Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC debate on the working methods of the Security Council
At the outset, let me express appreciation to Ms. Lorraine Sievers and Ms. Karin Landgren for their substantive briefings. We join all colleagues who paid tribute to Mr.Edward Luck and Mr.Kenzo Oshima for their studies of the working methods of the Council.
We are also thankful to Ambassador Rhonda King and the delegation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for the statement and able leadership of the Security Council Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions.
For several years in a row, the Security Council has discussed its working methods in an open format with broad UN membership taking part. For a second consecutive year, this conversation is hosted by Estonia.
We agree that the Security Council should enhance its coordination with a wide range of UN member states. Today’s debate, as well as the “external review” of the current state of affairs, will make a special contribution to the activity of the IWG, and help it generate new ideas – of course, given the understanding that the working methods and any steps to modify them are the “ownership” of the Council members.
The issue of UNSC working methods is rather sensitive. Russia consistently proceeds from the understanding that all transformations at this track must aim at increasing practical efficiency and performance of the UNSC as it carries out its main tasks – maintenance of international peace and security. Ill-considered initiatives that do not take into account the specifics of the SC work not only fail to advance our cause, but on the contrary – they actually impede the process.
We welcome the efforts that the delegation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines takes to improve the working methods of the Council. We took note of its intention to amend Note 507 of the President that represents a compendium of UNSC working practices and serves as an important reference for non-permanent members of the Council. We are ready to provide comprehensive assistance to the SVG delegation in this painstaking work. We believe there should not be too much haste. Efforts at this track need to be coherent and consensus-oriented.
We note the growing interest of non-permanent members in procedural aspects of UNSC activity. By all means, this helps develop best practices of the work of the Security Council.
The year 2020 was a challenge for all of humanity. The world encountered a previously unknown threat – COVID-19 pandemic. The epidemiological restrictions that followed could not but take a toll on the operations of the United Nations, and its Security Council in particular. But despite those difficulties, the Council could adapt to the new situation promptly and timely. It developed special provisional measures, which ensured uninterrupted work of the Council. We adhered to this «modus operandi» for many subsequent months.
As the situation in New York improved and UNHQ embarked on reopening stages, Russia started to advocate for prompt return of the Council members to the SC chamber providing that all safety measures be observed. With this view, we supported convening of the first-after-the-lockdown in-person meeting of the Council in the ECOSOC chamber. It happened in July last year under Germany’s Presidency. We were guided by the same principle in October 2020, when we successfully conducted our Presidency, first having installed plexiglass partitions in the SC chamber.
The situation with the coronavirus pandemic was a good opportunity to realize how important in-person discussions of the international agenda by the Security Council are. It got perfectly clear that no sort of alternative methods was able to substitute the in-person interaction of Council members. I think everyone agrees with me here.
We very much welcome gradual return of the Council to its normal format of operation in the SC chamber. Thereby we assume that the VTC format that we employed throughout the year 2020 and partly in 2021 was a purely provisional emergency solution. When we first adopted this format, it was clearly stated that VTC meetings could not be considered official meetings of the Council neither in procedural, nor in legal, nor in logical terms. Therefore, we see no need to institutionalize those “provisional measures”. Should such crisis repeat, we will have a response ready and stipulated in letters of UNSC President that we will always be able to get back to.
We do not deny that VTC meetings have certain pros, and we believe this format can further be used for informal meetings. In particular, VTCs expand the pool of those who can provide important information to help the Council’s decision-making. I am speaking of such mechanisms as Informal Interactive Dialogue and Informal Arria-formula Meetings. Such formats should be used only to increase SC members’ awareness about the agenda items. However we do not support any hybrid rearrangements that may entail grave and unpredictable legal consequences for the Security Council and the UN at large.
We again emphasize that Security Council’s documentation circulation is overloaded. The Security Council produces several hundred documents per year. Unfortunately, the added value of some of them is rather questionable. Excessive micromanagement that we often see in SC resolutions does no good either. We are convinced that Security Council’s “final products” should be brief, clear, easily understanble, and most importantly, action-oriented.
In recent years, the Council has started to consider thematic issues more frequently, especially those that as per the UN Charter belong with the competence of the General Assembly, ECOSOC and other UN bodies. This violates the established “division of labor” and diverts the Security Council from addressing its primary tasks, on which it can and has to make concrete decisions.
In the context of equal division of duties in the Security Council, we believe we should pay specific attention to the issue of penholdership. We consistently stick to the position that there should be more penholders, first of all from among non-permanent SC members. Thereby we are guided by the point of Note 507 of the President, which says: “any member of the Security Council may be a penholder. More than one Council member may act as co-penholders”. Some separate Council members should not consider particular countries or entire regions as their “patrimonies” and act as mentors on certain issues. We are ready to engage constructively with UNSC members on this issue.
On a separate point, we would like to remind that the practice of UNSC working under deliberate time pressure is unacceptable. It is no secret that adoption dates for the majority of resolutions are first established well in advance – when the Council negotiates the program of work for the next month. However some draft resolutions are still submitted too late, which leaves us no time to have them comprehensively studied by our experts, to say nothing of having full-fledged consultations. Occasionally it may seem that penholdres do this deliberately, out of hope that haste would prevent colleagues from noticing trouble spots in the drafts. Sometimes the language of resolutions gets changed minutes before the vote. So we end up having “raw products” that do not account for concerns of UNSC members and articulate unclear instructions to the Secretariat.
We believe that all this is unacceptable, and will oppose such tactical catches. We cannot exclude that at the end of the day we will probably have to evaluate the effectiveness of penholder activity by these parameters.
The issue of Security Council missions was raised today. We believe this useful practice should be resumed. Country visits help UNSC members be better heard, form their own impression of the local developments, talk to those who play key roles in situations under consideration. This is important to all of us. At the same time, the Secretariat needs to realize that if particular member states are not represented during UNSC visits, it may be perceived as a political signal. That is why we believe it would be an optimal decision for the Council to go on such missions in full force. As for the virtual and hybrid format, they will hardly let us achieve the goals set for the trip.
My last point is the veto right that was also addressed today. We believe this issue does not belong with the working methods cluster, but rather is the cornerstone of the entire UNSC architecture and a guarantee that the Council makes well-balanced decisions that run high chances of being implemented with maximum efficiency.