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31 January 2023


Section 7:   Appointment of bureaux of subsidiary bodies


Security Council appoints Chairs and Vice-Chairs of its subsidiary bodies for 2023 with significant delay


In a Note by the President dated 30 January 2023 (S/2023/2), the Security Council has announced the bureaux of its subsidiary organs for the year 2023. 


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 for 2023 were “facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council”. As explained by the representative of Japan in a 2016 press conference, one co-facilitator is to be the elected member serving as Chair of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG). Thus for the 2023 selection process, the elected member co-facilitator was Albania. The other is to be a permanent member (understood to be the P5 rotating coordinator for the relevant months).


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 2023 chairpersonships, the incoming members quickly agreed on an apportionment of the available chairpersonships soon after their election in June 2022. However, their overall plan was not accepted by the permanent members, and it took until 30 January 2023 for compromise to be reached and the related presidential note to be issued. Only once have chairpersonships been decided later than this, which was when the list was issued on 31 January 2010. The delays in both 2023 and 2010 meant that in those years, incoming chairs have had considerably reduced time to prepare for their responsibilities.[1]


The incoming members will be chairing the following subsidiary organs for 2023 (the names in parentheses indicate the former 2022 Chair):



  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004)[2] (Mexico)

  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011)[3] (India)



  • Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia (Ireland)

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



  • 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 (Norway)

  • Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (Norway)

  • Facilitator for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015)[4] (Ireland)



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

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



  • Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006)[5] (Norway)

  • Co-Chair with the United Arab Emirates of the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security (not formally designated in S/2023/2) (Ireland and Mexico)


For the elected members remaining on the Council for the second year of their terms, their chairing responsibilities for 2023 will remain those decided in 2022, as detailed in another article on this website. The United Arab Emirates additionally is taking on the chairpersonship of the resolution 1373 (2001) Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), an arrangement that was set out in a footnote in the presidential note of 2022 (S/2022/2).[6] Also new since the 2022 bureaux were initially announced in January 2022, at the end of that year Gabon was appointed to chair the newly-established Committee established pursuant to resolution 2653 (2022) concerning Haiti, and will continue in that position in 2023.


Brazil, another continuing member, will not be chairing, or vice-chairing, any of the Council’s subsidiary bodies in 2023, as was the case in 2022. Brazil reportedly took this decision because there was not consensus to allocate to it the chairpersonships in which it was interested.[7]


For 2023, 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.[8] As has been their practice, neither China nor the United States will hold positions as Vice Chairs.  


In some cases, chairpersonships of the Council’s subsidiary bodies rotate among the various regional groups to which Council members belong. A noteworthy example is the Counter-Terrorism Committee, which has been chaired by members from all five of the UN regional groups. Moreover, two of its Chairs have been permanent members.[9] In other cases, chairpersonships 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.[10]


In yet other cases, a chairpersonship has stayed within one regional group for an extended period of time and then rotated. From 2012 to 2019, the chairpersonship of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals was held by a member of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.[11] Then for 2020-21, the chairpersonship passed to Viet Nam (from the Asia-Pacific Group), while Gabon (of the Africa Group) has been chairing in 2022 and 2023. 


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 some 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 some 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, chairpersonships 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 chairpersonships. 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 book (pages 556-57) notes that the general trend for elected members to chair subsidiary bodies began in the Council’s first decades. The book adds that


“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 [of the Security Council] 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 United Kingdom was the first Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and the Russian Federation served as the third Chair. Moreover, France was the first Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.


The elected member 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 2023, one incoming elected member (Malta) and two continuing elected members (Ghana and United Arab Emirates) will each hold three chairpersonships of subsidiary bodies officially announced in the presidential note, with the UAE serving as Co-Chair of an additional subsidiary body not announced in the note, the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security. And continuing member Albania will chair four subsidiary bodies in 2023, as it did in 2022.


Since 2015, the Council has progressively improved the mechanism through which the chairpersonships of subsidiary bodies are appointed. However, the difficulties in finalizing this year’s selection of Chairs, as well as those encountered in the prior two years, indicate that even with a much-improved mechanism, political considerations can still hinder the timely naming of chairs. In some years, disagreements have emerged among the incoming elected members themselves when some are competing for the same assignments or when other assignments are considered undesirable. But in the case of the process for the 2023 chairs, the disagreement was between the elected members united behind a specific plan and the P5, and over a single issue. While not all future years are likely to encounter the same type of problem, recent history suggests that at least in some cases the process of naming bureaux will continue to be problematic.


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


[1] It has been useful that a “Best Practices” guide for Security Council subsidiary organs was prepared in 2018 by a group of former Council members under the leadership of Sweden.

[2] Relating to counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

[3] Relating to the Taliban.

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

[5] Relating to the DPRK nuclear weapons programme.

[6] The general consensus among Council members has been that it is best for each elected member to chair the same subsidiary body for two successive years. However, there have been ample cases of an elected member chairing a subsidiary body for a single year. And in some instances, such arrangements are agreed the priof year. Initially presidential notes did not so indicate, but in the 2021 presidential note stated in a footnote that India would chair the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), until the end of 2022, after Tunisia left the Chair. A similar footnote in S/2022/2 stated that the UAE would chair the CTC until the end of 2023, after India left the Chair.

In 2021, another new practice occurred when the presidential note for 2022 indicated that Mexico, a continuing member, would take on the position of Vice Chair for the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict that year. However, no such indications relating to vice chairs appears in the 2023 presidential note.

[7] In current practice there have been only partial precedents for an elected member not to chair any subsidiary organs. Bolivia in 2017-18 and South Africa in 2011-12 and 2019-20 each took a position that because of their strong reservations about sanctions, they would not chair any sanctions committees. Bolivia, however, did serve as Chair of the 1540 counter-terrorism committee. South Africa agreed to serve as Vice Chair to some sanctions committees, as well as to the CTC during its most recent term, and also chaired a working group during its two most recent terms.

[8] 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.

[9] United Kingdom (2001-3); 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 (2020-21); India (2022); UAE (2023).

[10] Italy (2007-8); Turkey (2009-10); Portugal (2011-12); Luxembourg (2013-14); Spain (2015-16); Italy (2017); Netherlands (2018); Germany (2019-20); Norway (2021-22); Switzerland (2023).

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



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