posted on Thu 3 Nov 2016 3:17 PM
Finnish Workshop for Incoming Members of the UN Security Council

The 14th annual workshop for incoming members of the UN Security Council will be held on 3-4 November, commencing this evening (3 November) in Long Island, New York. The workshop is convened by the government of Finland in cooperation with The School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University and the Security Council Affairs Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs. Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, is the keynote speaker at the opening dinner, while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will make remarks.

The programme, called “Hitting the Ground Running,” aims to provide an informal and interactive environment for frank discussion among current and incoming Council members. It introduces the new members to the demands and expectations of being an elected member, takes stock of the Council’s performance over the past year and provides a rare opportunity to have a discussion about the Council’s work.

Following the workshop, a report, taking into consideration that the discussion is under the Chatham House rule, is published as an annex to a letter from the Permanent Representative of Finland to the President of the Security Council (i.e., the substance of the discussions is shared, but comments are not attributed to any of the participants, other than the remarks at the Thursday dinner). Access to workshop reports from the last three years can be found here: S/2016/506, S/2015/292 and S/2014/213.

The “Finnish Workshop” is traditionally attended by high-level diplomats from the fifteen current members of the Council and the five incoming members. (On 28 June, four incoming members—Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden—were elected by the UN General Assembly to serve on the Council for 2017-2018. After five indecisive rounds of voting, Italy and the Netherlands agreed to a split term, with Italy serving in 2017 and the Netherlands in 2018; both will be present at the workshop).

The workshop will have three sessions on: “State of the Council in 2016”; “Working Methods and Subsidiary Bodies”; and “Lessons Learned”.

In the first session, participants are asked to assess the performance of the Council over the past year and discuss how to improve its work in 2017. Among the issues that may be discussed include: opportunities to address the difficult issues facing the Council in the coming year; ways in which the elected members can build bridges among permanent members to address these issues; and how to strengthen the working relationship between the Council and regional and sub-regional organisations.

The second session will focus on working methods and subsidiary bodies. Topics that may be discussed, among others, include: the lessons to be taken from the selection process of the Secretary-General this year and how this process can be further refined in the future; whether the earlier election of the elected Council members this year has improved their preparation to serve on the Council; how to improve the penholder system and broaden opportunities for elected members to serve as penholders; how to make consultations more interactive and strategic; and the strengths and weaknesses of the increased use of “any other business” in consultations.

The third and final session of the workshop will allow outgoing members (Angola, New Zealand, Malaysia, Spain and Venezuela) to reflect on their two years on the Council and provide insights into the lessons they have learned along the way. This session offers an opportunity for the outgoing members to highlight the challenges and opportunities of being on the Council. Topics that may feature in this session include the institutional culture of the Council, the organisation of delegations’ missions in New York, relationships between respective missions in New York and capitals and the interaction between permanent and elected members of the Council.