Security council focused on conflict prevention, settlement of regional conflicts, general assembly told as it considers council's report
Plenary 25th Meeting (AM)
Many Delegations Criticize Lack of Analytical Content in Report
The Security Council had focused in particular on the settlement of regional conflicts and conflicts in general, Richard Ryan (Ireland), President of the Security Council, told the General Assembly this morning as he introduced that body's report for the period 16 June 2000 to 15 June 2001.
The Council had also paid particular attention to conflict prevention situations, especially in Africa, he said. Extensive attention had been given to Iraq as well as to broader issues such as those of women and of children in armed conflict. Peacekeeping had been another area of focus. The Council had continued to strengthen its working methods and procedures by securing better information, undertaking special missions and directly contacting parties relevant to issues before it. It had conducted business as transparently as possible, holding many public meetings and broadening the participation of a wider United Nations membership.
The representative of Algeria, recalling that the Security Council reported to the Assembly because it acted on behalf of Member States, said the Council still tended to take up questions that were the Assembly's purview. The Council was also taking up thematic issues with a lot of attendant media hoopla, but it didn't have the expertise to carry out its recommended actions.
The Council was to be commended on its increased activity in the area of conflict prevention and resolution, he said. Quarrels in the world were on the rise, but the United Nations was also increasingly the forum for resolving them. Still, the Council had remained stymied in protecting civilians caught in conflict situations, especially in the Middle East.
Many delegates criticized the lack of analytical content in the report. The representative of Colombia, a non-permanent member of the Council, said the report was a mere compilation of already publicized documents, and failed to reflect the fact that the Council was politically accountable to the Assembly. Something innovative, straightforward and brief was needed on the activities of the Council, something that would build up the relationship between it and the Assembly.
He said resolution 1373, on international terrorism, might have consequences for the relationship between Assembly and Council. That resolution could only be successful if it had the cooperation of all members of the Organization. That should prompt consideration of the usefulness of the current report, as it was one of the key elements whereby the Council sought political backing for decisions in the Assembly.
Cuba's representative said the Council's report should not only reflect what had been done, but also what the Council had not been able to do and the reasons for that. The divergent opinions of Council members on issues should be included as well. The annual submission of the report was not a privilege, but an obligation stipulated in the Charter. State Members had the duty to evaluate the work of the Council thoroughly.
The representative of Singapore, a non-permanent member of the Council, said trust and confidence between the Assembly and the Council must be the key goal of the debate on that item. What had passed unnoticed over the past decade was that the Security Council had quietly and gradually built upon and expanded powers conferred on it by the United Nations Charter. Within the United Nations environment, the Council occupied more political space than any other United Nations organ. Just like a human being, the Council would languish if it had only uncritical lovers or unloving critics. All previous Assembly debates so far had been perfunctory, but the members of the Assembly had no one but themselves to blame for that sorry state of affairs.
This morning, the Assembly also took note of document A/56/366, a note by the Secretary-General on the agenda item "Notification by the Secretary-General under Article 12, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations", which listed matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security that were being addressed by the Council, and of matters with which the Council had ceased to deal.
The representatives of Costa Rica, Iran, Brazil, Malaysia, Netherlands, Peru, South Africa, Bulgaria and Japan spoke as well.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its debate on the report of the Security Council.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider the Secretary-General's notification under Article 12, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations and the report of the Security Council.
The Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General on Notification by the Secretary-General under Article 12, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/56/366). It advises the Assembly of matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security that are being addressed by the Council.
[Article 12, paragraph 1 of the Charter stipulates that, while the Council is exercising, in respect of any dispute or situation, the functions assigned to it in the Charter, the Assembly shall not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Council so requests.]
The Assembly also had before it the Report of the Security Council covering the period from 16 June 2000 to 15 June 2001 (document A/56/2/Suppl.2). During that period, the report indicates that Colombia, Ireland, Mauritius, Norway and Singapore filled the non-permanent vacancies on the Council after Argentina, Canada, Malaysia, Namibia and the Netherlands ended their two-year terms on 31 December 2000. Also during that period, the Council held 173 formal meetings, adopted 52 resolutions and issued 35 Presidential statements. Members held 185 consultations over a total of some 325 hours, considering more than 72 reports by the Secretary-General and 1,245 documented communications.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking in his capacity as Security Council President, introduced the Council's annual report for the period from 16 June 2000 to 15 June 2001. Summing up the Council's work, he said it had focused in particular on the settlement of regional conflicts and conflicts in general. On Africa, it had given particular attention to Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Burundi, Liberia, Angola, Somalia, Rwanda and Guinea. It had also examined the general situations of countries in West Africa in light of the report on a visit there by the United Nations Inter-Agency Mission.
On 7 September 2000, he continued, the Council, at the heads-of-State level, had discussed its role in maintaining peace and security. Throughout the year, it had paid particular attention to conflict prevention, especially in Africa. Extensive attention had been given to Iraq as well as to broader issues such as those of women and children in armed conflict situations. Peacekeeping had been another area of focus.
He said the Council had continued to strengthen its working methods and procedures in such ways as securing better information, understanding special missions and establishing direct contact with parties relevant to issues before it. It had improved its procedures and those of its committees concerning sanctions. It had conducted business as transparently as possible, holding many public meetings and broadening the participation of the wider United Nations membership.
Finally, he said the Councils' report to the Assembly was a significant part of the dialogue between the two bodies. The Security Council would review the format and structure of its report over the next months. The Assembly's comments would be incorporated in Council's next report.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said that resolution 1373 heralded a new era in international relations. For the first time in history, the Security Council had declared a particular phenomenon, international terrorism, a threat to international peace and security in all circumstances. It had also acknowledged the inherent right to self-defence against the activities of non-State actors even when they were found in the territory of third States. Furthermore, the Council had imposed upon all States a series of obligations and general norms of conduct to fight against international terrorism. The resolution constituted a strong, fitting and necessary response to the despicable criminal acts of 11 September, he said.
Resolution 1373 evidenced the broad powers of the Security Council. These powers must be exercised responsibly, he said. It was indispensable that the Council consulted effectively and transparently all other members of the international community when adopting wide-ranging measures. When exercising its powers, it was vital that the Council recalled that the prohibition of the use of force was the cornerstone of the society of nations. He expressed concern that a weakening of this prohibition might open the door to violence in international relations. He believed that, with the limited exception of the right to self-defence, a previous authorization from the Council was indispensable for any initiative that could require the use of force. Furthermore, one must be careful when resorting to self-defence, he said. The right to self-defence was never absolute because it was limited by the principle of proportionality.
Had the Council taken adequate measures to solve the situation in Afghanistan? he asked. Today the answer seemed clear; it had not. The Council had taken far too few measures to prevent future conflicts throughout the world. The Security Council could not continue to witness passively innumerable genocides, massacres and wars. Poverty, underdevelopment, ethnic differences, health problems, gender discrimination and the lack of opportunities did not generate, in themselves, armed conflicts. These structural factors could degenerate into violence only if there were political or military leaders willing to call to arms those groups championing such claims. The Security Council must play a key role and must use all its diplomatic, legal and political resources to support and demand practice of good governance, democracy, representative government, the rule of law and respect for human rights. He added that the promotion of peace required a constant and sustained effort to create an environment of mut ual respect and rejection of violence and extremism.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that as a non-permanent member of the Council, he considered the item of particular importance. However, the content of the report reflected a distant relationship between the Council and the Assembly. When the early draft had been submitted to Council members, he had, during consultations questioned its usefulness and had stressed the need for debate on drafting a useful report. That proposal had not been well received by some of the permanent members and some officials of the Secretariat. Consequently, the consideration of the report during a public meeting had been a formality.
There was a lack of serious analysis in the report, he continued, and it failed to reflect the fact that the Council was politically accountable to the Assembly. The report was just a compilation of documents, most of them already publicized. Something innovative, straightforward and brief was needed on the activities of the Council, something that would build up the relationship between it and the Assembly. He understood that agreeing on an analytical text would cause political difficulties, but the current report did not have any added value.
During the last weeks some important decisions had been taken by the Council, such as resolution 1373 on international terrorism, which might have consequences for the relationship between Assembly and Council. That resolution could only be successful if it had the cooperation of all members of the Organization, he said. That should prompt consideration of the usefulness of the current report, as it was one of the key elements whereby the Council sought political backing for decisions in the Assembly. He hoped that the next Assembly would receive a better report.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) recalled that the Security Council reported to the Assembly because it acted on behalf of Member States. Therefore, the present exercise was not a mere formality but an opportunity to take an open, in-depth look at the Council's work and its relations with the Assembly. Rather than review all the Council's work or criticize the report, he would comment on the Council's work and its report.
First, he said, the Council was to be commended on its increased activity in the area of conflict prevention and resolution. Quarrels in the world were increasing but the United Nations was also increasingly the forum for resolving them. Still, the Council had remained stymied in protecting civilians caught in conflict situations, especially in the Middle East. That impacted negatively on the Organization's image and effectiveness. In addition, while provisional rules allowed the Council to hold consultations, it was a detriment that most decisions were still being made there rather than in open meetings. If the Council opened its meetings to those involved in conflicts and to others who may have an interest in the proceedings, Council members would have information enabling them to act in an informed manner. Similarly, the Council should never say no to a Member State's request for a meeting based on one other Member's objection.
Concerning the sensitive issue of relations between the Organization's main bodies, he said there should be more cooperation between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council since their considerations increasingly and often overlapped, particularly in such areas as peace-building. Between the Security Council and the Assembly, he commended the practice of meetings between the two Presidents. However, he said the Council still tended to take up questions that were the Assembly's purview. The Council was also taking up thematic issues with a lot of attendant media hoopla, but it didn't have the expertise to carry out its recommended actions. In some situations, the Council had enjoined States to implement conventions that had not yet come into force, which had undermined its competence and raised serious legal questions.
The Security Council's main responsibility was to maintain international peace and security, he concluded. The Council should confine its decision-making to those issues, focusing on adhering scrupulously to its mandate. In addition, a decision should also be made soon about the Council's structure. It should be a truly representative body with the "veto" reconsidered. In short, rather than continuing from year to year with the pretext that the Council was improving its methods, the Council should regain its power by acting within its mandate. The Assembly President had a say in that and he should exercise that mandate.
HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said the Security Council report was mainly a compilation of documents, which recalled activities and restated facts. It described only what the Council had done and was largely silent about the reasons for decisions adopted, leaving non-members of the Council uninformed or misinformed about some important aspects of its work. However, he recognized improvements in the report's content as well as the methodology used to draw it up. There had been some efforts in recent years to make the Council more transparent, including an increased number of open debates, which was an important step forward.
The way the Security Council had dealt with volatile areas over the past several decades, especially in the Middle East, illustrated the inadequacy and inappropriateness of its working methods, he said. Many times, it had been called upon to maintain international peace and security by putting an end to the inhuman and aggressive acts of the Israeli regime, but the exercise or threat of veto had frequently paralyzed the Council and prevented it from discharging its constitutional responsibility. Also, continued aggressive policy by the Israelis, on the one hand, and the lack of any action by the Council on the other, did not allow any abating of the suffering of the Palestinians.
He acknowledged the Security Council's attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, which had emanated from disorder and lawlessness in that country. Undoubtedly, many acts of the Taliban, such as harbouring terrorists, drug trafficking, massacring the Afghan Shiite minority and murdering Iranian diplomats, ran counter to basic international humanitarian law. But the Afghan people should not be victimized for Taliban acts. His country was concerned over media reports from Afghanistan pointing to increased civilian casualties from the ongoing air strikes.
KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said that resolution 1373 made it obligatory for all States to impose far-reaching measures to combat terrorism, which would be monitored by the Counter-Terrorism Committee. Both constitutional as well as practical political requirements to ensure the successful implementation of such important resolutions underscored the need for a relationship of trust and confidence between the General Assembly and the Security Council. This must be the key goal of the debate on this item. What had passed unnoticed over the past decade was that the Security Council had quietly and gradually built upon and expanded powers conferred on it by the United Nations Charter. Within the United Nations environment, the Council occupied more political space than any other United Nations organ, he said. The huge disparity in annual expenditures alone spoke eloquently about the relative power and influence of the Security Council within the United Nations.
He was puzzled that the report had been adopted without any serious discussions or reflection within the Council. Singapore's discomfort with both the form and the content of this heavy annual report had left him with no choice but to make a public reservation when the Council adopted it on 18 September. Just like a human being, the Security Council would languish if it had only uncritical lovers or unloving critics. He encouraged Member States of this General Assembly to give their views to the Council both on how the annual report must be restructured and on how this annual debate must be conducted. All the previous General Assembly debates so far had been perfunctory, he said. But the members of this General Assembly had no one but themselves to blame for this sorry state of affairs. Behaviour like this explained the growing weakness and irrelevance of the General Assembly, he said.
To make the discussions more meaningful, he suggested that the annual report of the Security Council be sharply condensed and that it would contain three main parts: Descriptive, Analytical and Prescriptive. The question on "Lessons Learnt" was particularly important. The Security Council did make mistakes, he said. The most important lesson to be learnt was that it could be fatal to stagnate and stand still in rapidly changing times. Change would not come easily. It would be especially difficult for an organization like the Security Council which uniquely enjoyed both sweeping powers as well as immunity from any formal review or accountability. The Security Council derived its power from the wider membership. The General Assembly should therefore not be surprised if it was one day held accountable for failing to make the Council an institution that was also accountable to the international community, in the political if not the legal sense.
GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that the Security Council report had continued to be little more than a compilation of decisions and list of documents. It was hard to imagine that the Council would debate any issue based on a report similar to this, and it was unfair to expect the General Assembly to do so. A useful report from the Council would be one that was analytical and informative, containing data on what the Council did and analyzing how each issue was treated, what was achieved, how well the Council performed its tasks and how treatment of the issues could be improved.
He suggested that the Council provide "special reports" to inform the General Assembly of its work on thematic issues and specific situations in different periods of the year. These reports could lead to more focused debates on work accomplished and difficulties faced. There was fertile ground for the Council to produce focused, analytical reports, for example, on its discussions and achievements about protecting civilians in armed conflicts, peace-building, children in armed conflicts, cooperation with troop-contributing countries, difficulties encountered in implementing sanctions and, now, international terrorism.
He applauded the increasing tendency of the Council to be more transparent and inclusive in its procedures. Private meetings, open briefings, public debates and the practice of daily briefings by the presidency had helped to bring the work of the Council closer to the general membership. In order for such changes to go beyond working methods and affect the very heart of the Council's competence, it was necessary that Council members accept that transparency was a two-way road. The need for Council reform was all the more evident in times like this, when the realities of new security threats highlighted the fact that the work of the international community was different from what it was 55 years ago.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said the Council had held many thematic debates on issues such as peacekeeping, security and post-conflict peace-building, which had become a useful forum for both Council and non-Council members to address cross-cutting and complex issues relating to peace and security. However, the Council must not encroach into areas that were not within its purview. He supported "private meetings" of the Council during which it met with representatives of concerned States and parties to a conflict, but he said they must not become a substitute for prompt and effective Council action.
Without necessary reform, the Council would remain an anachronistic institution, reflecting outdated power equations of the immediate post-World War II period. The continued existence of the veto had rendered the Council less than democratic and had contributed to the paralysis of the Council. It had been at the core of the Council's inaction in Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo. It also continued to be the main reason for the Council's inability to contribute constructively to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said.
Sanctions were a blunt weapon, often punishing not the intended target but the innocent populace. Sanctions were to be utilized as a measure of last resort, short of force. It should be imposed after a careful analysis of the likely impact had been made. Unfortunately, in some instances the management of sanctions by the Council had tended to be influenced by political considerations, rather than principles. He was pleased to note that Council representatives had been able to participate at a meeting of the open-ended working group on Council reform. The candid and stimulating exchange of views between Council members and the working group had proved to be extremely useful. The historic "Council Summit", held in September last year, had made a clear commitment to making its work more effective and efficient, as spelt out in resolution 1318 (2000). He looked forward to the Council following up on that resolution, with the active participation of non-members of the Council.
DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) said that security issues could no longer be addressed effectively by just the powerful few. Broad coalitions in terms of geography and capabilities were required to overcome conflicts and other threats to international scrutiny. He urged member States to seize the present momentum to look into possibilities of forging a sustained and multi-faceted connection between the Council and the general membership. With regard to troop contributing countries he said that the United Nations had arrived at a critical juncture. Those countries faced the consequences of the Council's decisions. Peacekeeping troops were entitled to maximum transparency and inclusiveness in the process of preparing and managing peace operations.
When it came to connecting the general membership with the work of the Security Council, that must not be limited to ad hoc involvement on specific issues, he said. While the United Nations had made considerable progress in improving coordination of the United Nations agencies, the same could not be said about the decision-making process at the intergovernmental level. He added that an area where a better inter-governmental connection could be of an enormous benefit was the grey zone between economic conditions, conflict and in particular the range of policies and activities in the context of post-conflict peace-building. It was obvious that the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council shared a job in that area.
With regard to the report, he said that it was a mixed bag of information in varying degrees of relevancy to the larger United Nations membership. It was, no doubt, a reliable record of the Council's proceedings, which were public anyway. What was presented in the report as background information on specific country situations did not amount to more than an elaborate paraphrasing of resolutions and presidential statements which could be found in their entirety also under the appendices of the report. The report was no doubt an encyclopaedic masterpiece that was not very likely to fuel a spirited debate on the Council's activities during the past year. The part of the report that was truly narrative and somewhat substantive and informative was concealed in the annex of the report. This was the kind of analysis needed to have a useful debate.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) said that since Peru was one of the few successful examples of the elimination of terrorism, it was more than capable of aiding the Security Council in the performance of such important tasks, and it was therefore evaluating the possibility of suggesting the appointment of a Peruvian expert as a member of the Council's committee against terrorism.
To strengthen the synergy between the Security Council and the General Assembly, it was necessary for the Council report to become a useful guide for debate and reflection on the actions and initiatives adopted by that body, and for the President of the General Assembly to enforce resolution 51/241 of 1997 that referred to the strengthening of the United Nations system. The resolution recommended that unofficial consultations take place within the General Assembly after the adoption of certain Security Council reports, he said.
Peru had always indicated a special interest with regard to the demand for openness and transparency of the Security Council, he continued. It therefore emphasized the important publicizing work being performed by the permanent representation of Colombia on the work of the Council, through weekly meetings in its mission. In this area, there should be mention of the debate that was opened on the reinforcement of the cooperation of the countries that contributed troops that led to the approval of resolution 1353. The early and direct participation of the troop-contributing countries in the definition of the terms of reference and scope of peacekeeping and peace consolidation missions significantly increased their possibilities of success.
DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said international peace and security had been redefined in recent years to go beyond the traditional military concept. Arguably, such threats to human society as water scarcity were likely to trigger international conflicts. With such demonstrations of the need for United Nations bodies to work together, a meeting between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council was overdue. The Council's job was to continue redefining its role in the evolving global order while remaining cognizant of its United Nations mandate.
Reviewing the report, he said that the Council had devoted considerable time to addressing conflicts in Africa and that the same commitment should be made to deploying the resources to resolve those situations. The sanctions committees should harmonize their work so that capitals were not faced with waves of sanctions committees asking the same questions. The issues of poverty and development must be considered as part of global peace and security questions. In the Middle East situation, the Council must mandate the deployment of a credible international observer mechanism to oversee implementation of the Mitchell report by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Council should remember that its relationship to troop contributors was evolutionary and sho