5 August 2021

Chapter 4:   THE COUNCIL CONVENES

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

 

Use of the ‘umbrella’ item ‘Maintenance of international peace and security’ for thematic debates

 

On 25 June 2007, under the presidency of Belgium, the Security Council met for the first time under a new agenda item, ‘Maintenance of international peace and security’, to take up the issue of natural resources and conflict.

 

The use of the new agenda item was in response to a problematic trend:  As the Security Council began increasingly to take up thematic issues at official meetings, specific agenda items adopted for each topic began proliferating on the Summary statement of matters of which the Security Council is seized (considered to be the Council’s ‘Agenda’).  In many cases, the agenda items adopted related to a thematic issue for which no subsequent official meeting was held, and yet the item remained on the Summary statement until it reached the time limit for deletion.

 

In order to keep the Summary statement as streamlined as possible, the informal understanding reached by Council members in 2007 was that thereafter, specific agenda items would be retained for thematic issues which were taken up most regularly at formal meetings, and that other thematic meetings would generally be convened under the ‘umbrella’ agenda item, ‘Maintenance of international peace and security’ so as not to create a new agenda item in each instance.

 

At present, the thematic areas under which the Council meets with some regularity are the following (as numbered on the 2021 Summary Statement):

 

5. United Nations peacekeeping operations

18. Children and armed conflict

20. Protection of civilians in armed conflict

21. Small arms

23. Women and peace and security

28. Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts

31. The promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security

35. Peacebuilding and sustaining peace

44. Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security

45. Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council[1]

 

Since the agenda item 'Maintenance of international peace and security' was established, the Council has taken up a wide range of additional thematic topics as sub-items to it.  Given that the formulations for sub-items relating to similar topics have nonetheless varied considerably, this is a list of general categories:

 

  • Charter of the United Nations

  • Chemical weapons

  • Climate and security

  • Conflict prevention

  • Contemporary challenges

  • Corruption and crime

  • Culture

  • Cybersecurity

  • Development

  • Food insecurity

  • Human rights

  • Human trafficking

  • International law

  • Maritime and waterway issues

  • Mediation and settlement of disputes

  • Mine action

  • Natural resources

  • Non-proliferation[2]

  • Pandemics

  • Peace operations

  • Regional matters

  • Security sector reform[3]

  • Specific conflict situations

  • War

  • Youth

Here is a comprehensive table setting out, within these categories, the specific topics which have been considered under 'Maintenance of international peace and security', together with related documents.  As will be seen, although ‘Maintenance of international peace and security’ was intended for thematic debates, occasionally it has been used for country- or region-specific matters as well.  For example, it was the agenda item under which a few meetings have been held on the Middle East (see, for example S/PV.8600), Europe (S/PV.7886) and the Great Lakes region (S/PV.7653).S

 

 

 

 

Several options have developed for how thematic items are taken up under ‘Maintenance of international peace and security’.  This 'umbrella' item is technically the only part of the provisional agenda which is adopted, but as part of the proposed agenda, usually one or more sub-items will also be indicated.  Most commonly, these sub-items will be a) a description of the specific topic to be discussed, and b) a concept note prepared for the discussion by the Council presidency convening the meeting.  Additionally, a relevant report by the Secretary-General is sometimes listed as a sub-item.  However, there have been occasions when 'Maintenance of international peace and security' has been the sole element of the proposed agenda, with no sub-item indicated . 

Overall, the use of ‘Maintenance of international peace and security’ has served its intended purpose of keeping the Summary statement streamlined and no longer clogged with specific agenda items used for infrequent thematic debates.  However, this practice does have the downside that it can be difficult to research all the thematic topics which have been considered by the Council at formal meetings, or to determine what sub-item formulations have been used for similar topics over time.

This chart shows the increase during this decade in the number of meetings held on thematic topics under the agenda item "Maintenance of int'l peace & security". This increase partly reflects the wish of Council members, particularly the elected members, to hold what has become known as "signature events" during their Council presidencies so as to leave legacies.  It also reflects the fact that the permanent members, originally skeptical of the value of thematic debates, have themselves more recently become more active in convening them during their presidencies.

 

 

 

(This update supplements pages 47 and 219 of the book.)

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[1] Used for the Council’s annual working methods debates and meetings where a specific working method issue is considered.

[2] Also listed on the Summary statement are the specific agenda items, “Non-proliferation” (relating to Iran), “Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, “Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, and “Small arms”.

[3] In the past, security sector reform has also been taken up by the Security Council under a main agenda item, “Maintenance of international peace and security: role of the Security Council in supporting security sector reform”, an agenda item that is no longer on the Summary statement.