Updated on 14 January 2020
Chapter 8: SUBSIDIARY BODIES
Section 7: Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies
Security Council appoints Chairs and Vice-Chairs of its subsidiary bodies for 2020
In a Note by the President dated 2 January 2020 (S/2020/2), the Security Council announced the bureaux of its subsidiary organs for the year 2020.
These appointments were arrived at through a selection process set out in presidential notes S/2017/507 and the recently-adopted S/2019/991. In accordance with paragraph 113 of S/2017/507, consultations on the 2020 appointments were “facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council working in full cooperation”. As explained by the representative of Japan in a 2016 press conference, “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 [IWG], and one permanent member.” For the 2020 selection process, Kuwait, as IWG chair, participated as co-facilitator, together with China representing the P5.
Paragraph 111 of S/2017/507 states 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.” In fact, for the 2020 chairmanships, the facilitators launched the selection process in earnest at the beginning of August and reached agreement in record time. It is also noteworthy that for the first time the elected members were able to present an agreed list of choices for each chairmanship, which not only expedited the process but also ensured that each incoming new member would be allocated the exact chairmanships they wanted.
As set out in document S/2020/2, the representatives of the incoming members will be chairing the following subsidiary organs for 2020. (Because of political sensitivities, the subjects of some of bodies are not part of their official names, in which case that information has been provided in footnotes.)
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1518 (2003)
Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013) concerning the Central African Republic
Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:
Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014)
Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) (“Counter-Terrorism Committee”)
Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea-Bissau
Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1636 (2005)
Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan
Informal Working Group on International Tribunals
The Chairs of the Council’s other subsidiary bodies remain those decided in 2019 (see related article on this website).
In some cases, chairmanships of the Council’s subsidiary bodies rotate among the various regional groups to which Council members belong. A noteworthy example is the chairmanship of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, which has been chaired by members from all five of the UN regional groups: Africa (3), Asia-Pacific (1), Eastern Europe (3); Latin American and Caribbean States (2), and Western European and Other States (4). And two of its Chairs have been permanent members.
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).
In yet other cases, a chairmanship has stayed within one regional group for an extended period of time and then rotated. From 2012 to 2019, the chairmanship of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals was held by a member of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States. In 2020, however, Viet Nam, from the Asia-Pacific Group, will serve as its Chair.
The majority of Vice-Chairs in 2020 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. As has been their practice, in 2020 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. 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. Discussion is ongoing in the Council as to how Vice-Chairs of other subsidiary organs, particularly sanctions committees, might take on specific responsibilities in order to lessen the burden of the Chairs.
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 “penholding” role in the drafting of relevant resolutions and other Security Council outcome documents (see related article on this website).
At the same time, chairmanships can be very demanding assignments for elected members, requiring a significant commitment of time and personnel, and sometimes placing them at the centre of controversies. 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 IWG and was one impetus towards adoption of the 2019 presidential note referenced above (S/2019/991), paragraph (b) of which states:
“The members of the Security Council stress that this informal consultation process [for designating Chairs] should take into account the need for a shared responsibility and a fair distribution of work for the selection of the Chairs among all members of the Council, bearing in mind the capacities and resources of members.” (our emphasis)
Previously, this question was also addressed in a 2018 letter signed by that year’s elected Council members and the 2019 incoming members (S/2018/1024). The letter emphasized “the need for fair burden-sharing and an equal distribution of work among all members of the Security Council, including its permanent members.” It added that “This principle should apply to the distribution of the chairmanships of the subsidiary bodies of the Council”.
The signatories of the 2018 letter also advocated that “as a general rule, no member should chair more than two subsidiary bodies”. As it happens, for 2020, three incoming members will each be chairing three bodies: Niger, Tunisia and Viet Nam. In addition, Belgium and Indonesia are chairing three each, as detailed in a related article on this website.
This year’s expedited selection of Chairs allowed the incoming members more time than in previous years to benefit from mentorship and in-depth briefings by the outgoing Chairs. And again this year, the incoming chairs have also benefited from the “best practices” guide for subsidiary organs developed by a group of countries under the leadership of Sweden.
(This update supplements pages 556 to 559 of the book.)
 Relating to individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze imposed by resolution 1483 (2003) in connection with Iraq.
 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”.
 Relating to Yemen.
 Relating to suspects in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
 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); Tunisia (2020).
 Italy (2007-8); Turkey (2009-10); Portugal (2011-12); Luxembourg (2013-14); Spain (2015-16); Italy (2017); Netherlands (2018); Germany (2019-20).
 Guatemala (2012-13); Chile (2014-15); Uruguay (2016-17); Peru (2018-19).
 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); Working Group established pursuant to resolution 1566 (2004). United Kingdom: Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004); Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations.
 See the book, page 558, and a related article on this website.
 A related article on this website discusses some potential political problems in connection with having permanent members chair subsidiary bodies. The article concludes, nonetheless, that agreement may eventually be reached for at least some permanent members to lead subsidiary bodies for which such appointments would not generate prohibitive controversy.