December 2018 Monthly Forecast


Briefing by the Outgoing Chairs of the Security Council Subsidiary Bodies

Expected Council Action

Every December since 2002, the outgoing chairs of subsidiary bodies have provided a briefing on their experience. The five Permanent Representatives completing their countries’ two-year terms on the Council at the end of 2018, and their respective chairmanships, are:


When Colombia initiated the practice of briefings by the outgoing chairs of the subsidiary bodies during its December 2002 presidency, it was an important step towards providing a degree of transparency in the work of these bodies. Since then, there have been considerable improvements in the subsidiary bodies’ transparency. The area of the Security Council’s website dedicated to subsidiary bodies has been revamped to include key factual information, documentation, updates on activities, and, since September 2014, their tentative monthly programme of work. Most subsidiary bodies’ chairs now give periodic public briefings to the Council, and some also provide briefings for the UN general membership.

The practice of the December briefings has continued, and affords the departing chairs an opportunity to share lessons learned from the experience and advice to their successors. Since not all subsidiary bodies produce an annual report, this annual briefing has also served over the years as a means of creating a public record of a body’s activities.

Key Recent Developments

In February 2016, the Council held a debate at the initiative of Venezuela on the working methods of Security Council subsidiary organs. As an outcome, a Note by the President was issued on 22 February addressing, among other matters, the need for improvements in the chairs’ selection process and in the interaction and coordination among the subsidiary organs and between the subsidiary organs and the Council as a whole. That same year, prompted by the change in the date of elections to the Security Council from October to June, Japan—which was then chairing the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions (IWG)—drafted a note addressing various aspects of new members’ preparation during the period between the election and the beginning of their term, including the selection and preparation of chairs of subsidiary bodies. Following intense negotiations with some of the P5 who were reluctant to move to a more participatory and transparent process, the formulation ultimately agreed called for an informal consultation process on appointments, “undertaken in a balanced, transparent, efficient and inclusive way” and “facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council working in full cooperation”. It also said that “members of the Security Council 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”.

Building on those discussions, members agreed in 2017 on a set of measures aimed at enhancing the transparency of subsidiary organs, improving the selection process and the preparation of chairs, and increasing the interaction and coordination among subsidiary organs and between these bodies and the Council. This occurred in the context of compiling and negotiating a new comprehensive edition of Council working methods, the so-called Note 507. Furthermore, the document restated the agreements about the process for and the timing of the appointment of chairs.

The new selection procedures had been tested in 2016. That year, the Council missed the intended deadline of 1 October for the selection of chairs by almost a month. Nevertheless, the incoming chairs were able to benefit from a much longer preparatory period than any of their predecessors. In 2017, agreement was reached in early October and the list was put under silence on 9 October. In 2018, a number of factors, including differences between the incoming members’ interests and the current members’ vision of how the posts should be distributed, resulted in the process taking much longer, and the final chairmanships list was put under silence on 20 November with a deadline of noon the next day. The silence was not broken and the list, still considered provisional, will become formal in January and will be published in document S/2019/2. The vacated chairs will be distributed as follows:

Council Dynamics

The process of appointing chairs of the Council subsidiary bodies in effect from the 1990s through 2015, whereby the P5 assigned chairmanships to elected members, had been a source of controversy and deep dissatisfaction on the part of the appointees. Efforts within the IWG to establish an inclusive and more transparent method resulted in several Notes by the President, but no change in the practice. Back in 2016, during the negotiations over the Note that would address a range of modalities related to the longer transitional period for the incoming members, such as extending the period during which incoming members are allowed to attend Council consultations and other non-public meetings, the handover of duties between the outgoing and incoming chairs, and the appointment of the chairs., the last topic proved difficult to agree. After many weeks of negotiations, including bilaterally between certain permanent representatives, the formulation that the process would be “facilitated jointly by two members of the Security Council working in full cooperation” was reached, with the understanding that the two facilitators would be one of the P5 and the chair of the IWG.

This worked reasonably well in 2016 and 2017 but hit snags in 2018, including calls by some elected members for the P5 to share the burden of chairing the subsidiary bodies. During the protracted consultations, the ten elected members and the five incoming delegations addressed a joint letter to the president of the Security Council that was critical of the process and of the current arrangement. The 13 November letter, signed by those 15 permanent representatives, emphasised “the need for fair burden sharing and an equal distribution of work amongst all members of the Security Council, including its permanent members.” The letter also proposed making better use within the Council of its members’ expertise by making the chairs of the sanctions committees co-penholders on the relevant files.

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UN Documents on Subsidiary Bodies

Security Council Meeting Records
8 December 2017S/PV.8127 This was a briefings by the chairs of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.
Notes by the President of the Security Council
30 August 2017S/2017/507 This was the Note of the Security Council containing the compendium of its working methods.
15 July 2016S/2016/619 This was a presidential note concerning transitional arrangements for newly elected Council members.
Security Council Letters
13 November 2018S/2018/1024 This was a letter to the president of the Council from the elected ten and incoming five members.

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