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Updated on 15 September 2016


Section 7:   Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies


New parameters for appointing Chairs of the Council’s subsidiary bodies


Two weeks after the completion of the election in June 2016 of five non-permanent members to join the Security Council on 1 January 2017, the Council adopted a Note by the President (S/2016/619) which contains provisions relating to the appointment of Chairs of the Council’s subsidiary bodies.  (See the related article on this website relating to the provisions contained in the same Note on the preparation of newly elected members.)  


S/2016/619 was initiated by Japan as Chair of the Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG).  Under the heading, “Selection of Chairs of subsidiary organs”, the Note sets out four paragraphs:


“5. The members of the Security Council should make every effort to agree provisionally on the appointment of the Chairs of the subsidiary organs for the following year no later than 1 October.


“6. To that end, the members of the Security Council will start an informal process of consultations,

with the participation of all Council members, on the appointment of the Chairs of the subsidiary

organs from among the members of the Council for the following year as soon as possible after each election of members of the Council. The members of the Council should also consult informally with

the newly elected members in the process.


“7. This informal process of consultations will be undertaken in a balanced, transparent, efficient

and inclusive way so as to facilitate an exchange of information related to the work of the subsidiary

organs involved and will be facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council working in full cooperation.


“8. All members and newly elected members of the Security Council should be informed of the

outcome of the informal process of consultations on the appointment of the Chairs of the subsidiary organs in a transparent and substantive way prior to the provisional agreement on the appointment.”


From the Security Council’s early years, there has been a general trend for the Council’s subsidiary organs to be chaired by elected, rather than permanent, members.  (A section beginning on page 556 of the book provides a probable explanation as to why that has been the case).  


Chairmanships can be highly demanding assignments, requiring a significant commitment of time and personnel, and sometimes placing the Chair’s delegation at the centre of controversial issues.  For that reason, elected members have long argued that they should have real input as to the chairmanships assigned to them.  However, in reports of the annual Finnish Workshops and in the Council’s working methods open debates, many participants have complained that the designation of the bureaux (Chairs and Vice-Chairs) has been discussed among the permanent members without consulting the elected members, who were informed of the chairmanships to be allocated to them only after a final decision had been taken by the P5.  In addition, in some years, the appointments have been announced only a short time before the incoming Chairs were to take up their new duties, giving them insufficient time to familiarize themselves with the work of the subsidiary bodies they were to lead.


In order to democratize this process, over several years elected members raised the matter in the IWG, and this led to the adoption of three Notes by the President (S/2012/937, S/2014/393 and S/2016/170) aimed at inaugurating a more equitable, transparent and inclusive selection process.  However, it was possible to achieve the adoption of those three Notes only by setting out vague and general principles for the selection process, which made actual implementation difficult to achieve.


In this light, it is noteworthy that the new Note S/2016/619 contains two provisions of much greater specificity:

  • Paragraph 5 provides an actual target date when it states that the Council members “should make every effort to agree provisionally on the appointment of the Chairs of the subsidiary organs for the following year no later than 1 October.”
  • Paragraph 7 states that the consultations on the appointment process “will be facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council working in full cooperation”.  


Although consensus was not reached to elaborate on this arrangement in S/2016/619, the representative of Japan, in his end-of-presidency press conference, stated that,


“The two members in practice will be one elected member of the Council serving as the Chair

of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, and one

permanent member.  So to be more concrete, for this year it will be Japan and the United Kingdom.”


At the 31 August 2016 public wrap-up meeting, the representative of Japan confirmed that his country and the United Kingdom were serving as co-facilitators of the new process established by S/2016/619.  In addition, he reported that the Council had entered the implementation phase of the new arrangement, in that the co-facilitators, from the beginning of August, had been consulting informally with the newly elected members and the incumbent members of the Council (S/PV.7766).  


At the 19 July 2016 open debate on the Council’s working methods, eight Council members, all of them non-permanent – Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela – spoke approvingly of the adoption of S/2016/619.  The representative of Malaysia affirmed that the transparency and inclusivity established by the new measures set out in the Note for appointing the subsidiary body bureaux “would contribute immensely to improving the legitimacy of the process,” not only in the eyes of elected members, but also of the “the wider United Nations membership”.  However, the representative of Venezuela, while welcoming the new Note, noted that his delegation “would have liked to go much further” in making the appointment process “fairer and more transparent”.  At the same meeting, ten non-members of the Council – Germany, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Portugal, Switzerland (on behalf of ACT), and Turkey – spoke affirmatively of S/2016/619.  Of the permanent members of the Council, France and the United States made positive references to the Note during the open debate (S/PV.7740).


Notwithstanding the burdens of chairing subsidiary bodies, and the dissatisfaction of elected members with the appointment process heretofore, the book states that


“It should not be thought, however, that in general elected members serve unwillingly as Chairs

of the Council’s subsidiary bodies.  For many elected members, holding the chairmanship of a key subsidiary body can be one of the high points of their term on the Council, and the means by which

they make their most significant contribution to the Council’s work.  For that reason, there is

occasionally competitiveness among some incoming elected members over the more high-profile chairmanships” (page 557).


Should the new appointment process still encounter scenarios where more than one elected member wants to chair a certain subsidiary body, or where no elected member is interested in a particular subsidiary body, the two responsible Council members will have to be attentive to managing expectations.  This will be the case especially because under the new arrangements, the appointment process is likely to be more public, and therefore the final decision-making will need to be handled with sensitivity.


(This update supplements pages 556 to 559 in the book.)




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