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Updated on 15 September 2016


Section 5(e):   Subsidiary bodies concerned with sanctions


Administrative delineation of correspondence agreed by ten sanctions committee Chairs


On 27 July 2016, the permanent representatives of all ten elected members of the Security Council – Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela – as Chairs of Security Council sanctions committees, sent a joint letter to the Council President (S/2016/658).  The letter states that the ten signatories “have agreed on the document attached hereto, which outlines an administrative delineation of Security Council sanctions committee correspondence”.  This delineation, the letter explains, “is designed to reduce administrative burdens and increase the working efficiencies of the Chairs and of the Secretariat staff providing secretarial support to the sanctions committees.” 


The joint letter contains an exemption clause stating that “Where correspondence is not captured in the document or is potentially sensitive in nature, judgment will need to be exercised.”  This clause ensures that the agreed administrative delineation will not limit the prerogatives of any sanctions committee Chair, including vis-à-vis the Secretariat.


The list attached to the joint letter is presented in two columns, one column for types of correspondence “that require no action and can be circulated by the Secretariat” for the information of members, and the other column for types of correspondence “that require action or are sensitive in nature” and will be circulated by the committee Chair to members.  Included in the first column are “Co-sponsorship of listing requests”, “Pending matters/holds lists”, “Submission of expert group reports to the Committee”, and “Responses of Member States to expert group letters”.  In several cases, entries in this first column include notations that there should be prior consultation or notification to the Chair by the Secretariat before circulation.


The second column, relating to types of correspondence “that require action or are sensitive in nature”, includes “Listing requests”, “Exemption requests”, “Correspondence received and draft replies (including non-compliance allegations)”, and “Substantive amendments to list entries”.


The joint letter, an initiative begun by New Zealand, is significant in several respects.  This is the first time that the ten elected members, serving as Chairs of the Council’s sanctions committees, have issued guidelines for all sanctions committees agreed among themselves, and without the stated concurrence of the five permanent members.  Until now, it has always been the Council as a whole which has adopted any decisions relating to all sanctions committees.  These have included Notes by the President containing guidelines applicable to the functioning of the Council’s subsidiary organs, the most recent such notes being S/2016/170 of 22 February 2016 and S/2016/619 of 15 July 2016.  In addition (as described on pages 532-535 in the book), in 2000, the Security Council established an Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions, comprised of all 15 Council members, to develop “general recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of United Nations sanctions”.  The Informal Working Group issued its report on 18 December 2006 (S/2006/997).  Subsequently, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1732 (2006), by which it took note “with interest of the best practices and methods contained in the Working Group’s report” and requested the Council’s subsidiary bodies “to take note as well”.  


Nothing precluded the development of the written delineation of committee correspondence by the sanctions committee Chairs collectively, since this type of delineation is within the purview of each of the committee Chairs individually.  And in fact, the report of the Informal Working Group on General Issues of Sanctions recommended that Committees “harmonize their guidelines, as they deem appropriate”.  However, it is unprecedented that all the Chairs cooperatively developed written standards to be commonly applied by all sanctions committees.  Previously, the development of common procedures had been done only informally, through the sharing of ideas on best practices by some sanctions committee Chairs concerning certain aspects of their committees’ work. 


Further, although the guidelines for each sanctions committee are posted on the committee’s individual webpage on the Security Council website, the joint letter represents the first time that a part of sanctions committee guidelines have been published as an official document of the Security Council. 


The initiative by the ten elected members to agree to the measures contained in the joint letter and to request its publication can be viewed in the context growing frustration that little has been achieved towards reforming the Council’s overall approach to imposing, managing and terminating sanctions, despite a number of prominent initiatives.  These initiatives have included the extensive Compendium issued in November 2015 as the outcome of the High Level Review of United Nations Sanctions; efforts by the Group of Like-Minded States on Targeted Sanctions, including their letter of 12 November 2015 (S/2015/867); and the attempt by Australia, during the latter part of its 2013-2014 Council term, to achieve the adoption a new Security Council resolution on sanctions.  Given the failure so far of such efforts to bring about broad, significant change with respect to the Council’s sanctions practices, it is significant that the ten elected Council members focused on one specific administrative area of sanctions practice where they could register at least modest progress.


At the 19 July 2016 open debate on the Council’s working methods, the representative of Malaysia, a Council member, spoke to the importance of this type of incremental progress when, after noting the broad range of tasks of the Council’s subsidiary bodies, he stated


“we fully support efforts to make the work of the subsidiary bodies more streamlined,

coordinated and effective, including via the initiative by New Zealand regarding the

communications of such bodies.” (S/PV.7740)


It is expected that the annual reports of at least some of the sanctions committees will comment on the implementation and impact of the administrative delineation of correspondence. 


(This update supplements page 534 of the book.)



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