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Updated on 31 December 2017


Section 5:   Further documentation of procedures

Importance of implementing Note 507 on working methods emphasized by ACT and Japan


On 8 October 2017, the representative of Switzerland, on behalf of the 25 members of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT), wrote to the Security Council President welcoming adoption of presidential note S/2017/507, whereby the Council had consolidated and expanded upon its working methods (see related article on this website).  The ACT letter (S/2017/856) also noted that the new provisions contained in S/2017/507 “are in line with provisions advocated by the Group”. 


The letter welcomed the comprehensiveness of the new Note which, as ACT pointed out, integrates 13 other presidential notes agreed by the Council since the adoption of S/2010/507.  Among specific areas of progress highlighted by the ACT letter are the following:


  • The “changes made to allow incoming elected members of the Council to be better prepared and the efforts undertaken to enhance the appointment process of the Chairs of subsidiary bodies”;


  • In the context of outcome documents, the “provisions regarding co-penholdership, the encouragement to leave sufficient time for delegations to consider drafts and the holding of at least one round of discussions with all Council members”;


  • “New provisions aimed at better planning of the Council’s business, such as discussing the monthly programme of work with other Council members well in advance, encouraging briefers to be succinct and direct, making more effective use of ‘Other matters’ and suggesting elements to the press”;


  • “The possibilities provided to the Peacebuilding Commission to participate in the work of the Council”;


  • The expression of commitment by the Council members to take steps to improve the focus and interactivity of open debates, as well as members’ recognition of the importance of related concept notes; and


  • The provisions intended to enhance the dialogue with non-Council members and bodies, especially through the annual joint consultative meetings and informal dialogues with the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the possibility of joint missions with the AUPSC to the field.


On the other hand, the ACT letter signaled the need for further progress with respect to three areas:


  • ACT called on the Council, in future presidential notes on its working methods, to provide for the timely distribution of concept notes for open debates “in order to provide Member States with sufficient time for preparation”;


  • ACT encouraged the Council to hold briefings about its missions to the field “in a timely, inclusive and comprehensive manner, providing relevant and substantial information as well as key insights gathered”; and


  • While commending S/2017/507 for encouraging continuing efforts to ensure inclusion in the Council’s Annual Report of “more substantive information on the Council’s work”, ACT regretted “the lack of progress” so far in making the Report “more substantial and analytical”.


Overall, the ACT letter underlined the importance of implementing the new provisions contained in the note.  This emphasis by ACT on implementation had a parallel in the remarks of the representative of Japan at a Security Council meeting convened on 8 December 2017 to hear briefings by outgoing Chairs of the Council’s subsidiary organs (S/PV.8127).  The Japanese representative had chaired the Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, which had negotiated S/2017/507.  In this connection, he commented that Japan’s intention as Chair had been “to make an impact both through codification and actual practice”.


In particular, he noted that as Chair, his delegation had “first tackled the issue of improving transitional arrangements for newly elected members.”  In this regard, S/2016/619 adopted in July 2016, and later incorporated into S/2017/507, “outlined measures to facilitate the preparedness of newly elected members by inviting them to observe the work of the Council for an expanded period of three months”.  Additional measures “set out a more defined and advanced timeline with an emphasis on inclusiveness in the selection of the Chairs of subsidiary bodies in response to the strong call of many outgoing Chairs of subsidiary bodies”.  He reported that facilitation for the selection of the Chairs was carried out both in 2016 and in 2017, in accordance with the new methodologies, with Japan and one permanent member serving as co-facilitators in both years.”


With respect to revising Note 507, the Japanese representative expressed appreciation for the contributions of both Council members and the wider UN membership.  In his view, S/2017/507 “represents a comprehensive and balanced text” which is “indeed a truly collective achievement”.


Nonetheless, he stressed that “improving the working methods of the Council does not end with the adoption of the revised version of note 507”.  Rather, it was “an open-ended, ongoing process of collective endeavours,” in which what was most important was the implementation and actual practice of the Security Council.  In this connection, he noted the efforts of Japan’s Security Council Presidency for the month of December to implement specific measures set out in S/2017/507, including suggesting a few areas for Council members to focus upon prior to informal consultations, as well as meeting the press at the stakeout area following every session of informal consultations.*

Since its founding in 2013, the ACT Group has been active in proposing improvements to the Council’s procedures and also in monitoring implementation of measures promulgated by the Council.  Given the emphasis on implementation expressed in its letter, the Group is expected to actively track the Council’s fidelity to the provisions in S/2017/507 over the coming year, and to make public its assessment, particularly during the Council’s annual open debate on its working methods, which ACT strongly supports.  


(This update supplements pages 13-15, 67, 481-487, and 677 of the book.)



* At the same Council meeting, the Japanese representative announced that in keeping with past practice, his Government had issued a 2017 edition of what is known as the “Green Book” on the Council’s working methods.  This handbook, first published in 2006, contains the texts of both S/2017/507 and the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure.  In addition, it contains the press statement read out by the Council President (Egypt) upon the adoption of S/2017/507, background information on “Arria-formula” meetings (which the Council members agreed to include in the Handbook beginning in 2006), a list of the Council’s informal interactive dialogues, and two charts showing differences in a) formats of meetings, and b) major types of actions taken by the Council.  A UN Sales Publication version of the Handbook is expected in 2018.



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