Security Council Working Methods
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
29 October 2013
I commend you for convening this sixth open debate on the Council’s working methods. This is a persuasive interest of all Member States. As Article 24 of the Charter makes clear, in discharging the Council’s responsibility to maintain international peace and security, the Council acts on behalf of all Member States.
Our working methods must enhance the Council’s engagement with the broader membership. Increased transparency and consultation enhance the legitimacy and thus the effectiveness of the Council – always necessary, but doubly so when reform of the Council’s membership itself is at a standstill. We have many of the necessary tools. The key – as usual – is implementation. And this requires a genuine will to change practices.
Opening up the Working Methods of the Council has been a slow and – let’s be frank – tortured process. But we have made some real progress. Portugal did a pioneering job during its Council membership through its chairing of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions. And Argentina – and Ambassador Perceval and her team – has continued this influential leadership through its chairmanship. We also recognise and value the strong voices outside of the Council pressing us to do better. We welcome the establishment in May this year of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group, and the active role it is playing. Its contributions have informed our recent work to improve working methods.
Adoption of Presidential Note S/2013/515 on 28 August was a significant advance. This Note focuses on enhancing the Council’s transparency and dialogue with non- Council members and it captures many of the themes identified in the concept note circulated by Azerbaijan for today’s debate. Note 515 was based on a proposal put forward by Australia. We must now ensure its actual implementation.
If the Council is to be effective, it must – by definition – be informed. Regular open debates that enable the Council to reflect on the membership’s input are critical. Informal and Arria-formula meetings, which engage non-governmental organisations and other actors – including regularly by the Secretary-General Special Advisers – are also important. The Council should also inform itself through more briefings by regional and sub-regional organisations.
An informed Council can also better anticipate, and respond quickly, to threats to peace and security. We see great benefit in the Council receiving regular “horizon scanning” briefings from the Department of Political Affairs on situations of emerging concern. As Council President in September, Australia convened a horizon scanning briefing – regrettably only the second this year, although we thank the Department of Political Affairs for its own initiative in bringing many issues to our attention. We also welcome the Council’s renewed commitment, through Note 515, to invite Peacebuilding Commission country-specific configuration chairs to brief the Council. Australia adopted this practice during our Presidency.
The Council can only discharge its responsibility to the broader membership if it is keeping the whole membership informed on its deliberations. In September, Australia conducted substantive briefings at the beginning and end of our Council Presidency to ensure non-members were informed of important developments. We think this practice should be institutionalised. Regular press stakeouts are also important, particularly following closed meetings.
Much of the Council’s work takes place in its subsidiary bodies, and it is therefore seldom visible to the membership. It is unfathomable that the Council has allowed a situation whereby only five of its twenty-one subsidiary bodies are mandated to openly brief the Council on their work. Transparency is particularly important in those subsidiary bodies that administer binding obligations on all States, including the sanctions regimes. While this is captured in Note 515, much more must be done to make this a reality.
Australia, as Chair of the 1737 (Iran) Sanctions Committee, initiated in June an open briefing to all Member States on that Committee’s work. And – as Chair of the 1737 (Iran), 1267 (Al-Qaida), and 1988 (Taliban) Sanctions Committees – will provide a joint briefing to the broader UN membership with the Chairs of the 1373 (Counter-Terrorism), 1540 (Non-Proliferation) and 1718 (DPRK) Committees and the President of the Financial Action Task Force on 18 November. The effectiveness of the work of these Committees depends on the implementation efforts of all Member States and it seems obvious that all Member States should be more engaged in this vital aspect of the Council’s work on peace and security.
Troop- and police- contributing countries are at the forefront of implementing many Council decisions. The security environments in which peacekeepers operate – especially in an era when the Council has mandated historically robust operations – require that we ensure a level of information, communication, and consultation that enables us to put together sustainable operations. The voices of contributing countries need to be heard prior to key Council decisions. That is why the Council’s Presidential Note S/2013/630 issued yesterday (Monday 28 October) is so important. The Note goes further than previous measures to enable troop- and police- contributing countries to better engage with the Council, including at their request.
In conclusion, Mr President, even when the Council is informed, transparent and accountable, there are times when the Council is unable to act. The Council has at times come under widespread criticism for its inability to discharge its responsibility to maintain peace and security. Much of this revolves around the use of, or the threat of, the veto. As a long-standing proponent of limiting the use of the veto – indeed, Australia has historically opposed it – we welcome France’s recent call for Permanent Members to voluntarily renounce their veto powers in instances of mass atrocity crimes. The French Permanent Representative’s comments this morning anticipating wide consultations on this proposal are very encouraging. This is an important discussion we need to have.
Thank you, Mr President.