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Updated on 30 January 2020


Section 4:   Provisional Rules of Procedure


2019 presidential note confirms that all references to persons in the Council’s Provisional Rules apply equally to males and females


On 27 December 2019, after two years of negotiations in the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG), under the chairmanship of Kuwait, the Security Council adopted presidential note S/2019/996.  This document is the second presidential note in the Council’s history which has introduced a change to the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure.  All other changes to the Rules have been effected either by formal amendment, or by implicit reinterpretation or suspension.


Although Article 8 of the Charter states that the United Nations shall place no restriction on the eligibility of men and women to participate in its work “in any capacity and under conditions of equality”, the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure – like most UN documents of their era – were drafted using only the pronouns of “he” and “his”.  And in actuality, it was not until 1972 that a Security Council member was represented by a woman.  (The country was Guinea and the ambassador was the highly regarded Jeanne Martin Cissé.)


In the context of today’s focus on fostering greater gender equality and inclusivity, the male-only references in the Council’s Rules seemed glaringly out of step.  To remedy this, the new presidential note states (in its entirety) that


“Following consultations among the members of the Security Council, and in line with the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States to promote the advancement of women and greater gender inclusivity and equality in their policies and practices, the members of the Council confirm, as a matter of existing Council practice, that any reference to a male person in the Council’s provisional rules of procedure is deemed not to be limited to male persons. Thus, any such reference also constitutes a reference to a female person, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.” 


The Rules affected by this new provision are numbers 1, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 30 and 44, as well as the Appendix.


Initially, some Council members had hoped that the changes to reflect gender inclusivity might be made directly in the Provisional Rules of Procedure.  However, there was not sufficient consensus to do so.


This had also been the case with respect to the first presidential note relative to the Provisional Rules of Procedure.  In 1993, when the Council members decided that verbatim records would no longer go through a review process, but would instead “be issued in final form only”, this change was made not in the Rules themselves, but rather was set out in presidential note S/26389.


In fact, as detailed in a related article on this website [1-4], almost immediately after the Rules of Procedure were adopted in their “Provisional” form in 1946, the Council members showed great reluctance to make further changes directly to them.  The few formal amendments which have been introduced since then have been made by necessity.  They relate to electing judges of the International Court of Justice, the credentials of Security Council members, and the introduction of additional working or official languages.  Since the amendment of the Rules in 1982 to provide for the use of Arabic, no further formal amendments have been adopted.  Thus, the present version of the Provisional Rules of Procedure remains that issued in 1982 under the symbol S/96/Rev.7.


(This update supplements pages 9-12 of the book.)



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