Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at UNSC debate on the working methods of the UN Security Council
At the outset, let me thank Ms. Karin Landgren and Ms. Loraine Sievers for their meaningful briefings.
We thank Ambassador Ferit Hoxha for his guidance of the UNSC Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions and for organizing this event. We are positive that this meeting will add new ideas to the operation of the IWG, of course given an understanding that the working methods themselves as well as any steps to alter them are in the sole ownership of the Security Council.
Russia has always stood (and it still does) for discussing this topic in open UNSC meetings where all interested UN member states can take part. We believe this discussion that first started many years ago provides ways for the Security Council to expand its coordination with broader UN membership. Many of the ideas articulated here were then included in Note 507 of UNSC President which constitutes a valuable compilation of UNSC working practices. Non-permanent members of the Council often turn to it as an essential reference source.
We assume that any amendments should aim at boosting the Council’s efficiency and enabling it to be more operational in maintaining international peace and security.
COVID-induced restrictions affected the work of the Council. Yet despite all difficulties, UNSC proved able to adapt to the changing reality. Thanks to special provisional measures, the Council could carry on with its activities without major breaks. However the situation that we all had to confront clearly showed that there may be no alternative to in-person discussions and personal interaction of Council members. We are glad that the Council is back to its normal modus operandi.
Availing of the opportunity, we would like to underscore that we see no need why those provisional measures should be institutionalized. In case the crisis reoccurs, we have a plan of action laid out in letters of UNSC President. We can always get back to it if need be.
Traditional discussion of UNSC working methods cannot but touch upon substantial problems associated with activities of the Council. Those problems have become especially striking lately. That is why a comprehensive discussion is imminent, and no surface alterations will suffice.
Instances when separate member states use UNSC platform to pursue their specific national interests have become very numerous. When doing so, they try to extend the agenda of the Council to include issues related to domestic policies, human rights, climate, etc. Thereby they ignore the fact that in accordance with the UN Charter, the Council does not have to look into these aspects. What’s more, it cannot help in solving related problems. Unfortunately, it is clear that the main goal of such efforts by member states is to exert pressure on unwanted countries.
Quite often, the real causes that triggered a conflict get hushed down or blurred over on purpose. UN missions, including peacekeeping operations, receive new uncharacteristic functions that they cannot implement effectively, which makes one doubt their impartiality and effectiveness. We also see attempts to shift responsibility for occurrence of a crisis to someone else. A vivid recent example was the consideration of the situation in Afghanistan by the Council when a complex issue was deliberately narrowed down to the issue of human rights. As for the economic collapse and a humanitarian disaster that have been provoked by the United States and its allies, those aspects are deliberately overlooked.
It is noteworthy how our Western colleagues try to sidetrack a discussion, once the issue raised no longer meets their interests. For example, it shows when someone suggests readdressing or lifting sanctions from states where restrictive measures no longer correspond to the actual situation on the ground. Even though the reasons why sanctions were first imposed are no longer there, new pretexts always pop up to argue that restrictions must stay. Then instead of enjoying the presumption of innocence, governments have to prove again and again that allegations against them are void. Now it is clear as daylight that restrictions against the CAR, South Sudan, and Sudan are only renewed to keep an external leverage on these states.
Unfortunately, the Council is gradually losing its ability to engage in constructive discussions and negotiations. Instead of searching for solutions to most complicated problems (which is time-consuming indeed) and proving ready to compromise, Western states often opt for the easiest way possible. They provoke usage of veto right or abstention on documents. Among the recent examples, I can cite the North Korean file, when solutions that we proposed jointly with our Chinese friends were rejected though they would have helped to endorse a consensus-based document.
Let me emphasize that the issue of veto right does not belong with the working methods, but rather constitutes the cornerstone of the entire UNSC architecture and a prerequisite, which makes the Council able to make well-balanced decisions. However this does not replace the need to have working methods and approaches that should facilitate compromise. We need to want to agree, listen to each other and hear what our counterparts in this Council have to say.
But today we see the opposite trend associated with behind-the-back allegations, sabotage, dictation, and manipulations. On some episodes, like Ukraine, this has reached absurd lengths. The Security Council has almost turned into an arena where Western states speak out fakes and propaganda narrative. Thereby views of the West are presented as the only correct views. This destructive stance drives UNSC members farther apart.
Against this backdrop, the issue of informal penholdership becomes more and more urgent. At this point, we have but three delegations acting like penholders on most issues. Even though those countries have long lost their status as metropolia, they still assume they are regional experts who can lecture other states or entire regions. As for opinions of host countries, regional stakeholders, who often have better knowledge of the situation on the ground, and even representatives of the UN Secretariat, they are simply ignored.
For instance, penholders clearly abuse their status when it comes to the methodology of negotiating UNSC resolutions. Quite frequently, the Council is made to meet very tough and completely artificial deadlines that preclude the experts from looking into documents under consideration thoroughly. If some member states dare to speak out against this approach, they become exposed to an unprecedented pressure. As a result, we have to deal with “raw” documents that do not take on board concerns of UNSC members and articulate unclear tasks for the Secretariat. This does not help solve conflicts effectively. In this regard, let me specifically point out the delegation of Great Britain and its clearly biased stance towards the files it curates. In particular, we note that Russia-proposed draft Statement of UNSC President that proposed to communicate a shared position of UNSC members in support of stability and a resilient political transition in Libya made the British penholders of the Libyan file inexplicably acrimonious.
We believe there needs to be more penholders in the Council, especially from among non-permanent members. In saying so, we are guided by what is said in Note 507 by the President. “Any member of the Security Council may be a penholder. More than one Council member may act as co-penholders.” If we revise the issue of penholdership, it may boost the efficiency of the Council. We will keep raising this at the IWG on working methods.
Document flow in the Security Council remains overburdened. The Council issues several hundreds of documents yearly. Added value of some of them is rather debatable. We often come to see resolutions that go too deep into micromanagement which we believe is no good. The Council’s “final products” should be brief, clear, easy to understand and, most importantly, action-oriented.
In conclusion, let me make a point about the open and closed meeting formats. We believe there needs to be balance between the two. However some members of the Council, who claim to stand for transparency when discussing country-specific episodes, fiddle with the formats for propaganda purposes and prefer discussing sensitive topics or issues they are uncomfortable with behind closed doors.