country, he underscored the need for an assessment of such robust measures, since such missions could add more threats to peacekeepers.  With this in mind he called for visible steps to prosecute those responsible for harming peacekeepers.  In the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), for example, threats against peacekeepers must be taken seriously.  For its part, India supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.  Turning to the Council’s reform process, he said establishing a timeline was crucial and he urged the Assembly President to act on the collective call for the Council’s swift reform.  With the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations approaching, early reform was essential, he said, adding that the current situation was unacceptable considering the 2005 call for “early reform”.

ANDREJ LOGAR ( Slovenia) said that it respected the responsibilities of the Organization’s principle organs, but felt there was a need for the Council to regularly address issues with potential security implications, such as climate chance and human security.  As the number of Council decisions was increasing, he encouraged the Council to add to each decision a concrete plan of implementation, as well as to more transparently and regularly prepare an overall report on the Council’s work.  The Council report served as a point of information on the major threats to international peace and security.  Some countries had noted during the Assembly’s 9 November debate on Council reform that the report did not always fully reflect the process that led to adoption of a certain resolution or decision.  “The Security Council should enable the entire membership to acquire relevant information about and participate meaningfully in its work”, he said.  Improvement of some working methods, such as informal briefings, wrap-up sessions at the end of each month and written monthly assessments, would also serve as tools to assess the Council’s work.  Yet only six monthly assessments of this year had been published to date.  It was important for the report to reflect the views of non-Member States in open and other debates.  Such debates, which allowed interaction with the entire United Nations membership, had already become an important instrument of increased transparency and coherence of the Council.

CSABA KÖRÖSI ( Hungary) said that as a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, it aligned itself with the statement made by Switzerland.  Neither the Council’s working methods nor the views of the general membership was adequately reflected in the report before the Assembly; the narrative offered little information on the plenary debate.  Part IV on the subsidiary bodies of the Council provided scarce information on the otherwise productive work of the Informal Working Group and Member States received no insight into its discussed proposals, their follow-up, or their future direction of work.  The notes of the Working Group’s five debates only indicated that “Members of the Security Council had an exchange of views”.  While looking at the issues of accountability for major international crimes, the report reflected none of these, including open debates on questions such as the protection of civilians and the relationship between the Council and the International Criminal Court, which offered an abundance of proposals.  On the Council’s activities related to the Syrian conflict, the narrative failed to reference the letter sent by 57 Member States in January 2013 that asked the Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court.  Some proposals of the permanent Council members fared no better.  In the report, there was no reference to France’s 2012 proposal that permanent Council members voluntarily refrain from using their veto power in situations of mass atrocities – an initiative that received major support from the broader membership.  All of these examples pointed to certain shortcomings that could only be tackled through changes in the Council’s working methods as well as in the structure and content of the report.

DAVID DONOGHUE (Ireland), aligning with Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said that there were encouraging indications of growing transparency in the report under consideration today.  During the period under review, for example, 174 out of a total of 195 formal Council meetings had been held in public, and this was a welcome trend.  Likewise, Ireland was encouraged by the Council’s readiness to schedule regular thematic debates that were open to the membership as a whole.  That said, he called for greater interactivity in these debates.  While the report provided abundant material on the detailed handling of individual items on the Council’s agenda, the value of that material would be enhanced by occasional reflections on the effectiveness or impact of specific actions taken.  In this context, the report contained several examples where decisive action by the Council had produced important breakthroughs, yet these had not been clearly captured.  Elsewhere, Ireland saw value in introducing an element of evaluation relating to the Council’s work, and it appeared that some discretion was available to the Secretariat under existing rules in this respect.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil ) said the Council’s annual report showed a strong interest from a large number of countries to be better informed about its deliberations.  He hailed the recent progress in implementing a regional strategy in the Great Lakes and the efforts of MONUSCO and its intervention brigade.  The recent success of the fight against armed groups was a consequence of a more robust approach to peacekeeping and an internationally reinforced commitment to a political process.  Brazil would remain engaged in supporting Haiti’s development and democratic consolidation.  The Council’s active engagement on the situation in Guinea-Bissau was crucial.  Brazil looked forward to hearing from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Guinea-Bissau next week.  The tragic conflict in Syria and the Council’s inability to devise a timely strategy on the basis of the Geneva Communiqué was seen by many as an illustration of the Council’s dysfunction and should be cause for reflection.  An earlier endorsement could have saved many lives.  Now that progress had been made on the chemical weapons front, Member States should remain more directly aware that most of the 120,000 casualties were caused by conventional weapons.  “How many more months will be necessary for the Security Council to adopt a common position against the increasing militarization of the crisis?” he asked.  Despite the Council’s significant number of meetings on the question of Palestine, its deliberations have had little influence on the ground.  The Council’s silence made the two-state solution even more elusive.  Brazil expected the Council to play a leading role on the issue, he said, calling for regular briefings, including by the Quartet.  While acknowledging the Council’s important non-proliferation measures, he said he expected the body to more decisively address the threat posed by the very existence of weapons of mass destruction.  Non-proliferation and disarmament were mutually reinforcing processes.

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said that the Council’s discussions on the situation of Syria had led to the question of whether or not the body was able to fulfil its mandate.  He pointed to France’s proposal for Council permanent members to voluntary wave their veto right on questions of grave crimes against humanity.  He said peacekeeping missions were becoming more complex and emerging issues such as climate change were realities.  While the Council had come a long way in improving its working methods, work remained to be done.  Non-permanent members needed to be given a fair chance to contribute to the Council’s work.  He urged that the permanent members’ positions and proposals, as transmitted in recent presidential statements, be translated into action.

AHMED SAREER ( Maldives) said that business as usual was no longer valid in today’s world and the Council must be more responsive to those realities.  The immediate responsibility to act rested with current and future Council members and those States must take measures to ensure transparency in their work.  While commending the Council’s monthly wrap-up sessions, his delegation encouraged analytical and substantive monthly briefings that ensured the evolution of the body’s work.  The allocation of work must be inclusive and conducted in a way that drew upon the expertise of all Council members to keep the body’s legitimacy from being further undermined.  The United Nations primary purpose was the maintenance of peace and security across the globe and the centrality of that principle was with the Council.  Its legitimacy could only be maintained through the elimination of mass atrocity crimes, he said, calling for the elective renunciation of a member’s right to veto in such cases.  It was every Member State’s solemn duty to protect those within its sovereign territory.  “Should any of us fail in this duty,” he said, “it is the burden of the United Nations to safeguard its Charter and fulfil the purpose of this Organization.”

JEREMIAH MAMABOLO ( South Africa) said South Africa had seen some progress in the Council to increase its focus on improving its working methods.  Reports by the Council President had become more regular, and South Africa encouraged other Council members to provide such regular briefings.  South Africa was pleased that the Council had also widened the focus on itself to include regional and sub-regional bodies in wider debates, making the debates more structured and reflective.  The improved relationship between the Council and the African Union was an example of this and made possible progress in conflict areas such as Darfur, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   The reports of the Council, however, had become less descriptive and analytic.  Improved reports could provide better insight into the Council’s ability to resolve certain conflicts.  Often, the Council’s work was constrained by decisions of a select group that were presented as a final decision.  The situations in Palestine and Sahara were an example on how these conclusions could constrain the Council’s work.  Some delegations, including non-members of the Council, also held more influence, at times, than the Council members on these conflicts.  The report of the Council made it clear that the Council’s reform had gone on too long and needed resolution.

JEAN-FRANICS ZINSOU ( Benin) said reform of the United Nations and the Council was critical given new realities and the current global geopolitical situation.  Reform must address the injustice Africa had faced and continued to face.  The continent had been left out of deliberations on issues and contemporary problems that largely concerning States in its region.  That situation must be corrected as Africa was the only continent to not hold a permanent seat on the Council.  Expanding the body must include two permanent and at least two non-permanent seats for Africa, which would allow for efficiency in the Council, he said, noting that African States made up 60 per cent of the Council’s work and 50 per cent of peacekeeping missions.  Reaffirming Benin’s support of the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration, he said it was high time to create a draft text for negotiations on reform.  He hoped the Assembly President’s advisory group would soon compile diverse proposals and produce a base for moving forward.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.