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The Security Council's non-meeting on climate change

On Friday, the UN Security Council will meet to consider the security implications of climate change. Council diplomats will hear from the secretary general, a top World Bank official, a leading climate expert, and representatives of island states most directly affected. For the assembled diplomats, it promises to be chock full of information. However informative, the meeting is not technically a Security Council session. Instead, it's an "Arria formula" gathering. The UN describes them this way:

"Arria-formula meetings" are very informal, confidential gatherings which enable Security Council members to have a frank and private exchange of views, within a flexible procedural framework, with persons whom the inviting member or members of the Council (who also act as the facilitators or convenors) believe it 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 latter’s request — as well as non-State parties, on matters with which they are concerned and which fall within the purview of responsibility of the Security Council.

Informality is a key attribute of these meetings, but so too is deniability; the Arria formula allows Council diplomats to meet even when key members doubt that the subject merits a meeting. As Security Council Report points out, China, Russia and a few other members are not keen to have the Council grapple with climate change any more than it already has. 

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