January 2011 Monthly Forecast


Elections of Chairs of Subsidiary Bodies

Expected Council Action
In January, the Security Council will elect chairs and vice-chairs of its subsidiary bodies. Following an informal practice led by the permanent members, which has developed in the Council over the years, those positions are usually held by elected members. There are currently 13 Security Council subsidiary bodies with vacant chair positions, following the end of the terms of Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda.

The subsidiary bodies with vacant chair positions are:

In addition, two elected members will be nominated by the Council to participate in the Organisational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission for a one-year term starting on 1 January. (Seven Council members, including the permanent members on a permanent basis, are members of the Organisational Committee.)

Electoral Process
The detailed process for election of the chairs and vice-chairs of the Council’s subsidiary bodies is not codified in any way. Rather, with time the Council has developed a sometimes easy and sometimes complicated informal practice. Little is publicised about the fine points of this practice. Generally the permanent members have taken the lead initially inquiring among the elected members about their preferences and reservations, regarding the various vacant positions within the bureaux of the subsidiary bodies. After that, the permanent members have often then consulted among themselves to establish their own preferences with respect to the allocation of chairs and vice-chairs, and these have been communicated to elected members, usually bilaterally rather than collectively. Finally, one of the permanent members initiates a Council decision on the distribution. The decision is then formalised in a note with a document number made public by the president of the Security Council. Publicising the appointment of the subsidiary bodies’ bureaux is now expected by virtue of note S/1998/1016 of 30 October 1998 by the president of the Security Council, on improving the working methods of the Security Council.

Council Dynamics
Increasingly over the years, elected Council members have expressed reservations and sometimes outright irritation about the Council’s practice in selecting new bureaux for subsidiary bodies. Most elected members would like the process to be more inclusive, and for it to be conducted collectively and with greater transparency. Some members have said they would have preferred a finalisation of the agreed chairs and vice-chairs of the various subsidiary bodies before the commencement of their term on the Council, to enable them to prepare in advance for their new responsibilities, including by consulting with their predecessors who may no longer be in New York if appointments are only decided in January.

In 2010, it seems that an innovation has been the decision by the P5 that the informal selection process should be led by China. The permanent members seem to have used one of their members as an informal coordinator of P5 positions on Security Council affairs and this member has tended to take the lead also for coordinating the process of appointing new bureaux for subsidiary bodies. According to the permanent members, the role of coordinator shifts among the P5 every three months or so, in an order agreed among the permanent members, and it is by virtue of this practice that China currently has the lead on the question of subsidiary bodies.

Some elected members have expressed the view that under China’s leadership the process has been more accommodating this year to elected members and they have felt their views were being better consolidated by the permanent members of the Council. However, not all elected members see the process for 2011 positively. Some say it has been virtually identical to that of previous years.

Several factors in 2011 add to the complexity of deciding on subsidiary bodies. First, several of the countries joining the Council (Germany, India and South Africa) have political aspirations of becoming permanent members of the Council. Two other states vying for such a position are already in the Council (Brazil and Nigeria). It is unclear whether these elected members may try to test the boundaries of the existing informal process, thus potentially complicating the negotiations for the appointment of the bureaux of the subsidiary bodies. In addition, permanent members have concerns that in 2011, vacant positions for chairmanship include in some of the most sensitive and high profile subsidiary bodies of the Council (e.g., the Sanctions Committee concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and the Sanctions Committee concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).

At press time, the distribution of chairs and vice-chairs for 2011 had yet to be finalised.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1940 (29 September 2010) was the Security Council’s decision to terminate the remaining sanctions, contained in paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of resolution 1171 (1998) and to dissolve the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1132 (1997) concerning Sierra Leone.

Selected Notes

  • S/2010/2/Rev.2 (11 October 2010) was a revision to S/2010/2 updating the name of the Japanese chairs.
  • S/2010/2/Rev.1 (2 March 2010) was a revision to S/2010/2 amending the name of the Sanctions Committee concerning Somalia to include Eritrea.
  • S/2010/2 (31 January 2010) and S/2009/2 (6 January 2009) were notes by the president of the Council announcing the election of chairs and vice-chairs of Council subsidiary bodies for the periods ending 31 December 2010 and 2009, respectively.
  • S/1998/1016 (30 October 1998) was a note by the president of the Security Council on the working methods of the Security Council.

Selected Letter

  • S/2009/678 (30 December 2009) was a letter from the president of the Council informing the Secretary-General that the Council had agreed on the selection of Gabon and Mexico as the two elected members to serve in the Organisational Committee of the Peacebuilding Committee for a term of one year starting on 1 January 2010.

Full forecast

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