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The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition

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Updated on 9 January 2017

Chapter 8:   SUBSIDIARY BODIES

Section 7:   Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies

 

Security Council appoints Chairs and Vice-Chairs of its subsidiary bodies for 2017

 

In a Note by the President dated 3 January 2017 (S/2017/2), the Council announced the bureaux of its subsidiary bodies for the year. 

 

An article on this website describes the breakthrough Note by the President S/2016/619, issued on 15 July 2016, which institutionalized two advances in the selection process for the bureaux:

 

1)  With greater specificity than in previous Notes by the President on the selection process, S/2016/619 provides a recommended target date when it states in paragraph 5 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.”

 

2)  Whereas previously, by an informal arrangement, only permanent members of the Council facilitated the appointment process, paragraph 7 of S/2016/619 provides 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 on 29 July 2016 , 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). 

 

The outcome of the selection process undertaken in 2016 is reflected in the 2017 Note by the President S/2017/2.  It should be noted that for 2017, there were two fewer chairmanships to be allocated, because in 2016, the Council terminated its Committee established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) concerning Liberia, as well as its Committee established pursuant to resolution 1572 (2004) concerning Côte d’Ivoire (see article on this website).

 

As set out in S/2017/2, the Permanent Representatives of the five incoming members will be chairing the following subsidiary bodies in 2017:

 

Bolivia:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004)

 

Ethiopia:  Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa

 

Italy:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) [relating to the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]; Facilitator for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) [relating to Iran]

 

Kazakhstan:  Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea; Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities; Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) [relating to the Taliban]

 

Sweden:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya; Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

 

The five elected members which remain on the Council in 2017 for the second year of their term are retaining the chairmanships to which they were assigned in 2016.  In addition, Ukraine, in the final year of its term, is taking on the chairmanship of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan, which in 2016 was chaired by outgoing Council member Venezuela. 

 

Generally, the chairmanships of the Council’s subsidiary bodies rotate somewhat randomly among the regional groups to which the various elected Council members belong.  However, in a few cases, chairmanships have tended to have continuity within a regional group.  For example, since 2007, the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) has been chaired by a Council member from the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG).[1]  Similarly, since 2013, the chairmanship of the Committee related to Iran’s nuclear programme, and the subsequent position of Facilitator, have been delegated to Council members belonging to WEOG.[2]  Moreover, since 2012, the chairmanship of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals has been held by a member of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.[3]  And, appropriately, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa has, since its inception, been chaired by a Council member from the Africa Group.[4]

 

The majority of Vice-Chairs in 2017 will once again be elected members.  However, as in the recent past, three of the five permanent members – France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom – will also serve as Vice-Chairs of some subsidiary bodies:

 

France:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism; Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004)

 

Russian Federation:  Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities; Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism; Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) [relating to the Taliban]; Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004)

 

United Kingdom:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004); Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations

 

As has been their past practice, in 2017 neither China nor the United States will hold positions as Vice-Chairs.  

 

The role of the Vice-Chairs of the Council’s subsidiary bodies is less operational than in the UN’s other principal organs.  That is because in 2009, the Council decided that the Chargé d’affaires of a Chair’s delegation would serve as Acting Chair of a subsidiary organ in the Chair’s absence (see the book, page 558, and a related article on this website).  The purpose of this arrangement has been to provide greater continuity at times when the designated Chair is not at UN Headquarters.  But although the Council’s Vice-Chairs now play a minimal role, their appointments do create a profile of greater regional balance for each subsidiary body, and therefore are not without political importance.

 

As noted in the book (pages 129 and 557), depending on the subsidiary body, a chairmanship can be a very demanding assignment for a nonpermanent member, requiring a significant commitment of time and personnel, and sometimes placing that member at the centre of controversial issues.  On the other hand, serving as Chair gives an elected member a leadership role when the matters for which subsidiary bodies are responsible come up for consideration in the Council itself.  Thus 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.  Thus occasionally there is competitiveness among some incoming elected members over the more high-profile chairmanships.

 

In addition to trying to accommodate the preferences of some members to chair certain subsidiary bodies and not to chair others, care must be taken to ensure – particularly in the case of sanctions committees – that a member appointed as Chair has sufficient distance from the problem, geographically and politically, so that it will be seen as conducting the work of the subsidiary body with objectivity.

 

For all these reasons, the selection process for subsidiary body chairs each year requires careful balancing and a spirit of compromise.

 

For the 2017 appointments, it was not possible for the co-facilitators to garner the agreement of all Council members on the composition of all bureaux by the recommended target date of 1 October set out in S/2016/619.  Rather, the appointments were finalized in the latter part of October 2016.  Nonetheless, this was a significant improvement over previous years, when incoming members were sometimes informed of their subsidiary body assignments only days before they were to take up their new responsibilities.  In particular, the overlap of more than two months between the outgoing and incoming bureaux has allowed most of the new 2017 Chairs to attain a far greater level of preparedness through a more prolonged mentorship and more in-depth briefings.

 

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

__________________

[1] Italy (2007-8); Turkey (2009-10); Portugal (2011-12); Luxembourg (2013-14); Spain (2015-16); and again Italy (2017).

 

[2] Australia (2013-14); Spain (2015-16); and Italy (2017).

 

[3] Guatemala (2012-13); Chile (2014-15); and Uruguay (2016-17).

 

[4] Mauritius (2002); Angola (2003-4); Benin (2005-6); Congo (2007);  South Africa (2008); Uganda (2009-10); South Africa (2011-12); Nigeria (2013-14); Angola (2015-16); Ethiopia (2017).