Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs, at a UN Security Council Open Debate on the Working Methods of the Security Council

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September 5, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President. As this is the first meeting of the month, I would like to congratulate you on your presidency and wish you a very productive September. And we thank you for convening this important debate.

The United States welcomes this annual opportunity to hear views of UN members about what aspects of the Council’s working methods serve us well, and where there are areas for improvement. It is vitally important that the Council’s work, both substantive and procedural, serves the interests of all UN Member States. In carrying out its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, as provided in Article 24 of the UN Charter, the Security Council is acting on behalf of all members of the United Nations.

Mr. President, the United States expresses its deep appreciation to you for ably chairing the Informal Working Group on Documentation and other procedural questions. Your smooth and deft guidance of this informal working group has produced concrete results. In particular, we wish to congratulate you on the recent adoption of two notes that will improve the Council’s working methods.

Significantly, one of those notes came about because the Council was unable to reach a consensus decision on the appointment of the chairs of subsidiary bodies by the end of last year. The result was that all of these important bodies were unable to function for several weeks in January of this year.

The Informal Working Group, under the Chair’s leadership, negotiated and adopted a note deciding that the Member State that holds the rotating presidency in January would function as the Chair of all of the subsidiary bodies if the impasse continued into January. This recent exercise shows that when the Council works in unison toward a common goal to address specific practical issues regarding its working methods, it can expeditiously take action.

Regarding penholding, there have also been positive developments. In particular, there has been a welcome expansion of the practice of co-penholding, with increasing positive and valuable contributions by elected members of the Security Council.

In our case, we worked collaboratively with Mexico during its Security Council tenure and then subsequently with Ecuador on the situation in Haiti. Most recently, in collaboration with Ecuador as co-penholder, we achieved the unanimous adoption of a resolution on Haiti. Our successful co-penholding benefited the negotiation process and has produced excellent outcomes.

The United States also worked together with Ireland as co-penholder on an important and innovative resolution establishing a humanitarian carveout across UN sanctions regimes. And we worked closely with Albania on draft resolutions on Ukraine. We are also happy to see that the African members on the Council jointly co-penned an important press statement on the situation in Niger.

The United States supports the prior notes the Council has adopted on penholding – currently codified as part of Note 507 – and continues to favor a flexible approach to penholding. We stand ready to continue discussions of penholding issues among Council members as we strive to improve the practice of penholding in the Council.

I would like to make one final comment on an unfortunate practice by the Russian Federation, as exhibited most recently in the Mali sanctions resolution. The penholders painstakingly facilitated negotiations of the resolution for a month with all Council members, and the discussions made clear how isolated Russia was in its demands. The penholders put into “blue” a well-crafted compromise proposal that had the overwhelming support of Council members. At the very last minute, without consulting at all with Council members, the Russian Federation put a competing draft into “blue”.

Russia then brazenly vetoed the penholders’ draft resolution, which received 13 yes votes. And Russia’s draft resolution received only one yes vote, that of the Russian Federation. Thus, in defiance of the Council’s usual working methods, Russia single-handedly killed the Mali sanctions regime. Russia’s actions were in bad faith and were disrespectful of all of the other members of the Security Council. Their approach to working methods in this manner undermines Council unity and we urge them to alter their behavior so that the Council can work toward fulfillment of its vital mandate.

Finally, we wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to the Security Council Affairs Division, including its Director, Claudia Benz, and all of its staff. Having just served as the President of the Council in August, we were reminded of the essential role that SCAD plays in making sure the Council’s work goes smoothly.

From the preparations of the circulation of formal documents of the Council, to preparation of the President prior to each Council meeting, and all of the other unseen and unheralded behind-the-scenes work, this Council could not function without the superb efforts of the Security Council Affairs Division.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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