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The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition

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Chapter 8:   SUBSIDIARY BODIES

Section 7:   Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies

 

Security Council appoints Chairs and Vice-Chairs of its subsidiary bodies for 2019

 

In a Note by the President dated 2 January 2019 (S/2019/2), the Security Council announced the bureaux of its subsidiary bodies for the year 2019. 

 

In 2016, a breakthrough Note by the President, S/2016/619, institutionalized important advances in the selection process for these chairmanships.  The following year, the 2016 guidelines were incorporated into the 2017 comprehensive Note by the President on the Council’s working methods (S/2017/507).  The two most noteworthy provisions of the new selection procedure are the following: 

 

1)  Paragraph 111 of S/2017/507 sets out a recommended target date by stating that the Council members “should make every effort to agree provisionally on the appointment of the Chairs of the subsidiary bodies 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 113 of S/2017/507 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 either S/2016/619 or S/2017/507, the representative of Japan, in a 2016 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.” 

 

For the 2019 appointments, it was not possible for the co-facilitators to garner the agreement of all Council members on the composition of the bureaux by the recommended target date of 1 October 2018.  In fact, the arrangements were not finalized until 21 November, owing in part to some diverging views among the incoming members themselves.  Thus, because a number of the assignments began to take shape fairly early during the discussions, some incoming Chairs had more time than others to benefit from the mentorship and in-depth briefings by the outgoing Chairs.  At the same time, this year the incoming chairs will all benefit from a “best practices” guide for subsidiary organs developed by a group of countries under the leadership of Sweden.

 

As set out in document S/2019/2, for the year 2019, the representatives of the incoming members will be chairing the following subsidiary bodies.  Because of political sensitivities, the focus of some of the bodies is not part of their official names, and in those cases, the information is provided in the footnotes.

 

Belgium: 

  • Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia

  • Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

  • Facilitator for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015)[1]

 

Dominican Republic: 

  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017) concerning Mali

 

Germany:

  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006)[2]

  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya

 

Indonesia: 

  • 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 1540 (2004)[3]

  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011)[4]

 

South Africa: 

  • Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa

 

The five elected members which in 2019 will remain on the Council for the second year of their terms – Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland – will retain the chairmanships which they began in 2018 (see related article on this website). 

 

The Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security, established by the Security Council in 2015 by its resolution 2242 (2015), is not presently included in the annual presidential note announcing the bureaux.  However, in 2019 this Experts Group will be co-chaired by Germany and Peru, in close cooperation with the United Kingdom.

 

In some cases, the chairmanships of the Council’s subsidiary bodies rotate randomly among the various regional groups to which the Council members belong.  A noteworthy example is the chairmanship of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, which has rotated through all five of the regional groups – Africa (2), Asia-Pacific (1), Eastern Europe (3); Latin American and Caribbean States (2), and Western European and Other States (4) – and has also included two permanent members.[5]

 

In other cases, chairmanships have had continuity within a regional group.  For example, since 2007, the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) relating to the DPRK nuclear weapons programme has been chaired by a Council member from the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG).[6]  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.[7]  In addition, 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.[8]  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.[9]

 

The majority of Vice-Chairs in 2019 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 serve as Vice-Chairs of several subsidiary bodies:

 

France:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism; Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004)[3]

 

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)[4]; Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004)[10]

 

United Kingdom:  Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004)[3]; Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations

 

As has been their past practice, in 2019 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.  Although this means that some of the Council’s Vice-Chairs now play a minimal role, others have important ongoing responsibilities, as in the case of the 1540 Committee Vice-Chairs.  Moreover, the appointment of Vice-Chairs can create a profile of greater regional balance for the subsidiary bodies, and thus are not without political importance.

 

The book (pages 556-57) notes that from the Council’s first decades, there was a general trend for its subsidiary bodies to be chaired by elected, rather than permanent, members.

 

“The rationale for this practice has been obscured, but it may relate to an understanding reached in 1946 among the wider UN membership that the permanent members would have virtually continuous membership in some of the other United Nations principal organs or their governing bodies.  As part of that understanding, it was reportedly agreed that the permanent members would not serve on the bureaux of those organs or governing bodies, so as to give the opportunity to other Member States to serve in leadership positions.  It is possible that, in parallel, the same principle was applied to the bureaux of subsidiary organs of the Security Council.”

 

There have, nonetheless, been a few instances when permanent members have chaired subsidiary organs of the Council.  The Committee of Inquiry established by resolution 496 (1981) in connection with Seychelles was chaired by France.  The first Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee was the representative of the United Kingdom, and he was succeeded in the chairmanship by the representative of the Russian Federation.  In addition, the representative of France served as the first Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.

 

For many elected members, holding the chairmanship of a key subsidiary body can be one of the high points of their term, and the means by which they make their most significant contribution to the Council’s work.  In particular, serving as Chair can sometimes give an elected member a leadership role when the matter for which their subsidiary body is responsible comes up for consideration in the Council itself.  This latter function is one which the elected members are committed to enlarging, especially to include a more formal role in the drafting of relevant resolutions and other Security Council outcome documents (see related article on this website).

 

On the other hand, depending on the subsidiary body, a chairmanship can be a very demanding assignment for an elected member, requiring a significant commitment of time and personnel, and sometimes placing that member at the centre of controversial issues.  Consequently, the elected members have called for a wider division of labour whereby the permanent members would assume some subsidiary body chairmanships.  This issue has been under lively discussion in the Council’s Informal Working Group on documentation and procedure.  It was also addressed in a letter dated 13 November 2018 (S/2018/1024), signed by that year’s elected Council members and the 2019 incoming members.  The letter stated that these countries “have consistently emphasized the need for fair burden-sharing and an equal distribution of work among all members of the Security Council, including its permanent members.  This principle should apply to the distribution of the chairmanships of the subsidiary bodies of the Council . . .”

 

This issue was further raised in the Council by the representative of the Netherlands during a December 2018 briefing by the outgoing Chairs (S/PV.8428):

 

“The total number of all subsidiary organs under the Council significantly increased since 2000, from 10 to 30.  If the Council continues the practice of allocating chairmanships exclusively to elected members, it will continue to put a disproportional strain on the Permanent Missions of the elected members, especially those with smaller teams. Frankly, that is not sustainable.  In our view, therefore, it is essential that the Council agree to a new system. . . .  First, it could be a system that ensures a fair distribution of chairmanships among permanent and elected members alike.  Secondly, it could be a system that allows for a two-year rotation of chairmanships taken up by permanent members.”[10]

 

Also to make chairmanships less burdensome, the Dutch representative suggested that a new system could “allow Deputy Permanent Representatives [DPRs] to fulfil the mandate of the Chair.”  From the establishment of the Council’s first sanctions committees – the resolution 253 (1968) Committee on Southern Rhodesia and the resolution 421 (1977) Committee on South Africa – such committees had consistently been chaired by permanent representatives.  It is therefore noteworthy that document S/2019/2 marks the first time that a DPR has been named to lead a sanctions committee, in that it designates Jürgen Schulz of Germany as Chair of the resolution 1970 Committee concerning Libya.  Such an arrangement is not, however, totally without precedent for the Council’s subsidiary bodies more generally, since from 2001 through 2004, the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations was chaired by a succession of DPRs.[11]

 

Another “first” for 2019 is that for the first time since 2004, when the third of the Council’s counter-terrorism committees was established, one Council member will simultaneously chair two of these bodies:The representative of Indonesia has been designated to lead both the Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).The third of the counter-terror chairmanships, that of the resolution 1373 Committee, will continue to be held by Peru in 2019.

 

The 15 signatories of the 13 November 2018 letter, mentioned above, advocated not only that the permanent members share in chairing the Council’s subsidiary bodies, but that also that “as a general rule, no member should chair more than two subsidiary bodies”.  As it happens, for 2019, five elected members are chairing three or more bodies:  Belgium and Indonesia are chairing three each, as detailed above, as is Poland.[12]  Germany is chairing two, while also co-chairing, with Peru, the Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security.  Peru, in addition, is leading four other subsidiary bodies.[13]  While this represents an extremely heavy workload for these five elected members, each of them reportedly considered that their delegations had sufficient depth to handle these responsibilities.

 

Because its subsidiary bodies, and particularly the sanctions committees, have come to play such a central role in the work of the Security Council, the issues relating to chairing these bodies are likely to continue to be a principal focus for reform efforts within the Council, and will be closely watched by the wider UN membership.

 

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

___________________________

 

[1] Relating to implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme.

[2] Relating to the nuclear weapons programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

[3] Relating to counter-terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

[4] Relating to the Taliban.

[5] United Kingdom (2001-2003); Spain (2003); Russian Federation (2004-5); Denmark (2005-6); Panama (2007); Croatia (2008-9); Turkey (2010); India (2011-12); Morocco (2013); Lithuania (2014-15); Egypt (2016-17); Peru (2018-19).

[6] Italy (2007-8); Turkey (2009-10); Portugal (2011-12); Luxembourg (2013-14); Spain (2015-16); Italy (2017); Netherlands (2018); Germany (2019).

[7] Australia (2013-14); Spain (2015-16); Italy (2017); Netherlands (2018); Belgium (2019).

[8] Guatemala (2012-13); Chile (2014-15); Uruguay (2016-17); Peru (2018-19).

[9] 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 (2017-18); South Africa (2019).

[10] A related article on this website discusses some political problems relating to having permanent members chair subsidiary bodies, but concludes that it is nonetheless possible that agreement might be reached for at least some permanent members to lead a subsidiary body for which such an appointment would not generate prohibitive controversy.

[11] See S/2001/135, S/2002/22, S/2003/12 and S/2004/5.

[12] Poland chairs the resolution 1518 committee (assets freeze relating to Iraq); resolution 1591 Sudan sanctions committee; and resolution 2206 South Sudan sanctions committee

[13] Resolution 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee; resolution 2140 sanctions committee (Yemen); resolution 1566 Working Group (relating to terrorism); and Informal Working Group on International Tribunals.