Updated on 25 June 2017
Chapter 2: PLACE AND FORMAT OF COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS
Section 7: Wrap-up meetings
Ukraine presidency solicits wider inputs for public wrap-up meeting in February 2017
Early in Ukraine’s February 2017 presidency, its Permanent Representative initiated a new approach to the Council’s end-of-presidency wrap-up meetings. In a letter dated 9 February, he invited UN Member States and Permanent Observers “to communicate to the Presidency, if they so wish, suggestions regarding issues concerning the work of the Security Council … to be proposed for consideration of the Council members” at the wrap-up scheduled for 28 February. The Permanent Representative explained that the presidency was undertaking this initiative so as “to uphold further transparency, accountability and inclusiveness” in the Council’s work. (These goals were among Ukraine’s stated priorities when it campaigned for a Council seat.)
By using the words “suggestions” and “proposed for consideration”, it is evident that the Ukrainian presidency sought to draft its invitation is such a way as to preserve the full prerogative of each Council member to decide what topics it would address at the wrap-up. This paved the way for the draft letter to be agreed by all Council members, through a no-objection procedure, prior to being sent out.
It was notable that at the wrap-up, which was convened as a formal public meeting (S/PV.7892), attendance in the Council Chamber was greater than has usually been the case at formal wrap-ups. This can mainly be explained by a sense of “buy-in” among the wider UN membership, as well as curiosity as to how the new initiative would play out in actuality.
Opening the meeting, the President stated that in response to his letter, suggestions had been received from various regions of the world, and relating both to substantive agenda items and to the Council’s working methods. He explained that his delegation had compiled the suggestions into an informal list, which had been brought to the Council members’ attention.
In statements made during the meeting, the representatives of Japan, Italy and Sweden welcomed the inclusive procedure introduced by the presidency in organizing the wrap-up. In addition, the representatives of Uruguay, and of Ukraine itself, each noted that certain of their remarks were in response to questions submitted, including with respect to the Council’s subsidiary bodies. Ukraine emphasized this latter point in its subsequent assessment of its presidency (S/2017/390), which stated that at the wrap-up, some Chairs responded to questions raised by non-Council members regarding “recent work and expected products of the subsidiary bodies”.
In his national statement at the close of the wrap-up, the Ukrainian representative affirmed that it would be mistaken to judge that the Council’s infrequent convening of formal meetings on its working methods implied that there was a lack of interest on this issue. He testified that, to the contrary, there was “acute interest” on the part of the UN membership, as was “very much apparent in the corridors” adjacent to the Council Chamber. For this reason, his delegation had seen “real added value in endeavouring to improve the format of the preparations for such meetings”. He noted that future presidencies would decide if they wished “to continue and build” on the practice of seeking inputs from non-Council members to shape wrap-up discussions.
Wrap-ups convened as formal public meetings had been in abeyance from April 2005 until July 2014, when Rwanda revived the practice at the end of its presidency. Thereafter, while wrap-ups are still periodically convened as formal meetings, in recent years more wrap-ups have been organized as informal “Toledo-style” meetings (see related article on this website). These are held, not in the Council Chamber, but in a conference room, and are completely off-record. Such informal wrap-ups allow for a greater degree of interactivity between Council and non-Council representatives, since questions can be asked from the floor.
Some Council members have expressed a preference for informal wrap-ups on grounds that they attract a significantly larger attendance. That is ascribable, at least in part, to the fact that under the “Toledo” format, any UN Member State wishing to hear the wrap-up discussion must do so in person, since the normal avenues for following Council proceedings – live and archived webcasts, verbatim records (PVs), and press summaries – are in this case not available. It is conceivable that an equal, or even larger, number of representatives follow formal wrap-ups through the various forms of meeting coverage, but this is impossible to know.
Malaysia, a supporter of public wrap-ups, pointed out while on the Council that this format provides “an important platform for delegations to place on record their impressions and reflections on the Security Council’s work” (S/PV.7633). This point was also made during the November 2016 Finnish Workshop (S/2017/468, p. 26). One other advantage of formal wrap-ups is that normally all 15 Council members make statements, whereas at informal wrap-ups, usually only a few Council members take the floor.
In any event, it remains to be seen whether Ukraine’s innovation of seeking inputs from non-Council members has the potential to revitalize the format of formal wrap-up meetings. As evidenced by the fact that the Ukrainian representative’s letter was agreed through a no-objection procedure, no Council member strongly opposes this approach. Nonetheless, as of June 2017, the four subsequent presidencies – two of permanent members and two of elected members – have opted to convene informal wrap-ups, rather than build on Ukraine’s initiative for bringing greater interactivity to formal wrap-up meetings.
(This update supplements pages 52 to 56 of the book.)