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The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition

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Updated on 14 March 2016

Chapter 4:   THE COUNCIL CONVENES

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

 

The Council’s review of its Summary Statement  in 2016

 

The Summary Statement of matters of which the Security Council is seized which was issued on 4 January 2016 (S/2016/10) listed 16 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.  

 

Pursuant to 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 2016.  At the end of that period, an Addendum to the Summary Statement was issued (S/2016/10/Add.10) which indicated that requests from UN Member States had been received with regard to 15 of the items subject to deletion.  Accordingly, these would be retained on the Summary Statement for an additional year. 

 

Twelve of the retained items related to country situations placed on the Council’s agenda during the period 1948 to 1990.  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.”

 

In addition, two more recent country situations were retained on the Summary Statement at the request of UN Member States: 

 

  • The representative of Georgia (S/2016/32) requested the retention of the agenda item, “The situation in Georgia”, which had last been considered by the Council at a formal meeting on 15 June 2009.

     

  • The Council has continued to consider the situation in Myanmar with some frequency in its closed consultations of the whole, most recently on 25 February 2016.  However, since the Council had not taken up “The situation in Myanmar” at a formal meeting since 13 July 2009, the agenda item was subject to deletion in 2016.  It was retained at the request of the United Kingdom (S/2016/113), which is the penholder on the Security Council for that item. 

 

One thematic agenda item, “Briefing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, was subject to deletion in 2016.  The Council last held a formal meeting under this agenda item on 8 January 2009, when it heard a “tour d’horizon” briefing by the High Commissioner.  Since then, the High Commissioner has briefed the Council on a number of occasions, but always in connection with a specific agenda item.  Thus beginning in 2013, the agenda item became subject to deletion.  However, each year a member of the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG) has requested its retention, and Denmark did so in 2016 (S/2016/74).  While deletion of an item from the Summary Statement would pose no legal barrier to the Council’s meeting again under that item, it is sometimes politically easier to convene under an item which is listed on the Summary Statement.  It is possibly for this reason that the WEOG States have continued to request retention of the item, since in earlier years, some Council members took a position that the general situation of refugees fell more appropriately within the mandate of UN bodies other than the Security Council.

 

The only agenda item to be deleted from the Summary Statement in 2016 was “The situation in Timor-Leste”.  This situation had been on the Summary Statement since 15 December 1975, when the Security Council held its first formal meeting concerning Timor in response to a letter from the representative of Portugal (S/11899).  The Portuguese representative asserted that his country was unable to restore peace in the Territory of Portuguese Timor, or to ensure that the decolonization process was accomplished through peaceful and negotiated means, after Indonesia had undertaken an offensive action on 7 December 1975 using naval, air and land forces.  On 22 December 1975, the Security Council adopted its resolution 384 (1975) which both deplored the intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in East Timor, and expressed regret that the Government of Portugal did not discharge fully its responsibilities as Administering Power in the Territory under Chapter XI of the UN Charter.

 

Owing to successive rounds of violence in Timor-Leste, for almost 40 years the situation remained on the Summary Statement until the Council held its last formal meeting in this connection on 19 December 2012.  On that day, the Council adopted a Statement by the President (S/PRST/2012/27) in recognition of the fact that after consultations with the Timorese Government, the Council had decided not to renew the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) upon its expiry on 31 December 2012.  In the presidential statement, the Council commended “the remarkable achievements made by Timor-Leste over the past decade” since it achieved independence in 2002. 

 

In the three-year period following the withdrawal of UNMIT, the situation in Timor-Leste remained calm, and accordingly the Council held no further formal meetings on that country.  Thus the agenda item became subject to deletion in 2016.  Since no UN Member State requested that it be retained, it is now no longer on the Summary Statement

 

It is interesting to note that unlike the situations in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as Timor-Leste transitioned from the phase of active conflict to the post-conflict peacebuilding phase, there was no request by the Security Council that Timor-Leste be placed on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Rather, as observed in the Council’s 19 December 2012 presidential statement, the United Nations would “continue to be an important partner in the new phase of the development of the nation” through the “ongoing engagement of the Secretary-General and United Nations country team in support of the efforts of the Government of Timor-Leste as it seeks to preserve and consolidate its peacebuilding gains and in order to promote sustainable development, the rule of law and the strengthening of human rights institutions, as well as tackle other remaining challenges.”

 

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 2016.  (This update supplements pages 229-233 of the book.)