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Updated on 26 August 2015


Section 11:   ‘Arria-formula’ meetings and ‘Somavía-formula’ meetings


No quorum necessary for “Arria-formula” meetings

On 19 March 2015, Lithuania hosted an “Arria-formula" meeting on the human rights situation, media freedom and situation of the national minorities in Ukraine.  The meeting was addressed by Mustafa Dzhemilev, Presidential Commissioner on Crimean Tatar Affairs and member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and Andrey Zubarev, representative of the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights.  As is sometimes the case, this “Arria-formula” meeting was open to all UN Member States.


The 19 March “Arria-formula” meeting was attended by eleven of the fifteen Security Council members.  Angola, China, the Russian Federation and Venezuela did not attend.  This was the largest number of Council members ever to refrain from participating in an “Arria-formula” meeting, and this in turn raised for observers the question as to whether there is a threshold number of Council members who need to attend in order for a meeting to be considered an “Arria-formula” meeting.


In 2006, the Security Council Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) was tasked by the Council with bringing some clarity to the holding of “Arria-formula” meetings.  (“Arria-formula” meetings were referred to only briefly in the comprehensive Note by the President on Council working methods of that same year (S/2006/507) because “Arria-formula” meetings do not constitute an official activity of the Security Council.)  In response to the Council’s request, the IWG reached a “common understanding” on the conduct of “Arria-formula” meetings, which the Chair presented orally at a Council meeting on 20 December 2006 (S/PV.5601).  With the concurrence of all Council members, the “common understanding” was included in the 2006 Security Council Handbook and the subsequent 2010 Handbook, together with a Background Note on “Arria-formula” meetings prepared by the Secretariat.  (The Security Council Handbook was first published by the Government of Japan, and then as a UN Sales Publication (ISBN 978-92-1-37035-5).)


The Background Note on “Arria-formula” meetings includes this point:


“Such informal gatherings do not constitute an activity of the Council and are convened at the initiative

of a member or members of the Council.  Participation in such meetings is for individual members to

decide upon and there have been instances when some members chose not to attend.”


Therefore, a very minimal number of Council members might attend an informal meeting, and it would still be considered an “Arria-formula” meeting if the organizer(s) chose to label it as such.


The decision of China, the Russian Federation and Venezuela not to participate in the 19 March 2015 “Arria-formula” meeting was not unexpected.  The decision by Angola not to attend had not been as widely anticipated.  However, Angola’s ambivalence over the situation in Ukraine had possibly been signaled during a Council meeting the previous month. On 17 February, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2202 (2015), by which it called upon the parties to fully implement the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” of 12 February 2015.  At the adoption meeting, all Council members took the floor to make a statement after the vote except for Angola (S/PV.7384). 


Again on 19 June 2015, an “Arria-formula” meeting was attended by only eleven of the fifteen Security Council members.  The “Arria-formula” meeting, hosted by the United States, was on the human rights situation in Darfur.  Chad, China, the Russian Federation and Venezuela did not participate.  The absence of those four Council members may be attributable to their view that the consideration of the human rights situation in the Sudan has focused almost exclusively on the Government, whereas armed rebel groups have committed significant human rights violations.  Chad, China, the Russian Federation and Venezuela also are thought to believe that other, more appropriate, UN forums exist for considering human rights issues.  Moreover, these four Council members have expressed the view that the way forward in Darfur lies through the Doha peace process and the efforts of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, and in this connection have underscored the lack of constructive participation by rebel groups.


The absence of the four Council members may also reflect reservations concerning the indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in connection with the situation in Darfur.  Chad, an ICC State Party, has expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation in Darfur, but in line with a 2014 decision by the African Union, Chad holds that President al-Bashir, as a sitting Head of State, has immunity from ICC prosecution.  Despite the obligation of States Parties of the ICC to arrest President al-Bashir, he has traveled to Chad on five occasions, most recently in March 2014 when Chad hosted the second forum on peace and security in Darfur, with some tribal and opposition leaders also in attendance.  China and Venezuela similarly have taken a stance that sitting heads of State cannot be prosecuted by the ICC.  The Russian Federation has affirmed that the actions of the ICC “in implementing its mandate in the Darfur investigation should not be carried out independent of general efforts to normalize the situation in the long-suffering province.”  Further, the Russian Federation has stated that it does not favor the Security Council taking follow-up action in support of the ICC indictments in connection with Darfur (S/PV.7337).  


All 15 Council members attended the three subsequent “Arria-formula” meetings, the topics of which were:  1) the use of weapons against civilians in Syria on 26 June, 2) climate change as a threat multiplier for global security on 30 June, and 3) Gaza one year after Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”.  Then on 24 August 2015, Angola and Chad did not attend an "Arria-formula" meeting held on "Vulnerable groups in conflict:  ISIL’s targeting of LGBT Individuals".


(This update supplements pages 74 to 92 of the book.)


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