Updated on 28 February 2016
Chapter 8: SUBSIDIARY BODIES
Section 5(a): Fact-finding and other missions by Council members to the field
Missions to the field by some, but not all, Security Council members
At the wrap-up meeting convened on 29 January 2016 (S/PV.7616), the representative of the United Kingdom affirmed that the Council’s mission to Burundi earlier that month had demonstrated that Council visits to the field “can have a real impact on the challenges we face.” He added, however, that the delay in agreeing the visit to Burundi “weakened our message at a time when sustained pressure was needed.” Accordingly, he wondered
“whether we should move away from consensus in agreeing such visits. If some Council
members do not want to come on a visit, let us not allow them to undermine the entire
Council. Going further, perhaps there would be value in setting aside a week every four
months or so where all Council members would be encouraged to visit an area on our
agenda, whether as a whole or in a group or even individually. This so-called visiting
week could allow us all to do some real diplomacy and outreach and engagement and
even prevention or resolution of conflicts.”
Speaking later in the same meeting, the representative of Ukraine expressed his strong support for “the points made by the delegation of the United Kingdom on Security Council visits”. In his intervention, the representative of the Russian Federation stated that a “collective approach helps to improve the effectiveness of the Council’s activities, including such important tools as mission visits.” He added that, “In any case, there is nothing to prevent individual Council members from visiting countries they are interested in in their national capacity.”
As quoted in a related article on this website, the book explains (page 493) that “The various types of ‘Security Council missions’ to the field, during the time when they are in process, are considered to be subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.” As suggested by the comment made by the Russian representative during the January 2016 wrap-up meeting, should fewer than all fifteen Council members decide in the future to make visits to the field, it will be important for the Council to determine whether such visits are agreed by the Council as a whole, and therefore are subsidiary bodies of the Council, or whether those few Council members are traveling in their national capacities without a Council mandate.
On pages 493 to 495, the book details the history of missions to the field by Security Council members, beginning with the Council’s decision in 1964 to send three of its members to Cambodia and Viet Nam. This was the first undertaking to be formally designated a “Security Council mission”. Security Council missions to the field continued throughout the following decades. However, until 2001, in all these cases the missions were comprised by some, but not all, of the Council members. The Security Council visit to Kosovo in June 2001 was the first time that all fifteen Council members participated in a mission to the field.
Today, missions by all fifteen Council members have become the norm, although so-called “mini-missions” are still possible, as the comments during the January 2016 wrap-up suggest. The last “mini-mission” authorized by the Security Council was to Timor-Leste in November 2012. The mission was composed of representatives of six Council members – Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, and Togo, with South Africa serving as the lead (S/2012/889).