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Remarks by Ambassador Geng Shuang at the UN Security Council Arria-formula Meeting on Penholdership

2022-08-11 17:35

First of all, I wish to thank the Russian Federation for its initiative to convene this arria-formula meeting.

Penholdership is an important aspect of working methods of the Security Council. A reasonable penholder arrangement is most important for the orderly and effective conduct of Council’s work. In recent years, the problems of the penholdership mechanism have become increasingly prominent, and have caused more and more concern and discussion. It is hoped that today’s meeting will help summarize experience, identify shortcomings, find improvement measures, and promote the continuous improvement of the penholdership mechanism. I wish to share the following points.

First, penholders must understand clearly that penholdership is not a privilege, but but a responsibility. Promoting unity and cooperation in the Security Council is one of the important responsibilities of penholders. The penholders must respect and consult fully with other Council members, forge consensus with them, and accommodate the concerns of each member to the greatest extent possible. Regrettably, in practice, some individual penholders have often pushed through their votes while there are still outstanding differences, leaving other members no choice but to vote against them, including compelling permanent members to use the veto, thus deliberately engineering divisions and confrontation. The draft resolution on sanctions against the DPRK that failed to be adopted in May this year is just a case in point. The penholders should produce draft documents in a timely manner based on the opinions of all parties, so as to avoid a draft arriving late and negotiations becoming mere formalities within artificially compressed time frames. When the Council discussed a draft resolution on mandate at the end of last year, the then penholder went so far as to skip the usual no-objection procedure, and instead printed the draft resolution on which there were still major differences in blue and put it to the vote on the grounds that doing so would not affect vacations. These unprofessional and unconstructive practices are not conducive to maintaining the unity of the Council and safeguarding the performance of its duties.

Second, the penholders should always remain objective and impartial, and should not put their own national positions over and above the collective position, nor should they engage in double standards and political manipulation. We have seen that on some issues, such as the Middle East, the penholders often ignored the majority views and engaged in selective blindness. On other issues, however, the penholders frequently push the Council to meet up or speak out in the name of accommodating everyone’s views. If the penholder always considers issues from its own position and ignores the views of the majority of the Council members, it is no longer fit to continue to hold the pen.

The penholder should become a bridge that strengthens the communication between the Security Council and the countries concerned, rather than an obstacle to understanding. It should heed the views of the countries concerned, and accommodate their legitimate concerns and demands, instead of overlooking or deliberately ignoring them. It should respect the ownership of regional organizations and countries in the region, instead of being self-righteous and forcing its way around. In recent years, the Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, the DRC and the CAR have have proposed in succession lifting arms embargoes and other sanctions, which have been supported and echoed by the AU, other African countries and many members of the Security Council. That being the case, the relevant penholders should push the Council to take timely actions to comprehensively review the sanctions regime and lift sanctions that do not fit the situation.

Third, the penholder arrangement should reflect the shared responsibility and collective engagement. According to Security Council Presidential Notes 507, any Council member can serve as a penholder. However, for many years, the penholdership for most issues has long been monopolized by but a few members. Of the 30 countries-specific dossiers currently under regular consideration by the Council, the three permanent members serve as penholders on 27. This arrangement is extremely unreasonable and unbalanced, and should be changed. Recently, Norway and Mexico have served as penholders or co-penholders on Afghanistan and Haiti with stellar performance, showing that other countries are fully capable of serving as penholders. China suggests that the penholdership arrangement be systematically adjusted, so that two to three co-penholders can be appointed for each subject among both the permanent and non-permanent members on a rotational basis. Members of the Security Council who chair the subsidiary bodies should automatically become co-penholders of the corresponding issue.

The Security Council Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Matters can play a positive role in improving the penholdership mechanism. We support Brazil’s proposal to make the issue of the penholdership a formal agenda for discussion at the working group, and suggest that the working group comprehensively comb and collate the various proposals, including the proposals tabled today and actively follow up on their implementation.

Thank you, Chair.

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