Updated on 22 March 2018
Chapter 4: CONDUCT OF MEETINGS AND PARTICIPATION
Section 1: States invited to participate in Council proceedings
At successive meetings, Council Presidents seek to keep Syrian statements to established time limits
On 22 February 2018, the Security Council met to hear a briefing on Syria by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. After statements by all 15 Council members, the Council President (Kuwait) gave the floor to the representative of Syria. As he did so, he warmly encouraged the Syrian representative to limit his statement to five minutes.
The Syrian representative responded that his delegation was “not aware of this decision” to impose a time limit on his statement. He added, “I oppose this decision and I reserve the right to express the views of my delegation in this very important meeting that is devoted to the situation in my country.”
At this juncture, the representative of the Russian Federation asked for the floor. To the Council President he said, “We fail to understand why you are proposing a decision to limit the statement of the representative of Syria on such an important issue”, which directly concerned that country. He contended that the Council “must afford an opportunity for the representative of Syria to speak for the full amount of time” that he required to deliver his statement, and that there was no need for any “artificial limitations” on that statement.
The President clarified that he had not taken any “decision”. Rather, he had merely encouraged the representative of Syria to adhere to the relevant guidelines in S/2017/507, the presidential note on working methods which, he recalled, had been agreed by the Council members.*
The Syrian representative, resuming his statement, affirmed that his delegation had not been aware of the 507 Note, and that to impose such a time limit was “unjust”. He then spoke for about 21 minutes.
After the Syrian representative finished speaking, and just before adjourning the meeting, the Council President called attention specifically to paragraph 22 of S/2017/507, which reads:
22. The Security Council recalls its commitment to making more effective use, as appropriate, of open meetings, and to this end encourages, as a general rule, all participants, both members and non-members of the Council, in Council meetings to deliver their statements in five minutes or less.” (our emphasis)
The issue of applying time limits to statements by the Syrian representative arose again the following month, at a meeting convened on 12 March 2018 (S/PV.8201). The Council President (Netherlands), before giving the floor to Syria, stated that he wished “to again remind all speakers to limit their statements to no more than five minutes in order to enable the Council to carry out its work expeditiously.”
This time, the Russian representative did not ask for the floor. The Syrian representative opened his intervention by telling the Council President that he would “not begin by commenting on the procedural point that you have raised”. He then spoke for 12 minutes, or about half the length of his 22 February 2018 statement.
Four days later, the Council again met on another aspect of the situation in Syria. Before giving the floor to the representative of that country, the Council President repeated the statement about time limits which he had made at the earlier meeting. Again this time, the Russian representative did not ask for the floor. The Syrian representative also made no rejoinder, and his intervention lasted for about 10 minutes (S/PV.8206).
While all Council members agreed to the time limits set out in the 2010 and 2017 Notes by the President on working methods, achieving compliance with those limits has often proved difficult. A related article on this website recounts how, during its August 2014 presidency, the United Kingdom activated a flashing light system to signal speakers when they reached the limit of their allotted time. In some instances, the President thereafter banged the gavel to bring a speaker’s remarks to an end. However, the book (page 183, FN 26) recalls that reminders by a President of time limits have sometimes met with disgruntlement. This was notably the case in 2011, when the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, chairing an open debate, intervened vocally each time a speaker went over the stated time limit, which led to some angry off-record responses (S/PV.6472 (Resumption 1)).
(This update supplements pages 49 and 117 of the book.)
* The written verbatim record for this meeting (S/PV.8186) differs in some respects from the interpretation in the Chamber during the meeting.