Updated on 12 January 2021
Chapter 8: SUBSIDIARY BODIES
Section 7: Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies
Security Council appoints Chairs and Vice-Chairs of its subsidiary bodies for 2021
In a Note by the President dated 7 January 2021 (S/2021/2), the Security Council announced the bureaux of its subsidiary organs for the year 2021.
These appointments were arrived at through a selection process set out in presidential notes S/2017/507 and S/2019/991. In accordance with paragraph 113 of the former, consultations on the appointments were “facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council”. As explained by the representative of Japan in a 2016 press conference, the co-facilitators are the elected member serving as Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG) and one permanent member. For the 2021 selection process, this was Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as IWG Chair, together with France and then China, as rotating coordinators of the P5.
S/2017/507, paragraph 111 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.” For the 2021 chairmanships, while the process was launched within a reasonable time after the election of the new incoming members (I5) on 17 June 2020, it took until 7 January 2021 for the appointments to be formalized.
This is not the most delayed finalization in the Council’s history. That occurred in 2010, when the presidential note setting out the chairmanships could not be issued until 31 January.
During the months that the negotiations on the 2021 bureaux were ongoing, consensus developed as to certain chairs, and that allowed those I5 to begin fully preparing for their new responsibilities through the acclimatization process set out in S/2017/507. However, the incoming members who did not have confirmation of their assignments until the last minute have had insufficient time to fully benefit from mentorship and in-depth briefings by the outgoing chairs.
One of the problems that presented itself during the selection process for the 2021 bureaux was also in effect during the process for the 2019 chairs. That is, some of the particular subsidiary body assignments that become available during these alternate years draw competitive interest from among the I5, while other chairmanships which normally become available in these same years are seen as undesirable.
Those which incoming members often wish to chair include the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, as well as the two subsidiary bodies which are not yet included on the official listing: the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security (established by resolution 2242 (2015)) and the Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security. Two of the Council’s three counterterror bodies are also occasionally subject to competitiveness: the resolution 1373 (2001) Counter-Terrorism Committee and the 1540 Committee on preventing non-state entities from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.
Those chairmanships which normally come due in alternate years and which incoming members sometimes are not keen to assume include 1) the 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, 2) the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) (relating to the DPRK nuclear weapons programme); and 3) the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya.
An additional complication which tends to arise every two years is that unlike other UN regional groups, of which a single incoming member is elected each year, both members of the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG) are elected in the same year. Thus, whereas the incoming members of other regional groups do not compete with each other for desired subsidiary bodies, it can be more difficult to apportion chairmanships between the two WEOG members, given the fact that they are often focused on the same priorities. In the case of Ireland and Norway, this has been partially addressed by an understanding that Ireland will serve as one of the co-chairs of the Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security in 2021 and that Norway will serve the following year.
As set out in presidential note S/2021/2, the incoming members will be chairing the following subsidiary organs for 2021 (footnotes below give the specific subjects of subsidiary bodies which, owing to political sensitivities, are not part of their official names):
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011)
Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia
Facilitator for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015)
Co-Chair of Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security (not formally designated in presidential note S/2021/2)
Co-Chair of the Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security (not formally designated in S/2021/2)
Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa
Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004)
Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017) concerning Mali
Co-Chair of Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security (not formally designated in presidential note S/2021/2)
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 1718 (2006)
Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
The Chairs of the Council’s other subsidiary bodies remain those decided in 2020, as detailed in a related article on this website. The same article includes a discussion of regional group patterns in the appointments of chairs.
With respect to the 2021 appointments, there are three other noteworthy developments:
1) In 2011, the former Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban was divided into one committee dealing with Al-Qaeda (and now ISIL/Da’esh) and a separate committee dealing with the Taliban by resolutions 1989 and 1988, respectively. For the first time since this split occurred, the chairmanships for these two counterterror committees will be held by two different Council members, with Norway chairing the former and India, the latter.
2) Rather than the Permanent Representative, one of Norway’s Deputy Permanent Representatives (DPR) has been named Chair of the 1267/1989/2253 counterterror committee. This follows the stance taken by Germany in 2018 that if it was going to accept chairing the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, it would do so only at the DPR level. Inter alia, this serves to highlight that a single permanent representative cannot reasonably take on the time-consuming and burdensome responsibilities of chairing a number of subsidiary bodies, especially the more demanding ones. An early instance of a Deputy Permanent Representative chairing a subsidiary body occurred in 1990, when Finland's DPR was named the first chair of the 661 sanctions committee established in August of that year following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. 
3) The general consensus among Security Council members has been that it is best for each elected member to chair the same subsidiary body for two successive years. Occasionally in the past, however, agreement has been reached for one elected member to chair a subsidiary body for one year, and for another member to take over the following year. Whereas up to now such agreements have been informal, the 2021 presidential note marks the first time that such rotations have been formally stated. In the case of the resolution 1373 (2001) Counter-Terrorism Committee, Tunisia will continue to serve as Chair for 2021, and then it is set out in a footnote that “India will be the Chair of the Committee until the end of 2022, after Tunisia leaves the Chair.” For the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, which will be chaired by Norway, it is set out in a footnote that “Mexico will be the Vice-Chair … until the end of 2022, after the Niger concludes its term as Vice-Chair.”
For 2021, the majority of Vice-Chairs will 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 2021 neither China nor the United States will hold positions as Vice-Chairs.
For many elected members, chairing a key subsidiary body can be one of the high points of their term, and the means by which they make one of their most significant contributions 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 (for a discussion of this issue, see the article cited in the previous paragraph).
The difficulties in finalizing this year’s selection of Chairs suggests that although progress has been made in improving the process, more effort will need to be made, especially during alternate years when, as mentioned above, some of the more desirable, and the less desirable, chairmanships tend to become vacant.
(This update supplements pages 556 to 559 of the book.)
 Charter Article 23(2), as amended in 1965, provided that in the first election process for the expanded Security Council, two of the new members would serve for one year only, so that five new members would thereafter join the Council each year. Through the drawing of lots, New Zealand, a WEOG country, was designated to serve for only one year. That being the case, it left the Council at the end of 1966 together with the Netherlands, another WEOG country, thus establishing that both WEOG countries thereafter would be elected in the same year. Africa, having three seats on the Council, has one new member join one year, and two the following year. There is a single Eastern European elected Council member.
 Relating to the Taliban.
 Relating to implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme.
 Relating to counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
 Relating to the DPRK nuclear weapons programme.
 As decided by resolutions 1988 and 1989 (2011), the two committees continue to share the same Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.
 DPRs have in the past also chaired thematic subsidiary bodies.
 See a related article on this website for a discussion of the role of vice-chairs.
 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.