Chart updated on 21 January 2019
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 presidential statements 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 (S/26015) 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.” (S/PV.4174 (Resumption 1))
This abbreviated course of action was agreed upon by the Council members because the Foreign Minister had 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 (S/PV.4194). 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 a presidential statement on Burundi into the record. 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 (S/PV.4201).
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. Then 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. The practice was further used on two occasions in 2011 and six in 2012. Then the practice dramatically reversed in 2013, when only five of the 22 PRSTs adopted were read out in full.
2014 through 2017 saw a return to more frequent reading out of PRSTs, although never more than about half of those adopted: 12 out of 28 in 2014; 14 out of 26 in 2015; 8 out of 19 in 2016; and 14 out of 27 in 2017. Then the practice reversed again in 2018, when only six out of 21 presidential statements were read out in full.
The use of the practice of merely reading a presidential statement into the meeting record has been attributed to the heavy workload of the Council overall. The number of presidential statements adopted from 2013 to 2018 is not overly high when compared to years such as 2005, when 67 presidential statements were adopted, or 2006, when 59 PRSTs were adopted. However, the number and complexity of the outcome documents adopted overall by the Council from 2010 to 2018, the growing length of the Council's outcome documents, including PRSTs, and the number and complexity of the Council’s deliberations, exerted a pull towards streamlining formal Council meetings as much as possible. It was during this same timeframe that much of the more flowery diplomatic language and practices which characterized Security Council meetings in earlier decades was simplified.
In deciding whether or not to read out a particular PRST in full, Council members, and particularly Council Presidents, must in each case prioritize either the interests of making more widely known the exact provisions of a presidential statement or the need to manage a very charged work programme, in an era when the full texts of PRSTs are easily obtainable online. (This update supplements page 401 of the book.)
A chart showing the manner of adopting PRSTs from 1994 to 2018 is attached.