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Updated on 30 July 2016


Section 7:   Wrap-up meetings


Toledo initiatives” are diversifying Security Council dynamics


At the open debate on Council working methods convened on 19 July 2016,[6] a number of speakers referred to the “Toledo initiatives” promoted by Spain with regard to several aspects of the Council’s work.  Such initiatives have been called “Toledo” by some because they exemplify the spirit of the Spanish city of Toledo, which is renowned for the peaceful coexistence and cooperative relations there between Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities during the Middle Ages.  Accordingly, “Toledo initiatives” are collaborative efforts towards a common goal by Council members representing different regions, cultures and/or political orientations.  While joint initiatives of various types have been undertaken in the past, in recent years the Spanish delegation and other elected members have given added impetus to expanding the use and scope of such measures.


The best known of these initiatives are the Toledo wrap-up briefings which have been held at the end of almost all Security Council presidencies since Spain introduced this format at the conclusion of its presidency in October 2015.  Unlike the more traditional formal wrap-up meetings, Toledo wrap-up briefings are informal interactive discussions which normally are led by the outgoing Council President together with one or more other permanent representatives.  As explained by a representative of Spain, these Toledo wrap-ups are more than “a mere recapitulation of the work of the Council over a given month”.  Instead, a group of permanent representatives “respond to questions and comments from the membership about what has and has not been achieved during the month”.[6]  The representative of the United Kingdom has noted that such Toledo wrap-ups have the same benefit as formal wrap-up meetings in terms of transparency, “but they have the added benefit of allowing interactivity and allowing all General Assembly colleagues to ask us questions.[3]


The representative of Italy has observed that the attendance and interaction achieved at Toledo briefings “are a sign of their popularity and usefulness to non-Council members.”[6]  The representative of the United Kingdom similarly has contrasted the sparse attendance at formal public wrap-up meetings with the fact that at one recent Toledo briefing, “the vast majority of the 193 members” were present, “many at the Permanent-Representative level.[4]  However, the representative of Malaysia has cautioned against completely replacing formal wrap-up meetings by Toledo briefings, because public wrap-ups “provide an important platform for delegations to place on record their impressions and reflections on the Security Council’s work.[4]  In this regard, the representative of Switzerland, in his capacity as Coordinator of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT), affirmed that “practice has shown that formal public wrap-ups and informal briefings do not replace each other and, on the contrary, may be mutually reinforcing.[6]


A second type of “Toledo initiative” is statements delivered by a State on behalf of itself and one or more other States.  In formal Council meetings, Toledo statements have commonly grouped together either several Council members, or several non-Council Member States.  But at the open debate on working methods convened by Spain on 20 October 2015,[2] a permanent member of the Council, France, delivered a joint statement on behalf of itself and a non-Council State, Germany.  At the same meeting, a joint statement on behalf of six Council members from five regional groups – Angola, Chile, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Spain – was delivered by Angola; Kuwait spoke for the Arab Group; and Sierra Leone spoke on behalf of the Africa Group.  At the meeting on peacebuilding held on 23 February 2016, the Egyptian representative delivered a joint statement on behalf of the delegations of Egypt, Spain and Ukraine. Moreover, joint Toledo statements have been made not only at public meetings, but also during closed consultations of the whole. 


A representative of Spain has explained that the goal of joint Toledo statements is “not just to achieve more flexibility and effectiveness but, above all, greater clarity and strength in the positions.”[6]  However, some qualifications have been voiced concerning such joint statements.  At the July 2016 open debate, the Russian representative welcomed “the statement on the Toledo formula, delivered by the representative of Egypt on behalf of the African delegations”.  But he also seemed to imply that this means of streamlining the Council’s work should not be employed only by some Council members while other like-minded States continue to give redundant individual statements, when he declared: 


“We also call on our European colleagues to add this innovation to their toolkits. For instance, some

could associate themselves with the statements of the United States delegation.”


At the same debate, the representative of Chile introduced a note of caution with respect to joint statements when he affirmed:


“Procedural economy should not be at the expense of diversity.  Accordingly, we recommend that joint statements of members of the Council be issued with caution.  Collective formats should not replace the individual role of the elected members, whose opinions provide necessary perspectives that are often

left out of group declarations, thereby hindering inclusive decision-making.”


A third type of “Toledo initiative” is the drafting by several Council members of outcome documents of the Council, such as resolutions, statements by the President, and press statements.  A noteworthy example of such an initiative was the drafting of resolution 2286 (2016), adopted on 3 May 2016, which was the Council’s first ever resolution dedicated to the protection of medical personnel and facilities.  Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and Uruguay worked together on the draft as co-penholders, in what the Egyptian representative described as


“perhaps the first time that five elected Member States of the Council participated in a collective effort to

draft a resolution while leading and coordinating consultations in an open, transparent and all-inclusive

manner, with all Council members taking part in order to achieve its unanimous adoption.”


Moreover, during the drafting process, the five co-penholders conducted extensive consultations with “all relevant stakeholders”, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.[5]  At the resolution’s adoption meeting, the representative of Venezuela highlighted “the particular degree of transparency with which the negotiations were held, which is an excellent example of the way in which we should work.”[5]  At the July 2016 open debate, a Spanish representative noted generally that teamwork in the drafting of Council outcome documents “could benefit from the varied composition of the whole Council by generating greater collaboration among the various members, thereby creating bridges over divisions.”  At the same meeting, the Egyptian representative asserted that the joint drafting of resolution 2286 (2016) “indeed demonstrated the benefits of collective work in enhancing the credibility of Council’s decisions.”[6]


While most of the joint drafting of outcome documents has been the work either of a group of elected members or a group of permanent members, some collaboratively produced drafts have involved members of both categories of Council membership.  The United Kingdom, as penholder on issues of women and peace and security, produced the draft for resolution 2242 (2015) in cooperation with Spain, which as Council President for October 2015 had convened an open debate on that agenda item (see related article on this website).  In the same capacity, the United Kingdom jointly drafted with Angola the presidential statement S/2016/9 on the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa, a topic on which Angola had convened an open debate during its Council Presidency of March 2016.


Other cross-regional efforts on the Council have included:

  • Open debates, such as the 25 April 2016 debate on “Peace consolidation in West Africa:  Piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea”, which was co-sponsored during the Chinese Council presidency also by Angola and Senegal; 
  • Jointly-convened “Arria-formula” meetings, such as the one hosted on 6 May 2016 by five Council members from three different regional groups – Angola, Egypt, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela – on the “Protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”; and 
  • Security Council missions to the field co-led by two countries representing different regions. 


Moreover, it has been suggested that the leadership of the Council’s subsidiary bodies could be strengthened through greater engagement by the Vice Chairs, which are usually from a different region than the Chair.


While “Toledo initiatives” are a relatively recent development, they build on the tradition of “Groups of Friends” or “contact groups”, that is, small groups of UN Member States, constituted with varying degrees of formality, which play an organized role in trying to resolve a particular situation or achieve advances on thematic issues (see pages 148-150 of the book).  


Groups of Friends organized around a specific conflict situation have tended to have a fixed membership and to be comprised of countries from the same regional group.  But in recent years, new and less formal coalitions, which have often been cross-regional, have begun to coalesce in the Security Council with regard to certain situations on the Council’s agenda.  In 2013, Council members Australia and Luxembourg took up the goal of achieving agreement among all Council members on humanitarian access in Syria at a time when divisions among the permanent members impeded adoption of resolutions on the wider situation in that country.  The efforts of Australia and Luxembourg resulted in the adoption of presidential statement S/PRST/2013/15 on humanitarian access.  The following year, in 2014, Jordan joined the Council and began working with Australia and Luxembourg.  The three Council members jointly drafted the breakthrough resolution 2139 (2014) on humanitarian access which gained the co-sponsorship of all 15 Council members and was unanimously adopted.


In assessing the value of Toledo initiatives, Spain has affirmed that they enhance efficiency, transparency and bridge-building.  In the view of Spain, Council initiatives are more effective when supported by several Member States.  And combining proposals into a single draft, or remarks into a single joint statement, avoids duplication.  Spain also believes that bringing together different perspectives helps foster a more collaborative working culture within the Council, and between the Council and non-Council Member States.


Toledo initiatives have most often been advanced by elected Council members, and it is evident that such joint undertakings have enlarged the impact of those States on the Council, and given them a stronger voice.  Joint initiatives of this nature have also opened the field, at least to a degree, for more diverse penholding on the Council.  The representative of Australia, speaking of the determination of his country, together with Jordan and Luxembourg, “to find a way through the political gridlock of the permanent five members” regarding the situation in Syria, suggested that their efforts to draft a resolution on humanitarian access had not merely been acquiesced to by the P-5, but actually welcomed.  In his view, “We succeeded certainly because we were determined, but fundamentally also because the P-5 needed us to succeed. There is a lesson for elected members in that.”[1]


Clearly not all situations on the Council’s agenda lend themselves to a joint approach.  Care must be exercised to ensure that joint initiatives do not lead to a lowest common denominator or obscure some Council members’ strong positions on certain issues which should be taken into account.  Moreover, reaching consensus among several States on shared positions can be time-consuming, and so joint initiatives are not always suitable when quick results are called for.


Overall, Toledo-style initiatives have improved the image of the Security Council by countering, to some extent, the widely-held perception that decision-making on the Council is under the exclusive control of a small group of permanent members.  Joint initiatives have also enhanced the credibility of the Council by creating at least a few instances when Council members have joined cooperatively across regional and other affiliations at a time when several highly divisive situations are on the Council’s agenda.


[1]  S/PV.7352 of 22 December 2014.

[2]  S/PV.7539 of 20 October 2015.

[3]  S/PV.7616 of 29 January 2016.

[4]  S/PV.7633 of 26 February 2016.

[5]  S/PV/7685 of 3 May 2016.

[6]  S/PV.7740 of 19 July 2016.



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