Global Policy Forum

Amnesty Leader Pierre Sané Briefs Council in Historic Step, Broadening NGO Consultation


On Monday, September 15th, the Security Council took another major step towards greater dialogue with citizen organizations (NGOs) by holding a special briefing by Pierre Sané, Secretary General of Amnesty International. Present at the briefing were nearly all members of the Council, as well as officials of the Secretariat and UN agencies. The briefing was organized by Ambassador Antonio Monteiro of Portugal, whose mission has been a major advocate on the Council of greater dialogue with NGOs.

On February 12th, three humanitarian relief NGOs were the first to brief the Security Council. CARE, Oxfam and Médecins sans Frontií¨res/Doctors without Borders provided a briefing that was organized by Chilean Ambassador Juan Somavia. That briefing included a number of other UN member states beyond the members of the Council and the formula by which it was organized has been referred to as the "Somavia Formula." For various reasons, there was opposition to this formula and chances seemed slim that it would be used again.

The Portugese Ambassador sought to use another, more common formula for briefings with persons outside the Council. The arrangement he tried to use is known as the "Arria Formula" -- under which a Council member invites colleagues to a meeting in a UN chamber that is not the Council's regular meeting place. But the Portugese initiative was initially rebuffed by others on the Council who claimed that the Arria Formula was not appropriate for NGOs. The history of the Arria Formula suggests that it has been used for a wide variety of different persons and that the head of Amnesty would be a perfectly suitable one. But several powerful Council members (including reputedly the UK, home-base for Amnesty), insisted that the meeting should not take place. Finally, it was agreed that a new ad hoc arrangement would be used, similar to the Arria Formula, but without regular language interpretation. Agreement was reached only at the last minute, but the meeting went ahead on Monday morning as planned.

The Amnesty briefing may have gained additional support on Friday, Steptember 12, when NGOs met with United States Ambassador Bill Richardson in a Working Breakfast on the Security Council. When NGOs pressed Richardson about the upcoming briefing, he agreed to support it as Council President and he agreed that he would personally attend. In his discussion with the Council, Mr. Sane mentioned that he "hoped that other organizations would be invited to interact with the Council on other important issues."

At the press briefing after the session, Amb. Monteiro pointed out that the briefing had been "timely" -- taking place on the same day as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, took up her responsibilities in Geneva. He emphasized that in his view human rights were a very important part of the Council's work.


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