Press Releases

    GA/9936
    16 October 2001

    SPEAKERS URGE COUNCIL TO RESPOND TO MEMBER STATE EXPECTATIONS OF INCREASED OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY

    Concluding Its Consideration of Secretary-General’s Report on Council,
    Assembly Registers Frustration, Particularly From Troop-Contributing States

    NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- Taking note of the report of the Security Council, the General Assembly this afternoon concluded its two-day consideration of that item.

    Many speakers had stressed that, despite former requests, the report did not follow an analytical approach or contain information on the contents of closed meetings and informal consultations. The representative of Mexico said this afternoon that there was a need for the Security Council to fully discharge its obligation under the United Nations Charter by ensuring that its annual and special reports were not mere compendiums of already-published documents, resolutions and decisions.

    Regarding another topic many Member States had addressed, he said the number of closed meetings continued to be higher than that of open meetings. The Council must fully respect the spirit and letter of article 48 of its Provisional Rules of Procedure, which provided that it should hold its meetings in public. Closed meetings should be the exception and not the rule.

    Addressing, as many speakers had done, the working methods of the Council, the representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said that more transparency and interaction between the Council and the rest of the United Nations membership would be necessary to fashion truly effective and persistent long-term action against terrorism. In today's circumstances, the conditions existed to establish a broader, more regular and effective intercommunication between the Council and other segments of the Organization.

    Several speakers during the debate had remarked that the Council did not always apply equal standards in its activities. Uganda’s representative said this afternoon that Africa noted with concern and regret the ever increasing reluctance of the Security Council to commit sufficient troops where they were badly needed in Africa -- for example in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He appealed to the Security Council to assist, with far greater commitment than before, the ongoing peace processes there and in Burundi, Sierra Leone and other States.

    Council consultation with troop-contributing countries had been welcomed by many speakers, but Nepal’s representative said that he believed the Council should move beyond ritual consultations and into sustained cooperation with troop-contributing countries.

    Echoing many speakers’ sentiments, he said the Council worked on behalf of its general membership in matters of peace and security. It was the Council’s obligation to become transparent, responsive and accountable in its work. It could do so by bringing its deliberations out from the shadow of secrecy and by promoting participatory decision-making. The Council’s present structure should not be an anachronistic remnant of a bygone era where roles were predestined and prerogatives preordained.

    The representatives of Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Bahrain and Ghana also spoke this afternoon.

    Announcements

    The Assembly was informed that on Wednesday, 21 November, it would take up as its second item the "Zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic".

    The item "Appointment of members of the Joint Inspection Unit", originally scheduled for 1 November, was moved to the morning of 10 December.

    The date of the next meeting of the Assembly will be announced.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of the report of the Security Council. (For further background information, see Press Release GA/9933 of 15 October.)

    Statements

    PETER TOMKA (Slovakia) said many of the matters dealt with in the report were complex and serious, and the report itself provided detailed facts and technical information. However, he would have liked to see a more analytical approach adopted. It was evident that the agenda was constantly growing, but the Assembly’s focus was on quality and efficiency of actions. In that respect, the report should try to meet the need expressed by many States for a more analytical and succinct coverage.

    The basic assumption for a more effective Council was the ability to take early action, with early warning and information included. Member States turning to the United Nations when their security was threatened legitimately expected to be heard and helped, without delay. Effective conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building must involve the United Nations system as a whole. Security Council members were cautious -– often too cautious –- and tried to avoid having the affected countries perceive Council action as outside interference. As had been seen, missed opportunities came at a high price.

    Two factors related to the credibility of the Council were transparency and decision-making. Non-members of the Council had the right to be well briefed about its work. There was also a need for the Council to be more open to outside expertise and influence. Parties and United Nations agencies could contribute to its deliberations on specific issues. He welcomed growing importance of input from regional organizations in the work of the Council. More could be done in that regard, he said.

    JORGE EDUARDO NAVARRETE (Mexico) said that, regrettably, the annual report did not address repeated Member State concerns that it should contain a review of substantive issues and relevant information on the decision-making process. Mexico had often pointed to the need for the Security Council to discharge its obligation under the United Nations Charter by ensuring that its annual and special reports were not mere compendiums of documents, resolutions and decisions that had already been published.

    In that connection, his country supported the Council’s decision to begin consideration of its annual report in the informal Working Group, with a view to ensuring that the Group discharged its obligation to regularly update the General Assembly. Mexico also noted with satisfaction that the report contained a monthly review prepared by the Presidents of the Council on its work. Those documents were useful and the most substantive element of the report.

    The exchange of information between members of the Security Council and the General Assembly should be more dynamic, he continued. Mexico regretted that the number of closed meetings continued to be higher than the number of open meetings. The Security Council must fully respect the spirit and letter of article 48 of its Provisional Rules of Procedure, which provided that it should hold its meetings in public. Closed meetings should be the exception and not the rule. In conclusion, he stressed the importance that his delegation attached to a substantive review by the General Assembly of the report of the Security Council. This should not be a formal and routine exercise, but a genuine in-depth consideration of the report.

    JEREMIAH MANELE (Solomon Islands) said the Security Council’s report provided a useful overview of how the Council dealt with key issues of peace and security. It would help to include an analysis of how the Council’s decisions and resolutions had been implemented, for example, whether endorsed actions had been effective and whether further recommendations had been offered in a situation. The Council’s resolutions on conflict prevention contained useful, concrete recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations system. Future Council reports should note the Council’s role in implementing its own recommendations.

    As presented in the report, he said, during November 2000 the Council had held informal consultations on the situation in his own country, following conclusion of the Townsville Peace Agreement in October. In December of that year, a National Peace Monitoring Council had begun working with an International Peace Monitoring Group of unarmed military and police personnel from Australia and New Zealand to implement the Agreement’s disarmament provisions and to promote peace and reconciliation. Progress on surrendering arms had been slow. More than 500 weapons were still at large and peace remained fragile. Nevertheless, a review of the Agreement’s attempts to resolve obstacles had been started. It showed that effective implementation had only begun in September of the present year. While the review had been suspended due to unrelated causes, it had already shown that the two major parties were committed to the peace process and that the Government was encouraging civil society participation.

    That review would be submitted to the Council when it was completed, he said. Moreover, the Government’s peace plan and programme of action through 2002 included policy principles and strategies that addressed the conflict’s root causes and aimed to prevent its recurrence. Support of development partners was crucial for rehabilitation, reconstruction, maintaining peace and promoting sustainable development.

    DEJAN SAHOVIC (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) said that successful implementation of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) would require some adjustment in the Council's work methodology. It seemed that more transparency and interaction between the Council and the rest of the United Nations membership would be necessary in order to fashion truly effective and persistent long-term action against terrorism. Perhaps in today's circumstances, conditions existed for establishing a broader, more regular and effective intercommunication between the Council and other segments of the Organization. Regrettably, whilst the report was detailed and illustrative, it did not reflect the substance of the problems that had been discussed and the complexities involved. A less technical and a more analytical approach was needed when reporting to the General Assembly. Furthermore, more possibilities should be provided for countries whose interests were directly affected by Security Council decisions to take part in those discussions before the decisions were made.

    Unfortunately, he said, the situation in some areas of the Balkans was still very complex and fraught with the potential to deteriorate. The Security Council had to continue to follow developments in the region closely. It was not enough to review periodically the performance of a mission that the Council had established and leave all decisions to the mission's leadership on the ground. A pro-active method was required to create conditions for a successful mission outcome. He was pleased to note, however, that the Council had started to apply an active approach with regard to the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) and hoped that it would continue to do so.

    At the end of the period covered by the report, the Council delegation had visited the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, he said. The visit had contributed to the improvement of dialogue between the Council and his Government. It was very important in all cases that the Government of the host country be fully engaged during the life of a mission. That was particularly true at this point in time, only a month before elections in Kosovo and Metohija. The situation in the latter was still very grave, and it was therefore crucial that a joint effort be made by the Security Council, UNMIK, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999) to make it possible for all voters to participate in the elections. In Yugoslavia, people believed that the region should begin to consider how to address its existing problems in totality and in a comprehensive manner. They were also of the view that in such a process the role of the Security Council was indispensable.

    MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) said the Security Council should have submitted an analytical report, enabling the Assembly to consider the report according to the rules of the Charter. Without such a report, the debate remained a formality, lacking spirit. The Council should be daring enough to tell where it had succeeded and where it had failed during the year concerned. It should also tell where the veto had been used and why, and where there had been a threat of the use of the veto. It should also say where it had applied double standards and flouted the Charter.

    Apart from providing the adopted documents, the sanctions against Iraq had not been dealt with in the report, he said. Deliberations on the issue were held in closed meetings, even though they related to the future of a population of 25 million and had resulted in resolutions which were far from humanitarian and had killed 1.5 million Iraqi people in an embargo unprecedented in history. The confidentiality of the meetings exposed the Council to charges of lack of transparency and indulgence in double standards.

    The issue of peace and security, of which the Council was custodian, had not received the required attention. The Council had failed to find a just solution to some international problems, such as the one of Palestine. One country in the Council had made it impossible to solve that problem, even in its humanitarian dimension. Was it not the responsibility of the Council to provide protection for the Palestinian people, struggling for their liberation and their rights? The same applied to Afghanistan. The unarmed people of that country were subject to military aggression launched without the Council debating the problem. The people of Afghanistan looked to the Organization for a solution. In conclusion, he said, the work of the Council needed substantive, in-depth and frank discussion.

    MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said the Secretary-General’s comment last Friday about accepting the Nobel Prize with humility was a reminder that the Organization was imperfect and needed reforms to address the challenges before it. The Security Council worked on behalf of its general membership in matters of peace and security. It was the Council’s obligation to become transparent, responsive and accountable in its work. It could do so by bringing its deliberations out from the shadow of secrecy and by promoting participatory decision-making.

    The report should reflect that obligation, he said. Instead, there was a thick compendium of formal decisions and statements with no analysis. While the sheer volume was helpful for an appreciation of the Council’s workload, the report was a "body without a soul". Also, its grandiose flavour was incompatible with the Organization’s health and could compromise effectiveness, as in its ritualized public debates. They were fine, but they should not substitute for either substantive consultation or for the imperative to cooperate. Neither should they camouflage the Council’s less than democratic decision-making, nor provide avenues for widening the Council’s scope and allowing it to encroach on the mandates of other United Nations organs.

    The Brahimi report on peace operations had pointed to the Council’s ambiguous and unrealistic mandates for missions and to its working style, he said. Consultations with troop-contributing countries, for example, were welcome -- but the Council should move beyond ritual consultations having no substance and into sustained cooperation. Also, it should exercise self-discipline before dispatching full-sized missions. Heads of State had resolved to give the United Nations the resources to do its job, but the Organization would be wise to spend wisely. Most importantly, in a democratic United Nations and a democratizing world, the Council’s present structure should not be an anachronistic remnant of a bygone feudalistic era, where roles were predestined and prerogatives preordained.

    MATIA SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda) said that as a country that had suffered from repeated acts of terrorism, Uganda fully supported resolution 1373. Furthermore, in its resolutions 1265 (1999) and 1296 (2000), the Security Council had strongly condemned not only the deliberate targeting of civilians but also attacks on objects protected under international law. Those and many other acts of terrorism highlighted the importance of appropriate mechanisms to prevent conflicts and to resolve them through bodies such as the United Nations. His country recommended an intensification of measures for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, and in that regard, further commended the Council for paying special attention to demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers.

    Peacekeeping, he said, was a core responsibility of the United Nations, and of the Security Council in particular. Africa, however, noted with concern and regret the ever increasing reluctance by the Security Council to commit sufficient troops where they were badly needed in Africa, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda appealed to the Council to assist the ongoing peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone and others with far greater commitment than before.

    Last year, he said, the Secretary-General had appointed a panel of experts to investigate the alleged exploitation of the natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report was found wanting because of its unsubstantiated allegations, and for that reason the life of the panel had been extended under new Chairmanship. As their findings were still awaited, it was totally inappropriate to make wild accusations and condemnations, as was becoming customary with some delegations of the region. With regard to the improvement of the working methods of the Council, Uganda would support a step-by-step expansion to 21 seats to help speed up the enlargement process.

    MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said she welcomed Security Council efforts to promote transparency by conducting open meetings with the participation of non-Council members. The Council’s debates would be more effective if it continued to conduct more interactive discussions with non-Council members. She commended Council members for participating in the meeting of the Working Group on Council reform, where they shared experiences on the working methods of the Council.

    A special meeting of the Council on the situation in Afghanistan could assist the political process towards national reconciliation and a lasting political settlement, she said. That process, aimed at restoring peace in Afghanistan and assisting the people to form a multi-ethnic, fully representative Government, should be carried out under the strict and continuing supervision of the Council. Isolated measures, arms embargoes and sporadic efforts to combat the drug trade would fail to produce a long-term effect in the country.

    Regarding the Security Council report, she noted that it was mainly a compilation of documents lacking an analytical component. The report simply described the Council’s activities for the period it covered, from 16 June 2000 to 15 June 2001. She supported a proposal formulated by delegations that the Secretariat prepare an analytical and informative report to make future discussion of Council activities more fruitful and meaningful.

    GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said the Security Council report was mainly descriptive, excessively lengthy, and totally devoid of elements that would permit Member States to assess its work. A shorter but analytical report, similar to the annual report on the Organization prepared by the Secretary-General, would be much more appreciated.

    It was no secret that as the Security Council had acquired greater presence, the General Assembly had been losing it, he said. The events of the past month had eloquently underlined that fact. While the Council acted by adopting resolution 1373, which contained binding obligations for all, the Assembly had deliberated for a week and adopted no decision at all. Ending the present situation required reform of the Council, the Assembly and also the Economic and Social Council.

    While agreements were reached on such delicate matters, the few links that already existed between those organs could be strengthened, he continued. The most visible link between the Council and the Assembly was the growing number of open Council meetings. The yearly report fell into the same category, at least hypothetically. The report was disappointing not only because it lacked analysis, but because it was one more missed opportunity to make the Organization’s main arms work better. The report added to the image of a forum that lacked transparency but had power, as opposed to a forum that acted with more transparency but with little capacity to influence the decision-making process. Guatemala wished to add its voice to the demand that such a sterile exercise not be repeated.

    JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said that the current work of the Security Council was not at the level the international community hoped for. It was handicapped in many ways. In Africa, for example, wars continued to kill innocent citizens. While the Security Council’s response was not commensurate with the level of events, the same was true of the conflict in the Middle East where the Council had failed to implement its own resolutions. The failure of the Security Council to find a permanent solution to that question was proof of its paralysis. The main reason for that was the lack of political will on the part of some members, which had even fallen back on the use of the veto.

    The Security Council, he said, had frequently resorted to the imposition of sanctions. In the last 11 years, it had been clear that such sanctions were in dire need of periodic review to avoid a negative impact on innocent civilians. The Security Council should conduct a comprehensive study of the sanctions regime, in cooperation with other United Nations bodies. Due to the increasing importance of the Council’s role and the changes in international politics, those factors required a comprehensive reform of the Security Council to make it more balanced, representative, transparent and effective.

    Despite the fact that the Security Council had made small changes in its working methods, those changes were not enough to increase transparency to a significant degree. Bahrain hoped that the Council would redouble its efforts and make radical changes in its working methods, so that it was no longer fossilized and could no longer be described as a private country club for members only. Future reports of the Security Council should be more analytical and contain creative ideas which delegations could discuss as they expressed their views.

    NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said he appreciated the Council’s focus on peacekeeping and its comprehensive approach to the maintenance of international peace and security, especially in Africa. The recently initiated consultations with regional institutions were welcome. The Council should keep them on course and should encourage regional and subregional partnerships. Council missions were also useful in enabling members to make informed decisions.

    Still, he said, the interactive consultative process between the Council, the Secretariat and troop-contributing Member States was an integral part of the Council’s decision-making process and should allow for objectivity and transparency. The report made reference to briefings given by the Secretariat, but made no reference to the consultative process. While it was a new mechanism, its usefulness should have been assessed. Also, consultations with regional and subregional players should be held early and not wait until the eve of expiry.

    The report itself, he continued, was a mere compilation of information already in the public domain. It contained no mention of failures or upcoming prospects. If the Council were to continue passing resolutions in the form of edicts that all Member States were expected to implement scrupulously, then it was only fitting it should explain its actions fully so as to gain the general membership’s support and cooperation. Finally, in light of the Council’s creep into areas outside its mandate, it was imperative to strengthen the trust between the Security Council and the General Assembly as well as between those two bodies and the Economic and Social Council.

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