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Updated on 1 April 2022


Section 5:   Further documentation of procedures


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


(A Compendium combining presidential notes S/2017/507, S/2019/990-997, S/2021/645-648 and S/2021/1074 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. On 21 December 2021, the Council adopted its fifth presidential note on working methods of that year.


These are the subjects of the five 2021 notes:


  • S/2021/645: Creating a register of training opportunities to familiarize newly elected members with the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies


  • S/2021/646: Role of the political coordinators of each Council delegation in securing implementation of the Council’s presidential notes on working methods


  • S/2021/647: 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


  • S/2021/1074: Assuring that the Council can function continuously in accordance with Article 28 of the Charter


The most recent comprehensive presidential note on the Council’s working methods, S/2017/507, comprises 142 operative paragraphs. Taking into account the eight further presidential notes on working methods adopted in 2019,[1] and the five notes adopted in 2021, the total number of operative paragraphs on working methods published in the format of presidential notes is now 168. 


In addition, one of the 2021 presidential notes introduces an amendment to paragraph 142 of 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 prior presidential notes on the Council’s working methods, implementation of the provisions of some of the 2021 presidential notes will be more straightforward, immediately achievable, and measurable 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 will be equally verifiable, in that it invites each month’s Security Council presidency, at its discretion, to take the concrete step of preparing and broadly distributing “written monthly commitments” to implement the working methods set out in presidential notes.


In contrast, presidential note S/2021/646 recognizes that the role of the political coordinator[2] 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”.[3] However, the 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 this note as well, its implementation will need to be evaluated more subjectively.


Along these same lines, presidential note S/2021/1074 also sets out a general principle rather than specific actions for which implementation can be evaluated. This note, “recalling the temporary, extraordinary and provisional measures set out in the various letters by the President of the Security Council during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic,” states that the Security Council “commits itself to maintaining its state of readiness under all circumstances, in an effort to ensure that it can function continuously in accordance with Article 28 of the Charter”. Some members of the IWG reportedly had wanted this presidential note to go farther and set out specific modalities for ensuring continuity of Council functions not only during the successive stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also as a reference for future Council members possibly facing future disruptive events. However, consensus was not reached to do so owing to the position taken by other members that the series of presidential letters issued on nearly a monthly basis since March 2020 represented sufficient codification.[4]


The fact that the Security Council has now agreed thirteen presidential notes in addition to its comprehensive presidential note S/2017/507 and has, through its 2019 and 2021 notes, amended several of the 2017 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, S/2021/645-648, S/2021/1074 and any further notes adopted thereafter.


Pending adoption of a new comprehensive note, attached, for readers’ reference, is a Compendium prepared by this website. The 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 five 2021 notes.​


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


[1] See related article on this website.

[2] S/2021/646 does not use the specific title “political coordinator” so as not to imply that it is required for the delegation of each Council member to appoint an individual in that exact capacity, although since 2000, the position has been institutionalized by virtually all Council members. The term used in S/2021/646 is “those who coordinate the monthly activities of the respective missions on the Council”.

[3] 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.

[4] These letters are posted on the Security Council website.



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