Updated on 1 November 2014
Chapter 7: DECISIONS AND DOCUMENTS
Section 1: Formats of decisions
Operational decisions in the format of letters by the President
By a letter dated 11 October 2013 (S/2013/603), the Council President informed the Secretary-General that the Security Council “authorizes the establishment of the OPCW-United Nations Joint Mission” to eliminate the chemical weapons programme in Syria. This letter was sent in response to a letter dated 7 October 2013 (S/2013/591) from the Secretary-General in which he set out an eight-page proposal for the Joint Mission as requested by the Council’s resolution 2118 (2013).
As noted on page 428 of the book, for most exchanges of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council President, the publication of the letter from the Secretary-General will be held back until the Council’s reply has been approved, and then both letters will be issued at the same time, usually with consecutive document symbols. In the case of the Joint Mission, the Secretary-General’s letter was published several days before the Council President’s reply, and the document symbols were not consecutive. This suggests that it was initially thought that authorizing the establishment of the Joint Mission was a decision of such magnitude that a resolution would be the appropriate format. Subsequently, possibly because two draft resolutions relating to Syria had been vetoed in 2012, it seems that it came to be considered that agreement by Council members on a brief, factual letter of reply by the President would be more easily obtained than the adoption of a resolution which, by its nature, would probably include political elements.
The establishment of the OPCW-United Nations Joint Mission through the format of an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council echoes the format by which the operational decision was taken to establish a UN guard unit “to enable the implementation of the mandated tasks of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic” (S/2013/636, S/2013/637, S/2013/696). This same format was used when it was decided to deploy “a static United Nations Guard Unit to strengthen the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia” (S/2013/764, S/2013/765). (This update supplements pages 375 and 378 of the book.)