Updated on 17 December 2015
Chapter 7: DECISIONS AND DOCUMENTS
Section 14: Compendium documents
New guidelines for preparing the Council’s Annual Report
On 10 December 2015, a Note by the President (S/2015/944) was adopted which sets out new guidelines for the Council’s Annual Report to the General Assembly required by Articles 15(1) and 24(3) of the UN Charter.
Initially, the timeframe covered by the Security Council’s Annual Report was from 1 August of one year to 31 July of the following year. This was because the Report needed to be ready for submission to the General Assembly which, during the early years of the United Nations, convened only for a regular autumn session. However, having the Annual Report bisect two calendar years made it cumbersome for research. It also created the awkward situation that the five incoming elected members each year shared responsibility for the contents of the Report, even with respect to the five months before they had joined the Council.
To remedy these problems, the new Note provides for the Annual Report to be based on the calendar year, that is, to cover the period from 1 January to 31 December of each year. (This will mean that the Report will be submitted to the Assembly each spring; such timing will no longer be problematic, since the Assembly is now commonly in session then.) In order to bring the Annual Report into alignment with the calendar year, the Note provides for a transitional Report which will cover the period from 1 August 2015 to 31 December 2016.
The new Note continues the arrangement set out previously in presidential Note S/2010/507 that the draft Introduction to the Report is prepared under the coordination of each year’s Council President for the month of July. In addition, the new Note makes provision for cases when the July Presidency is held by a member which will be departing the Council at the end of that year. In that event, the Note states that “the task of coordinating the introduction of the report shall then devolve on the member of the Council next in English alphabetical order and who will not be leaving the Security Council that calendar year.” Under these arrangements, Japan will be responsible for the Introduction for the transitional 17-month volume of the Annual Report.
Presidential note S/2010/507 provided that the Introduction to the Report is to contain “concise information about the nature of all decisions taken by the Council during the period covered, in particular all resolutions and presidential statements”. A subsequent Note by the President issued in 2012 (S/2012/922) stated that the Security Council members encourage “continuing efforts to ensure the inclusion in the report of more substantive information on the Council’s work and on measures to improve the working methods”. The new 2015 Note provides that the Introduction “may contain, inter alia, a brief description of the key activities and trends, and the nature of decisions taken by the Security Council during the period covered by the report.”
In connection with the contents of the Introduction, the 2015 Note also states that the Council members “recognize the value of a monthly assessment of each presidency, which can be useful in the preparation of the annual report.” In this connection, “Each presidency is encouraged to include a concise summary in its monthly assessment.”
The 2015 Note also sets out two new practical requirements for the Introduction: a) it “should not exceed 10,000 words”; and b) it “shall be completed no later than 31 January so as to allow the Secretariat enough time for translation”. The 2015 Note continues the arrangement that once drafted, the Introduction is to be approved by all members of the Council who served on the Council during the reporting period.
The 2015 Note states that “The remainder of the report shall be prepared by the Secretariat in accordance with paragraph 72 (a)-(e) of presidential note S/2010/507”. As detailed on pages 444-445 of the book, that contents is as follows:
Part I contains tabulations of the key activities relating to all questions considered by the Council under its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security during the reporting period. This includes all resolutions, presidential statements, and Council meetings; meetings of subsidiary bodies; experts’ reports; reports of Council missions to the field; peacekeeping operations; and reports of the Secretary-General.
Part II is divided into chapters for each substantive question considered by the Council in at least one formal meeting during the reporting period.
Part III contains an account of non-substantive matters considered by the Council.
Part IV contains an account of the work of the Military Staff Committee.
Part V covers matters which were brought to the attention of the Council but not discussed at Council meetings during the reporting period.
Part VI heretofore has contained information about the work of the Council’s subsidiary bodies, including sanctions and counter-terrorism committees, working groups, and international tribunals established by the Council. One innovation of the 2015 Note is that such information now can, as appropriate, “be presented by means of references and hyperlinks to the separate annual reports of the subsidiary bodies of the Council”.
In addition, the 2015 Note states that
“The Secretariat should, subject to regular review, in a timely manner and in all the official
United Nations languages, prepare and post on the United Nations website information related
to the Security Council activities that could have been contained in annexes to the annual report, including:
“(a) Activities and items relating to each question considered by the Security Council under its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security;
“(b) Information about the work of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council, including counter-
terrorism committees, sanctions committees, working groups and international tribunals
established by the Security Council, as appropriate;
“(c) Other information on activities relating to all questions considered by the Security Council
under its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
This appears to suggest that as such information starts being posted on the UN website, it will not need to be reproduced in the Annual Report, but merely referenced there, thereby reducing duplication and the overall length of the Report. This interpretation is suggested by another statement in the Note that the Secretariat
“is encouraged to advise, at least once a year, the Informal Working Group on Documentation
and Other Procedural Questions on the preparation of the draft annual report, including ways
to improve its structure in a cost-efficient way and taking into account the publication of relevant information on the United Nations website.”
Additional practical measures contained in the 2015 Note include:
The Secretariat should submit the draft Report to Council members no later than 15 March, so that it may be discussed and adopted in time for consideration by the General Assembly in the spring of that calendar year;
The Report will continue to be adopted at a public Council meeting, at which Council members who so wish may comment on the Council’s work during the period covered by the Report;
The Council President for the month in which the Report is presented to the Assembly will make reference to the verbatim record of the Council’s discussion prior to its adoption of the Report;
The Secretariat should continue to post the Report on the UN website; and
If appropriate, the Council President will continue the practice of not scheduling meetings or informal consultations of the Council on the first day of the Assembly’s debate on the Report.
One former practice relating to the Council’s Annual Report was omitted from the 2015 Note. As detailed on pages 589-590 of the book, in July 2008, Viet Nam, responsible that year for preparing the Introduction, held an informal meeting with non-Council Member States to discuss the drafting process. Such informal meetings were repeated for several years, but then began to lose the support of some Council members. The holding of such informal meetings was acknowledged by the General Assembly in its resolution 65/315 of 12 September 2010, and the 2012 Note by the President (S/2012/922) stated that “presidencies in charge of preparing the draft introduction to the report may consider organizing, where appropriate, interactive informal exchanges of views with the wider membership.”
It is hoped that the innovations provided for by the 2015 Note by the President will help streamline the Council’s Annual Report, while making information on the Council’s work more readily searchable. The most recent Report submitted prior to the issuance of the 2015 Note (A/70/2) comprised 264 pages, which represents a considerable investment by the United Nations in translation and printing costs. (The update supplements pages 444-445 and 585-590 of the book.)