Updated on 30 July 2016
Chapter 2: PLACE AND FORMAT OF COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS
Section 5: Thematic debates
Participation in Security Council thematic open debates
In 2015, the Security Council considered 45 different agenda items, 19 of which were thematic or non-country/region specific items. Relating to these thematic issues, in 2015 the Council convened 14 open debates.
The number of participating UN Member States and other speakers in the 2015 thematic open debates ranged from a low of 46 (“Regional organizations and contemporary challenges of global security” on 18 August) to a high of 113 (“Women and peace and security” on 13 October), with the average participation per meeting being 75 (see attached chart).
The duration of these open debates generally mirrored the number of participants. The shortest of the debates was the 18 August meeting on “Regional organizations and contemporary challenges of global security”, which lasted five hours and 45 minutes. The longest was the 13 October debate on “Women and peace and security”, which lasted 12 hours and 23 minutes. The average duration of the thematic open debates convened in 2015 was eight hours and 30 minutes
The number of participants other than UN Member States – i.e., the UN Secretary-General, other UN officials, and representatives of civil society and of regional organizations – varied from meeting to meeting. At the 13 October open debate on “Women and peace and security”, 101 of the speakers were UN Member States, while the other 12 were the Secretary-General, the Executive Director of UN Women, civil society representatives, and representatives of regional organizations. The open debate on 25 March on “Children and armed conflict” similarly saw a large participation by ten representatives other than UN Member States. The lowest number of non-Member State representatives who addressed a thematic debate in 2015 was three, during the 18 August debate on “Regional organizations and contemporary challenges of global security”.
While some Council members believe that having more briefers provides broader information and perspectives which enhance thematic debates, others feel that their numbers should be limited. In the Council’s July 2016 open debate on working methods, the Russian representative recommended that
"the Council’s workload should be taken into account by Council members when they decide to
convene meetings – especially thematic ones – and as they consider the optimal format for such
meetings and the number of rapporteurs or briefers. At present, we are hearing five briefers in
some meetings. We think there should be no more than three.” (S/PV.7740)
Overall, the high level of participation by non-Council Member States demonstrates the commitment of these States to engaging in the Council’s thematic open debates. While to some extent this is because certain cross-cutting topics are of particular interest to non-Council Member States, it also reflects the fact that most Council meetings on country-specific or regional issues are not open to participation by non-Council States. Consequently, States wishing to address the Council regularly seize upon the only opportunity they have to do so, by participating in thematic open debates. Accordingly, while some Council members may understandably view thematic open debates as absorbing “more time than they are worth” (see report of the 2015 Finnish Workshop (S/2016/506)), it would be well to keep this aspect of open debates in mind. (This update supplements page 155 of the book.)