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Remarks at an Arria-Formula meeting of the UN Security Council on Keeping the Feather

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John Kelley
Political Coordinator
New York, New York
August 11, 2022

AS DELIVERED

Thank you.

Colleagues, the United States takes very seriously the role the Charter gives the Council in maintaining international peace and security, acting on behalf of the entire UN membership. While the Council remains the master of its own procedure, we recognize that our procedural work, as well as our substantive work, is ultimately for the benefit of the larger international community.

As a permanent member, the United States’ perspective on the Council’s working methods is based on over 76 years of experience. We know that serving as a pen holder is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is a significant time commitment and involves extensive contact with Member States, civil society organizations and UN officials. As the holder of the pen, one is responsible for taking into account the myriad views among the 15 members of the wide range of stakeholders and working to ensure timely decisions from the Council.

Whenever there is a proposal to adapt the Council’s working methods, we are fortunate to be able to assess the long-term institutional implications of the proposal. We are aware that there is always room for improvement and the Council can sometimes strive for greater effectiveness, efficiency and transparency, while bearing in mind many of its working methods have stood the test of time and are in place for reasons good ones.

Specifically on the issue of pen possession, Id like to briefly recall some of the commitments set forth in Note 507.

First, any member of the Security Council can be a holder of the pen. Council members are encouraged to act as pen holders in the drafting of documents, including resolutions, presidential statements and Council press releases. More than one member of the Council may act as co-host when deemed to add value, taking into account, as appropriate, the expertise or contributions of the members of the Council on these matters. Indeed, this happens often: the United States has worked closely with Mexico as a pen holder in Haiti. We also serve as co-holder with the Russian Federation on the mandate for UNDOF, an agreement that has enabled close engagement with parties on the ground and ensured the support of the Council for this essential peacekeeping mission.

Further, all members of the Security Council shall be permitted to participate fully in the preparation of Council resolutions, presidential statements and press statements. The drafting of all documents such as presidential resolutions and statements, as well as press statements, should be done in an inclusive manner that will allow the participation of the entire Council. These are just some of the commitments set out in Note 507, but they have played an important role in guiding the Council’s practice on this issue, and the United States remains committed to their implementation.

I would now like to return to the clear rationale behind today’s meeting. We have heard from the Russian delegation that they complain about the increase in the number of resolutions in the Council that are not approved unanimously. To suggest that this trend is primarily a result of the pen ownership arrangement is unfounded.

We need look no further than last month’s debate over Syria’s cross-border humanitarian mechanism. The holders of the pen, Ireland and Norway, led an extremely open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process. They sought to find common ground between different positions. Even where we disagreed on policy, we welcomed their good faith efforts to broker agreement. So did the rest of the Council. However, one country decided to diminish, impede and thwart their efforts: Russia. Instead, the Russian delegation presented an alternative draft and tried to hijack the process, holding the entire Council and the Syrian people hostage.

In connection with the Council’s recent review of the situation in the Central African Republic, Russia proposed a last-minute text that completely disregarded the negotiations and compromises reached by other Council members.

On Libya, the repeated short-term resolutions provide another troubling example of how one Council member — Russia — has blocked discussion on core mandates despite the will of the other 14 Council members.

Earlier this year, Russia and China vetoed a US-drafted resolution on the DPRK that seeks to address the DPRK’s illegal advances in war weapons and ballistic missiles and help facilitate humanitarian aid for the DPRK. Instead of committing to the text, Russia and China continued to advocate for their own alternative resolution, even though consultations on that resolution in January showed it lacked Council support. And after the US-drafted resolution was vetoed, in their explanations of votes and their remarks at the subsequent meeting of the General Assembly, many members of this Council recognized the inclusive and transparent process we had led as pen-holders.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the solemn responsibilities that all of us in this Council have to maintain international peace and stability. This is no easy task and requires difficult decisions and difficult compromises.

In our view, the success of the Security Council is based on an implicit understanding that our working methods are guided by engagement rather than absolutism. And it is precisely this approach that should drive our engagement forward.

Thank you, chairman.

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