UN Security Council holds 1st in-person meeting in nearly 7 months

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday returned to its own chamber for an in-person meeting, the first time in almost seven months after a lockdown from the coronavirus.

At the beginning of the meeting on Mali, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who chaired the meeting as president of the Security Council for the month of October, thanked council members for agreeing to return to the venue.

The last meeting held in the Security Council Chamber was on March 12 during China’s Council presidency. Since then, all meetings went remote for four months before the Council began to hold sporadic in-person meetings in the larger Economic and Social Council Chamber during Germany’s Council presidency.

As a precautionary measure, partitions were installed between the seats of the delegations in the Security Council Chamber. All participants were asked to wear masks.

During Thursday’s meeting, only one representative for each delegation was sitting at the horseshoe-shaped table, leaving the two rows of blue seats behind them empty. The only exception was the presidency spot, where two seats were taken. Several representatives kept their masks on even when they were making statements. Several speakers thanked the Russian delegation for bringing the Council back to its chamber.

Despite the reopening of the Security Council Chamber, the Council will still be holding virtual meetings, especially for the open debates, which may involve high-level turnout, said Nebenzia last week.

New York’s current travel requirement of a 14-day quarantine makes foreign dignitaries virtually impossible to attend in-person meetings at UN Headquarters.

The virtual mode forced the Security Council to shift to interim procedures for the conduct of its business, including how the agenda was agreed on and how resolutions were adopted. No interpretation between languages was made available in the virtual meetings.