2 February 2023
Chapter 2: PLACE AND FORMAT OF COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS
Section 12: Informal Interactive Dialogues
Resolution renewing Syria humanitarian border crossing point puts spotlight on “Informal Interactive Dialogue” meeting format
On 12 July 2022, the Security Council adopted resolution 2642 (2022), which renewed for six months the authorization to UN humanitarian agencies, and their implementing partners, to use the border crossing of Bab al-Hawa to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need throughout Syria.
Resolution 2642 (2022), drafted by co-penholders Ireland and Norway, states in its paragraph 6 that the Security Council
“Encourages the convening of a Security Council Informal Interactive Dialogue every two months with participation of donors, interested regional parties and representatives of the international humanitarian agencies operating in Syria in order to regularly review and follow-up on the implementation of this resolution, including progress in early-recovery projects”.
Informal Interactive Dialogues (IIDs) had as forerunners three informal meetings held in 1996, 2000 and 2006. From 2007 forward, IIDs have occurred every year. At first variable names were used, such as “Informal Private Discussion”, “Informal Dialogue” and “Informal Interactive Discussion”. Then, after consideration in 2010 by the Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG), the Council decided that as of 2011 it would systematically use the term “Informal Interactive Dialogue”.
Informal Interactive Dialogues have sometimes been described as “Consultations, with outsiders”. As mentioned in the book (page 72), over the years some Member States, including occasionally Council members themselves, have felt it improper that the Security Council meets in closed consultations without the presence of an affected State when sensitive matters concerning that State are being discussed. As well, with the exception of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Council’s practice has long been that only UN officials directly answerable to the Secretary-General can participate as briefers in closed consultations.
Informal Interactive Dialogues, as they have evolved over time, enable the Council to fill these gaps by including in the Council’s discussions the affected state, as well as a wider range of briefers, while otherwise retaining the salient features of closed consultations. The attributes of both of these meeting formats are that: 1) they are Council proceedings presided over by the Council president; 2) they occur in a meeting room other than the Council Chamber (in the case of IIDs, a conference room); 3) no official records are kept; and 4) other than the affected state(s), no non-Council members are able to attend as observers.
At the adoption meeting for resolution 2642 (2022), only two Council members – China and the Russian Federation – referred to the resolution’s provision on convening an IID every two months:
The Chinese representative stated that, “The bimonthly informal interactive dialogues are also conducive to concrete follow-ups on the resolution.”
The Russian representative stated that “Through the opportunities offered by the informal interactive dialogues within the Security Council, we will continue to monitor progress in implementing the resolution that we adopted today so as to decide on the ultimate fate of the cross-border mechanism.”
The representative of Syria, the only non-Council Member State which participated in the meeting, said “We look forward to the convening of the informal interactive dialogue meetings referred to in the resolution, which would represent a platform for reviewing and following up on its implementation.”
Instead of IIDs, an earlier Russian draft resolution had proposed, as a vehicle for review and follow-up, the mechanism of a special working group. Members of the working group were to be the same as those now referred to as participating in the IIDs – donors, interested regional parties and representatives of the international humanitarian agencies operating in Syria – except that the Russian proposal referred to “concerned” Council members, raising the possibility that on the Council side, not all members would participate.
This earlier Russian draft was never brought to a vote. Rather, the Russian draft which was voted upon (S/2022/541) on 8 July but failed to receive sufficient votes included a provision on IIDs identical to paragraph 6 of resolution 2642 (2022). A draft by Ireland and Norway (S/2022/538) which was vetoed by the Russian Federation, also on 8 July, contained an identical paragraph. This suggests that compromise was reached during the negotiating process to substitute IIDs for the proposed working group, thus ensuring that all Council members would participate in the bimonthly review process.
During the adoption meeting, the Russian representative was not explicit as to what his government expected to achieve through the IID review format with a wider scope of participants, as different from a review by the Security Council itself, as had been the past practice since the first border crossing points were endorsed by the Council in 2014. However, he suggested something of his government’s reasoning when he stated that
“We are convinced that only through candid and substantive dialogue on the issues in the Syrian humanitarian track while involving all interested parties will we be able, in six months’ time, to come up with a well-considered decision. The special reports of the Secretary-General, unfortunately, as shown by experience, are not sufficient for that purpose.”
His next remarks implied that in the Russian view, what received inadequate coverage in the Secretary-General’s special reports were a) cross-line deliveries and b) unilateral sanctions against Syria. He stated:
“We all now need to work on many important areas, including increasing cross-line deliveries in all regions of Syria. We call also upon the Secretary-General to pay special attention to the need to lift unilateral sanctions in the context of the consequences of the coronavirus disease pandemic, which has not yet been overcome. We must work actively to ensure that that issue is resolved in Syria, which will increase opportunities for donors to fund early-recovery projects in that Arab country. We will closely monitor the achievement of all those goals as well and expect that by January 2023 the Secretary-General will have provided the Council with exhaustive information on the work done.”
These comments suggest that for the IIDs, the Russian Federation is likely to raise at the meeting the specific issues of
a) cross-line deliveries and b) unilateral sanctions. It remains to be seen whether in six months’ time, the Russian Federation will condition a renewal of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing upon an increase of the one, and a decrease of the other. However, the Russian representative did make a connection between review itself and further renewal when he stated, as noted above, that “we will continue to monitor progress in implementing the resolution that we adopted today so as to decide on the ultimate fate of the cross-border mechanism.” (our emphasis)
It should be noted that resolution 2642 (2022) does not decide that there will be bimonthly Informal Interactive Dialogues, but merely encourages that these be convened. Nonetheless, as this provision appears to have been part of the compromise allowing the resolution to be adopted, these IIDs are expected to go forward every two months. This will mean that the first should take place in September, and the second in November. While the third IID would normally take place in January, with the expiry of resolution 2642 (2022) on 10 January 2023 fast approaching by that time, and given that the Council normally takes a two-week break around the Christmas holidays, it is possible that the third IID could be moved forward to December.
This Chart shows Informal Interactive Dialogues from the precursors of 1996, 2000 and 2006, through the IIDs taking place from 2007 to the present.
(This update supplements pages 92-94 of the book.)
 See pages 76-88 in the first edition of the 2017 Handbook on the Working Methods of the Security Council, published by the Government of Japan after approval by members of the IWG.
 See the book, pages 92-94.
 Official private Council meetings can appear to be similar to IIDs, but private meetings differ on three of the above four points in that official private meetings do occur in the Council Chamber (except for TCC/PCC private meetings); official records are kept; and non-Council members, if invited by the Council, can attend as observers.
 The draft received two votes in favour, falling short of the nine affirmative votes required for adoption by Charter Article 27(3). Three Council members (France, United Kingdom, United States) cast negative votes, and ten members abstained.