31 July 2021


Section 5:   Further documentation of procedures


In 2021, under chairmanship of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Informal Working Group on documentation and procedure adopts four presidential notes


[A Compendium combining presidential notes S/2017/507, S/2019/990-997 and S/2021/645-648 is posted as a PDF at the end of this article.]


On 12 July 2021, the Security Council adopted four Notes by the President based on negotiations carried out in the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) under the chairmanship of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


These are the subjects of the four new notes:


  • S/2021/645: A register of training opportunities to familiarize newly elected members with the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies kept by the Secretariat


  • S/2021/646: The role of "those who coordinate the monthly activities of the respective missions on the Council" in securing implementation of the Council’s presidential notes on working methods


  • S/2021/647: The role of the Council President in securing implementation of the Council’s presidential notes on working methods, including through written monthly commitments


  • S/2021/648: Prioritizing multilingualism at all times


The most recent comprehensive presidential note on the Council’s working methods, S/2017/507, comprises 142 operative paragraphs. In 2019, the Council adopted eight additional presidential notes on specific topics,[1] which added a further twelve operative paragraphs. The four presidential notes adopted in 2021, taken together, add four new operative paragraphs. This brings the total of all operative paragraphs on the Council’s working methods published in the format of presidential notes to 158. 


Moreover, one of the 2021 presidential notes introduces an amendment to paragraph 142 in the original S/2017/507 comprehensive presidential note. By that paragraph, the Council had invited the Secretariat to take appropriate measures to familiarize newly elected Council members with the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies, including by providing briefing materials and holding seminars before they begin to attend Council meetings. The 2021 presidential note S/2021/645 expands the support to be offered by the Secretariat to include, to the extent feasible, the keeping of “a register of available training opportunities.”


​As has been the case with the prior presidential notes on the Council’s working methods, implementation of the provisions of some of the 2021 presidential notes will be more straightforward and immediately achievable than others.


Presidential note S/2021/645, by inviting the Secretariat to keep a register of training opportunities, sets out a clear goal, the attainment of which will be readily verifiable. Similarly, presidential note S/2021/647, by inviting each month’s Security Council presidency, at its discretion, to prepare and broadly distribute “written monthly commitments” to implement the working methods set out in presidential notes, will be equally verifiable.


In contrast, presidential note S/2021/646 recognizes that the role of the political coordinator of each Council delegation is critical to securing implementation of the Council’s presidential notes on working methods, but it does not set out any specific responsibilities in this regard. Nor does it set any benchmarks to determine the extent to which the purpose of this note is being achieved. Therefore, implementation of S/2021/646 will need to be evaluated, more subjectively, on the basis as to whether good faith efforts appear to be demonstrated by each delegation’s political coordinator.


Similarly, presidential note S/2021/648 reaffirms the Council’s “commitment to prioritizing multilingualism at all times”. This commitment is undertaken “in an effort to enhance effectiveness, involvement and inclusivity during the Council’s discussions and strengthen the Council’s overall functioning”.[2] However, the presidential note does not enumerate specific areas where multilingualism is to be ensured, such as during informal meetings, in negotiating sessions, or with respect to video-teleconferences (VTCs). Therefore, in the case of note S/2021/648 as well, its implementation will need to be evaluated, more subjectively, on the basis of a sense of good faith efforts being pursued.


The fact that the Security Council has now agreed eighteen additional operative paragraphs to its comprehensive presidential note S/2017/507, and has amended several of that note’s paragraphs, suggests that in the coming few years, the Council is likely to undertake drafting a new comprehensive note which will incorporate the elements introduced by notes S/2019/990-997 and S/2021/645-648.


Pending adoption of a new comprehensive note, attached, for readers’ reference, is a Compendium, prepared by this website. This Compendium sets out, in a single document, the text of S/2017/507 together with all the agreed additions and amendments introduced by the eight 2019 notes and the four 2021 notes.


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


[1] See related article on this website.

[2] This note is partly in response to the fact that during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, when the Security Council was holding both open and closed meetings via VTCs, interpretation was not always available.