Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Remarks by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at "Arria-formula" meeting of UNSC members on the issue of penholdership

Opening remarks:


I am glad to welcome you at this Arria-formula meeting on penholdership. This issue remains in the focus of attention of a wide range of member states.

In recent years, the Security Council has looked into various opportunities of how to make its working methods more efficient. The UNSC Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions has updated Note 507 by the President of the Security Council. In addition to that, other Presidential Notes have been adopted. Those documents also reflected many of the ideas and practical recommendations proposed by UN member states.

According to the updated Note 507, penholdership is an informal arrangement whereby “one or more Council members initiate and chair the informal drafting process. Any member of the Security Council may be a penholder. More than one Council member may act as co-penholders.”

Unfortunately, despite some progress with this issue, the situation around penholdership has seen no major changes. Most decisions only exist in writing, as for concrete country files, they are being handled by three Council members. The procedures for selection or self-appointment of penholders remain unclear. As a result, this entire situation can hardly be called democratic.

Criticism of the working methods of the drafters in UNSC is piling up. Lately, there has emerged a negative trend, whereby Security Council documents were drafted without proper consultations with the affected states standing on UNSC agenda, even though the documents in question were crucial for those countries and their nations. Sometimes, it remains unclear on what basis and in whose interests changes are made to the initial draft. Apart from that, opinions of regional stakeholders who are better than anyone else aware of the real situation on the ground, as well as opinions of troop-contributing states and even of the UN Secretariat quite often are disregarded. It leads to the Security Council adopting “half-cooked products” that do not reflect the reality and do not take into account the views of the affected states. This is how humanitarian files become politicized, and UNSC-endorsed mandates of peacekeeping missions diverge from what can really be implemented. At the end of the day, population of host states is left completely dissatisfied. There are more and more cases when African UNSC members abstain during the vote on African files. This does not add to strengthening the Council’s authority.

We are convinced that it is high time we should revisit and restructure the issue of informal penholdership in a consistent manner, and hold an in-depth discussion of related working methods.

If the ranks of penholders and co-penholders expand due to more active engagement of broader UNSC membership, it will promote inclusiveness and positively influence the elaboration and drafting of documents. Thereby we need to pay special attention to the opinion of the African “troika”, which holds the required expertise and potential.

Documents drafted by (co-)penholders following relevant consultations on the basis of the principle of impartiality and credible sources of information will let the Council adopt the right, effective, and timely decisions and subsequently issue clear-cut mandates for the Secretariat. What remains critical is constructive engagement with the countries standing on the UNSC agenda. This will allow to ensure comprehensive implementation of all provisions of Security Council’s documents.


Closing remarks: 


This informal meeting once again demonstrated the longstanding need to speak of the issue of penholdership. We are glad that this discussion of one of the most pressing and important issues pertaining to the working methods of the Security Council turned out frank and comprehensive.

This Arria meeting made it possible for us to listen to the opinions of UN member-states and their initiatives aimed at enhancing efficiency of the United Nations’ main statutory body. Our discussion confirmed that the overwhelming majority of UNSC delegations and broader UN membership believe that we need a more equitable distribution of penholdership.

There are some serious questions as to professionalism, transparency, and commitment to consensus, as well as the drafting methods that current penholders from among the Council’s P3 offer us.

Responding to the attempts by a representative of Great Britain to make it all about Russia, I must say the following. Sometimes the very prospect of having to use the veto right serves as the last argument that can make you amend your national position, which, according to British centuries-long tradition, you believe to be the ultimate truth. This once again confirms what we said repeatedly and keep saying now. The veto right is not a privilege, but a tool used to achieve the balance of interests/

We appreciate that delegations from countries that stand on UNSC agenda took the floor today to speak out their principled concerns. Their assessments and proposals will be of great value for us when we take a closer look at this issue in order to identify gaps and shortcomings in implementing provisions of Note 507.

We are convinced that this meeting gave all of us some food for thought. Hopefully, its results will be built upon and discussed further in the framework of the UNSC Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions.

Thank you.