Article revised on 17 July 2016
Chapter 8: SUBSIDIARY BODIES
Section 6: Thematic subsidiary bodies
Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security
On 13 October 2015, by its resolution 2242 (2015), the Security Council expressed
“its intention to convene meetings of relevant Security Council experts as part of an
Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security to facilitate a more systematic
approach to Women, Peace and Security within its own work and enable greater oversight
and coordination of implementation efforts.”
This provision was included in the resolution’s paragraph 5, in which the Council recognized “the ongoing need for greater integration of resolution 1325 (2000) in its own work in alignment with resolution 2122 (2013), including the need to address challenges linked to the provision of specific information and recommendations on the gender dimensions of situations on the Council’s agenda, to inform and help strengthen the Council’s decisions”.
The language used in resolution 2242 (2015) to initiate a subsidiary body related to Women and Peace and Security (WPS), as well as the name given to the new body, are somewhat tentative compared to the language typically used by the Council in creating subsidiary bodies. For example, in its resolution 2140 (2014), the Council stated that it “Decides to establish, in accordance with rule 28 of its provisional rules of procedure, a Committee of the Security Council” in connection with sanctions related to Yemen (original italics). In S/PRST/2001/3, the Council “decides to establish a Working Group of the Whole on United Nations peacekeeping operations”.
This tentative approach to establishing a subsidiary body related to Women and peace and security reflects reservations on the part at least one Council member. During the meeting at which resolution 2242 (2015) was adopted, although the representative of the Russian Federation voted for the resolution, he stated:
“We do not agree with the view that there is a need to set up an informal expert group
on issues relating to women and peace and security. We believe that the creation of new
bodies is no guarantee of the effectiveness of the work of the Council. Overall we feel that
it is a dubious approach that is aimed at establishing more and more auxiliary bodies
covering various items on the agenda. It is also inappropriate to refer this issue to such a structure within the Security Council, owing to its informal character.” (S/PV.7533)
Once in the past, the Council used a two-step process to establish a thematic subsidiary body. In its S/PRST/2002/2, the Council stated that it “will consider the setting up of an ad hoc Working Group” in connection with conflict prevention and resolution in Africa. One month later, the Council adopted a Note by the President setting out the new Working Group’s formal terms of reference (S/2002/217). However, given the position of the Russian Federation on the WPS Informal Experts Group (IEG), and in light of the fact that the new group is explicitly “Informal”, it is unlikely that the Council will follow this previous case by subsequently issuing formal terms of reference for the IEG. In any event, in the context of paragraph 5 of resolution 2242 (2015), it seems to be the clear intention of the majority of the Council’s members that the new Experts Group would broaden its activities beyond those carried out previously when Council members’ WPS experts mainly came together to draft outcome documents on this agenda item.
Establishment by the Council of a subsidiary body related to Women and peace and security has long been advocated by many UN Member States and civil society representatives. At the 13 October 2015 open debate on Women and peace and security, the representative of Luxembourg affirmed that the Security Council must show the “political will and courage” necessary to fulfill the role it has taken on in adopting resolution 1325 (2005). He expressed the hope that resolution 2242 (2015), and especially the creation of the Informal Experts Group, would contribute to that outcome. Similarly, the representative of Iceland referred to the establishment of an informal experts group as a “useful concrete proposal” to help ensure information and monitoring. And Alaa Murabit, of the organization “Voice of Libyan Women”, referred to the need for “an accountable and authoritative first-response structure within the Security Council”. She added that an informal expert group could “guarantee greater coordination throughout the multilateral system and provide greater relief to defenders of women’s human rights who are at risk on the ground.” (S/PV.7533)
On 4 January 2016, when the Council issued its Note by the President setting out the bureaux of its subsidiary bodies for the coming year (S/2016/2), the list did not contain the name of the Chair of the Informal Experts Group established the previous year. This omission is reminiscent of the case recounted in the book (on page 518) of the Council’s Informal Working Group on International Tribunals (IWGIT). The IWGIT came into being in 2000. At that point in time, the legal experts of Council delegations had been meeting so regularly to consider matters relating to the various international tribunals that their meetings evolved into a generally recognized informal working group. Although a Chair from among the elected members was regularly appointed to lead the IWGIT each year thereafter, some Council members did not wish to differentiate the meetings of this group from the meetings of the Council’s other thematic experts, such as on the protection of civilians. However, over time the IWGIT continued to gain in importance, until finally in 2009, the IWGIT Chair began to be included in the Council’s published list of the bureaux of its subsidiary bodies. It is indeed possible that a similar evolution will occur over time with respect to the Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security.
Note on the formulation of the WPS agenda item:
Pages 48 and 49 of the book offer a clarification as to the correct formulation of the agenda item, “Women and peace and security” (our italics). Often the item is rendered as “Women, peace and security”, on the mistaken assumption that it is a list of three equal components. In fact, when the agenda item was first devised in 2000, the Security Council intentionally included the word “and” between “Women” and “peace and security”. In devising this agenda item, the Council was signaling that it was restricting its consideration of women’s issues to those related to the Council’s Charter mandate for the maintenance of international “peace and security”. Therefore, the item is a listing of only two components – “women” and “peace and security” – not three, and that is why the first “and” is a politically significant part of the official agenda item.
(This update supplements pages 48-49 and 551-556 of the book.)