Global Policy Forum

Transparency and Working Methods


The Security Council has taken several steps to increase its efficiency and transparency in recent years. These so-called "cluster 2" reforms do not require an amendment to the UN Charter, and have therefore not stirred the same amount of controversy as the debate on expansion of the Council has. The Security Council now holds more public meetings and consults more frequently with external actors, including NGOs. It has also given other UN members the opportunity to speak before the Security Council and has made a special effort to enhance relations with troop contributing countries, meeting with them on a regular basis.

In addition, the Council goes on missions to specific areas that are on its agenda. In order to increase the effectiveness of sanctions, Council members have set up a sanctions-monitoring mechanism. At the administrative level, the Secretariat has launched a website, which provides easy access to the Council's discussions and decisions. However, reform of the Council's working methods remains a work in progress. For the Security Council to become a preventive rather than a reactive UN body, it needs to gather information from external actors and other UN organs far more efficiently and further increase transparency of its proceedings.

This page contains articles about the Security Council's working methods, transparency and its relationship with other UN organs.


GPF Perspectives

Towards a Democratic Reform of the UN Security Council (July 13, 2005)

James Paul and Céline Nahory argue that adding more permanent members to the Security Council would enlarge a discredited oligarchy rather than build for a democratic future. They also oppose the addition of elected members, arguing that an expanded Council would be too large to function effectively and not substantially more representative. Instead, they propose a process of stronger regional representation as a future-oriented approach that can develop in stages and without the headache of Charter change. (Global Policy Forum)



Security Council Working Methods: A work in Progress? (March 30, 2010)

Governments continue to debate the reform of the Security Council’s working methods. The permanent Council members, known as the P5, continue to resist change. This report raises issues about the lack of transparency and flexibility of the current practices at the Security Council. It also emphasizes the recent developments on working methods since 2006, concluding that the results have been “patchy”. (Security Council Report)


Ambassador Peter Maurer of Switzerland presented this brief statement on behalf of the Small-5 Group (Liechtenstein, Singapore, Switzerland, Jordan and Costa Rica). He emphasized that reform of the Council should be extended beyond membership change to include reform of the Council's working methods. The S-5 wants change in the way the Council meets, the way it conducts its business, the way it interacts with the General Assembly and the means by which it is transparent and responsive to the international community. The S-5, which has been working for several years, has submitted a formal proposal and requests Council action on it.(Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN)

UN Launches Talks to Expand Security Council (February 19, 2009)

Political dynamics within the UN Security Council very much reflects the 1945 geopolitical situation. The P5 still remain the most significant members in the council, despite a number of competing powers such as the G4 (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan). The G4 proposes that the Security Council includes an additional five permanent members without veto power, as well as, five new non-permanent members. African countries support the G4 proposal, but want a permanent seat for the African Union. Italy, among others, rejects the proposal of additional permanent members and instead advocates for ten non-permanent members. (Reuters)


UN Security Council Reform: Unrealistic Proposals and Viable Reform Options (November 25, 2008)

The Security Council does not adequately represent the world's population and its decision making process is slow and not transparent. Abolishing the veto of the five permanent members is not realistic, since all P5 members must agree with this change. The author argues that countries must exert pressure to restrict use of the veto, by requiring the P5 to justify invoking it, especially in cases that are not in their vital interest. (American Diplomacy)

Reform of the Security Council (April 2008)

This Center for UN Reform Education article reviews Security Council reform proposals from 1991-2008. The article notes that UN member states such as Italy and Pakistan cite the need for consensus to stall the reform process, and prevent regional rivals from gaining seats at the Council. Furthermore, previous efforts to increase the openness of the Council have backfired, as permanent members move the decision-making process to informal closed meeting rooms adjacent to the Security Council chambers.


Security Council Transparency, Legitimacy and Effectiveness (October 18, 2007)

In the 2005 World Summit, the United Nations General Assembly (GA) agreed that the Security Council needed to reform its working methods. These methods include the Council's transparency, participation, accountability and efficiency. With this in mind, a group entitled the "Small Five," including Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland, pushed for more action on Security Council reform through a draft resolution in 2006. This Special Research report outlines the history of the Council's practice and procedure, and the pending issues of reform. (Security Council Report)


A Bigger Security Council, With Power to Act (September 26, 2006)

With UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urging reform of the UN Security Council, this International Herald Tribune article calls on the US government to make reform of the institution a top priority. The author proposes to expand of the Council and abolish the veto for all Security Council resolutions authorizing direct action in response to a crisis. "We need a Security Council that is both representative and effective," the author concludes.

Member States Prove Again that Reshaping Security Council is Most Divisive UN Reform Issue (July 21, 2006)

Despite Member States promising to redouble their efforts to achieve reform of the UN Security Council, agreement remains elusive. Differing reform proposals and regional rivalries again frustrated the UN General Assembly's work at reaching a consensus. While most proposals focus on increasing Council membership, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Jordan, Singapore and Liechtenstein have joined in recommending modifying Council procedures and working methods to make decision making more open and clear. (Associated Press)

Note by the President of the Security Council on Working Methods (July 19, 2006)

In a significant move, the Security Council adopted a note by the President, attempting to clarify its procedures and practice. Following months of work by the Council's Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Matters, the note codifies the terminology used in different Council sessions (including Arria Formula meetings with NGOs); lists steps at making the Council's work more transparent; and aims at improving the flow of information from the Council. The note picks up some proposals made by Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland, who introduced a draft resolution calling for greater transparency in the Council's work in March 2006.

Draft Resolution on Reforming the Working Methods of the Security Council (March 20, 2006)

Switzerland together with Singapore, Jordan, Costa Rica and Liechtenstein tabled a draft resolution in the General Assembly (GA) proposing 19 measures to improve the working methods of the Security Council. Acknowledging that the Security Council is the master of its own procedures, the initiative serves as an invitation by the GA to the Security Council to open a dialogue with all UN member states.

ElBaradei Criticizes Security Council (March 26, 2006)

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei criticized the Security Council engagement history, calling it inadequate, selective or mistimed. Citing failures to prevent the atrocities in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur, ElBaradei noted, "It is clearly time for the Security Council to be reformed, expanded and strengthened." ElBaradei's criticism of the UN body comes as the five veto-wielding members struggle to agree on a draft statement on Iran's nuclear program. (Aljazeera)

Security Council's Secretive Habits Challenged (March 21, 2006)

Switzerland, along with Singapore, Liechtenstein, Jordan and Costa Rica tabled a draft resolution to the General Assembly calling for reform of the Security Council's working methods to enhance transparency and accountability and to improve collaboration between the Council and the larger UN membership. The proposed changes, described by some diplomats as "a first" in the history of the world body, come at a time when the five permanent powers are debating crucial political issues - including the nuclear ambitions of Iran - in closed-door sessions, thereby shutting off the 10 elected members of the Council from its decision-making process. (Inter Press Service)

UN Council to Give Bolton Daily Updates (February 4, 2006)

US Ambassador John R. Bolton, known for his assertive and confrontational style, began his presidency of the Security Council by setting up daily briefings on UN activities by the UN Secretariat and challenging his colleagues to discard their prepared statements and engage in unrehearsed dialogue. Bolton hopes that by " in a new way," he can make the Security Council "a more effective decision-making body." The idea got a lukewarm response from some members, but the Council nevertheless agreed to the change on an experimental basis. (Associated Press)


5 Small Nations Propose Reforms for UN (November 10, 2005)

Switzerland, Singapore, Jordan, Costa Rica and Liechtenstein presented a draft resolution proposing reforms of the Security Council's working methods in the General Assembly. The draft asks the Council to consult with all UN member states on resolutions, and requests that the five permanent members explain every veto to the General Assembly. Permanent members reacted to the initiative with disdain. US Ambassador John Bolton announced he won't even look at the resolution, while British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry called it "an invitation for change but not an obligation." (Los Angeles Times)
African experts agree that the African Union's (AU) unwavering stance on Security Council reform is "tragic," in that it will keep the AU from being a powerful lobbying force for issues of development and poverty eradication at the Millennium+5 Summit. The AU has firmly stood by the demand for permanent veto-power seats on the Security Council. Moreover, the AU's lack of an "opt-out clause" makes it impossible "for individual African countries to act alone without being seen to be breaking ranks or dissenting." (BuaNews)

UN Reform Bogged in Complex Political Geometry (August 12, 2005)

The African Union's decision to reject a compromise with the Group of Four on Security Council expansion and instead "stick to its guns" on the demand for veto power "has set the stage for a showdown in which [Africa] looks certain to end the loser," says the Financial Gazette. Discussing the multifaceted opposition to potential new members and their privileges, this author raises questions over the Council's existing power structure and the possibility of eliminating the veto completely in the future.

Tabled G-4 Draft Resolution on Security Council Reform (July 6, 2005)

The G-4 has tabled its framework resolution on Security Council reform, calling for a vote within a 12 week timetable that observers find unrealistic. The less contentious proposals on the Council's working methods, which remain the same as in previous versions of the draft, have more of a chance to succeed than membership expansion plans.

UN Security Council Candidates Drop Demand for Veto Power (June 9, 2005)

The "G4" - Japan, India, Germany and Brazil - have amended their proposal to expand the Security Council by postponing their veto request for at least 15 years. As Germany's UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger acknowledged, this "concession" comes as a result of "strong opposition" to the original draft resolution from permanent members of the Security Council. At the moment, only France has agreed to co-sponsor the G4, while Washington has said it "needs more time to study" the revised proposal. Will the veto "concession" be enough to turn current Council opposition around? (Voice of America)

Swiss Proposal on Reforming the Working Methods of the Security Council (June 2005)

The Mission of Switzerland to the UN released an unofficial paper with recommendations for reforming the Working Methods of the Security Council. The mission proposes that the Council submit more extensive and detailed reports to the General Assembly and that it better consult the broader UN membership in subsidiary bodies such as sanctions committees. The mission hopes that these reform measures will be included in the broader UN reform debate.


Excerpt of the High Level Panel's Report on Threats, Challenges and Change (December 2004)

Among broad recommendations for reform of the UN, this excerpt of the High Level Panel's Report focuses specifically on Security Council reform. In order to increase the Council's effectiveness and credibility and "enhance its capacity to act in the face of threats," the Panel puts forward two options for expansion without veto powers. Model A foresees enlargement with both permanent and elected members, whereas model B proposes enlarging the Council with only temporary elected members. The Panel also recommends the introduction of a system of "indicative voting" and encourages an increase in the Council's transparency and accountability. (United Nations)

Echoes of Reform Sound at General Assembly Debate (October 1, 2004)

Many nations at this year's General Assembly debate focused on Security Council reform through membership expansion. They argued that security threats facing the world require a reform of the Security Council to better reflect the realities of the international community. Although almost all agree on the need for reform, nobody expects to change the veto power attributed to the five current permanent members. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)


Procedural Developments in the Security Council - 2001 (June 6, 2002)

This UN Secretariat report shows developments in the procedures and working methods that the Security Council has undertaken in 2001 to promote transparency, openness and efficiency. The document provides interesting data on the work of the Council.


More Delegates Urge Restriction of Security Council Veto (November 1, 2001)

A General Assembly press statement that repeats earlier calls for restricting or eliminating the right of veto in the Security Council. Delegates are urging greater transparency in the Council's working methods and an increase in its permanent and non-permanent membership.

Statment by Italian Ambassador Sergio Vento on Security Council Reform (October 31, 2001)

Ambassador Vento restates Italy's position opposing additional permanent members of the Security Council. He also advocates increasing the Council's transparency and accountability. (Italian Mission to the UN)

Envoys Voice Doubt In Security Council (October 17, 2001)

The frustration resulting from the lack of transparency at the UN is shared by numerous Ambassadors. The international cooperation against terrorism will only succeed within the framework of an accountable and transparent United Nations. (Washington Times)


Security Council's Credibility Undermined: Pakistan (October 19, 2000)

Pakistan accused the Council of selectivity in the implementation of resolutions, and pointed to a lack of credibility each time a conflict is ignored and left to the parties to resolve the disputes themselves. (Karachi Dawn)

The Role of the Security Council in the Prevention of Armed Conflict (July 20, 2000)

Ambassador Hasmy of Malaysia urges integrated work of the Council with other UN agencies "to re-orientate itself from its usually reactive approach to the management of conflict to one of pre-empting or preventing conflicts". This would require a more in-depth analysis of conflict situations and an enhanced relationship with the Secretariat.

Security Council Takes New Step to Enhance Transparency of its Work (January 4, 2000)

According to a release from the UN News Wire the Security Council has passed new measures to keep non-members better informed on the process and content of the groups work.


Note by The President of the Security Council (December 30, 1999)

Security Council President for December, UK Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, issued a procedural note that improves Council transparency.


Security Council Decisions on Working Methods and Procedures (1993-1998)

A list of the decisions taken by the Council with regards to reform of its procedural protocols. Most of these measures have been introduced in an effort to increase the transparency of the Council's deliberative process, while others were introduced to increase its efficiency.


Memorandum on Security Council Reform (December 22, 1997)

Signed by all ten non-permanent members of the Council, this is a strong call for greater Council openness, with a number of specific proposals. The memo makes clear the gap between the Council's powerful permanent members, who prefer to act behind closed doors, and the rest of the Council's members, who tend to favor steps towards greater accountability.

Reform Negotiating Text by the Bureau of the Working Group (May 29, 1997)

The key text under consideration by the General Assembly Working Group. The Cluster II (Working Methods) section is especially interesting and the complex proposals on the veto are revealing of the deep opposition the veto stirs among the general membership.

Declaration on Security Council Reform by the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement (April 8, 1997)

Statement from ministerial meeting in New Delhi which is seen as a setback to the Razali proposal.

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