|Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Working Methods of the Security Council|
China thanks Ms. Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report, and Ms. Sievers for the briefings. I also thank non-Council members for their interest in this meeting and their active participation.
Working methods are vital to the effective discharge of the Council’s duties. They are highly political, and have never been and never will be mere technicalities. With the shifting international political landscape and evolving security risks, as well as all the scientific and technological advances and improving conditions in the physical world, it is imperative for the Council to improve its working methods to keep up with the change to circumstances, enhance its capacity and efficiency, and better fulfill its mandate.
The center of the Council’s myriad working methods lies in the core principle of solidarity and unity. Members of the Council must always bear in mind that our one and only agenda is the common agenda of peace and security. There is no alternative to this agenda.
However multifarious and complicated the challenges confronting us are standing, together in solidarity and unity for the maintenance of international peace and security is always our number-one responsibility. The Council must stay committed to promoting political resolution of hotspot issues, work more strenuously at the diplomatic level for good offices and mediation, and actively push for negotiations and dialogue to resolve tensions. The Council members should show mutual respect, consult one another fully, accommodate each another’s concerns as much as possible, and refrain from deliberately intensifying tensions and divergence, not to mention artificially creating division and confrontation. The Security Council belongs to all member states. It should listen to wide-ranging views in the course of its work, take seriously the concerns of the countries concerned and regional organizations, and work in greater coordination and synergy with the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, ECOSOC and PBC.
Over the recent years, the Security Council has been actively exploring ways to improve its working methods and enhance efficiency with many positive outcomes. It merits mentioning, in particular, that after COVID, the Council made timely adjustments in its working methods to ensure its normal functioning. With respect to the existing issues in the Council’s work, China wishes to flag some of the salient issues that persist in the Council’s work, so we can discuss them in this chamber.
Firstly, the Council has seen a steady increase in the number of emerging issues and a continuous proliferation of thematic issues, some of which are clearly beyond its core mandate. The Council should focus on the major and pressing issues that threaten international peace and security, and avoid taking on new topics without due consideration, as this would not produce desired effects, while taking up too much of our resources. On thematic issues, there should be a reasonable division of labor with other bodies to avoid overlapping and redundancy. The existing issues and arrangements for deliberations should be adjusted as the situation on the ground changes. The Council currently meets on the Syrian issue three times a month, which is not required by the reality on the ground. We propose either reducing the frequency of deliberations or combining different tracks, which would help us approach the Syrian issue from a more holistic perspective and help make the Council’s work more efficient.
Second, there is a need for better management of arria-formula meetings. The original purpose of the arria-formula was to provide Council members with an opportunity to know more about the issues on the agenda and exchange views thereon in an informal setting, so as to enhance and broaden consensus. In recent years, however, the pattern of arria-formula meetings has deviated from that original intent. A total of 32 arria-formula meetings took place last year. Apart from hogging many delegations’ finite resources, these meetings, in the way they were organized, barely achieved the purpose of enhancing information sharing and promoting mutual understanding. We call on all members to exercise restraint, and encourage Council presidencies to show leadership in steering the arria-formula arrangements towards a more rational track
Third, with regard to the penholders, or co-penholders for each agenda item, we wish to stress that penholders are an informal arrangement that is supposed to reflect shared responsibility and collective engagement. In practice, nevertheless, the penholdership on many issues has long been held by certain permanent members. And some penholders have sometimes placed their national positions above this collective body, resulting in mounting controversies. We advocate a systematic restructuring of the penholder arrangement. As a general principle, there should be two or three co-penholders per topic for permanent and non-permanent members. Chairs of the subsidiary bodies should be invited to act as penholders for their mandated issues. Penholders should engage closely with the countries concerned, fellow Council members, and the competence departments of the Secretariat, so as to maximize consensus and avert confrontation.
Fourth, it is important to strike a balance between increased transparency and robust confidentiality. In practice, it is not uncommon for the media or non-Council members to have access to draft documents even before Council members do. In addition, when some members briefed the media on the proceedings of close-door consultations, they distorted the positions of other members by quoting them out of context. Doing so has seriously undermined the Council’s consultations. It is also detrimental to the unity within the Council members. We hope that everyone will take this more seriously, because our work in this Council ought to be serious and professional. China support the Council in inviting civil society representatives to participate in the meetings. And we hope that the new presidencies will strengthen the quality control of invited representatives to ensure that they are truly well informed about the topics and their positions are objective and impartial, to facilitate the Council’s discussion and search for solutions.
Fifth, to take a proper approach in addressing Council sanctions. Sanctions are an important tool for the Council. However, sanctions is only for the purpose of political settlement. The Council must exercise restraint and control its impulse to resort to sanctions too readily. The Council should apply sanctions in a prudent way in terms of the intensity and scope of sanctions to minimize collateral damage. Sanction measures should be reviewed in a timely manner to adjust to those that need adjusting and those that should be ended.
In the remarks of some members, they mentioned the issue of veto power. I would like to point out that the exercise of veto power is a consequence of the inequitable composition of the Council and the division of members into camps. The unbalanced composition of this body inevitably leads to unfair decision-making. A fair number of members of this Council belong to one particular political bloc. They pursue identical or very similar foreign policies, and hold sway in political, economic, monetary, media, and others fields. They exploit their numerical strengths to dominate the Council’s agenda-setting, designation of penholders, and drafting of documents. More often than not, they try to push through draft resolutions, while reluctant to hold for consultations, culminating in the exercise of veto power. To address these problems, one must work on the root causes, and allow more developing countries and countries that pursue independent policies into this Council, so as to find a conclusive solution to the Council’s lack of compositional equity and balance.
Improving the working methods of the Council is a long-term process that must start now from specifics and involves every single Council member. I hope that the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Matters will play an important role in comprehensively sorting out all the proposals put forward at this meeting, and actively push for follow-up work on rectification and implementation.
China stands ready to effectively deliver its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Council, and to work with all parties to review our experience and improve the working methods of the Security Council on an ongoing basis, so that the Council can play a greater role in the maintenance of international peace and security.
I thank you, Mr. President.