Updated on 27 May 2017
Chapter 7: DECISIONS AND DOCUMENTS
Section 7: Letters by the Council President
National summaries submitted as outcome documents of Council meetings
In 2017, an elected member (Sweden) and a permanent member (the United Kingdom) each requested issuance, as an official Security Council document, of a summary of an open debate convened during their respective Council presidencies. Each of these summaries was submitted in the national capacity of the Permanent Representative.
Sweden’s five-page document summarized the ideas raised by participants in the open debate on “Conflict prevention and sustaining peace”. The meeting was convened on 10 January 2017, and the summary was transmitted to the Secretary-General fifteen working days later, on 31 January. The representative of Sweden expressed the hope that the summary “will serve as inspiration and support for our common efforts to reenergize the fundamental mission of the United Nations to prevent conflict and sustain peace” (S/2017/105).
The United Kingdom’s four-page document summarized the ideas raised by participants in the open debate on “Trafficking in persons in conflict situations: forced labour, slavery and other similar practices”. The meeting was convened on 15 March 2017, and the summary was transmitted to the Secretary-General eight working days later, on 27 March 2017. The UK representative expressed the hope that the summary “will serve as an aide-memoire in the development” of the Secretary-General’s report (requested by the Council in its resolution 2331 (2016)), “as well as a spur to further action to end the scourge of human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour” (S/2017/274).
Summaries of Council meetings prepared in the national capacities of representatives of Council members appear to have originated early in the millennium, at first in connection with monthly wrap-up meetings convened as formal private meetings. On 6 June 2002, the representative of Singapore transmitted to the Council President a summary of the private wrap-up meeting convened by the Singaporean presidency on 31 May. The representative stated that the purpose of the summary was to “indicate the areas and suggestions for follow-up action” (S/2002/622). The representative of Syria circulated a summary of the private wrap-up meeting held at the end of its June 2002 presidency, similarly to “indicate the areas and suggestions for follow-up action” (S/2002/759).
The following year, the representative of Pakistan submitted a summary of suggestions made at the wrap-up meeting held in public on 30 May 2003, at the end of his country’s presidency, on the theme “Conflicts in Africa: Security Council missions and United Nations mechanisms to promote peace and security” (S/2003/705).
Also in 2003, the representative of the United States, signing as “President of the Security Council”, transmitted to the Secretary-General a summary of views expressed during the open debate held on 29 October 2003 on the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security (S/2003/1055). The title of the summary, however, indicated that it had been prepared in the American representative’s national capacity. It was also noted that the compilation had been prepared “at the request of Member States and the group of friends of resolution 1325 (2000)”.
In 2004, three meeting summaries, submitted by representatives of Council members in their national capacities, were published as official Council documents:
Summary of the meeting on “The role of business in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding” convened by Germany on 15 April 2004 (S/2004/441, 25 May 2004);
Summary of the meeting on “Complex crises and United Nations response” convened by Pakistan on 28 May 2004 (S/2004/723, 8 September 2004); and
Summary of the meeting on “The role of civil society in post-conflict peacebuilding” convened by the Philippines on 22 June 2004 (S/2004/624, 3 August 2004).
There was then about a decade’s gap before the publication in 2015 of the next meeting summaries prepared by representatives of the Council members in their national capacities.* However, during this interim, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, unusually, submitted a summary of the open debate and informal interactive dialogue convened by the Security Council on post-conflict peacebuilding on 12 and 13 July, respectively. This summary was published as an official Council document under the symbol S/2012/791.
France submitted a summary of the 25 March 2015 meeting on “Child victims of non-State armed groups” (S/2015/372, 21 May 2015). New Zealand submitted a summary of the 30 July 2015 meeting on “Peace and security challenges facing small island developing States” (S/2015/754, 2 October 2015). And Spain submitted a summary of the 20 October 2015 meeting on “Implementation of the note by the President of the Security Council (S/2010/507)” (S/2016/35, 12 January 2016). Each of these summaries was published two to three months after the meeting date.
In some cases, a presidency has announced in a concept note that it intends to publish, in its national capacity, a summary of a debate, and then has not done so. This was the case with respect to the open debate on “Protection of civilians” convened in January 2016 by the presidency of Uruguay (S/2016/22, S/PV.7606), and the open debate convened in February 2016 by the Venezuelan presidency on “Respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as a key element for the maintenance of international peace and security” (S/2016/103, S/PV.7621).
Some observers see value in the fact that summaries prepared in national capacities can sometimes be more candid and thought-provoking than outcome documents of the Council as a whole, which require for adoption either consensus or sufficient affirmative votes (and no veto). Moreover, a Council President’s decision to issue a summary, rather than seek adoption of a formal outcome document, avoids a scenario that sometimes occurs in connection with thematic debates, when negotiation over a problematic draft overshadows statements made during the debate itself. Non-Council Member States have expressed appreciation for the summaries because formal Council outcome documents largely reflect the positions of Council members, whereas meeting summaries take into consideration views expressed by both Council and non-Council Member States.
It remains to be seen how often meeting summaries prepared in national capacities will be published in the future. Of course not all thematic meetings lend themselves to this approach, especially recurring cross-cutting issues for which a resolution or presidential statement has been the usual outcome document. It would seem, too, that an overuse of nationally prepared summaries might diminish the attention each one receives.
The worth of such summaries will also be judged, at least in part, on how often they lead to tangible follow-up. In this connection, it will be of interest to see the extent to which the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour, to be submitted by 20 December 2017, will draw from the United Kingdom summary. As noted above, the UK representative hoped that his summary would serve “as an aide-memoire” in the development of that report.
(This update supplements page 118 of the book.)
Appreciation is expressed to the Client Services team of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library for their assistance in identifying summaries of Council meetings submitted in national capacities.
* During this interval, in 2009, the representatives of France and the United Kingdom requested circulation, as an official document, of an updated version of their joint non-paper on peacekeeping, “revised to take account of the discussion during the Security Council debate on peacekeeping on 23 January” (S/2009/112, 23 February 2009).