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3 April 2021


Section 10:   Monthly forecast and calendar


Revisiting the question of footnotes on the Council's monthly calendars in 2021 


The Security Council programme of work for March 2021 – under the Council presidency of the United States – was devoid of footnotes for the first time since 2003.  Most notable was the omission of the footnote “Non-proliferation” which, since June 2009, had appeared on the Council’s calendars for all but five months. 


As indicated on page 435 of the book, the Security Council places footnotes on its calendar “to indicate that an item is being followed by the Council and that there is a possibility of its being taken up during the month.”  However, Council members have not always agreed on the criteria to be used in deciding upon footnotes.  Some hold that there should be a high probability that a matter so listed will be taken up that month by the Council.  Others have considered that an important message can be sent by entering a footnote to signify that the Council is maintaining a focused watch on the matter and could at any time take it up should the situation deteriorate.


“Non-proliferation” was first entered as a footnote on the Council’s February 2006 calendar.  Those Council members which supported its inclusion intended it to be understood as relating to the nuclear weapons programmes of both Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), even though different agenda items are used in each case.[1] 


Initially, owing to opposition to the “Non-proliferation” footnote on the part of some other Council members, the Council’s practice was inconsistent.  In 2006, “Non-proliferation” appeared as a footnote in nine of the monthly programmes.  In 2007, the entry appeared on only five calendars, and this was the case also in 2008.  Then from January 2009 to April 2015, “Non-proliferation” appeared on all work programmes except that of June 2009.


From July 2009 through April 2015, “Non-proliferation” appeared as a footnote without exception.


In May 2015, as negotiations with Iran reached a sensitive stage, the footnote was absent.  It reappeared again on the June and July 2015 calendars.  Then, after the Council adopted resolution 2231 (2015) on 20 July endorsing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the footnote disappeared in August 2015.  It then returned on the September 2015 calendar, possibly in connection with the date on which the JCPOA was to come into effect, at latest 90 days after the adoption of resolution 2231 (2015). 


From September 2015 through February 2021, “Non-proliferation” appeared as a footnote with only three exceptions.[2] 


No public explanation was given by the United States for the complete absence of footnotes on the Council’s programme for March 2021.  This was noteworthy because until then, at least one footnote had appeared on every monthly calendar since 2003.  However, in this connection it should be remembered that while each incoming presidency proposes a work programme, consensus is required for its adoption.  At the same time, often the footnotes are carried over somewhat automatically from previous calendars without much thought.


In March 2021, it was unclear whether future calendars would also be without footnotes.  But footnotes returned to the programme the following month, when Viet Nam assumed the Council presidency. 


The footnotes on the April 2021 calendar are “Non-proliferation” and the two alternative agenda items used when the Council considers Ukraine/Crimea.  These latter items – one a letter sent by Ukraine in February 2014, and the second a Russian letter sent in April 2014 – have appeared without interruption as footnotes from 2014 until March 2021, except during months when one or the other has been the basis for a meeting scheduled on the main part of the calendar for a specific date.


Other matters which in the past have appeared as footnotes with some frequency include Burundi, Central African Republic, DRC, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, often shown, where relevant, using the acronym for related peacekeeping missions.


It remains to be seen whether the lack of footnotes in March 2021 was an anomaly, or whether some later calendars also will not include them.  For the near future, while efforts are underway to resume negotiations among the original JCPOA parties, it is expected that the “Non-proliferation” footnote will remain for the time being.  Moreover, it should be recalled that this footnote still retains its historical dual significance as applying to the nuclear programme also of the DPRK, which resumed ballistic missile testing in March 2021.


Because the practice is so longstanding, it is also expected that the two Ukraine agenda formulations will continue as footnotes for the foreseeable future.  It will be of interest to see if additional matters may be included on a case-by-case basis.  But overall, it appears that the question of including footnotes now has far less importance for Council members than in previous years and, in a welcome development, therefore has become less contentious.

                                                                                                      March 2021 calendar                                        April 2021 calendar



(This article supplements page 435 of the book.)


[1] The agenda item used by the Council for Iran’s nuclear programme is “Non-proliferation”, without any qualifier; the agenda item for the DPRK is “Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.  Each of these items has been on the Council’s Summary Statement ("Agenda") since 2006.

[2] It was absent for the December 2018 calendar of the Côte d’Ivoire Council presidency, the December 2019 United States presidency, and the December 2020 South African presidency.  The footnote was in place when the former United States administration of President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and then attempted unsuccessfully to initiate the snapback mechanism in August 2020.  



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