Question of Palestine home
9 May 2013
Letter dated 6 May 2013 from the Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council
I have the honour to send you the report of the tenth annual workshop for newly elected members of the Security Council, which was held on 15 and 16 November 2012 at the Arrowwood Conference Center in Rye Brook, New York (see annex). The final report has been compiled in accordance with the Chatham House rules under the sole responsibility of the Permanent Mission of Finland.
On the basis of the very positive feedback we have received from the participants each year, the Government of Finland remains committed to sponsoring the workshop as an annual event. The Government of Finland hopes that this report will contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of the work of the Council.
I should be grateful, accordingly, if the present letter and its annex could be circulated as a document of the Security Council.
Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations
Annex to the letter dated 6 May 2013 from the Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council
“Hitting the ground running”: tenth annual workshop for newly elected members of the Security Council
15 and 16 November 2012
Arrowwood Conference Center
Rye Brook, New York
The Government of Finland, in cooperation with the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies of the University of San Diego and the Security Council Affairs Division of the United Nations Secretariat, convened the tenth annual workshop for newly elected members of the Security Council on 15 and 16 November 2012.
Each November, the workshops serve to familiarize the newly elected members with the practice, procedure and working methods of the Security Council so that they are in a position to “hit the ground running” when they join the Council the following January. The series also provides current members of the Council with an opportunity to reflect on their work in an informal setting.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the launching of this initiative, the opening evening featured a gala dinner for the Permanent Representatives of countries that had participated in past workshops as well as those participating in the current one. Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen, Permanent Representative of Finland, gave a welcoming address, followed by opening remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a keynote address by Henry A. Kissinger, and closing remarks by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Permanent Representative of India and President of the Security Council for the month of November 2012.
The full-day programme on 16 November included three round-table sessions that focused on the following themes:
I. State of the Security Council 2012: taking stock and looking ahead
II. Working methods and subsidiary bodies
III. Lessons learned: reflections of the class of 2012
Following welcoming remarks by the Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented on the enduring value of the workshop series and the contributions the incoming members could make both to the work of the Security Council and to the larger peace and security agenda of the United Nations. Each non-permanent member, he underlined, brought its own expertise, experience and knowledge to the Security Council table. Each contributed by chairing subsidiary bodies of the Council, planning thematic debates and bringing fresh perspectives to Council deliberations and consultations. In recent years, noted the Secretary-General, non-permanent members had helped the Council to address a wider range of critical issues, such as climate change, that affect political and economic stability and the prospects for maintaining international peace and security. He stressed the fundamental importance of achieving unity of voice in the Council, because it conditioned not only its effectiveness but also that of the Secretary-General and others in helping to advance its agenda. There continued to be a wide variation in outcomes, he commented, depending on the degree to which the Council had been able to find a unified voice on the issue at hand.
Henry A. Kissinger responded to a series of questions posed by the Dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies of the University of San Diego, Mr. Edward Luck. Given Mr. Kissinger’s unusually rich combination of scholarship and high-level diplomatic experience, Mr. Luck wondered whether he believed that the value of the Security Council derived more from its role in facilitating an enduring concert of great powers or in permitting a geographically representative group of Member States to address global peace and security issues. In light of those dual functions, what would be his preferred formula for the Council’s future composition? Mr. Kissinger noted that he had dealt with such questions much more from the perspective of a concert of great powers. Indeed, as Secretary of State, he had never participated in Security Council deliberations or debates. Then, as now, various United Nations ambassadors expressed their opinions quite openly and starkly. However, he continued, over time a growing range of issues with security implications, such as the environment, had required global consideration. The attitude that security issues always require prior agreement among the great powers had become increasingly anachronistic.
The final question to Mr. Kissinger concerned what the Arab countries might do to add momentum to the stalled peace process in the Middle East. In response, he noted that one of the reasons for the complexity of the situation was that Israel was predominant militarily but threatened geopolitically. Governments led by the Muslim Brotherhood were emerging in the area and it remained to be seen whether they would accept Israel’s existence. Mr. Kissinger urged Arab States to create an atmosphere that would make a situation of coexistence plausible, just as Anwar Sadat had acted to ease the psychological atmosphere. At times, however, events of the Arab Spring had made it difficult to express such views. His preference would be for a one-shot negotiation, something that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. It would create a Palestinian State and leave issues relating to refugees and Jerusalem to a later stage, while establishing the principle that those refugees were not Israelis. He agreed that the United States was a critical player in the Middle East, but questioned whether the key to success was for the United States to throw its full weight behind the peace process. For him, a change in Arab attitudes was essential, given that the psychological dimension was critical to forward movement. If the challenge from the Islamic Republic of Iran were to become more acute and imminent, however, difficult and courageous decisions would have to be made and, in his view, the Palestinian issue should be part of those decisions.
State of the Security Council in 2012: taking stock and looking ahead
Ambassador Masood Khan
Permanent Representative of Pakistan
Ambassador Martin Briens
Deputy Permanent Representative of France
Ambassador Alexander A. Pankin
First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation
Counsellor Tofig Musayev
Deputy Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan
Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo
Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States
Several participants spoke of the Security Council’s inability or unwillingness to address the core peace and security issues of the Middle East, such as Gaza. “I do not know how the Council could influence the underlying situation in the Middle East,” commented one delegate, “other than through encouraging bilateral and regional efforts, by assessing the situation each month, and by calling on our peers to do their part. The Council on its own cannot resolve the long-term conflict.”
Following the pattern of earlier workshops, there was also considerable discussion on how the Security Council could sharpen its tools for prevention. One speaker suggested that the Council’s inability to address the fundamental security challenges in the Middle East demonstrated, once again, that it was much better at managing conflicts than at preventing them, contributing to post-conflict peacebuilding. The speaker recalled that at the previous year’s workshop, the participants had all agreed on the importance of conflict prevention, but when they walked out of the room, they forgot about it. Others agreed on the need for a greater focus on prevention.
Others saw the briefings as a potentially useful component of a wider prevention strategy, but suggested that improvements in the way they were conducted were needed. One participant, urging the Secretariat to be more transparent about the sources of information on which the briefings are based, called for the briefings to be more relevant to the work of the Council and less procedural. Another, noting that such briefings could make a contribution to the Council’s understanding of an emerging situation, cautioned that care should be taken regarding which country situations were addressed in such briefings, given sensitivities and worry in some capitals that this could be the first step towards being added to the Council’s agenda. In response, a discussant acknowledged that countries generally did not want to be the subject of discussion in the Security Council, but pointed out that the Council’s mandate demanded that it address sensitive questions. If anything, the Council should consider more, not fewer, situations that could pose a threat to international peace and security. Agreeing that horizon-scanning could be useful, a speaker suggested that such briefings should not be limited to relatively peripheral situations. The speaker wondered why the Council did not hold similar discussions on situations such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and Gaza, which were more central to the maintenance of international peace and security?
Lessons learned: reflections of the class of 2012
Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki
Permanent Representative of Morocco
Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral
Permanent Representative of Portugal
Ambassador Néstor Osorio
Permanent Representative of Colombia
Minister Doctor Mashabane
Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa
Ambassador Peter Wittig
Permanent Representative of Germany
Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri
Permanent Representative of India
In terms of the Security Council’s relative successes and failures, a delegate called the balance sheet very positive on the whole. There were situations in which the dynamics on the ground were simply beyond the Council’s reach. Although Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste could be characterized as relative successes, serious problems had persisted that would have to be resolved by the peoples of those countries. The same could be said of Haiti or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Council had been blocked on the Syrian Arab Republic and had never been able to engage in a serious or sustained discussion on the Middle East. The United Nations was part of the Quartet, but the Council just held ritualistic and largely non-substantive monthly meetings on the Middle East (including the Palestinian question). Concurring, a speaker asked why there was a part of the world that all Council members agreed posed a threat to international peace and security, yet the Council never discussed it nor received briefings from those who dealt with it most directly. It was nevertheless a sign of progress, commented another discussant, that all members had agreed that certain situations, such as the Syrian Arab Republic and the Sudan, presented threats to international peace and security even if there was no agreement on how those threats should be addressed.