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Updated on 30 January 2020


Section 5:   Further documentation of procedures


In 2019, under chairmanship of Kuwait, the Council’s Informal Working Group on documentation and procedure adopted a record number of presidential notes


[PDF of Compendium combining presidential notes S/2017/507 and S/2019/990-997 is posted at the end of this article.]


On 27 December 2019, the Security Council adopted a record number of Notes by the President based on two years of negotiations in the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG), under the chairmanship of Kuwait.


Prior to this, the largest number of procedural notes adopted during the single term of an IWG Chair was during the 2013-2014 chairmanship of Argentina, when seven such notes were adopted.[1] 


Under the Argentinian Chair, each draft note was presented and adopted sequentially.  In contrast, the Kuwaiti Chair, early in its term, introduced nine draft notes simultaneously, after which negotiations proceeded in parallel on each of the drafts over the following months.  A tenth draft note was introduced on the topic of the Council’s Annual Report following consideration of the 2017 report by the General Assembly in September 2018.


In the course of the negotiations, one of the original drafts, on co-penholdership, met with opposition from a permanent member and could not move forward. 


Another draft, on extending the mandate of the Ombudsperson to cover all sanctions committees, also became blocked.  This was because some members held that this issue fell outside the mandate of the Informal Working Group, owing to the fact that the Ombudsperson originally had not been established as a working methods issue, negotiated within the IWG.  Rather, the post had been created by a substantive decision – resolution 1904 (2009) – explicitly adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter.  Consequently, Belgium took the lead on this proposal, which continues to be discussed outside of the Informal Working Group.


With respect to the remaining eight draft notes, a significant development occurred during the summer of 2019, after more than a year of negotiation on the texts, when reportedly the five permanent members (P5) put forward a condition that all eight would need to be adopted, or rejected, as a group, rather than each individually.  This would intensify the negotiating process, since those few notes which were the more problematic might hold up notes on which agreement might be more readily attained.  Nonetheless, the P5 condition was accepted and negotiations continued until, only four days before Kuwait’s term on the Council would end, agreement on all eight notes was reached.


Here follows the list of the subjects of the eight new notes, with links to individual articles about each on this website:


  • S/2019/900:  Security Council missions to the field


  • S/2019/991:  Chairmanships of the Council’s subsidiary organs


  • S/2019/992:  An addendum to the Council’s normal programme of work which would list additional informal activities of the Council


  • S/2019/993:  Expanding the involvement of incoming elected members in Council activities before the beginning of their terms


  • S/2019/994:  Wrap-up sessions at the conclusion of each Council presidency


  • S/2019/995:  Timely availability of reports by the Secretary-General, including to participants in troop- and police-contributing country meetings


  • S/2019/996:  Gender inclusivity as applies to the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure


  • S/2019/997:  Annual Report of the Security Council to the General Assembly


In total, the eight new notes add twelve new operative paragraphs on procedure to the 142 operative paragraphs previously set out by the Security Council in its comprehensive presidential note S/2017/507, thus bringing the total to 154 operative paragraphs.  Moreover, three of the notes (S/2019/993, S/2019/995 and S/2019/997) make textual amendments to presidential note S/2017/507.[2]  This degree of substantive change suggests that in the coming few years, the Council is likely to undertake drafting a new comprehensive note which will incorporate the new elements introduced by notes S/2019/990 to 997.


Pending adoption of a new comprehensive note, attached, for reference, is an unofficial compendium setting out, in a single document, the text of S/2017/507 together with all the agreed additions and amendments to it introduced by notes S/2019/990 to 997.

As described in the related articles on each of the new presidential notes, implementation of the provisions of some will be more straightforward and immediately achievable than others.  Those which are likely to prove more challenging are the organizing of joint missions to the field with regional and subregional organizations, and the possibility of sending “mini-missions” composed of fewer than all 15 Council members (S/2019/990); the sharing of chairmanships among all Council members (understood to imply that permanent members should also serve in that capacity) (S/2019/991); and the timely completion of the Council’s Annual Report (S/2019/997).


(This update supplements pages 12-15 of the book.)


[1] See related article on this website.

[2] In addition, six paragraphs in notes S/2019/990-997 reaffirm paragraphs in S/2019/507 in order to set the context for new paragraphs.



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