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Updated on 26 November 2019


Section 7:   Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies


Security Council reaffirms its unique interim chairmanship arrangements for subsidiary bodies


In the principal UN organs, it has long been the practice for Chairs of subsidiary bodies to be appointed in their individual capacities, and for Vice Chairs to be appointed in their “corporate” capacities.  That is, a specific individual is named to serve as Chair, whereas it is the name of a country which is designated as the Vice Chair.[1]  Over time, this had been interpreted to mean that while only the named individual served as Chair, anyone, in principle, from the delegation of the Vice Chair could fulfil vice-chairmanship responsibilities.


A related practice in the other principal UN organs has been that when the individual designated as Chair is not present to fulfil his/her functions, this role falls to the Vice Chair(s).  However, when this same system was earlier followed by the Security Council, it posed certain problems.  Some of the Council’s subsidiary bodies have become highly specialized and require in-depth understanding.  Therefore, to suddenly take over the Chair’s formal responsibilities was sometimes difficult for Vice Chairs, which understandably had a more peripheral relationship to the body in question.


Concerned that this practice created significant gaps in the continuity of the leadership of Security Council subsidiary organs, during closed consultations in July 2009, the representative of the United Kingdom proposed a new arrangement:  that whenever the designated Chair was not available, another high-ranking member of that same delegation, preferably the Chargé d’affaires, would fulfil the Chair’s official functions, as needed.  After discussion, the other Council members agreed to the proposal.


The new arrangement was put into practice almost immediately thereafter.  The following month, in the absence of the Permanent Representative of Austria, another Austrian delegate signed a letter as Acting Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities[2] (S/2009/427).  The same Austrian delegate signed a letter under similar circumstances in December 2009 (S/2009/676).  In May 2012, a delegate of Portugal signed a letter in the absence of his Permanent Representative, the Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006)[3] (S/2012/287).


In addition, on 22 December 2011, at a formal meeting (S/PV.6698), the Council heard a report by a Portuguese delegate, acting on behalf of his Permanent Representative, the Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya.  In closed consultations on 23 August 2011 and 21 August 2012, the same Portuguese delegate presented oral reports on behalf of his absent Permanent Representative, the Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006). 


Since the 1990s, after agreeing on a significant new working method, the Security Council usually has published its decision in the format of a Note by the President.  However, seemingly inadvertently, the new arrangement was not published either as a separate note, or as part of the 2010 comprehensive presidential note on working methods (S/2010/507) or the 2017 updated comprehensive note (S/2017/507).[4]  Probably for this reason, the relevant practice eventually became blurred. 


Thus it was that starting in 2014, a few subsidiary bodies slipped back into the former practice.  On 14 April of that year, the representative of Rwanda, one of two Vice-Chairs of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1572 (2004) concerning Côte d’Ivoire, signed a letter in the absence of the Chair, the representative of Chile (S/2014/266).  Then on 16 January 2015, the representative of Nigeria, one of two Vice-Chairs, signed a letter on behalf of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan (S/2015/31), while the  incoming Chair of that Committee, the Permanent Representative of Venezuela, was in the process of submitting his credentials.


It was in October 2019 that the question of interim chairmanship arrangements again came to the Security Council’s direct attention.  On 3 October, the Permanent Representative of Peru, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, was named Foreign Minister of his country.  He had, beginning in January 2018, been serving as Chair of four formal subsidiary bodies: 


  • the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) (the “Counter-Terrorism Committee”)

  • the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014)[5]

  • the Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004)[6]

  • the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals


Additionally, he was serving as Co-Chair, together with the German and United Kingdom Permanent Representatives, of the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security established by resolution 2242 (2015).


With little time remaining in Peru’s term on the Council, which would end on 31 December 2019, the question arose as to what chairmanship arrangements would be most appropriate over the coming three-month period.[7]  Ultimately, the Council reversed the drift of the intervening years and returned to the arrangement agreed in 2009.  Rather than having one of the Vice-Chairs[8] take on the Chair’s functions for the remainder of 2019, a revised presidential note was issued on 17 October 2019 (S/2019/2/Rev.1) which indicated that Luis Ugarelli, one of Peru’s two Deputy Permanent Representatives, would serve as Chair of the four formal subsidiary bodies.[9]    


Should the Security Council wish to continue to observe its unique arrangement for acting chairmanships, it would probably be desirable at some point to record it in a working methods presidential note.  Nonetheless, the revised presidential note S/2019/2/Rev.1, updating the list of the Council’s subsidiary organ bureaux, does indicate the continuity of leadership within the originally-designated Chair’s delegation.  Accordingly, it has now created a formal record of the essence of the practice.


If another member of a Chair’s delegation is to serve in that capacity when the individual designated as Chair is not available, the question arises as to what purpose is served by appointing Vice Chairs at all.  Whether or not to retain Vice Chairs is for the Security Council itself to decide.  Nonetheless, in the past four reasons for Vice Chairs have been mentioned:


1.  In some of the larger subsidiary bodies, such as the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the 1540 Committee on weapons of mass destruction, the Vice Chairs often fulfil responsibilities for some distinct areas of the Committee’s work, under the overall direction of the Chair;


2.  Vice Chairs, having a closer association to the subsidiary body’s work because they have been designated to serve on the bureaux, can sometimes assist the Chair in an advisory capacity;


3.  Having Vice Chairs from regions other than that of the Chair can sometimes create a sense of geographical balance; and


4.  Given that three permanent members (P5) – France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom – serve as Vice Chairs for some bodies, this may be seen as a small step toward diversifying the P5-elected member composition of bureaux, which otherwise, in today’s Council, are exclusively comprised of elected members.[10]


In any event, the work of the Council’s subsidiary bodies has become so multifaceted and complex that for the foreseeable future, all arrangements related to their working methods are likely to be given continuing attention, including the role of Vice Chairs.


(This update supplements page 558 of the book.)


[1] This distinction continues to be observed in the yearly Security Council presidential notes announcing the bureaux of the Council’s subsidiary bodies (see, for example, S/2019/2/Rev.1).

[2] The work of this Committee has been expanded, and today it is named the “Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da'esh) Al-Qaida and associated individuals groups undertakings and entities”.

[3] Relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

[4] It was, however, agreed by Council members that the new arrangement be recorded in our book (page 558).

[5] Relating to Yemen.

[6] Tasked by the resolution with examining “practical measures to be imposed upon individuals, groups or entities involved in or associated with terrorist activities, other than those designated by the Al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Committee” (now two separate committees), and “the possibility of establishing an international fund to compensate victims of terrorist acts and their families”.

[7] Bureaux for the following year would be appointed in January 2020.

[8] The Vice Chairs for the four formal subsidiary bodies were, respectively, France, Russian Federation and South Africa; Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire and the United Kingdom; Poland; and Germany.

[9] The bureaux of the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security is not listed in the presidential note, but it was understood that Mr. Ugarelli would also serve as one of its Co-Chairs.  He is not, however, the Chargé d’affaires for Peru.  That role is being fulfilled by Peru’s other Deputy Permanent Representative (DPR), Paul Duclos.  In the Council’s practice, most Chairs are Permanent Representatives.  But in earlier years, the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations was chaired by successive Deputy Permanent Representatives. And in 2019, the Libya sanctions committee has been chaired by the DPR of Germany rather than its Permanent Representative.

[10] See a related article on this website concerning E10 positions on several subsidiary body chairmanship issues.


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