Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Working Methods of the Security Council

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 16, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for paying tribute to Professor Ed Luck and Ambassador Kenzo Oshima both made unique contributions to the UN. I personally knew Ed for many years and had the great honor to sit on panels with him about the work of the Security Council – mostly in front of students – where Ed would gently but firmly correct my interpretation of procedural matters. And he was always right.

Mr. President, I’d like to thank the briefers for their thoughtful interventions. Ambassador King, we are grateful for your leadership in shepherding productive and pragmatic discussions in the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Matters. Many thanks to Lorraine Sievers for your insightful presentation. You literally wrote the book on Security Council procedure, and we at the U.S. Mission frequently consult your authoritative treatise. It’s lovely to see you again. And Karin Landgren, we appreciate your thoughtful briefing, as well as the work of you and your team to provide the Security Council community with the informative Security Council Report.

Mr. President, the Security Council persevered during the pandemic, adapting innovative methods of maintaining continuity so that it could fulfill its vital functions. Most significantly, the Security Council adopted and implemented a written correspondence process for the adoption of its resolutions. Through this essential measure, the Security Council ensured that it could renew peacekeeping mandates and sanctions resolutions, and could respond to the crises of the day, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic itself.

The Security Council was also able to convene virtually through the video teleconference system. Through the utilization of videoconferencing technologies, the world was able to see that the Security Council continued to receive briefings, engage in debates, and perform its role in maintaining international peace and security.

Nonetheless, the United States is concerned that these virtual discussions have not had the status of actual meetings of the Security Council. And because they are not actual meetings of the Security Council, the Council’s provisional rules of procedure do not apply to them. Thus, due to the objections of one Council Member as the pandemic began, the Security Council – for well over a year – has not been regularly functioning pursuant to its provisional rules of procedures and has not been holding “meetings.”

So, for almost a year and a half, the Council has effectively been unable to take any votes on procedural decisions at all, even when the vast majority of Council members may have supported the decision in question. And Rules 2 and 3 – the fundamental rules requiring the President of the Council to call a meeting of the Council – have been eroded over the past year and a half. This state of affairs is not acceptable, and we think that Security Council members should address it – even after this horrible pandemic is behind us – so that we will be on a sound legal and procedural footing in the event that the Security Council is unable to meet in person again in the future.

After all, the General Assembly was able to adopt a contingency decision to enable it to vote electronically on resolutions in the event that it is unable to hold in-person meetings. The Security Council should be able to adopt a procedural decision establishing that virtual meetings are indeed meetings of the Security Council, and that the Council’s provisional rules of procedure apply to them.

In closing, we would like to express our profound gratitude to the UN Secretariat, and in particular the Security Council Affairs Division, the UN interpreters, and the UN’s technical team for your hard work throughout the pandemic. Your tireless and crucial efforts behind the scenes enabled the Council to continue functioning, and for that the international community owes you a debt of thanks.

Thank you, Mr. President.