Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on the Working Methods of the Council

Trina Saha
Acting Minister Counselor for Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 28, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this important annual debate. We extend our appreciation to you for leading the Informal Working Group on Documentation and other Procedural Question. We also wish to thank today’s briefers. Ms. Landgren: we appreciate the Security Council Report, a valuable resource for watchers of the Security Council.  And Ms. Sievers: you literally wrote the book on the Security Council’s procedure, which continues to be a vital resource for all of us.

We greatly value the work of the Informal Working Group. Mr. President, we appreciate your focus as chair of the Informal Working Group on the implementation of Note 507, the essential guide to and codification of the practice of the Security Council. Note 507, and the Council’s subsequently adopted related notes, was the product of years of practice and negotiation. By and large, most of the tools to improve the Council’s working methods are already in Note 507. It’s simply a question of our collective will and dedication to implement the note’s provisions.

We have been pleased by the progress made by the Council in including more civil society briefers in its work. It is also particularly noteworthy that the Council has improved the gender balance of its civil society briefers. To ensure that the Security Council takes full account of all perspectives when deliberating on the situations before it, it is vital that all voices be brought to the Security Council table.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council has been able to adapt to fulfill its mandate under Article 28 of the UN Charter and function continuously. Despite the inability to convene in-person meetings, the Council adopted its resolutions through a virtual correspondence process. The United States continues to believe that the virtual gatherings held by the Council should be deemed formal meetings of the Security Council under the Provisional Rules of Procedure, so that the Council can adopt resolutions through virtual meetings. As the pandemic wanes, we do think that it would be useful for the Security Council to develop a preparedness plan in the event of future emergencies. It is generally better to be prepared for the future through a well-considered deliberative process, rather than to have to scramble in reaction to a crisis at short notice.

Mr. President, we recognize the great responsibility that the United States bears as a permanent member of the Security Council. We do not take this status for granted. As a permanent member, the United States’ perspective on the working methods of the Council is based on 76 plus years of experience. We have the vantage point of a long view.  Each time there is a proposal to adjust the Council’s working methods, we are in a position to evaluate the long-term institutional implications of the proposal. We balance the clarity, on the one hand, of hard and fast rules against the need for flexibility and adaptability to the circumstances. We are aware that there is always room for improvement, that the Council can ever strive toward greater effectiveness, efficiency and transparency, while taking into account that many of its working methods have stood the test of time and are in place for good reasons. We commit to continue to roll up our sleeves and work to improve the Council’s working methods, through the Informal Working Group.

Mr. President, on the subject of the veto: the General Assembly recently adopted Resolution 67/262, which mandated a General Assembly meeting every time the veto is cast. The United States was proud to co-sponsor that innovative resolution. The General Assembly recently held its first meeting pursuant to that resolution, after the double veto of the resolution that the United States proposed in response to ballistic missiles launched by the DPRK. While the United States was of course deeply disappointed that the vetoes prevented that resolution from being adopted, the United States was pleased to see the smooth implementation of Resolution 262. The Council was able to reach consensus on a fact-based special report to the General Assembly, in response to the General Assembly’s invitation.

The General Assembly’s meeting provided an opportunity for those casting the veto to explain themselves, and UN Member States to react to the veto. We noted that almost 80 Member States participated in the debate. We also observed that the convening of the General Assembly meeting does not necessarily mean that the General Assembly needs to adopt a resolution on the subject of the vetoed resolution. All in all, Resolution 262 demonstrated a healthy balance between the Security Council and the General Assembly.

I wish to close by recognizing some unsung heroes. We deeply value the behind-the-scenes work of the Security Council Affairs Division, which provides the institutional memory and operational legwork of the Security Council. It is through SCAD’s unseen work that the transition from presidency to presidency, month after month, goes so smoothly and seamlessly.

And I do not want to neglect to mention the rest of the Secretariat staff, such as the interpreters who are right now translating these very words into the other five official UN languages, and the conference services staff, who ensure that we are able to physically meet in this grand chamber today.  Each Security Council meeting is the outcome of a collective effort by so many people, from permanent representatives to political coordinators to Secretariat staff, working in solidarity toward a common end – the maintenance of international peace and security.  And ultimately, that’s what the working methods of the Council are all about.

Thank you, Mr. President.