Updated on 12 December 2015
Chapter 5: CONDUCT OF MEETINGS AND PARTICIPATION
Section 4: Order of speakers
Encouragement of joint statements in Council meetings
For the 2015 annual open debate on the Council’s working methods, the Council President (Spain) stated in its concept note (S/2015/793) that “Joint statements, including from members of the Security Council, are strongly encouraged.” In this connection, the concept note gave the following guidelines “regarding the allocation of time”:
Joint statements of groups – up to 10 minutes
National statements complementing joint statements – 2 minutes
National statements – 3 minutes
When the open debate took place on 20 October 2015 (S/PV.7539), a number of States elected to participate through joint statements. Notably, the representative of Angola, a Council member, spoke on behalf of six Council members – itself, Chile, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Spain – “from six different regions of the world”, which “share a common wish to make the working methods of the Council and the Council’s interactions with other organs of the United Nations . . . more effective, so as to better reflect contemporary realities.”
Another noteworthy “joint intervention” was made on behalf of France (a Council member) and Germany (a non-Council member). The representative of France delivered the first part of the joint statement, and the representative of Germany, the second (both speaking in French). The representative of France underlined that “This unprecedented initiative reflects the depth of the Franco-German friendship and our shared willingness both to expand the Security Council and to change its working methods.”
In addition, joint statements were made by groups of States which have with some frequency made joint statements during Council meetings in the past. For example, the representative of the Netherlands delivered a joint statement on behalf of the “Benelux” countries – Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. A joint statement was delivered by the Swedish representative on behalf of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. And the representative of Iran delivered a joint statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Joint statements were also given on behalf of two United Nations regional groups: The representative of Sierra Leone delivered a statement on behalf of the Group of African States, and the Kuwaiti representative spoke on behalf of the Group of Arab States. In addition, the representatives of Switzerland, Costa Rica and Liechtenstein each delivered statements on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group on different aspects of ACT’s engagement on the reform of the Council’s working methods.
Generally the idea of joint statements was well-received. The representative of the Russian Federation called the Angolan representative’s statement on behalf of six Council members “a genuine revolution in the working methods of the Council”, and added that “Such initiatives should be supported”.
However, three problems developed over the time allocation guidelines decided upon by the Council President for the open debate:
First, there was some inconsistency in the application by the Council President of the allocation of two minutes for “national statements complementing joint statements”. Although this guideline was set out both in the concept note and by the President himself during the meeting, partway into the meeting, the President said that he
“would like to remind the Council that the representative of Angola delivered a statement that was also intended to be on behalf of Chile, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Spain. It is therefore understood that those Council members will not take the floor.”
On the other hand, despite the joint statement delivered by the representative of Sierra Leone on behalf of the Group of African States, a number of African States – including Algeria, Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, and Tunisia – later took the floor and each delivered full-length national statements, rather than statements of two minutes.
A second problem was the confusion on the part of some States as to the actual time limits for the various categories of statements. For example, the representative of India stated that, “we think that the openness of this debate is constricted by imposing a time limit of three minutes on non-members and no time limit for members.”
A third problem was that in order to meet the time limits, a number of speakers accelerated their speed of delivery, to such an extent that the President appealed twice to representatives to speak at a normal speed so that the interpreters might properly translate their statements. This is a problem which was again addressed by the representative of the United Kingdom, the Council President for the following month, in a meeting on 25 November 2015, when he thanked the interpreters for their assistance to the Council. He added, “I know that it is sometimes tough for them when we enforce time limits, because that sometimes means that we speed up our delivery rather than cut back on what we were going to say” (S/PV. 7568).
Given these issues, it remains to be seen whether future Council Presidencies will again actively encourage the delivery of joint statements, and if so, with what guidelines.