The United Nations Security Council is more active today than at any time in its history, facing an ever more complex and varied array of challenges to international peace and security. The Department of Political Affairs, through its Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD), assists the 15-member body in carrying out its critical responsibilities. The Division provides both general staff support on a permanent basis and a variety of specific services to the Council, including procedural advice, forward planning, reporting and research, and assistance in the administration of Security Council sanctions regimes.
General Substantive and Logistical Support
SCAD works closely with members of the Security Council, especially its rotating presidency, to help plan and manage the schedule of formal and informal meetings and other activities. Among other functions in this area, the Division coordinates the monthly and daily programme of work of the Council, provides procedural advice and logistical support to the meetings, and plans and organizes field missions undertaken with increasing frequency by Council members to countries and regions of concern.
Support to the Subsidiary bodies including Sanctions Committees
SCAD provides various forms of support to subsidiary bodies established by the Security Council, particularly sanctions committees and groups of experts who assist them in overseeing sanctions regimes. The Division assists Committee Chairpersons in developing a strategic programme of work; in planning effective meetings and in preparing the necessary documentation; in drafting correspondence, committee guidelines and periodic reports; and in maintaining effective liaison with Member States as well as with regional and non-governmental organizations. DPA also assists in identifying suitable candidates to serve on expert groups, and in providing the members of these teams with logistical and administrative support as well as substantive advice and guidance. These expert groups serve as the “eyes and ears” of the Security Council in areas affected by the Council’s sanctions measures, and therefore provide an important input to subsequent policy decisions of the Security Council.
Research and Guidance
Given the complex nature of the work and procedures of the Council, one of the important roles of SCAD is to advise Member States, as well as the Secretary-General and other United Nations officials, on procedural and historical matters relating to the work and methods of the Council. Based on detailed records it maintains of over sixty years of practice, the Division is able to respond to requests by Member States on how the Council has responded to incidents or applied rules of procedure in the past. To respond quickly and accurately, SCAD maintains electronic databases and libraries of material on Council activity.
Publications and websites
SCAD is responsible for producing a number of recurrent publications on the work and practice of the Security Council, including: the Annual Report of the Security Council to the General Assembly; Resolutions and Decisions of the Security Council; and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council. The Division maintains several websites covering the work of the Security Council.
In addition to the five permanent members of the Council, the General Assembly elects ten non-permanent members (five every year), for two year terms. To enable permanent and outgoing members to share their experience with incoming Council members, SCAD assists the Finnish Government and UNITAR in conducting two annual workshops on the evolving practice, procedure and working methods of the Council and its subsidiary organs entitled “Hitting the Ground Running" and the "UNITAR Orientation briefing", respectively.
The work of the Security Council Affairs Division was profiled in the Summer/Fall 2008 edition of Politically Speaking, the Bulletin of the Department of Political Affairs. Furthermore, the online Politically Speaking article “Sanctions: Prevention, not punishment” from March 2015 takes an in-depth look at the workings of UN sanctions.