Suspend the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities [fr]
Security Council’s working methods
Statement by Mrs Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 6 February 2018
I would first like to thank you, Mr. President, for organizing today’s open debate, which shows how important you consider the issue of improving the Security Council’s working methods, both in your position as President of the Council for this month and as Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions.
I would also like to thank Ian Martin warmly for his briefing and for his recent report on the subject in Security Council Report.
The first point I would like to emphasize is that what is at stake behind our reflections on the Security Council’s working methods is the effectiveness of the United Nations organ that has primary responsibility for issues of international peace and security, in accordance with Article 24 of the Charter of the United Nations. Because it is focused on the crises that are currently disturbing the international order, more than any other institution the Security Council must be able to adapt its methods and functioning to changes in its environment. In order to do that, when necessary it must be able to reflect on its own work and examine it critically. The Council’s work rests on a foundation based, needless to say, on the Charter, particularly Chapter V. Apart from that juridical basis, the Council’s rules are listed in its provisional rules of procedure. This edifice is crowned by a set of rules and best practices outlined in the famous note by the President of the Security Council currently contained in the annex to document S/2017/507 — note 507.
The second point I want to emphasize is that one of the Council’s strengths is the flexibility of its rules. The difficult part of the work of the Informal Working Group lies precisely in its ability to codify those rules and good practices without depriving them of that flexibility. The latest version of note 507 — and I would like to pay tribute to Japan, the previous Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions — records a series of important and useful steps.
With regard to its form, the note has been simplified and reorganized to be a clearer guide to the daily work of the Council. France used it quite often during its presidency in October. With regard to substance, the note includes several new elements that reflect existing practices or goals set by the Council. I will mention a few points that my delegation considers to be vital.
First, there are details on preparing newly elected members and future members for the Council. Second are the good practices in the area of consultations, including more regular use of different items in accordance with the development of events, an effort to make discussions more interactive, and enhanced transparency through more frequent press statements. Thirdly, there are recommendations aiming to make briefings more operational and ensure that they meet the expectations of the Council. Fourthly, the note sets out specific guidelines on how texts will be discussed before they are adopted by the Council, in particular with regard to the role of penholders. Fifthly, there are factors to improve the preparation, content and follow-up of Security Council missions. Sixth are indications reflecting the goal of strengthening the joint work with regional organizations, in particular the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.
Following such comprehensive work, our responsibility — in the first place, that of the Informal Working Group — is to work to fully implement the recommendations set by the Council. Much remains to be done to benefit fully from existing guidelines before starting new endeavours. Among the areas for improvement, a few recurring factors should be recalled.
During consultations, our discussions must be more direct, more interactive and more informal in order to foster a genuine exchange of views. At public meetings, in particular open debates, we must do better to enforce time limits on interventions and ensure that they are operational in nature. Generally, we should ensure that the Council continues its efforts to adapt the format of its meetings to the subjects addressed. For example, in certain cases we could avoid instances of redundancy when public briefings are followed by closed consultations. We should also continue to benefit from informal meetings, in particular Arria Formula meetings, and informal interactive dialogue. France believes that it is essential to ensure systematic respect for multilingualism for all Council documents and meetings, including those of its subsidiary bodies.
In parallel to the areas for improvement I have just mentioned, the Council should continue efforts to improve the transparency of its work — with regard to troop-contributing countries, in the framework of discussions pertaining to peacekeeping, but also with regard to the States Members of the United Nations in general, including through public meetings and, like today, through open debates.
Beyond the issue of transparency in the Council’s work — and even more important — is the matter of its representativity, and that brings me back to its basis: the Charter of the United Nations. The Security Council should better reflects the realiies of our world, while strengthening its capacity and its legitimacy to assume its responsibilities with regard to international peace and security. Beyond the gradual but marginal improvements I have described, reform of the Security Council is required.
France’s position is well known. We want the Council take into account the emergence of Powers that have not only the ability but also the will to shoulder their international responsibilities. France therefore supports the candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan as permanent members of the Security Council, as well as a stronger presence of African countries among permanent and elected members.
It is in the same spirit that France has proposed that the five permanent members of the Security Council voluntarily and collectively suspend the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities. The measure is voluntary and would not require a revision of the Charter, but rather a political commitment. It is about ensuring that the Council continues to fulfil its responsibilities in the area of international peace and security, and does notlose its legitimacy as it faces the deadliest conflicts and the most serious actions.
In the light of the multiplication of crises and threats, the role of the Security Council is to live up to the responsibilities entrusted to it by the Charter. More than ever, France is determined make its contribution.