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The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition

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Updated on 11 April 2015

Chapter 4:   THE COUNCIL CONVENES

Section 3:   Agenda and Summary statement of matters of which the Council is seized

 

Landmark deletions of agenda items from the Summary Statement
 

The Summary Statement of matters of which the Security Council is seized which was issued on 2 January 2015 (S/2015/10) set out a list of 25 agenda items which were subject to deletion, owing to the fact that they had not been considered by the Security Council at a formal meeting during the prior three-year period.  In fact, nineteen of those items dated from the period 1947 to 1990.  However, as noted in the book,

 

“Some Member States, including Pakistan, Cuba, Ukraine, the Sudan, and the Arab Group States, felt strongly

about retaining certain older items on the Summary Statement, even if they had not been actively considered

for some decades.  As explained to the authors, while they accepted that the Council had no plan to take up

the matters at that time, they felt that deleting the items from the Summary Statement would send the wrong

signal that the matters had been satisfactorily resolved, when that was not the case.”

 

As set out in Presidential Note S/2010/507, Member States had a two-month period in which to send written requests for the retention of any of the items subject to deletion in 2015.  At the end of that period, a new Addendum to the Summary Statement was issued (S/2015/10/Add.9) which indicated that ten agenda items had been deleted from the Summary Statement in light of the fact that no requests for their retention had been received during the period ending 28 February 2015.  Among the items thus deleted were five older agenda formulations relating to Palestinian issues (the years given are of the first and most recent formal consideration by the Council of these items):

 

  • The Palestine question (1947, 1966)

  • Arrangements for the proposed Peace Conference on the Middle East (1973, 1973)

  • The Middle East problem, including the Palestinian question (1976, 1985)

  • The situation in the occupied Arab Territories (1976, 1998)

  • The question of the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights (1976, 1980)

 

Although it was believed that for many years it had been the wish of the UN Arab Group as a whole that these items be retained on the Summary Statement, traditionally it was Syria which each year wrote to the Council President requesting their retention (see, for example, S/2014/29).  In each year’s request, it was Syria’s custom to refer to its letter dated 9 February 1998 in which were set out justifications for retaining these items on the Summary Statement.  One argument made was that the items relating to Palestine were “entirely within the jurisdiction of the Security Council”, but that the Council was prevented from considering these matters “because of opposition from the United States” (S/1998/111).

 

Possibly because of preoccupation over its own internal situation, in 2015 Syria did not write its customary letter to the Council President and accordingly, the five older Palestine agenda items were deleted from the Summary Statement. Although General Assembly resolution 67/19 in 2012 accorded to Palestine the status of a ‘non-member observer State’, this status would not have qualified the Observer of Palestine himself to request the retention of these items, as this can be done only by full UN Member States.  In any event, the deletion of the five items in no way impacts on the Security Council’s current consideration of issues related to Palestine, since the agenda item “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”, which has been used by the Council since 2000, and the more general agenda item, “The situation in the Middle East”, in use since 1960, remain on the Summary Statement.

 

In 2015, three other longstanding agenda items were deleted from the Summary Statement, absent the customary request from Syria for their retention:

 

  • Letter dated 4 February 1986 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/17787) (1986, 1986) (relating to alleged Israeli interception in international airspace of a Libyan plane carrying Syrian officials on 4 February 1986)

  • Letter dated 15 April 1986 from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/17993) (1986, 1986) (relating to United States military action on Libyan territory on 15 April 1986)

  • Letter dated 5 October 2003 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2003/939) (2003, 2003) (relating to alleged violations of Syrian and Lebanese airspace and a missile attack on Syrian territory by Israel on 5 October 2003)

 

Concerning the latter two agenda items, other Member States had originally requested that the Security Council take up these matters, but had not later written to the Council requesting their retention.

 

Another agenda item of note which was deleted in 2015 was the “Letter dated 22 November 2006 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2006/920), relating to the situation in Nepal.  This item had been on the Summary Statement since 1 December 2006.  At the Council’s last meeting on that item, held on 14 January 2011, the Council adopted a Presidential Statement recognizing the departure the following day of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and reaffirming the Council’s support for the peace process in Nepal (S/PRST/2011/1).  As this drawdown was approaching, the SRSG for Nepal, Karin Landgren, had noted that according to the Council’s practice, even after the Council's active involvement in the Nepalese situation came to an end, the item would remain on the Council’s agenda for a three-year period.  That period elapsed in 2015.

 

The last item deleted from the Summary Statement in 2015 was the “Letter dated 6 February 2011 from the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2011/58).  This agenda item, relating to armed clashes between Cambodia and Thailand, was considered formally by the Council only once, on 14 February 2011, and no request was received to retain it.

 

Through the process for streamlining the Summary Statement agreed by the Council from 1993 through 2010, the number of items on the Summary Statement has been reduced from 207 items in 1993 to sixty-eight items in 2015.  (This update supplements pages 229-233 of the book.)