Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the implementation of note S/2017/507
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Implementation of note S/2017/507 (working methods), 6 February 2018, New York.
Let me begin by thanking you for convening this important debate on the working methods of the Council. Let me also extend our thanks to Japan and the preceding Chairs of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (the IWG) for their efforts. The work of the IWG and the consolidated presidential note 507 is extremely helpful, both to those of us who are in the Council, particularly elected members, and those who follow our work from the outside.
My thanks also go to Security Council Report for your briefing today. Your insightful and scrutinizing reporting is in itself a push for the Council to always deliver better.
Working methods are a means to an end. Not an end in themselves. Nonetheless, getting them right is essential for the work of the Council.
They create the framework that enables each and every member of the Council to be fully involved, to contribute to informed discussions, and to play a full and meaningful role in the work of the Council. It is about every member having ownership of the issues on the Council's agenda and meeting their responsibilities to their own people and to the wider membership.
The working methods also work to ensure that the conflicts on the Council's agenda, as well as emerging threats, are addressed with the right timing, and that meetings are tailored, in terms of format and focus, to ensure the best chance of a meaningful outcome from the Council's deliberations. Getting it right requires leadership, with active members and an active Secretariat, constantly questioning why and how we do things, for the sake of efficiency, transparency and, ultimately, accountability.
My comments today will focus around how the Council informs itself – the input – and how the Council then takes effective action – the output.
Several useful tools, introduced and supported by Sweden, are now codified in note 507. Since joining the Council, we have called for a minimum outcome from all consultations in the form of agreed messages to the wider membership and the media. This is not only to increase transparency, but also helps to bring a focus to the work of the Council. I am pleased to note that this practice now seems to have become more and more established. It is now also a general rule that there should be at least one round of negotiations with all Council members for each resolution or presidential statement. The logic behind this rule goes without saying. It is not just a matter of courtesy – but about getting real buy-in and thus effectiveness.
But looking ahead, there is much more that can be done in order to further enhance the transparency, accountability and efficiency of our work.
We need to have an honest conversation about the system of so-called penholders. If this system is to continue, such responsibility should be evenly distributed between both permanent and elected members as well as among members from different regions.
We are all accountable for the maintenance of international peace and security, and note 507 stresses that any member may be a penholder. Similarly, there is no reason why both permanent and elected members should not serve as chairs of the subsidiary bodies and have equal say in the selection of those chairs.
Briefings and interactions with representatives of civil society are now a mainstay of the Council's work. They must be continued and enhanced. Hearing the voices of those most affected by our decisions will broaden our understanding of the situations under discussion, and by including women and youth make us more effective.
For the sake of efficiency, we must continue to improve our interaction in informal consultations. These meetings are not primarily a way for the Council to meet behind closed doors, but provide the opportunity for Council members to engage informally with the aim of achieving concrete results. Briefings to the press and the wider membership after such meetings enhance transparency and pushes us all to try to come together in a way that is responsible and meaningful.
The interaction with the broader membership has to be further improved and enhanced. The Council and its members need to talk with countries and not only about them. The same is true for briefers from the African Union for instance. We must think about how to make better use of the open debates as a means for a genuine dialogue between the Council and the broader membership. Should we allow for open debates where the members of the Council don't speak but just listen to the broader membership in preparation for subsequent decisions? In addition, the relationship between the Council and the PBC should become closer and more strategic.
As we have discussed previously, we have to actively operationalize the Council's preventive role as foreseen in the sustaining peace resolutions. This includes the mediation and good offices of the Secretary-General and using his full powers under article 99 of the Charter with the Council supporting and responding to his call. Better and more frequent use should be made of the situational awareness briefings. With a reformed Secretariat, the input from the Secretary-General can be more holistic as regards peace and security. Note 507 further points out the preventive role of Security Council Missions, which should be further explored, including through the use of "mini-missions" by a smaller number of Council members. Ian Martin raised an example of a successful such mission almost two decades ago.
As a final point, and as a member of the ACT group, I would like to touch briefly on the use of the veto.
As a collective security body, we have a duty under the Charter to shoulder our primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The veto is not a right but a responsibility. The use, or rather misuse, of the veto to protect narrow national interests against the will of the broad majority of the membership diminishes the Council's efficiency and credibility. It's only when the Council comes together and works as a whole that we are able to do our job.
To conclude, improving Council working methods serves the purpose of creating an environment which allows the Council to take meaningful action in an effective, efficient, results-oriented and accountable way. We will continue to work to ensure that elected and non-elected members have equal means to shoulder their responsibility under the Charter. In this vein, the non-elected members recently requested that their representatives be invited to participate in the Missions of the Military Staff Committee.
We look forward to cooperating actively with Kuwait and other partners both inside and outside the Council to continue making the Council more efficient, transparent and accountable. And we look forward to hearing from the broader membership – our constituency – about their expectations.