Security Council Briefing: Subsidiary bodies of the Security Council

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Chairman of the 1718 Sanctions Committee
Security Council Facilitator for the implementation of resolution 2231

New York, 17 December 2018

Thank you, Mr. President.

This year, I have had the honor to serve both as Chairman of the 1718 DPRK sanction committee and as Facilitator of the “2231 format” on Iran. And I thank you so much for the opportunity to share my reflections on this past year as we are preparing to pass over the baton to my respectively my German and my Belgian colleague.

Mr. President, we have built our work of course on the excellent work and efforts of Italy, whom we succeeded as part of the split term between our two countries in 2017-2018 on this Council. Let me here pay tribute to the work of Sebastiano Cardi as the Chairman of the 1718 Committee and as Facilitator of the “2231 format” in 2017.

Mr. President, I will use this occasion to highlight three issues:

  • The work of the 1718 committee;
  • The work of the 2231-format;
  • And, adding to that, some personal reflections, especially on the system of the subsidiary organs and the improvement we see as advisable for the Council.

1. 1718 Committee

Mr. President, let me start with the first issue, the 1718 Committee. With a significant expansion of the sanction regime based on the resolutions of the end of last year, the scope, the relevance and the magnitude of the work of the Committee increased this year immensely.

And I will briefly highlight three major aspects of the work we performed in the committee.

1. Implementation of sanctions

Firstly, the Committee continued the ensure the implementation of the sanctions regime. This in itself proved to be a tremendous challenge, given the complexity of the sanctions regime which is of a very comprehensive nature. 

We tried to provide guidance to Member States, we held open briefings for the wider UN membership and we had outreach meetings for the five regional groups. We are convinced that these efforts have led to and will continue to lead to a greater implementation of the sanctions.

2. Facilitating the diplomatic process

Secondly, this year, the Committee facilitated diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation on the Korean peninsula.

We granted exemptions to the sanctions regime to allow the participation of DPRK officials to diplomatic talks in Pyeongchang, Panmumjeom and Singapore.

And of course the Committee also supported the implementation of the Panmumjeom Declaration by granting several exemptions, such as for an interkorean railway survey.

3. Mitigating adverse humanitarian consequences

Thirdly, in this context, the Committee made efforts to further mitigate adverse humanitarian consequences of the sanctions. Something which was of importance to all of us in the Committee.

We connected with various humanitarian actors, including the UN Resident Coordinator in Pyongyang. We provided humanitarian actors with further guidance on obtaining humanitarian exemptions.

And the Committee granted various humanitarian exemptions for humanitarian aid to the DPRK and continues to consider further exemptions.

2. The “2231 format”

Mr. President, I will now turn to the second issue I mentioned, the facilitation of resolution 2231. We all know, as we discussed last week here in the Council, this resolution endorsed the JCPOA, and marked a fundamental shift of the Iranian nuclear issue.

As Facilitator for the resolution this year, we have aimed to support and improve the implementation of the resolution involved through the facilitation of talks, transparency and trade. Talks through engagement with all relevant parties as well as discussions on possible violations of the resolution. Transparency through comprehensive and balanced reporting. And trade by encouraging use of the procurement channel.

This year, the JCPOA faced considerable challenges following the withdrawal by the United States and the re-imposition of US sanctions against Iran. But the unanimously adopted framework of resolution 2231 remains in place. The procurement channel is operational and effective.

And resolution 2231 and the JCPOA enjoy broad support among the wider UN membership.

3. Personal reflections

Mr. President, this brings me to my third point, some personal reflections on this year. I want to do that in seven points this time, not in three.

First, if you look at the work of the 1718 Committee, it has concrete impact on the ground. By preventing further evasion of the sanctions, by facilitating the diplomatic process and by working towards mitigating adverse humanitarian consequences.

Second, the importance of unity of this Council cannot be overstated. When this Council is united it wields enormous power, has great impact on peace and security and it is crucial that that unity is maintained, certainly on 1718 issues.

Third, the Panels of Experts, and I think this is a wider observation, and particularly their reports are the cornerstone of UN sanctions regimes. Their reports are essential for the decision-making of the Committee, the Council and Member States. So panels should be able to do work in an effective and secure manner, while safeguarding their integrity.

Additionally, we feel very strongly that the selection process for Panel members should be based on merits. All candidates with the required expertise and skills set should be taken into account, regardless of their nationality.

And in general, the Panels which are functioning under this Council, would profit from having more experts from the wider UN membership.

Fourth, effective implementation of sanctions is a challenge for many Member States, especially those who are unaware of their obligations or those who are unable to meet their obligations due to a lack of capacity. For the wider membership, the world of the sanctions committees sometimes is a subterranean universe. Therefore further outreach from this Council remains essential, including through an informative website.

And this Council cannot underestimate the workload of the accumulated reporting and implementation requirements other Member States face. Certainly for the smaller Member States this is a challenge. Further streamlining and harmonizing the reporting and implementation requirements amongst the Committees would be useful and would be helpful, because currently there is a challenge in implementation for a large part of the membership.

Fifth, when it comes to chairing a subsidiary organ, it can also be challenging. We commend Sweden for the initiative to start a best practice guide outlining the Committee working methods of these committees. Together with Belgium and Australia, we are supporting Sweden’s efforts and we look forward to the result. And we hope this tool will contribute to the effectiveness of the Security Council and it subsidiary organs.

Sixth, coming back again to the 1718 Committee, the workload of the that Committee far exceeds that of any other Committee. That was what the Security Council Affairs Division has given us in the statistics. The Committee received more than 337 notifications and requests for guidance or exemptions. And so far in 2018, the number of 649 formal notes were circulated to members of the Committee.

These numbers show the significant burden of a chairmanship on the Chair’s team, the UN Secretariat and the Panel of Experts.

This brings me to my seventh and last point: the system around the sanction committees. The total number of all subsidiary organs under this Council significantly increased since 2000, from 10 to 30.

If this Council continues the practice of allocating Chairmanships exclusively to elected members, it continues to put a disproportional strain on the effectiveness of elected members, especially those with smaller teams. Frankly, this is not sustainable.

Therefore, in our view, it is essential that the Council agrees to a new system. And let me give some potential characteristics of a new system. First, it could be a system that ensures a fair distribution of Chairmanships among permanent and elected members alike. Secondly, it could be a system that allows for a two-year rotation of Chairmanships taken up by permanent members and it could be a system which would allow Deputy Permanent Representatives to fulfill the mandate of the Chair. And lastly, it could be a system that allows Chairs – if they want to – to also serve as co-penholders of resolutions relevant to the subsidiary organ they are chairing.

We think that the discussion on such a new system would be best further conducted in the Informal Working Group on Documentation and other Procedural Questions.


In conclusion, Mr. President, we would like to express our gratitude for the professionalism and dedication of the colleagues of the UN Secretariat. Their support has been invaluable. And we would also like to give a special mention to Panel of Experts of the 1718 Committee. And let me also thank the experts in the 1718 Committee and the Iran format for their contribution to the work of the Committees.

And of course we wish our successors, Ambassador Christoph Heusgen of Germany as the incoming Chair of the 1718 Committee and Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve of Belgium as incoming Facilitator for resolution 2231, all the success. We have already been working closely with their teams to ensure a smooth transition, and will remain at their disposal in the days of transition and beyond.

Mr. President, I want to close by thanking my own team, especially Lila DelColle and Joost van Dieren. They have worked incredibly hard this year. They have served the Format and the Committee. They have served this Council. But certainly they have served the cause of peace and security, above and beyond call of duty.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.