IGN on Security Council reform begin for the 70th Session

By Alex Maresca, 14 March 2016

The following record has been compiled through informal accounts by participants, as well as through statements made publicly available online. If you feel your government’s position has been inaccurately represented below, please contact us at .

As Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations for the 70th session (IGN), Ambassador Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg) convened the first meeting of the IGN for the 70th session on 3 February 2016. The meeting was intended to address the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council, in order to identify “areas of convergence between the positions and proposals of Member States.” In a notice circulated by Ambassador Lucas, she further indicated that she would convene sessions dedicated to the other four “key issues” set out in the 2008 General Assembly resolution 62/557 over the next few months: size and working methods of the Council, the veto, regional representation, and categories of membership.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Lucas encouraged Member States to recall the principles at the heart of the IGN process: representativeness, transparency, and effectiveness. She urged States to identify shared positions, as well as areas of Council reform in which progress had been made outside of the IGN. She emphasized that the IGN would remain a member-state driven process, and hoped to have substantive engagement in order to move the reform process forward.

Following her remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, noted that the world had undergone significant changes, including increased challenges and threats to international peace and security. He noted that fifty years had passed since the Council was last expanded with additional non-permanent members. He stated that it was essential for the Security Council to be able to handle the challenges of the modern era and fully fulfill its mandate by being “representative, transparent, effective, and efficient.”

How to Proceed with the IGN Process
It was recognized that overall, the IGN process had only seen incremental progress over the past 20 years of discussions. While Thailand noted that good progress had been made last year, citing the populated framework document circulated by Ambassador Rattray, the former IGN Chair, and France stated that the work of the former IGN Chair should be the foundation for efforts this year, there was some disagreement on the process moving forward.

South Africa called on the Chair of the IGN to draft and circulate a “zero roadmap” for Security Council (SC) reform with achievable time-frames. There should be a full schedule of meetings, with more than one meeting per subject. Lithuania emphasized the need for text-based negotiations, and Brazil proposed that convergences in positions should be reflected in a new text. However, Mexico was not in favor of a new General Assembly (GA) document containing positions, arguing that several have already been developed and that an additional document would just exacerbate differences.

Liechtenstein argued that the IGN process should only address issues related to the expansion of the Security Council, as these are the issues that require a Charter amendment. Singapore shared this view, noting that improvements to the relationship between the GA and the SC can move forward without a final agreement on the IGN process. Speaking on behalf of the African group, Sierra Leone felt that it was easier to make progress in informal meetings, rather than formal plenaries such as the current session.

Relationship between the Security Council and Other Bodies
Speakers representing the African group, the Arab group, and the L69 raised the issue of “encroachment” by the Security Council on issues under the authority of the General Assembly. The United Kingdom disagreed with the idea of encroachment, arguing that it was difficult to separate the three pillars of the UN system. However, Russia opposed the UK’s position, stating that there should not be a broad interpretation of the Council’s mandate. Yet several speakers expressed support for cooperation and consultation between the Presidents of the General Assembly and of the Security Council, including Bangladesh, Hungary, and Croatia.

The Republic of the Congo, Hungary, and Turkey encouraged cooperation between the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission. Hungary also encouraged cooperation with regional organizations, and Cote d’Ivoire emphasized the role of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security.

Working Methods of the Security Council
There was widespread support for the practice of holding more open meetings in the Security Council, backed by the United Kingdom, Georgia, Romania, and Lithuania. The Republic of the Congo insisted that open meetings should “dominate” the Council’s work. Along the same lines, Turkey asked that there be fewer closed meetings of the SC.

A number of speakers expressed support for Arria-formula meetings in particular, which included France, the United States, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania, Turkey, Hungary, and the Republic of the Congo. However, Russia expressed concerns about the “abuse” and “misuse” of Arria-formula sessions.

The United States, France, Spain, Romania and Croatia also mentioned the practice of “wrap-up sessions,” which may be convened by the President of the Security Council to reflect on accomplishments during the previous month. The United States and Spain expressed support for holding wrap-up sessions, and France noted that they were a means of involving non-members of the Council in its work. Croatia and Romania called for more wrap-up sessions to be held in the future.

The issue of reporting by the Security Council to the General Assembly was raised by several speakers. On behalf of the L69 and the African group, Saint Lucia and Sierra Leone called for the SC to submit a more analytical annual report to the General Assembly. This sentiment was echoed by Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Thailand, among others. Sierra Leone, on behalf of the African group, also called for subject-specific reports to be prepared by the SC. Montenegro and Indonesia expressed support for the Code of Conduct initiative. Launched by Liechtenstein in October 2015, the initiative invites all Member States to support “timely and decisive Security Council action” in instances of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Security Council and Selection of the Secretary-General
Several speakers referenced the process to select the next UN Secretary-General (SG), to be held this year. In his opening remarks, the President of the General Assembly observed that there was already more interaction between the GA and SC, citing the “joint letter” initiative. Through this joint letter, the presidents of the General Assembly and of the Security Council formally began the selection process in December 2015 with a call for nominations by all Member States. Several speakers expressed support for the “joint letter” initiative, including Panama, Ukraine, and Lithuania. Mexico felt that the UN was at the start of a better process, and France called for the new procedures adopted last year to be implemented in the coming weeks.

Speaking for the Nordic countries, Sweden noted the efforts made towards improving the transparency of the election of next Secretary-General. Belgium, also speaking for the Netherlands, echoed these sentiments and urged that the process be as open and transparent as possible. On behalf of the Arab group, Kuwait called for more participation in the process by the general UN membership. Liechtenstein characterized the SG appointment as a “test case” for shaping the relationship between the GA and SC in the future. Russia stated that the process should take place in compliance with the UN Charter, which states that the GA appoints the Secretary-General upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

Size and Composition of the Security Council
Several speakers also raised the issue of the expansion of the Security Council. Speaking on behalf of the Uniting for Consensus group, Italy discouraged Member States from focusing on “numbers alone,” stating that this would not be helpful. Belgium felt that expansion would make the Council more inclusive, and this in turn would make it more efficient. However, Costa Rica opposed increasing the number of permanent members, arguing that this would simply extend privileges to a few additional countries.

Representing the Nordic countries, Sweden stated that the Council must reflect the “realities of the world,” including adequate representation of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. On behalf of the Arab group, Kuwait called for a permanent seat on the Council for Arab states, as well as representation in the non-permanent category of membership.

It is expected that issues related to the composition of the Security Council will be discussed in greater detail during upcoming sessions, such as those dedicated to the size, regional representation, and categories of membership of a reformed Council.