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National statements

Statement to the UN Security Council regarding Security Council working methods

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Climate
  • Conflict Prevention
  • Libya
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Regional Organisations
  • Sanctions
  • Security Council Working Methods
  • Timor-Leste
  • Women


Security Council Working Methods

Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President

I would like to thank you for convening this debate.

This discussion is an important step in advancing the process begun in 2006 with the publication of Note 507 on the working methods of the Council. We are very pleased that, less than two years since the debate convened by Japan in April 2010, Member States again have the opportunity to discuss progress in implementation of the note and working methods reform more broadly. We hope that these debates can be institutionalised – we are on the record as endorsing a suggestion put forward previously by Costa Rica that they take place at least every two years.

Mr President

Australia supports a Security Council that better reflects the contemporary world and is well-placed to respond to its challenges. Reform of the Council's composition is central to this. But so too is improving working methods – the working methods of an organisation can be the key to its performance.

We have said here before that the basic mindset of the Council should be one of active accountability and deliberate transparency.

Our strong view is that the more transparently the Council undertakes its work, the more accountable it is; the more it shares information, consults and accepts input, the more effective it will be. The more responsive the Council, the better placed it will be to meet the challenges presented by an ever-more complex world. The better informed, the more appropriate and implementable its decisions will be.

The importance of the Council's work has been consistently highlighted in the past year. The Council responded swiftly to the challenges in Libya by passing resolutions 1970 and 1973, and was quick to develop plans to work with the new Libyan authorities on emerging security challenges, particularly with regard to weapons proliferation. I note this to underline the importance of an agile Council, capable of responding quickly to new challenges. It is important that we continue to support reform of working methods that ensure effectiveness, responsiveness and agility.

Mr President

There have been good developments to welcome as we take stock of the implementation of Note 507 and progress in working methods reform, but there remains much to do. I would like to mention three issues today, hopefully focusing on practical suggestions.

The first relates to improving the Council's ability to meet its remit in relation to conflict prevention. As the nature of the security challenges facing the globe evolves, it is vital that the Council make best use of the tools at its disposal to prevent conflict. To do so, it needs to be able to act in an informed manner.

In this context we join others in welcoming the new Council practice of receiving regular briefings from the Department of Political Affairs with the focus on horizon-scanning. These should be maintained.

We also commend the Council's willingness to consider complex thematic issues relating to some of the globe's most demanding challenges. A recent example is the debate on climate change and its security implications. This provided a forum to discuss what Australia regards as an existential threat for many small island developing states and low-lying countries. It signalled a responsive Council willing to consider challenges that affect small island states in particular.

Of course, the Council should not stray into the prerogatives of other organs of the United Nations. But the Council's responsibility is international peace and security. We now understand that threats to this can be complex and non-tradtional. Having up to date information and analysis on these new challenges to security, and discussion on their implications, is essential to the Council's preventive role. In this manner, we see the work of the Council as being complementary to that of the UN's other organs – it is part of ensuring the UN system as a whole responds as effectively as possible to today's challenges.

We highlight also the unique role of the Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, currently under the Chairmanship of South Africa, which can draw in analysis and input not just from member states, but from NGOs and members of civil society.

In order to enhance the Council's capacity for prevention, we support the suggestion of regular briefings from the Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. We have also encouraged the Council to issue a standing invitation to the Executive Director of UN Women and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to ensure they can bring issues of concern to the Council in a more proactive manner.

The second issue I would like to address is improving consultation with troop and police contributing countries (TCCs and PCCs). Such consultations are an important mechanism to ensure peacekeeping mandates are informed by troop and police contributing countries' knowledge of ground realities, and that expectations are realistic and well understood. Such consultation is also important throughout the life-cycle of a mission and in planning transitions. Consultative meetings need to be structured, with advance notice of their scheduling. We welcome the initiatives adopted by this Council in its Presidential Statement of 18 August 2011 (S/PRST/2011/17) to improve these processes.

Mission-specific groups can also be an important conduit to the Council; the Core Group on Timor-Leste, of which we are a member, is a good example. It continues to provide suggestions regarding support to UNMIT, and to serve as a useful forum for consultation with stakeholders.

Third is interaction between the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). While there has been good progress, there is much more that can be done to achieve a more dynamic and organic relationship between these two bodies, in the spirit of the vision of World Leaders at the 2005 World Summit. We welcome the participation of the PBC Chair in Council discussions and of the Chairs of the Country-Specific Configurations in Council meetings and informal dialogues. We believe the Council could do more to draw on the expertise of the PBC, particularly during the renewal of mission mandates.

Mr President

Without repeating the comments of others in this debate today, we endorse a number of the suggestions made for, first, improving the Council's transparency (such as more open meetings and provision of more information on the work of sanctions committees); second allowing more interaction and dialogue with non-members (including enhanced engagement with regional and sub-regional organisations such as the African Union, more use of Arria formula meetings and informal dialogues, and making draft resolutions and Presidential Statements available to non-members at an early stage as envisaged in Note 507); and third enhancing efficiency (including through better harnessing of technology).

Of course, the Council's efficiency and effectiveness also depends in part on the performance of us, the non-members. It is necessary for us to take full advantage of the opportunities open to us to engage in the Council's work. We should ensure that we engage actively and dynamically in forums such as TCC/PCC meetings and in debates such as this. We should do so actively and dynamically – and above all, have something to say.

We would welcome reforms to make open debates less formulaic and more productive. These could include better reflecting what non-Council members say in the outcomes of meetings and in the Council's annual report. We welcome the initiative of Portugal in the recent briefing on new challenges to peace and security of allowing the briefers a chance to respond to the comments from Council members.

In conclusion, Mr President, we look forward to continuing to contribute constructively
to discussion on improving working methods of the Council. Increased transparency,
and consultation – and effectiveness – will further enhance the
legitimacy of this body in the eyes of all member states. That strengthens the
Council's role on global peace and security.

Last Updated: 16 June 2015
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