Briefing by Ambassador Ferit Hoxha, Chair of Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions at the Security Council Open Debate on Working Methods

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5 September 2023

I am grateful for the opportunity to provide the briefing today as Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions at this annual open debate on working methods.

Annual open debates on working methods have served to collectively engage in a reflection with the wider membership on the working methods used by the Council to deliver on its important responsibility to maintain international peace and security. This has been a constant of the Council since 2010, to assess the implementation of the measures set out in Note 507 and in subsequently adopted notes by the President.

Since 2017, 15 new notes by the President on its working methods have been adopted under the auspices of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, the last 2 of which have been adopted in August during my tenure as Chair. These new 15 notes add to the normative “acquis” contained in Note 507 to enhance the efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness of the Council. Many of these notes have been issued in response to demands from the wider membership in the context of these debates and elsewhere.

We find ourselves here today at a particularly critical juncture, and today’s open debate could not be more relevant. While the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are now behind us, other critical challenges remain. The persistence of multifaceted crises and armed conflicts in different parts of the world, adverse effects of climate change, terrorism and the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes are only a few examples. Against this backdrop and consistent with its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, the Security Council is expected to act and to do so, efficiently, transparently, and effectively on behalf of the rest of the membership.

However, challenging political dynamics worldwide as well as divisions within the Council have prevailed, turning division into an obstacle for action, critically affecting the Council’s ability to deliver on its responsibilities as established in the Charter of the United Nations. In 2022 and 2023, this Chamber has been a venue of old and new rifts inhibiting its action in connection with some of the world’s most pressing problems. At stake is not only the Council’s reputation but the overall reputation of the United Nations.

For all the criticism, however, the Council has maintained its levels of activity of last year and remained actively seized of 41 items on its agenda so far, fully resumed open debates with high levels of participation, and adopted decisions regularly to maintain the operations of the United Nations worldwide. The workload is ever-growing, and the stakes could not be greater. In this context, the importance of the working methods cannot be overstated.

Since assuming my role as Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions in January 2022, I have had the privilege of building on the significant achievements of my predecessors in advancing the Security Council’s working methods. Over the past two years, I have strived to steer discussions at the IWG towards making the Council not only more efficient and effective in its work and decision-making but also more transparent and inclusive of the viewpoints of all of its members, the wider UN membership and those affected by its decisions.

I would like to highlight a few major milestones that the IWG has achieved in the past 18 months. First, at the outset of 2022, the IWG adopted a program of work setting out the main priorities and planned actions for the upcoming year, allowing all Council members to comment and make proposals. Again, this happened at the beginning of 2023, rendering the work of the Group more predictable and results oriented. Additionally, as an important step towards greater transparency, the IWG adopted its first annual report in 2022 (S/2022/1032) thereby aligning itself with the practice of the rest of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council. The annual report of the Group includes summaries of its activities as well as a set of selected indicators in a first attempt at tracking the implementation of Note 507 and subsequently adopted presidential notes. These indicators are crucial to get a better overview of how the Council is performing and what are the gaps remaining. In this regard, I would welcome the comments and feedback of Member States to further enhance the indicators and identify new areas of work for their reflection, if possible, in the 2023 annual report of the Group.

As I mentioned at the outset, under the auspices of the IWG, the Council adopted two additional notes by the President of the Security Council on working methods. The first note by the President (S/2023/612) lays out the procedure for the observance of minutes of silence and aims to ensure that it is conducted in an orderly manner. It reflects the consensus of all members of the Council to ensure that those solemn occasions are conducted smoothly, respectfully, and devoid of any politicization. The second note (S/2023/615) reaffirms the Council’s commitment to making every effort to agree provisionally on the appointment of the Chairs of the subsidiary bodies for the following year no later than 1 October and includes an interim contingency measure in case the provisional agreement is not reached on time during the month of January.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Council members for the cooperation demonstrated in the framework of the IWG in achieving these important outcome documents. Contrary to the narrative of division that I mentioned earlier, the IWG proves that productive engagement is possible in the Council and the search for common ground should always be pursued. Indeed, IWG has proven that working methods can aid in facilitating the Council’s work and reduce polarization by discussing topics that present clear obstacles to the functioning of the Council and identifying possible solutions.

For example, the IWG has maintained on its agenda as standing items a regular reporting by presidencies of the Council and penholders in exercising their responsibilities. Building on the work of previous Chairs, the reporting on the work of each presidency has made those members holding that responsibility more aware of their fundamental role in implementing the working methods agreed upon by the Council. It has also facilitated the sharing of best practices among Council presidencies. Similarly, the regular reporting by penholders on the way in which they held the pen was aimed at enhancing their accountability in doing so and additional efforts should be considered on this track.

In the past 18 months, the IWG has also addressed many other topics, including how to improve the selection of chairs of subsidiary bodies and ensure a more equitable distribution of labor among Council members, the access of elected members to confidential documentation of the Council predating their membership, the practice of monthly assessments, the cooperation with other UN principal organs, the mainstreaming of gender into the work of the Council, and the participation of civil society in Council meetings and ensuring their protection against reprisals. Discussions in the IWG have also led to practical outcomes. In April 2023, emulating a practice well established in the General Assembly, the Council rolled out a live list of speakers for open debates which will help the wider membership to be better informed and engaged in the work of the Council.

Lastly, I would like to highlight that in the true spirit of IWG cooperation, former IWG Chairs (Kuwait and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) as well as me as current Chair, joined Japan, in collaborating towards the successful launching of the Interactive Handbook of the Working Methods of the Council. Easily accessible through the website of the Security Council, the Interactive Handbook serves as a practical guide to the rules, practices and procedures of the Council and is intended for its members and the wider membership to better understand and implement the working methods. We are grateful to Japan for spearheading such an initiative. It is a timely innovation for the incoming elected members who will commence observing proceedings next month.

Before I conclude, I would like to stress that rather than an obscure and merely technical area of expertise, the working methods of the Council are a critical tool for the effective functioning of the Council and for the discharge of its mandate. It is therefore crucial for everyone in this room to be collectively invested in advancing this agenda and proactively contribute to its enhancement. While not in and of themselves the solution to the conflicts on the Council’s agenda, the working methods are a “means to an end” and can build the path towards finding solutions. I look forward to hearing the proposals from the wider membership as we collectively strive towards enhancing the Council’s effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency. Proposals put forward today will help shape future discussions of the IWG under my remaining months as Chair and will be critical for the future Chairs to consider.

Thank you.

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