The Philippines as President of the United Nations Security Council

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Byline: AMBASSADOR LAURO L. BAJA JR.

THE Philippines assumed the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council this month. The Presidency of the Council has always been an event to its members whenever it is their turn whether the country is a permanent member or an elected one. The Philippines is the first among the five newly elected members to be President of the Council. It will again assume the presidency during the last quarter of next year, a fortunate contingency that happens only to a few elected members.

The Philippines will have five good and solid months of Council participation and preparation to its presidency. The Philippine Delegation will bring to the Presidency comprehensive knowledge of issues in the Council, the trust and confidence of their peers, and the network and bonds established with the five Permanent Members (P-5), with the 10 Elected Members (E-10), with the Council Secretariat, and with non-governmental organizations. These network and bonds are crucial to a smooth and successful presidency.

Dynamics of the presidency

Council members, the P-5 in particular, prefer to consult privately. They attach little value in conducting open public meetings. This is the reason 90 percent of Council deliberations are held in informal consultations. Closed to all non-members and cloistered among themselves, the 15 Permanent Representatives enjoy more freedom of expression when no written records are kept and when bonds and personal relationship pervade discussions.

Public meetings of the Council are held on any of the following formats:

1. Action on resolutions and presidential statements

Participation in such meetings is usually limited to the members of the Council. There are, however, occasions where the Council has allowed parties directly concerned with an item on which the Council was expected to pronounce itself to sit at the Council table, and in some instances, to make statements.

2. Open Debate

This format enables Council and non-Council members, as well as persons competent to provide information under Rule 39 of the Councils Provisional Rules of Procedure, to address the Council on a particular item on its agenda. The Presidencys thematic issue is held in open debate and usually occurs toward the latter part of the month. The Presidencys foreign minister usually presides over the debate on this thematic issue meeting.

3. Open Briefing

This format is used when the Council receives a briefing from, for example, the Secretary-General or senior United Nations officials relating to items on its agenda. During the session, Council members may make statements or address questions to the briefer or the briefer(s), or the briefer alone may speak. In the latter case, the briefing may be followed by an exchange of views in closed informal consultations of the whole, as, for instance, in the case of the Middle East and Afghanistan.

4. Arria Formula Meetings

"Arria Formula meetings" are informal gatherings that enable Council members to have a candid and private exchange of views with persons whom the inviting member(s) of the Council, who also act as the facilitators or convenors, believe would be beneficial to hear and/or to whom they may wish to convey a message.

They provide interested Council members an opportunity to engage in a direct dialogue with high representatives of governments and international organizations often at the latters request as well as non-state actors, on matters with which they are concerned and which fall within the purview of responsibility of the Security Council. Participation in Arria Formula meetings is for individual members to decide upon and indeed there have been instances when some members have chosen not to attend. This consultations process is named after Ambassador Diego Arria of Venezuela, who, as the representative of Venezuela in the Council (1992-1993), presided over the first gatherings in this format in 1992. …