General Assembly Security Council

Mr. President,

Thank you for organizing this Open Debate on an issue which is of interest and importance to the entire membership of the United Nations.  I also thank Mr. Ian Martin for his briefing.  

2.    As an organ of the United Nations tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security on behalf of the comity of nations, the work of the Security Council, and the way it chooses to organize that work, is a matter of interest for all affected by its outcomes.

Mr. President,

3.    The edifice of the working methods of the Council is erected on the nebulous expanse of rules of procedure that remain provisional even 70 years after adoption and a series of quasi-formal Presidential Notes.Therefore, the field is rich in terms of opportunities for making practical suggestions for improvement. Many colleagues have, therefore, used this occasion to articulate an array of views on various aspects.

4.    However, I will focus on a thus far neglected but growing arena of work of the Security Council’s subordinate organs related to Sanctions.

Mr. President,

5.    There are 14 such Sanctions Committees established under various resolutions of the Security Council. These Committees, drawing their delegated authority from the Council, perform the functions of the Council in terms of designation of individuals, entities and undertakings deemed as threats to international peace and security. 

6.    Cumulatively, these Committees have, as of 31 December 2017, listed a total of 678 individuals and 385 entities as subject to UN targeted sanctions and restrictive measures such as assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.  

7.    In terms of numbers these decisions far exceed the outcomes arrived by the Security Council in open meetings during public sittings over the same period. 

8.    This large number of decisions flow from the universe of Sanctions Committees that comprise representatives of the Council members, who decide on behalf of the Council, and the decisions are binding on Member States.  Yet, each of these decisions of the Sanctions Committees are taken beyond the gaze of public knowledge, with no explanation of the inputs that go into their decision making. For want of a better depiction, it would appear these committees form the “subterranean” universe of this Council.

9.    This “subterranean” universe functions in accordance with decision making methods that are not the same as the normal functioning of this Council. 

10.    For example, in practical terms, decisions of these Sanctions Committees can be placed on hold or blocked by any of the 15 Members of these Committees. While decision making on Security Council Resolutions are based on clearly defined thresholds provided for in the Charter and the provisional Rules of Procedure, in case of the “subterranean” universe, each and every one of you have an effective veto on decision making. 

11.    What is worse is that none, except the members of this “subterranean” universe, are aware of the use of a veto while deciding on a reference made to any of the Sanctions Committees. Such is the effective impact of this “anonymous” veto that a proposal that has been blocked is not even made public. Also, no rationale is provided for such “anonymous” vetoing of a submission. Unlike in the Security Council, where vetoes are cast in public meetings and explanations made publicly, in the “subterranean” universe, no such practice exists. In fact, the principles of anonymity and unanimity reign in this “subterranean universe”. 

12.    In fact, this is not the only difference in the work methods of the “subterranean” universe of the Council with the official meetings of the Council. None, other than the members of the Council, are aware of the total number of decisions made by these Sanctions Committees. For example, in 2017, by our estimates, 53 individuals and 19 entities were added to the list of individuals and entities listed. However, how many others were blocked from being listed is neither available on the record nor made public. The rationale for the use of the “anonymous” veto is never provided to the general membership. 

13.    Even while your distinguished predecessor, as President of the Security Council last month, the distinguished Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan set high standards of transparency by releasing press elements after every consultation of the Council, no such practice exists in the “subterranean” universe of the Sanctions Committees.

14.    The challenges relating to the work methods of the “subterranean” universe of the Sanctions Committees are not merely related to transparency and accountability, but also to the diversity of review mechanisms of decision making in cases of differences between members. 

For example, ‘if after consultations, consensus still cannot be reached’,  two Committees provide that  “the matter may be submitted to the Security Council by the Member concerned; in four Committees, “the matter may be referred to the Security Council by the Chair;” in six Committees the matter may be submitted to the Security Council (without any clarification by who); in one Committee “the matter may be submitted to the Security Council by the Chair or by the Committee member concerned”; and in one other Committee, we could not even find an explicit option to refer it to the Security Council.  

15.    The divergence doesn’t end there. While 13 Sanctions Committees function without a need for an Ombudsperson to submit recommendations for a review, there is a mechanism of Ombudsperson provided in 1 specific Sanctions Committee.

Mr. President,

16.    Clearly, there exists a case for the Council to address the anomalies in the working methods of its “subterranean” universe of Sanctions Committees. These anomalies not only affect the efficiency and credibility of the work of the Council, but also impacts on the larger membership who are to implement Council’s decisions. It is in this spirit that my country, along with so many others, have called for the reform of the Security Council composition and its working methods. 

17.    Until that reform happens, it is not our case that we aspire for a utopia. Nor is it our case that the current situation is dystopian. Our objective in pointing out these issues is to move beyond the status quo, to what is termed as protopia. It is a state that envisages a better tomorrow than yesterday, although it might only be a little better. 

18.    We hope that this debate and your addition to the work done by your predecessors as chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) will lead to a ‘protopian' Council, which each day strives to make its work methods better than the previous day, even if it is only slightly better. 

I thank you Mr President.