Working Methods Handbook


It is my great pleasure to present the 2017 edition of the “Handbook on the Working Methods of the Security Council” (more commonly known as the “Green Book” to many in the United Nations community).

The Security Council is expected to meet the two, sometimes conflicting, requirements: first, to make decisions that will ensure prompt and effective action to maintain international peace and security; and second, to gain the support of the wider United Nations membership for such Security Council decisions to be carried out.  Enhancing transparency, efficiency and inclusiveness of the working methods of the Security Council through meeting these requirements is crucial to the effective functioning of the Council.

In all these areas, the Security Council has made steady progress.  In 2006, the first Note 507 by the President of the Security Council (S/2006/507) was adopted as a compilation of the working methods of the Council, setting forth clearly the Council’s best practices, without undermining the flexibility necessary to conduct the Council’s work.  In 2010, the Council adopted the revised Note 507 (S/2010/507). A product of intensive work by the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions chaired by Japan, Note 507 received positive feedbacks over the years, from Security Council members and the wider United Nations membership alike, in particular from members joining the Council each year.

However, it is important and useful for the Council to conduct periodically a comprehensive review of the progress and make necessary adjustments, reflecting the current practice and taking into account the voices from the wider United Nations membership. In the presidential statement (S/PRST/2015/19) of October 2015, the Security Council requested the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions “to continue reviewing and updating relevant Notes by the President of the Security Council, in particular Note 507, including with a focus on implementation.

Japan assumed the chairmanship of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions during its 2016-2017 term on the Security Council. As the Chair, we decided to make focused efforts on two issues of priority: 1) improving the transitional arrangements for newly elected Council members, and 2) revising Note 507.

On improving transitional arrangements for newly elected members, in response to the decision by the General Assembly in its resolution 68/307 to conduct the elections of the non-permanent members of the Security Council about 6 months before the elected members assumed their responsibilities, the Council adopted a presidential note dated 15 July (S/2016/619) after intensive discussions in its Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions over the first several months of 2016. The note outlined measures to facilitate the preparations of newly elected members by inviting them to observe the work of the Council for an expanded period of 3 months. The note also set out a more defined and advanced timeline as well as a more inclusive process for the selection of the Chairs of subsidiary bodies. Facilitation for the selection of the Chairs was carried out both in 2016 and 2017 in accordance with this new note, with Japan serving as one of the two co-facilitators in both years.

Immediately upon tackling this issue, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the original Note 507 (S/2006/507), the Security Council held an open debate on the working methods of the Council on 19 July 2016 during Japan’s presidency, and listened closely to the voices of not only Council members but also the wider United Nations membership to identify areas that would benefit from adjustments.

Having collected some useful ideas and proposals from the debate, the Informal Working Group explored them in several meetings over the subsequent months. While the Council members did not agree on everything, there were rich discussions on lessons learned and challenges from past practices, as well as desirability and/or feasibility of specific ideas. During the course of this process, I, as Chair, also updated the wider United Nations membership on the work of the Informal Working Group, and exchanged views with interested non-Council members on several occasions.

After the meetings and a series of textual negotiations, on 30 August 2017 the Security Council adopted the revised Note 507 (S/2017/507) by consensus, and issued a press statement. Thanks to the contributions of the members of the Council as well as the wider United Nations membership, I believe that the revised note represents a comprehensive and balanced text. It is, indeed, a truly collective achievement. The revised Note 507 consolidated, streamlined and restructured Note 507 of 2010 and all additional stand-alone presidential notes issued since, including the most recent note S/2016/619 mentioned above. In addition, as highlighted in the press statement, the revised Note 507 contains some important new elements for enhancing the effectiveness of the Council, concerning areas such as monthly programme of work, informal consultations of the whole, drafting of outcome documents, dialogue with non-Council members and bodies, and Security Council missions.

Improvement of working methods of the Council does not end with the adoption of the revised Note 507. It is an open-ended, ongoing process of collective endeavours. And while codification of best practices is a useful exercise, it is not an end in itself. What is most important is the implementation and actual practice of the Security Council. It is my hope that the revised Note 507 and this Handbook will be utilized as a friendly guide and an important basis for continuing to make further improvements in the working methods through the daily work of the Council, especially during the respective presidencies.

In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my staff, especially my legal adviser Counsellor Jun Hasebe, without whose dedication and tireless work none of this would have been possible.

Koro Bessho
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
(Chair of the Security Council Informal Working Group
on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions for 2016-2017)