Global Policy Forum

Proposal for Broad Use of the Arria Formula


Edited Version of a Text
Presented to the Security Council
October, 1997

The "Arria Formula" is a mechanism with great potential, derived from its informality, its ad hoc nature and its flexibility.

1) - Informality

The "Arria Formula" enables Council members to discuss matters with invited personalities in an informal and closed setting: the "Arria Formula meetings" are neither formal sessions of the Council, nor informal consultations of the kind in which the Council conducts its daily business.

The relevance of these meetings for Council members, at least for some of them, is a reasons why the Council meets in a Conference Rooms, but in one of the Council Chambers.

Another distinction is the fact that the meetings are normally not chaired by the President of the Council, but by any delegation who takes the initiative of inviting the guests.

Also, as informal discussions, the "Arria formula" meetings never have written records, nor time constraints, nor are they guided by any specific norms. This does not mean that they are not governed by the Chair according to commonly accepted procedures for any UN meetings.

2) - Its "Ad Hoc" Nature

The "Arria formula" meetings take place whenever they are deemed useful by any member of the Council who undertakes to organize them (informing other members, scheduling it in cooperation with the presidency of the Council, booking the room, contacting the guest, etc...)

They have taken place as a genuine initiative by a Council member, or as a result of a request by some other UN members (such as the case of the meeting with the Prime Minister of Uganda in April 1997, which was prompted by Uganda's request to meet with the Council). In any case, at least one member of the Council must undertake to organize it.

As a consequence, other members do not have to decide upon or to agree to the holding of such meetings, nor on who will be the guests, or the matters to be dealt with. This is an obvious corollary, also, of the informal nature and the absence of precise written rules governing the "Arria Formula".

The country which undertakes to organize such a meeting is actually only inviting the other members to attend it - everyone is free to accept to come or not come. Naturally, the purpose of the meeting presupposes that the organizer will seek at least a tacit acquiescence from all other members, and also the cooperation of the Presidency to schedule the meeting for a time suitable to other Council members, so as to insure the maximum turnout.

3) - Flexibility

The "Arria Formula" has been flexible regarding the rank and role of the invited guests. Since these meetings began, we have met with special representatives and observers for a certain region or country (5) ; Heads of State and Government (10); representatives of governments (11), including Ambassadors (5), representatives of regional organizations (7) such as NATO, the OIC, the OAU, the EU, the OSCE; representatives of organs of the UN (3) and the World Bank, representatives of NGOS, a judge, a former President, a Bosnian priest, and other personalities...

4 - Matters under the Competence of the Security Council

All guests came to speak on a matter under the competence of the Security Council and that is why the "Arria Formula" meetings have been considered meetings within the framework of the Security Council and have, therefore, generally been provided with interpretation and announced by the Secretariat.

We have tried to identify the characteristics of the "Arria Formula" meetings, because we believe that its usefulness relies on its basic quality of informality. Should we try to formalize and codify it - we would not only find the Council embroiled in lengthy discussions, but would also risk jeopardizing the best asset it offers.

Let us be clear: we do not want the formula to be distorted or abused. This would not enhance the efficiency, the credibility and the transparency of the Council and could be detrimental to the rights of UN Member States.

In a non-exhaustive and unconfirmed list of "Arria Formula" meetings which we were able to trace back to 1993, there were at least 10 Heads of State and Government and over 15 Ministers. So, almost 60% of all guests were representatives of States or Governments. Did they all prefer the Arria Formula, knowing that there would be no written records? Were they fully aware of the implications of that informal format? Why were they not accorded formal meetings of the Council, for which we have clear rules?

There are occasions in which the Council benefits from hearing informally personalities of different extraction and rank and they will also agree, or even prefer, to meet Council members informally, under the "Arria Formula". But there are also occasions in which UN Members may deem it proper to address formally the Council, with written records, even if in a formal closed session of the Council.

Any Member is entitled to this, under certain conditions, according to the Charter and the Provisional Rules of the Council. Art. 32 of the Charter and Rule 38; Art. 31 and Rule 37; and also Rule 39, under which the Council can actually invite to its meetings not only representatives of States, but also any individuals.

So, why is the Council conveying the impression that the "Arria Formula" is the proper format to host representatives of States which are not members of the Security Council? Why do we not keep the "Arria formula" for what it was meant originally, namely for informal meetings with individuals or representatives of organizations, including NGOs, who could bring relevant information to the agenda of the Council?

And why not make use of the "Arria formula", in a creative way, to invite, for instance, representatives of parties involved in conflicts whom the Council would like to hear and to whom it might need to convey certain messages, without bestowing them official recognition?

We are convinced that this is a matter that must be clarified by the Council, at this particular juncture, when the UN is embarking on a process of internal reform - and the Security Council is one of the organs to be reformed. Enlargement will not be enough to reinvigorate the Council and improve its efficiency, if its methods of work are not also reviewed seriously and in a creative manner.

There are proposals, that some of us may even support, which call for a regulation of the "Arria Formula". We are are not certain that we need this. We would rather leave the formula flexible, informal, ad hoc, as it was when created by Diego Arria.

Other members see different angles to this. That is why we started this discussion. We look forward to continuing this reflection in the Working Group on Documentation and Procedures.

We are keen to see the Council consider the specific topics related to the methods of work which are clearly connected to this matter. They are two sides of the same coin: we can only reap the fruits of the "Arria Formula" properly, if we do not misuse it and if we keep the formal sessions of the Council for what they are intended to.

Let us make a serious effort to use the existing rules to improve the efficiency, the credibility and the transparency of the Council.


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