On November 1, 2016 Senegal’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Fode Seck assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of November. As is the monthly procedure, on that day Ambassador Seck explained the Security Council calendar for the month at a press conference for the UN press corps.(1)
Ambassador Seck indicated that one of the topics on the agenda for November is a consultation of Council members on the Security Council’s response to the 5th nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The summary of the press conference states: “Answering a question about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he (the President) said the penholder of that file was tabling a draft resolution on what further measures to take in reaction to the country’s latest nuclear test.”
Also in the Summary, is a reference to a question asked about a letter sent to the Security Council in October by the Coordinator of a group of women peace activists who are trying to work toward a peaceful means of resolving the tension on the Korean Peninsula. The letter asked for the Security Council’s help in line with SC Resolution 1325. The President of the Security Council for November said he would look into the matter.
Also he promised to look into why the DPRK “was not invited to the Council to give its perspective on the conflict between it and the United States.” This was in response to a question about inviting a nation involved in a dispute into the discussion on the dispute held by the Council. This question was based on both the UN Charter and a dispute brought to the Security Council in 2010. The example of Security Council practice in 2010 was an example of the Security Council resolving a dispute more in accord with the UN Charter than the usual Security Council practice.
In 2010, the Republic of Korea (ROK) brought a dispute it had with the DPRK to the Security Council. (2) The President of the Security Council in June of 2010 was Claude Heller of Mexico. The Security Council with Ambassador Heller as the President agreed to hear the ROK complaint, and it also invited the DPRK to present its view of the dispute.
This process met the obligations of Article 32 of the UN Charter which requires that when there is a dispute under consideration by the Security Council, the parties to the dispute, if they are not members of the Security Council “shall be invited to participate, without vote, in the discussion related to the dispute.”(UN Charter, Chapter V, Article 32) Using the word “shall” to describe the obligation of the Security Council is a mark of a requirement of the Charter.
After hearing the two different views of the dispute, Ambassador Heller was able to make a list of the points made by each of the parties to the dispute. The Security Council was not able to issue a determination on the conflict by the end of Ambassador Heller’s presidency on June 30. The Security Council presidency for July was then assumed by Nigeria.
Ambassador Heller was able to give a list of the points made by each of the Koreas to Ambassador Uche Joy Ogwu, the Nigerian Ambassador. This made it possible for her to continue Security Council action on the dispute. In July, the Security Council issued a presidential statement about the dispute, listing the points that each party had made, and encouraging the parties to settle the dispute peacefully. (3)
Another important element of the process of conflict resolution by the Security Council in the 2010 dispute was the fact that several individuals and NGO’s who were interested in the peace process wrote letters to the Security Council about their analysis and some also included scientific information regarding the dispute. Such correspondence can be sent to the Security Council and provided for by an established procedure. The correspondence is to be given the notation known as S/NC, which has been in place since the early days of the UN in the 1940s. This procedure provides a means for individuals and non profit organizations to send letters to the Security Council on disputes under consideration by the Security Council. The official language is that such correspondence can be submitted in those disputes of which the Security Council is “seized.” The Security Council President is required to circulate a list of the correspondence received to the other members of the Security Council. Any Security Council member can then request a copy of any correspondence that appears on the list. The Secretariat is required to provide a copy of the correspondence to that Council member. This process provides a means for Security Council members to get potentially useful input toward resolving a difficult dispute.
In recent years, however, no address, email or other, is publicly provided by the UN to inform individuals or non profit organizations how to submit correspondence to the Security Council under S/NC. Although this procedure continues to be referred to in the Appendix of the Security Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, it appears that the Security Council does not at this time encourage the submission of correspondence under the designation of S/NC.
For example, a telephone inquiry was made recently to the UN headquarters asking where such correspondence should be sent. Could it be sent to the address listed in the UN Journal for member nations to submit correspondence to the Security Council? The person answering the phone did not answer the question but transferred the call to the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary General. The Spokesperson said that such correspondence had to be sent directly to the spokesperson for the month’s Security Council president. But then when a letter was submitted to the Security Council president as instructed and also to the email address listed in the UN Journal for email to the Security Council from member states, it got no reply or indication that this correspondence had been received by the UN Security Council president. Similarly, in response to a journalist asking the next month’s president about whether he knew of a letter sent to the President the previous month, the journalist was told she should have asked the previous month’s president at an end of presidency meeting that the president had held. But the end of presidency meeting was only for member states and was not open to the press, so it was impossible to have asked such a question at that meeting. The fact that the next president did not know of the correspondence demonstrated that the process of informing all members of the Security Council of a correspondence that had been received had not been implemented. These are but a few demonstrations of how this procedure has broken down.
These two processes are important. In the first situation under Article 32 of the UN Charter, the Security Council is required to invite the parties to a dispute to the discussion of the dispute carried out in the Security Council. The second situation provides for input into a dispute by individuals and non profit organizations with an interest in the dispute, under S/NC. These are important means for Security Council members to get information and input about a dispute so as to be more competent to help to resolve the dispute. Neither of these procedures, however, is implemented at the present time by the Security Council. Instead, in some cases, like for example the dispute between the DPRK and the US, it is questionable if even the members of the Security Council discuss the situation, let alone invite the DPRK to present its account of the situation. Similarly, it is to the credit to the Russian Federation Presidency in October 2016 that Ambassador Churkin indicated it would be helpful to have input from women under SC Resolution 1325 in the dispute with the DPRK. The summary of the October 2016 press conference he held indicates his support for such input:
“Asked a question about proceedings on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under the non-proliferation agenda, he (Ambassador Churkin) said there had been discussions on the subject. The situation was extremely difficult. The cycle of action and counter action required creative thinking, but there were no specific proposals. Action by women in that regard could be helpful.”(4)
Unfortunately it appears that there is at present no means to make such input to the Security Council.
(1) ”Press Conference by President of Security Council on Work Program for November”, November 1, 2016.
(2) Ronda Hauben, “Netizens Question Cause of Cheonan Tragedy”, OhmyNews International, June 8, 2010.
(3) Ronda Hauben, “In Cheonan Dispute UN Security Council Acts in Accord with UN Charter”, Netizenblog, Sept 5, 2010
(4) Security Council Press Conference on Work Program for October, October 3, 2016