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Updated on 17 October 2014


Section 4: Order of speakers


Presidential note on speaking order of Council members


On 15 October 2014, the Security Council issued a Note by the President (S/2014/739) which, for the first time, addresses in writing a number of practices relating to the speaking order of Council members themselves.  For example, the practice of determining the speaking order of Council members according to a ‘lottery’ or ‘draw’ had been informally in use since it was introduced by Jamaica during its November 2001 Council presidency.  This practice is now confirmed in writing by the new Note, which states that the speaking order of Council meetings ‘as a general practice is established by a draw’.  The Note allows, however, that ‘In certain cases, the speaking order is established by the use of a sign-up sheet’.  It will be recalled that when the lottery system is used by the Council, it is not considered that Rule 27 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure is being suspended.  Rather, the interpretation has been that the Council members agree, in effect, to indicate their desire to speak in the order of the lottery, the results of which are circulated to them in advance of the upcoming meeting. 


The new Note confirms the practice that when high-level officials represent Council members, the speakers list will be ‘adjusted for protocol’, that is, by prioritizing each category of high-level officials by its protocol level, and then establishing the order of the participants within each category according to the draw.  The Note also addresses the situation which sometimes arises when the permanent representative of a Council member is ranked within his or her government at the Cabinet or ministerial level.   This has been the case concerning some, but not all, representatives of the United States, as well as of elected members such as Uganda and Venezuela.  The Note confirms that under normal circumstances, such permanent representatives ‘will speak by order of the draw, without adjustment for protocol’.   However, for meetings ‘announced as high-level in advance’, a permanent representative serving at the Cabinet or ministerial level may request – preferably well in advance – an adjustment by protocol of his or her place on the speakers list.  This fact is then to be noted on the speakers list, and thereafter in appendix IV of the Council’s Annual Report.


The new Note confirms that ‘as a general practice’, the Council President makes his/her national statement ‘last of all Council members’.  However, the Note also confirms that in certain cases, the President ‘may make a single statement comprising introductory remarks and his or her national statement before the other members take the floor’.  This latter scenario most often occurs when a high-level government official comes to New York to chair a Council meeting.  When the President intends to proceed in this way, the Note states that he or she ‘is encouraged to inform the other members in advance . . . to ensure that there are no objections’.


For a number of years, it was common practice for the representative of the lead country – or ‘penholder’– for an agenda item to have the option of speaking first.  But in recent years, that practice had been challenged by some Council members, notably the Russian Federation (see S/PV.6870 of 26 November 2012, p. 6).  The new Note confirms that the practice of having ‘penholders’ speak first has become variable.  The Note states that ‘in certain cases’, the Council President ‘may adjust the list of speakers and inscribe first the delegation(s) responsible for the drafting process in order to allow it or them to make an introductory or explanatory presentation’.


When a matter has been brought before the Council pursuant to Rule 2 or Rule 3, generally the Council’s practice has been first to hear the Member State(s) submitting the matter, whether they are members or non-members of the Council.   This practice has been confirmed by the new Note, which states that, ‘In cases when an unscheduled or emergency meeting is convened, the President may also adjust the list so that the delegation having requested the meeting can speak before the other Council members in order to present the reasons for convening the meeting’. 


The new Note additionally provides that Chairs of the Council’s subsidiary bodies may speak first when they are ‘presenting to the Council their work or reporting on outstanding issues within their mandate’.  In this context, it will be recalled that the second paragraph of Rule 29 of the Council's Provisional Rules of Procedure provides that “The Chairman of a commission or committee, or the rapporteur appointed by the commission or committee to present its report, may be accorded precedence for the purposes of explaining the report.”  In the Council’s practice, it has been understood that such a “report” may be written or oral.


Finally, the new Note confirms that once a speakers list has been drawn up, if a participant wishes to change his or her position on the list, this should be done by finding another speaker willing to trade slots, and then for both delegations to inform the Secretariat.  (This update supplements pages 262-263 of the book.)


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