Statement by H.E. Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, at the Open Debate on Working Methods of Security Council

Ertuğrul Apakan 22.04.2010
Mr. President,

I would first like to thank you for organizing this open debate on Security Council's working methods. This is an issue of great importance for the entire UN membership and regular exchanges in such settings are extremely helpful in understanding and addressing mutual concerns and expectations.

Indeed, the Security Council is the principal organ for the maintenance of international peace and security, and as such, not only "what it does", but "how it does" is also a matter of legitimate interest for the entire international community. In this regard, although there is a broad recognition of the seriousness and the productivity of the Council, criticism for its working methods and in particular for the way it interacts with the outside world is abundant.

The debate on this matter mainly revolves around a number of deficits which is perceived to undermine the work of the Council. Indeed, there are repeated arguments about a deficit of democracy, legitimacy, legality, accountability and representativeness in the Council. I am not arguing whether these are right or wrong, but I believe we need to be aware of these perceptions if we are to address them properly. After all, legitimacy and credibility is a product of performance and it develops in line with the fulfillment of expectations.

Of course, given the special nature of the Security Council, which is composed of five permanent members with veto power and ten elected members changing every two years, one has to be aware of the inherent limitations of what could be achieved through a merely working-methods-focused exercise in the absence of a wider reform initiative. In fact, all principal organs of the UN, including the General Assembly, must go through a reform process to ensure coherence and integrity of the UN.

However, this doesn't mean that improvements in working methods are either impossible or ineffective without reforming the Council. On the contrary, much of these negative perceptions have been somewhat alleviated due to small but effective measures taken over the years regarding the working methods. The Presidential Note 507, prepared under Japan's chairmanship in 2006, is an excellent example of what could be done through such initiatives.

Furthermore, it would be artificial and distorting to see the Council through the lens of permanent versus elected members, as they all bear collective responsibility for international peace and security. The Council belongs to us all; not only to the fifteen but to the entire UN membership. Hence, the collective responsibility to make it work better.

Therefore, it will be wiser for us today to approach this issue in a practical rather than philosophical manner. We need to be realistic focusing on what is feasible as opposed to what is ideal. We must act with common sense and with a view to finding the right balance between effectiveness, transparency and credibility.

In this regard, full and efficient implementation of the already agreed measures in S/507 and subsequent notes is certainly what is needed most. Of course, we should also continue trying to further improve and expand the S/507 in light of the evolving practices of the Council, specific needs of the international relations and taking into account the views of the non-members. The ongoing process in the Working Group on Procedures presents an important opportunity in this direction and we very much welcome Japan's leadership in this regard.

Mr. President,

The Council's working methods, I believe, can be taken up in two distinct but related categories. One is about Council's internal working culture and the other pertains to its relationship with interlocutors outside the Council. Today, in view of the time and the public nature of this debate I will focus on the latter aspect and try to offer some practical ideas and suggestions, many of which are in fact already cited in the S/507.

The primary aim in addressing Council's relations with non-members should be to increase the transparency of the Council's work, to make it more interactive with partners, and to ensure that the Council is better informed on issues it is dealing with. Any success in this direction will make the Council more effective and its decisions more implementable.

Towards this goal, we should first continue trying to have more open/formal meetings as opposed to closed consultations. The statistics show that this is indeed possible without having any negative effect on the work of the Council or its subsidiary bodies. On the contrary, it makes the Council more accessible and credible.

We should also try to have a closer working relationship with the troop and police contributing countries, especially with respect to the Missions they participate in. There are many ways of doing this, but more frequent and substantive meetings with them come at the top of the list. We are already making some strides in this direction as part of the peacekeeping reform we have embarked upon last year, but there is room for more progress.

In this regard, we can also consider sharing with the TCCs at the earliest possible stage the reports and the draft resolutions about their Missions, and seek their views and inputs in a timely manner. On another point related to peacekeeping and in order to guarantee smooth transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, I would also like to highlight the importance of promoting a more enhanced relationship between the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.

Likewise, organizing informal interactive dialogue meetings with countries that the Council deals with as part of its agenda can also be a step in the right direction. Those 15+n meetings will give us the opportunity to listen to their side of the story and receive first-hand information as to the situation on the ground. Such exchanges need not be always at the Ambassadorial level and we can consider having them among the experts or coordinators too.

Another valuable idea which I understand is repeated almost every time we have this discussion is the utility of having regular meetings with the Presidents of the General Assembly, ECOSOC and PBC. In addition to the Presidents of the Council meeting with them every month, which is partly implemented, we might also consider inviting them to our working luncheons with the Secretary-General.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the need and benefit of having regular consultations with regional and sub-regional organizations, such as the African Union, which can complement the work of the Council and create a synergy of efforts. Given the overlapping agendas and common objectives, that point needs no further explanation but full implementation.

The same is valid for the Arria Formula meetings whereby we have the opportunity to listen to the non-member stakeholders and NGO representatives who often provide clear, uncensored and eye-opening assessments regarding the questions we grapple with in the Council. The informal character of these meetings is in itself an advantage that needs to be tapped more often.

In the same vein, the Security Council missions could and should be used more effectively in communicating our messages, contacting our interlocutors on the ground and getting a better first-hand assessment of the situation. The terms of references and objectives of these missions should thus be prepared very carefully so as to better serve our larger purposes.

Finally, the Presidents of the Council or its subsidiary bodies should be given a more systematic role in conveying the gist of our closed consultations to non-members and the media. The practice of oral remarks after the consultations is thus very useful, but we should avoid micro-managing the exercise and allow more leeway to the Presidents in informing the interested parties about Council's deliberations.

Mr. President,

Before concluding, I would like to touch upon very briefly another issue which pertains rather to our internal working culture, but holds a critical importance for the legitimacy and credibility of the Council's decisions. It is about how we prepare and negotiate the Council documents, be it resolutions or press and presidential statements.

Indeed, the tendency in the Council is to have advance consultations on many of those documents among a limited number of countries, such as "Group of Friends", before sharing them with the rest of the Council members. One might argue for the practical utility of having directly interested countries agreeing on the basic parameters of the document in a way that facilitates the consensus building. However, that should by no means limit the full involvement of all Council members in the work of the Council. Otherwise, the ownership and thus implementability of the Council decisions would be weakened.

Moreover, the fact that the Council often act as a quasi judicial body whose decisions, such as sanctions, affect international law too, involving every member fully in the decision shaping and making processes gains even further significance.

Mr. President,

I have spoken at length and I know that there are many more speakers on your list. So let me stop here and congratulate you once again not only for this particular meeting, but for Japan's continued leadership in improving the working methods of the Council. I am confident that the meeting today and our efforts within the Council will empower the Council and make it a more effective, transparent and coherent body; a goal commonly shared by the entire UN membership.

Thank you.