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The Procedure of the UN Security Council$

Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198280736

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198280734.001.0001

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(p.553) Appendix X(g) Informal Briefing Note on Blue Draft Resolutions, Prepared by the Secretariat, July 1995

(p.553) Appendix X(g) Informal Briefing Note on Blue Draft Resolutions, Prepared by the Secretariat, July 1995

The Procedure of the UN Security Council
Oxford University Press

Origin of ‘Blue Draft Resolutions’

Blue draft resolutions have been in use since the 1960s in a number of UN organs including the General Assembly and ECOSOC. Originally they were envisaged as a means of distributing draft resolutions at very little notice, during the course of a meeting.

The Evolution of a Security Council Resolution

The first stage is a proposal. This will usually take the form of a ‘working paper’, in which case it will have no document symbol number and no official status. Occasionally a proposal will be in the form of an S/ document draft resolution from the outset. A proposal may emanate from the President, a member of the Council, a member from the United Nations invited in accordance with the rule 37 of the Council's provisional rules of procedure or a state invited under article 32 of the Charter to participate in the discussions of the Security Council. No matter how initiated, in the course of the consultations thereon, the members of the Council may agree that the text should be considered a Presidential text, that is a text implicitly sponsored by the 15 members of the Council.

The sponsor(s) of a draft resolution may request at any time during the negotiations that their draft resolution be issued by being put into ‘blue’. Often at the point when either a text has been informally agreed among the 15 Council members, or where the negotiations have reached the point where no further progress will be achieved through negotiation and a Member still wishes to proceed with a vote on the resolution, then the President will usually ask ‘may I take it that we are prepared to turn this draft into blue’ or say ‘the sponsors are requesting that this draft resolution be turned into blue this evening’. In cases where the draft resolution commands the support of all of the members of the Council and where the members of the Council wish to signify their unity, it would be proposed that (p.554) the draft be a Presidential text, that is one with the heading ‘Draft resolution’ only; in other cases sponsors are indicated.

A blue draft resolution of the Security Council is a text printed with blue ink and issued in provisional form. It carries the word ‘PROVISIONAL’ in the symbol block. From a technical standpoint the emphasis is on the draft blue resolution being provisional in terms of accuracy of the different language versions rather than in terms of substance, and often minor translation alterations are subsequently necessary.

Unlike the General Assembly where ‘blue’ draft resolutions are automatically converted into ‘black’, in the Security Council they may remain in ‘blue’ indefinitely unless cancelled or turned into ‘black’, that is, into a document with the general distribution designation specified in the symbol block. The ‘black’ document carries the same symbol as the ‘blue’. If not converted into ‘black’, the ‘blue’ document ceases to exist and the S/ symbol is vacated. While a blue draft resolution is provisional, it must be turned into ‘black’ if a reference is made to it at a formal meeting of the Council.

Physically, ‘blue draft resolutions’ are produced by the Secretariat in one room where a translator and word‐processor operator (for each language) are brought together swiftly to produce a preliminary text. Low volume reproduction facilities are available nearby, and the resolution is then circulated in limited numbers in the Security Council Consultation Room, and since 1 March 1994, to the racks of the delegates’ document distribution counter in the first basement of the Secretariat building.

Changes to a ‘Blue Draft Resolution’

The vast majority of changes are undertaken at the level of the ‘working papers’—ie. ‘non‐documents’. Working papers are identified only by title and date, and revisions to them specify the date and time of new versions. Once a draft resolution has been accepted as ‘blue’ it is rare to have any changes. If there are any, these are incorporated in a new version of the blue draft resolution. The symbol of a blue draft resolution will be in the following form: S/1997/*** where ‘***’ stands for the next sequential number of Security Council documents issued that year. A revised version of that document will carry the same symbol with an asterisk following the symbol if issued the same day, or simply a new date if issued the next day. Unless the sponsors of a draft resolution undergoing revision specifically decided that there should be a revised version, the word ‘revised’ does not appear in the heading. If passed, the black version of the resolution will carry the identical document symbol.

(p.555) When revisions are made by the sponsors of the text in ‘blue’ during a formal meeting, the President, in specifying the revisions made, explicitly states that ‘they have been made to the text contained in document S/ . . . in its provisional form’. In such a case, when putting the text to the vote at the same meeting, the President refers to ‘the draft resolution contained in document S/ . . . , as orally revised in its provisional form’. The said revisions are then incorporated in the ‘black’ version of the draft resolution. If the ‘blue’ draft resolution, as orally revised in its provisional form, is not put to the vote on that day, it is turned into ‘black’ overnight. If not adopted, ‘blue’ draft resolutions are nonetheless turned into ‘black’.

While the Council normally takes a decision on the basis of a text issued in ‘black’, it can, as it has more and more frequently done, act on the basis of the ‘blue’ text. Draft resolutions are subject to the Council's Provisional Rules of Procedure. Although there is a requirement in the General Assembly Rules of Procedure for a resolution to be submitted at least 24 hours before voting is undertaken, there is nothing that specifies this in the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council. However a de facto ‘24‐hour rule’ exists in the Council to allow all members of the Council to receive instructions from their capitals. The sponsors may request that a decision be taken with application of the ‘24‐hour rule’. The President may also indicate his intention to put the draft resolution to the vote in 24 hours. However, if in the view of members of the Council the situation so warrants, and if there is concurrence among them to that effect, a decision may be taken on a draft resolution within a shorter period.

Transparency and ‘Blue Draft Resolutions’

The inter‐linkage between ‘blue draft resolutions’, which were hitherto an administrative tool, and transparency measures, began when it was recommended by the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Matters of the Security Council that ‘blue draft resolutions’ should be made available to all Members of the organization. In a note by the President of the Security Council on 28 February 1994 (S/1994/230) the Council adopted the following practice:

‘Effective 1 March 1994, draft resolutions in blue, that is, in provisional form, will be made available for collection by non‐members of the Council at the time of consultations of the whole of the Council. Draft resolutions published in blue late at night will be made available for collection by non‐members of the Council the following day.’