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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Working Methods of the Security Council

2023-09-05 22:37

Mr. President, 

At the outset, I would like to congratulate Albania for being the President of this month of the Security Council. I also thank the United States for serving as President of the Council in August. Regarding the item today, I would like to thank Ambassador Hoxha for his briefing. 

Since 2010, the Security Council has held open debates annually to discuss how to improve its working methods. There is much value to this practice. China welcomes the participation of non-Council members at this meeting today. 

Working methods, as a reflection of thinking methods, have never been and never will be mere technicalities. The work of the Security Council is highly political, and the working methods therefore will have to be approached from a political perspective. In connection with the prominent issues at the Security Council, I wish to make the following points. 

First, the Council should focus on its core mandate. The world is facing fast emerging crises and challenges. The Council must carry out its mandate, but it is unable to take on too much, hence the need to focus its energies on addressing major issues that threaten peace and security. We do not support thematic issues hogging excessive resources and overlapping and redundancy between the Council and other UN bodies. Furthermore, we oppose the practice of individual members, out of political motives, pushing for the discussion of country-specific human rights issues at the Council. 

Second, the Security Council should be results-oriented and committed to solving practical issues. The meetings, statements, and documents of the council are means to an end, not the end itself. Holding a meeting does not mean an issue is resolved. The same is true for holding more meetings, which sometimes turn out to be counterproductive. We could begin by taking small steps to improve the council's efficiency and effectiveness. The documents we adopt should be readable and practical. And a resolution should avoid routinely running 10-plus pages. The Council currently meets on the Syrian issue two to three times a month, with most of the members repeating their established positions. We could well reduce the frequency of deliberations or combining different tracks. The practice of A3 of making joint statements is both time-saving and impactful. This practice is commendable.

Third, regarding the dynamics among Council members. At the center of the Council's myriad working methods lies the most important pillar of solidarity and unity. Council members should show mutual respect, consult one another as equals, and accommodate each other's concerns. Instead of only paying attention to public effect and talking to the camera alone, we should listen attentively to one another, enhance mutual understanding, and make an effort to seek consensus. China is in favor of holding more informal consultations. We also support the Security Council in enhancing engagement and communication with the countries concerned, SRSGs, and non-Council members. 

Fourth, the Security Council should demonstrate inclusiveness in its work. We support the Council in continuing to invite the civil society briefers. That said, the recent situation also flagged the need to improve quality control over the briefing content to deliver true value-added. The rotating presidencies should take up the responsibility. As it stands today, we are concerned that some members only seem to care about bringing different voices to the Council without thinking about how to reach consensus. They seem to only care about responding to the observation of non-governmental groups or individuals, and deliberately neglect the concerns of the governments of the countries concerned. 

Fifth, on sanctions. China always maintains that the Council should approach sanctions in a prudent and responsible manner, carefully control their intensity and scope, and adjust or lift them to reflect changes on the ground. It is regrettable that over the past 20-odd years, sanctions, once established, tend to be protracted and expanded, making their reversal nearly impossible. Sanctions can neither replace diplomacy nor serve as a tool for some countries to exert political pressure. Council sanctions on countries such as Sudan, South Sudan, the CAR, and Guinea-Bissau, as well as sanctions imposed under the Council resolution 1988, have become obsolete and the process of lifting them should be initiated as soon as possible. 

In addition to the above-mentioned points, I want to highlight penholdership, an issue that has become so controversial that this reform cannot wait any longer. 

Penholdership comes out of practices. It is not regulated by the rules of procedure. The reality is that a small number of permanent Council members have long monopolized the power of penholdership on the majority of issues with individual penholders sometimes placing their national positions above this collective body, which has become the root cause of many issues. Penholdership must be adjusted to reflect equity, equality, and openness. 

Existing penholders should earnestly discharge their responsibility. Penholdership, as volunteered services, is a responsibility, not to preogative. Serving as penholders requires abiding by objectivity and impartiality, and it comes with the duty to prioritize maintaining solidarity and forging consensus.

There should be more non-permanent members to serve as penholders and they are fully capable of doing so. Over the past few years, the UAE has consulted with all members patiently and has facilitated the Council's adoption by consensus of many important documents regarding the issue of Afghanistan, which has served as a great example.

We need to have more African members to serve as penholders for African issues. That African members cannot serve as penholders for African issues is unjustifiable.

At the same time, we need to seriously study the arrangement of penholdership and make appropriate reform. Judging from the job it actually does, the name penholder is highly misleading, because in the Security Council practices, the role of penholder plays goes far beyond taking notes or drafting documents. UNGA has co-facilitators for its major processes. The Security Council could learn from UNGA and consider arranging three co-facilitators for each agenda item from among both permanent and non-permanent members. Chairs of the subsidiary bodies should also be invited to act as penholders for their mandated issues. This would be a true demonstration of joint responsibility and participation. 

In short, the issue of penholdership deserves great attention and serious treatment. We are aware that the Council's working group on documentation and other procedural questions is already engaged in relevant discussions. We hope that the current and incoming chairs of the IWG will prioritize the reform of the penholdership arrangement and expedite substantive improvements. 

Mr. President, 

Improving the working method is integral to the Security Council reform. China has consistently supported reasonable and necessary reform of the Council, giving priority to increasing the representation and voice of developing countries and in particular making special arrangements to give priority to the demands of Africa. We are willing to work with member states to keep IGN as the main channel and to seek a package solution through patient and democratic consultations. The ultimate goal of political reform is for the Council to be better, not worse, to move forward, not backward, and for the general membership, not just a few countries to benefit. It must be noted that the use of veto is closely related to the imbalance in the composition of the Council. Many members of the Council belong to the same political grouping, which often takes advantage of this numerical strength to dominate the Council's agenda and often pushes for a vote by skipping extensive consultations, which ultimately leads to the use of veto. If we only look at the use of veto, and ignore the unfairness and irrationality of the Council's composition and the working methods, we will not be able to correctly grasp and address the root causes of the problem. 

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that China stands ready to work with all parties to draw lessons from our past experience, develop new ideas, and take practical action to promote continuous improvements in the work with the Security Council, so as to better safeguard international peace and security. 

I thank you Mr. President.

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