The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition is available at Oxford University Press in the UK and USA. 

The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition

ISBN: 978-0-19-968529-5

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Updated on 5 July 2015

Chapter 5:   CONDUCT OF MEETINGS AND PARTICIPATION

Section 1:   States invited to participate in Council proceedings

 

Letters sent in lieu of speaking at Council meetings

 

On 18 June 2015, a letter was addressed to the Security Council President by representatives of the eleven Member States comprising “the informal group of like-minded States on targeted sanctions” (S/2015/459).  These States are Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.  The letter expressed concern “regarding the short-term risk of a gap in the occupation of the Office of the Ombudsperson in the Al-Qaida sanctions regime”.  

 

The letter noted that pursuant to Rule 37 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, the group had requested to speak at the 16 June Council meeting at which the Chairs of the Council’s three counter-terrorism committees gave their joint briefings, but that their request was not granted (S/PV.7463).  This, the letter observed, was “contrary to previous occasions”.  According to the Council’s official records, in fact a representative of the group has been invited, at his or her request, to speak at all similar briefings given from 2010 through 2014.  Because it had not been allowed to speak at the meeting, the group annexed to its 18 June letter the statement which it had intended to deliver, and requested that it be circulated as a document of the Security Council.

 

The failure of the Council to allow non-Council members to speak at the 16 June 2015 counter-terrorism meeting was regretted by a representative of Lithuania during the Council’s wrap-up meeting at the end of that month.  He stated that “it was unfortunate that at the joint briefing of the three subsidiary bodies dealing with counter-terrorism on 16 June, the Council deviated from its existing practice, as non-Council members were not granted the right to participate in the discussions pursuant to rule 37.”  He added that, “Such meetings provide a rare opportunity for the broader membership to share ideas and concerns with the Council regarding the global threats of terrorism and non-proliferation and ways to address them in working together with the subsidiary bodies” (S/PV.7479).

 

On 18 June 2015, the representatives of the “Benelux” countries of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands wrote a letter to the Security Council President on behalf of 71 Member States representing all of the UN’s regional groups, and including eight Council members – France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States (S/2015/454).  The letter called upon the Council “to advance its efforts to ensure implementation of its existing resolutions on Syria and to prevent the future use by the Syrian air force” of any aerial bombardment, “including its use of barrel bombs”.  The letter, which the signatories requested be circulated as a document of the Security Council, also urged that the Council “reinforce efforts to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all those in need throughout Syria”. 

 

During the weeks after reports of the further use of barrel bombs had come to light, the Council had planned to take up the situation in Syria on four different occasions between early June and mid-July 2015.  However, none of these meetings was scheduled to be held in a format that would permit either the Council members or the non-Council members, on behalf of which the Benelux letter was sent, to state their positions to the Council in public:  The Syrian situation was first taken up by the Council in closed consultations on 3 June. On 26 June, a meeting under the "Arria-formula" was held on the use of weapons, including barrel bombs, against civilians in Syria.  The situation in Syria was next taken up at a briefing convened in public on 29 June (S/PV.7476), but the Council members had agreed to withhold their discussion until the closed consultations held immediately afterwards.  On 9 July, the Council planned to take up the Syrian situation again in closed consultations.  Thus the earliest planned Council meeting at which statements could be made in public on the situation in Syria would not occur until the quarterly open debate on the Middle East on 23 July.  Accordingly, the letter on behalf of the 71 Member States can be seen as an alternative to statements they might have made in public to the Council had an opportunity occurred earlier.

 

On 19 and 25 June 2015, the representative of the Sudan addressed two letters to the President of the Security Council (S/2015/464 and S/2015/484).  Each letter contained criticism of specific provisions of the draft resolution then under discussion by the Council on renewing the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  Because negotiations on the draft resolution were being carried out by the Council members in private settings, the representative of the Sudan could not make his specific objections known through delivering a statement at a public Security Council meeting, and his letters can be viewed in this light.  Interestingly, although only the second letter contained a request by the Sudanese representative that it be circulated as a document of the Security Council, both letters were circulated in that way.  At the meeting on 29 June at which the Council adopted resolution 2229 (2015) extending the UNAMID mandate, the Sudanese representative was given the floor to make a statement after the vote (S/PV.7477). 

 

(This update supplements page 246 of the book.)