Examining Security Council’s Annual Report, Speakers in General Assembly Urge More Analysis, Criticize Response to Syrian Crisis, Terrorism as Inadequate

GA/11722
12 November 2015
Seventieth Session, 51st Meeting (AM)

Examining Security Council’s Annual Report, Speakers in General Assembly Urge More Analysis, Criticize Response to Syrian Crisis, Terrorism as Inadequate

Sounding a united call for future reports of the Security Council to the General Assembly to be more analytical and less descriptive, a score of non-Council Member States today addressed specific conflict situations, as well as cross-cutting issues affecting cooperation between the Council and other organs of the United Nations.

Opening the meeting, the Assembly’s President, Mogens Lykketoft, noted that Member States had called for improvement to the Council’s annual report to include more analysis on its work supporting the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

The representative of the United Kingdom, the only Security Council member participating in the plenary, introduced the report, in his capacity as current President of the 15-member body.  Activity had increased over the reporting period, which ran from 1 August 2014 through 31 July 2015, he said, with the Council holding 267 formal meetings, of which 248 were public.  The body had also adopted 65 resolutions, 27 presidential statements, and issued 148 statements to the press. 

Terrorism was a major focus in the past year, he said.  The body had met regularly to address the threats posed by Al-Qaida, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), Al-Nusrah Front, foreign terrorist fighters and the spread of violent extremism, and had adopted many resolutions on those matters, which included adding 32 individuals and five entities to the Al-Qaida sanctions list.

But India’s representative said the Council’s response to the threat posed by terrorism had been “less than robust”, noting that the report did not reveal anything about the ways in which the Council’s sanctions against terrorism functioned.  Furthermore, while the report gave impressive statistics, they only cloaked the Council’s imperviousness to adapting its working procedures to the contemporary world, which required responsiveness to other Member States’ views.

Spotting some progress on that very point, the representative of Estonia, speaking for the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, a cross-regional group of 25 small and mid-sized countries working to improve the Council’s working methods, noted its interactions with a greater number of outside actors as well as the increase in number of open debates, public briefings, wrap-up sessions and reports to the Assembly.

Those were measures of questionable effectiveness, however, in the view of other Member States.  For example, meeting regularly and issuing a press statement “did not prove to be an adequate response” to a crisis that led 144,000 Burundians to flee their country, Liechtenstein’s representative said.  On Syria, the Council had also been unable to adequately respond to the “defining conflict of the decade” despite two resolutions, including one on chemical weapons, which gave the impression that mass killings of civilians by other means, including torture, starvation and barrel bombs, deserved less attention than the use of weaponry illegal under international law.  The body’s inability to use its “varied and impactful toolkit” had not only prevented the United Nations from maintaining international peace and security, but also harmed its reputation, he said.

Indeed, the Council’s usage of Chapter VII measures without fully utilizing Chapter VI or Chapter VIII was questioned by the representative of Pakistan, who added that the Council and the Assembly should work as partners in international peace and security; the Assembly could discuss vexed issues that would not yield a solution in the Council.

Blocked or stalled conflicts in the Council were noted by several delegations, with broad concern shared over the situation in Syria, both in the country and on the Council.  The Council’s recurrent inability to act decisively towards a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis was distressing, said the representative of Brazil.  Despite the adoption of resolutions to deal with the humanitarian challenges and the use of chemical weapons in that country, the Council had not truly dealt with crucial aspects of the conflict.  It must act to prevent further militarization, stop the flow of weapons to all belligerent parties and move the political process forward.

The representative of South Africa called the situation in Syria a “glaring omission” from the Council’s report, along with the question of Palestine.  In both cases the Assembly had acted where the Council was unwilling or unable to do so, he noted, adding that measures to enhance the Assembly’s effectiveness in the maintenance of international peace and security should be adopted without usurping the Council’s role.

It was a thread also taken up by Iran’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  Concerned by the Security Council’s encroachment on the Assembly and Economic and Social Council’s functions and by the Security Council’s use of thematic issues to expand its mandate into areas not related to international peace and security, the Movement called on the Presidents of the Assembly and the two Councils to hold regular discussions among themselves on their agendas and work programmes, thereby creating coherence and complementarity.

Holding more informal meetings and interactive dialogue would increase the body’s transparency and effectiveness, suggested Mexico’s representative.  But the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania disagreed, saying that some of the Council’s meetings with external actors had covered divisive topics that had nothing to do with the body’s mandate.  The Council must refrain from entertaining such topics, which only served to derail it from its core responsibility, he said.

Also speaking at today’s meeting were the representatives of Algeria, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt,  Romania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Maldives, and Sudan.

The Assembly will meet again on Friday, 13 November at 10 a.m. to hold a joint debate on the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields; follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, and

United Nations reform:  measures and proposals.  The Assembly will also take up the appointment of members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Committee on Contributions, and the Board of Auditors, as well as a report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on programme planning and another on the pattern of conferences.

Background

The General Assembly had before it a notification by the Secretary-General under Article 12, paragraph 2 of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/70/300), and a report of the Security Council (document A/70/2).

Introductory Remarks

MOGENS LYKKETOFT, President of the General Assembly, said that the Security Council carried out its mandate on behalf of Member States with transparency and accountability.  Member States had called for improvement to the Council’s annual report to make it more analytical.  The Assembly and Council interacted on many issues, one of which was the selection of the next Secretary-General and a joint letter would be circulated soon in that regard.  The two bodies were also working together on peacebuilding.  He looked forward to hearing Member States’ views on the annual report to make it a more useful tool in improving interaction between different organs of the United Nations.

Introduction of Report

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Security Council President, introduced the 15-member body’s annual report, which covered the period from 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015 (document A/70/2).  Activity had increased over the reporting period, with the Council holding 267 formal meetings, of which 248 were public.  The body had also adopted 65 resolutions, 27 presidential statements, and issued 148 statements to the press.  The Council had conducted three missions, one to Europe and Africa, which had included Belgium, the Netherlands, South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya in August 2014; one to Haiti in January 2015; and one to Africa in 2015, which had included the Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia.

The situation in the Middle East had figured prominently on the Council’s agenda, he said, detailing the body’s actions on Syria and Yemen.  He also noted the Council’s following of the Palestinian question, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, and also that it had regularly considered the situation in Ukraine.  Much of the Council’s activity had focused on Africa, including meetings on Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, and Western Sahara, he said, adding that the Council had also responded to the Ebola outbreak by passing resolution 2177 (2014).

He said thematic, general and cross-cutting issues had remained a priority for the Council, including non-proliferation, threats to peace and security caused by terrorist acts, small arms and light weapons, the protection of civilians in armed conflict, children and armed conflict, and women and peace and security.  They also included peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding, security sector reform, sanctions, cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations, peace and security in Africa, and the rule of law.

Having met regularly to address the threats posed by Al-Qaida, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), Al-Nusrah Front, foreign terrorist fighters and the spread of violent extremism, the Council had adopted many resolutions related to those matters, he said, which included adding 32 individuals and five entities to the Al-Qaida sanctions list.  This year marked the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations, and innovations undertaken by the Council since January had included adopting resolution 2222 (2015) on the protection of journalists.  The Council had also adopted its first resolution dedicated to policing issues to respond to the contemporary challenges of peacekeeping operations.

Statements

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Council should be accountable to the Assembly in accordance with Article 24 (3) of the United Nations Charter and Member States should respect the functions of each principal organ of the Organization, particularly the Assembly, to maintain balance among those organs.  Article 24 of the Charter did not necessarily provide the Security Council with the competence to address issues falling under the purview of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, including in the areas of norm-setting, legislation, administration and budgetary matters.  The regional group was concerned by the Security Council’s encroachment on the Assembly and Economic and Social Council’s functions and by the Security Council’s use of thematic issues to expand its mandate into areas not related to international peace and security.

The Movement called on the Presidents of the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council to hold regular discussions among themselves on their agendas and programmes of work thereby establishing coherence and complementarity, he said.  It also called on the Security Council to submit “a more explanatory, comprehensive and analytical” report to the Assembly and to elaborate the circumstance under which it adopted resolutions, presidential statements or press statements to the press.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), speaking for the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, a cross-regional group of 25 small and mid-sized countries working to improve the Council’s working methods, emphasized the need for a stronger focus on analysis in the report.  Additional insights into the Council’s decision-making processes would help the general membership better capture the report’s content and the Council’s work.  Commending the Council’s efforts to enhance its transparency and effectiveness, he noted its interactions with a greater number of outside actors as well as the increase in number of open debates, public briefings, wrap-up sessions and reports to the Assembly. 

He made six suggestions on improving the Council’s annual report through how it was drafted, the nature of its content and how to improve the discussion.  They included the following:  when assessing the impact of consultations a representative selection of views from non-members should be provided; the body’s adoption of its annual report could be an occasion for a public debate; annual assessments on the Council’s subsidiary bodies, and the more analytical monthly assessments of its presidencies, should be compiled and included in the annual report; underlying themes and cross-cutting issues relevant to the Council’s work should be linked to cross-references to country situation analysis; a section should be introduced into the report that would contain an evaluation of working methods in key areas of its work; and the adoption of the annual report should not only be a review and evaluation of the past, but an opportunity for all parties to take in lessons learned and discuss options and strategies for the future.

He was gratified that 106 Member States, including nine Council members, had supported the Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and encouraged all States that had not done so, especially those seeking election to the Council, to sign up.  In addition, noting the impending selection of the next Secretary-General, he hoped to see enhanced cooperation between the Assembly and the Council by sending the joint letter requested in resolution 69/321 at the earliest.  Furthermore, he welcomed all proposals aimed at improving the content and submission of the Council’s annual report.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) associated with the Non-Aligned Movement and in his national capacity, added that the Assembly’s consideration of the Council report should not be a mere formality.  The report contained elements of interest to all in the United Nations, but it was far from being the substantial document needed to allow Member States to assess the Council’s work.  With regard to the functioning of the Council, concerted efforts were needed to improve the dissemination of information, so as to allow non-Council Members to benefit from information provided by the Secretariat on conflicts.  Algeria continued to believe it would be wise for consultations to be open to parties interested or involved in questions under consideration.  Expressing appreciation for the monthly wrap-up meetings open to non-Members of the Council, he added that the body’s missions to areas in conflict were important because they had a positive effect on local actors.  Those missions should be expanded to other conflict areas.

ASOKE MUKERJI (India) said the report gave impressive statistics, but that those statistics only cloaked the Council’s imperviousness to adapt its working procedures to the contemporary world, which required responsiveness to the views of other Member States.  “That is the nub of the problem”, he said.  The ineffectiveness of the Council in three major areas imposed severe consequences, especially on developing countries.  With regard to United Nations peacekeeping, much of the activity focused on Africa, yet none of those missions had been successfully ended.  The Council had been using peacekeeping as an open-ended mechanism, and not as a means to bring about a sustainable peace, especially in Africa – a situation exacerbated by the fact that no permanent member of the Council was from Africa.  Furthermore, the Council’s response to the threat posed by terrorism had been “less than robust”.  The report did not reveal anything about the ways in which the Council’s sanctions against terrorism functioned.  Finally, rather than occurring inside the Council, the impetus to use political negotiations to resolve crises now occurred outside the Council – a telling comment on how the body had not remained the primary driver of the political process to resolve disputes.  The report vividly illustrated the Council’s effectiveness in maintaining peace and security, the reason it had been set up by the Charter, was severely undermined.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, said the Council report was comprehensive and useful.  However, it should be improved to make it more analytical and reflective, as in its current state it was merely a statistical compilation of events.  The Council should analyse its decision-making process for how and why it adopted resolutions and presidential statements.  The substantive views of the Organization’s membership should be taken into account at the early stages of drafting by holding interactive discussions.  The Council had held many thematic debates during the reporting period, yet the level of interaction had been non-existent with the final document adopted by Council without taking into account the views of the greater United Nations membership.  The Council should collaborate with the International Criminal Court and support its investigations.  A uniform protocol should be adopted in referring cases from the Council to the Criminal Court, and that Court’s financing and access concerns should also be addressed.  Costa Rica supported the French-Mexican initiative on the limited use of the veto in cases of mass atrocity and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group’s code of conduct.

CARLOS DUARTE (Brazil) said the Council’s recurrent inability to act decisively towards a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis was distressing.  Despite the adoption of resolutions to deal with the humanitarian challenges and the use of chemical weapons in that country, the Council had not truly dealt with crucial aspects of the conflict.  It must act to prevent further militarization, stop the flow of weapons to all belligerent parties and move the political process forward.  With respect to the upsurge in violence in Palestine and Israel, he again called on the Council to fully assume its responsibilities under the Charter and actively steer the peace process towards a two-State solution.  On the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he stressed the need to develop and implement comprehensive and sustainable strategies to overcome the root causes of conflict in the eastern part of the country.  He welcomed the continued progress achieved in recent years in Haiti, which had allowed the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to downsize.  However, security concerns remained.  Any assessment mission must be deployed after the formation of a new Government.  In addition, the reconfiguration process must be guided solely by the conditions on the ground and the need to preserve progress made in the last 11 years.

RAMADHAN MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed measures being undertaken to enhance the Council’s transparency and effectiveness, including open debates.  He expressed hope that, in the future, the Council would arrange those debates in a way that allowed its members to take into account the views expressed by delegations before adopting its outcomes.  Initiatives by France, Mexico and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, aimed at limiting the use of veto in cases of atrocity crimes, were a step in the right direction.  Also, the Council’s future reports to the Assembly should include an assessment of its actions and inactions, including due to the use of veto and its repercussions.  On the Council’s increased interaction with external actors, he noted with regret that in the recent past, some of those meetings had covered divisive topics that had nothing to do with the Council’s mandate.  The Council must refrain from entertaining such topics, which only served to derail it from its core responsibility, he said.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), associating his statement with Estonia’s, said that by committing on 23 October to the code of conduct on Council action against genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, 106 States had pledged to support timely Council action to prevent or end atrocity crimes and, specifically, to not vote against credible draft resolutions to that end.  Citing examples of the Council’s incapacity, he said its sustained engagement on the situation in Burundi was commendable and its visit to the country in May well-time, but the body was not able to address the violence that accompanied the May elections.  Meeting regularly and issuing a press statement “did not prove to be an adequate response” to a crisis that led 144,000 Burundians to flee their country.

On the situation in Darfur, he said that despite the presence of one of the largest peacekeeping operations in United Nations history, targeted sanctions and a referral to the International Criminal Court, the conflict continued, as did serious violations of international human rights law.  On Syria, the Council had also been unable to adequately respond to the “defining conflict of the decade” despite two resolutions, including one on chemical weapons, which gave the impression that mass killings of civilians by other means, including torture, starvation and barrel bombs, deserved less attention than the use of weaponry illegal under international law.  There was no way around the conclusion that the Council had been largely unable to take adequate action to prevent or end atrocity crimes.  The body’s inability to use its “varied and impactful toolkit” had not only prevented the United Nations from maintaining international peace and security, but also harmed the Organization’s reputation.  By supporting the code of conduct, 106 States had made it clear that they expected “zero tolerance for atrocity crimes”.

IVIAN DEL SOL DOMINGUEZ (Cuba) associated with the Non-Aligned Movement and said that every year, the Assembly met to consider similar reports of the Council which didn’t contain any analysis of the Council’s work, but simply described the actions of that organ.  That descriptive approach didn’t evaluate the work of the Council, and that exercise was not true accountability of the Council to the General Assembly.  Expressing concern at the Council’s “usurping” the role given by the Charter to other United Nations organs, she called for balance between the Organization’s principal organs, in accordance with the Charter.  The rules of procedure had to be formalized, as they were still provisional, 70 years later.  A more transparent Council would be a more legitimate Council that truly took into account the Members of the Organization.

OSAMA A. MAHMOUD (Egypt) associated with the Non-Aligned Movement, and said that the report of the Council appeared to be more of a statistical compilation, adding that future reports needed to be analytical rather than descriptive.  Noting the growing tendency of the Council to hold thematic debates on issues that didn’t constitute imminent threats to international peace and security, he said that that encroached on the role of other bodies of the United Nations.  Urging the Council to maintain balance, and to hold regular consultations with non-Member States, which should include their active participation, he said that it was crucial to engage regional stakeholders on crises before taking action.  Troop-contributing countries should also be engaged on mandates prior to their adoption.

RICARDO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ (Mexico) said the current debate should serve to strengthen dialogue on the Council and improve Member States’ perception of the body.  However, neither the manner in which the debate was being held nor its content was conducive to truly substantive interaction.  The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group had presented viable options for making the Council’s annual report more useful.  In its current state, there was no analysis and quality information.  Factual discussions on when the Council had failed to reach agreement would be useful in that regard.  Holding more informal meetings and interactive dialogue would increase the body’s transparency and effectiveness.  A meeting should be held annually to discuss the content of the report before its adoption.  Mexico welcomed the Council’s efforts to deal with the increasing number of conflicts, but it was concerned when the Council could not or did not want to act.  That inaction posed a threat to international peace and security.

ION JINGA (Romania) said that not only had the workload of the Council significantly increased, but also its complexity.  He outlined three progressive developments.  To begin with, the Council – under Resolution 1631 (2005) – had increased its cooperation between regional and sub-regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security, which had resulted in those organizations becoming “privileged partners” in the Organization’s work.  There had also been an increased presence of Council members on the ground, as seen through three recent missions: Europe and Africa in August 2014; Haiti in January 2015; and Africa in March 2015.  That approach allowed Council members to interact directly with people affected by the conflicts on which it took action – a critical initiative.  Finally, an overall reduction in force levels of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) pointed to the efficiency of United Nations activities.  The capacity of the Council to adapt and respond appropriately to new types of crises remained essential to maintaining its leadership role within the Organization.

JEREMIAH N.K. MAMABOLO (South Africa) said the Council report did not provide an analytical evaluation of its work but merely conveyed events in a chronological and descriptive manner.  The report also showed that elected Council members were negatively impacted by the “high-handed tactics” of permanent members.  The practice of having important resolutions drafted by a small group often consisting of countries not serving on the Council, which was then presented to the Council membership as a fait accompli, was not helpful.  On the Council’s relationship with the African Union, the report did not reflect regular engagement with the regional body other than the ninth annual meeting in March 2015.  That pointed to the Council’s selectivity in coordinating its positions with that of the African Union.  The Council picked elements of regional organizations’ decisions that advanced the national interest of some members.  He called for the Council’s greater consistency in engaging with regional bodies.  A glaring omission from the Council’s report was the question of Palestine and the situation in Syria.  In both cases the Assembly had acted where the Council was unwilling or unable to do so.  Measures to enhance the Assembly’s effectiveness in the maintenance of international peace and security should be adopted without usurping the role of the Council.

EDUARD FESKO (Ukraine) emphasized that Member States must be informed not only of what happened in the Council and when, but also why and how a particular action was or was not taken.  In cases where the Council had failed to act or its actions had not led to a peaceful resolution of a conflict, such analysis could help identify areas for improvement in the Council’s working methods and facilitate the search for more effective ways of addressing issues brought before it and dealing with them in a decisive, result-oriented manner.  The annual report should provide a clear answer as to how successful the Council had been in carrying out its primary responsibility.  External aggression against his country demonstrated that international law was subject to selective interpretation and that perpetrators could avoid accountability.  A Council was needed that both protected the Charter and complied with it.  Therefore he supported the code of conduct regarding Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the joint French and Mexican initiative on limiting the use of the veto.

AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan) said the Council’s report should be more analytical and evaluate how the body made decisions.  Interim reports should be provided for ongoing feedback.  The mandates of peacekeeping operations should be more “realistic and achievable”, and there must be more dialogue with troop contributors and greater cooperation with regional organizations and neighbouring countries.  While Kazakhstan appreciated that the Council had held more open debates in the reporting period, the debates should lead to comprehensive strategies rather than merely archive statements.  The Council’s subsidiary bodies should improve coordination with the United Nations specialized agencies to better tackle the increasingly complex issues facing the international community.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) associated with the Non-Aligned Movement and said that the Council continued to face new challenges in the mandate conferred upon it by the Charter.  The Council had acted in a concerted manner to confront challenges and threats of international terrorism.   Congratulating Council members for their important initiatives on the working methods of that body, he expressed interest in the strengthened cooperation between the Peacebuilding Commission and its country configurations, and said that those enabled the Council to undertake elements for lasting peace.  Regarding the situation in the Central African Republic, the country was still in a fragile situation and deserved special attention by the Council.  He drew the international community’s attention to the situation in the Sahel, and noted the hope and philosophy behind the European Union’s strategy to address it.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said only with a substantive yearly report between the Council and the Assembly could the debate become meaningful.  Pakistan’s main observation was that the Council had functioned reasonably efficiently, as reflected by the number of meetings and outcomes it was able to agree on.  Still, the report continued to lack substance, and more than a fourth of the document consisted of compendia of meetings.  There continued to be persistent shortcomings in the Council’s work, and Pakistan was concerned with the Council’s usage of Chapter VII measures without fully utilizing Chapter VI or Chapter VIII.  The Council and the Assembly should work as partners in international peace and security; the Assembly could discuss vexed issues that would not yield a solution in the Council.

FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives) said the report did not effectively highlight priority areas in the Council’s work.  A more analytical and reflective approach would make the body more effective in the future.  The adoption of the report should be an occasion for more comprehensive engagement by the entire Organization.  Non-members of the Council should be able to give suggestions and share their analysis on the efficacy of the organ.  In that regard, he echoed the call of other Member States for an open debate of the Council before the finalization of its report.  The Council’s inaction on a number of very important issues such as Palestine, Syria and countering the impact of ISIL/ISIS represented one of the gravest failings of the time.  The inability to fulfil the Council’s mandate called into question the legitimacy and relevance of the Organization as a whole.

OMER D.F. MOHAMED (Sudan) said that the report was a quantitative and procedural account of the Council’s activities and did not reflect the role of Council and Assembly in the maintenance of international peace and security.  It was important to reform the Organization to ensure an effective relationship between the Assembly and Council so that the former played its full role.  The new practice that gave some States exclusive pen-holder rights in the drafting of Council resolutions revived a “colonial methodology”.  The Council’s working methods should be improved to take into account geographic location, he said, noting that67 per cent of the issues covered by the body related to Africa.  There should be more public Council meetings to increase objectivity and transparency, and more consultations with regional and sub-regional organizations.

The Assembly then took note of the Council’s annual report.

For information media. Not an official record.