Updated on 19 March 2018
Chapter 4: THE COUNCIL CONVENES
Section 3: Agenda and Summary Statement of matters of which the Security Council is seized
The Security Council’s review of its Summary Statement in 2018
Rule 11 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure provides that “The Secretary-General shall communicate each week to the representatives on the Security Council a summary statement of matters of which the Security Council is seized and of the stage reached in their consideration.” In 1946, the Chairman of the Council’s Committee of Experts concurred that the expression “matters of which the Security Council is seized” meant “matters which have been on the agenda of previous meetings and have not been ﬁnally disposed of”. Thus in some respects, the Summary Statement functions as the equivalent of the Council's "agenda" of the all the items before it (although the Council is not limited to taking up only those matters which appear on the Summary Statement, but rather can add new matters at any time).
The first Summary Statement issued in January 2018 (S/2018/10) listed 16 agenda items which were subject to deletion because they had not been considered at a formal Council meeting during the prior three-year period. Pursuant to presidential note S/2017/507, UN Member States had a two-month period in which to send written requests for the retention of any of those items.
After the deadline, an Addendum to the Summary Statement (S/2018/10/Add.9) was issued which indicated that requests from Member States were received with regard to 15 of the 16 items subject to deletion. Accordingly, those 15 items have been retained on the Summary Statement for an additional year.
Twelve of the items which have been retained in 2018 relate to country situations which have not been considered by the Council at a formal meeting since 1949, 1958, 1961, 1965, 1971, 1973, 1985, 1988, 1990 and 1991, respectively. As noted in the book,
“Some Member States, including Pakistan, Cuba, 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 2018, two more contemporary country situations were retained at the request of UN Member States:
The representative of Georgia (S/2018/21) requested the retention of the agenda item, “The situation in Georgia”, which was last considered by the Council at a formal meeting on 15 June 2009.
“The situation between Iraq and Kuwait” has been on the Summary Statement since 2 August 1990. The last formal meeting convened explicitly under that agenda item was held on 27 June 2013. Since then, as decided in resolution 2107 (2013), the issues of “missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property” stemming from Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait have become the responsibility of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). As requested by resolution 2107 (2013), the Secretary-General thereafter has submitted both his report on “the situation concerning Iraq”, and his report on “missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property” in the same time frame. These two reports have then been considered by the Council at a single formal meeting, convened under the agenda item, “The situation in Iraq”. Because “The situation between Iraq and Kuwait” has not been used for the formal meetings at which the related report has been considered since 2013, the item was subject to deletion. Its retention was requested by Kuwait (S/2018/26).
In addition, one thematic item has been retained on the Summary Statement for a further year: “The promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security”. The Council last held a formal meeting on this item on 21 February 2014, when it convened to consider a report of the Secretary-General (S/2013/341). The presidential statement adopted at that meeting (S/PRST/2014/5) did not provide for follow-up by the Council at a specified interval, nor did it request a new report. The Council did not meet on the agenda item from 2015 to 2017, and consequently it became subject to deletion in 2018. Its retention on the Summary Statement was requested by the Netherlands.
The only agenda item to be deleted from the Summary Statement in 2018 was “The situation in Sierra Leone”. This situation had been on the Summary Statement since 27 November 1995, when the Security Council held its first formal meeting under this item to consider a report by the Secretary-General (S/1995/975). War, with broad regional ramifications, had broken out in Sierra Leone in 1991. In 1994, at the request of the Sierra Leone Government, the Secretary-General exercised his good offices to try to bring the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to negotiations. In the following years, the Security Council’s engagement included establishing the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL, 1998); the UN Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL, 1999); the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL, 2005); and the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL, 2008). From 1997 to 2010, the Security Council also maintained a related sanctions committee, which was one of the first UN bodies to address the issue of “conflict diamonds”. In addition, in 2000, the Council requested the Secretary-General to negotiate the agreement which led to the establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Moreover, Sierra Leone was placed on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission as a result of a 2007 request made by the Security Council President, who had been asked to take this initiative by the Sierra Leone Government (PBC/1/OC/2). The last meeting of the Security Council on Sierra Leone took place on 26 March 2014, in connection with the completion on 31 March 2014 by UNIPSIL of its mandate and the transfer of its responsibilities to the UN Country Team. At that last meeting, the Council adopted S/PRST/2014/6, commending “the remarkable achievements made by Sierra Leone over the past decade”. No formal meetings on Sierra Leone having occurred since 2014, the agenda item became subject to deletion in 2018, and no UN Member State requested its retention.
Two additional changes have been reflected in the 2018 Summary Statement:
As detailed in a related article on this website, on 2 February 2018 the Security Council decided to subsume the dual agenda items for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) under a single, new agenda item entitled “International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals”. This decision reduced the number of agenda items on the Summary Statement by one.
In March 2018, a new agenda item, “Letter dated 13 March 2018 from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2018/218)”, was automatically added to the Summary Statement after the Council held a meeting on that matter on 14 March 2018. The United Kingdom letter transmitted a communication from the Prime Minister in which she stated, in connection with the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, that “the British Government believes that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation was responsible for this attack.”
As described in the book, in 1993 the Security Council initiated a process for streamlining the Summary Statement. After considerable evolution, this process was finalized in the 2010 presidential note on working methods (S/2010/507) and was reconfirmed in the 2017 presidential note (S/2017/507). As a result of the process, the number of entries on the Summary Statement has been reduced from 207 agenda items in 1993 to 68 items in 2018.
(This update supplements pages 229-233 of the book.)