Updated on 9 February 2020
Chapter 7: DECISIONS AND DOCUMENTS
Section 4: Statements by the President
Trends in the manner of adopting Statements by the President
As noted in the book (page 401), the Council’s early practice with regard to the adoption of Statements by the President (PRSTs) was somewhat random. Prior to 1994, some presidential statements were issued only as part of the verbatim record for the meetings at which they were adopted. Other presidential statements were published both in verbatim records and as separate documents, sometimes in the format of a letter or Note by the President. Still other PRSTs were not published as part of the verbatim record, but only as separate Council documents.
To bring more order to the process, effective 1 January 1994, the Council decided in a Note by the President to assign the specific document symbol to presidential statements which is used today: S/PRST/[year]/[number]. Together with standardizing the PRST document symbol, the Council also instituted the practice, except in special circumstances, of adopting presidential statements at formal meetings of the Council. From 1994 to 2000, this adoption practice consisted of the President’s reading out the entire statement in full during a formal meeting.
Then on 20 July 2000, at the close of an all-day thematic debate on the “Role of the Security Council in the prevention of armed conflicts”, the Council President, the Foreign Minister of Jamaica, stated:
“The Council has before it the text of a statement by the President on behalf of the Council on the matter on the Council’s agenda. In accordance with the understanding reached among the members of the Council, the statement by the President will be issued as a document of the Security Council under the symbol S/PRST/2000/25.”
This abbreviated course of action was agreed upon by the Council members because the Foreign Minister had personally chaired the meeting at both its morning and afternoon sessions, and then would be hosting a diplomatic function, and the presidential statement was five pages long.
The precedent thus set was replicated twice when Mali served as Council President in September 2000. The first instance was during the Council’s second ever summit meeting, held on 7 September and attended by the Presidents of nine Council members and five Prime Ministers, and presided over by the President of Mali. The Council summit took place during the same week as the UN Millennium Summit, when meetings at the UN involving the many Heads of State and Government present in New York were tightly scheduled.
The second instance was on 29 September 2000, when Mali as Council President also merely read into the record a presidential statement on Burundi. This was in deference to the demands on the time of President Nelson Mandela, who briefed the Council at the meeting in his capacity as Facilitator of the Arusha process.
Thereafter, from 2001 until 2010, there was only one instance, in 2006, when a Council President did not read out a presidential statement in full. But in 2010, the practice of merely reading a presidential statement into the record was again used in six instances, generally in the context of a busy Council programme. From then on, the practice has been somewhat uneven, but in most years, more PRSTs have been read into the record than read out in full. For 2019, only six out of 15 were read out.
The shortcut of reading a presidential statement into the record has gained traction primarily because of the Council’s growing workload. While the number of PRSTs adopted from 2013 to 2019 is not overly high when compared to years such as 2005 or 2006 (see chart below), the volume of the Council’s outcome documents overall, their growing length, and the Council’s heavy monthly calendar have exerted a pull towards streamlining formal Council meetings as much as possible. And this is occurring in an era when the texts of PRSTs are easily obtainable online.
Most often, Council members leave it to the President to decide how to handle the adoption of a PRST, and some Presidents simply do not like to read out lengthy statements. In any event, in today’s practice, it appears that generally a President will choose merely to read a presidential statement into the record unless it is felt important to prioritize the wider dissemination of a particular PRST’s contents by reading it out in full.
This chart shows the manner of adopting PRSTs from 1994 to 2019.
(This update supplements page 401 of the book.)
 S/PV.4174 (Resumption 1).