Security Council meeting on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at UN Headquarters in New York on March 18, 2024 © Shutterstock

Leading the Security Council with purpose
Director of the Security Council Affairs Division, Claudia Banz, reveals more about how they support the Security Council
1 May 2024

What is SCAD’s mandate?

SCAD stands for Security Council Affairs Division, and it is part of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding affairs (DPPA). Our mandate is to support the Security Council (SC) and its subsidiary organs in carrying out their primary functions. We provide presidencies, SC members, the wider membership and the Secretariat with procedural advice as well. This is an important part of our work. Rules are there to protect the integrity of the body.  

We also support the Security Council and its subsidiary organs in organizing its day-to-day work through three main branches.

First, the Secretariat Branch (which is perhaps the most visible part of the Division) supports the monthly presidencies in preparing their program of work (monthly and daily), in drafting speaking notes for open meetings and assisting during closed meetings. Colleagues in this branch also prepare confidential reports on discussions in closed meetings, which are shared with the Secretary-General and his senior advisors. Other colleagues deal with Security Council documentation, i.e. the Secretary-General’s reports, correspondence to the Council, preparing draft resolutions and ensuring they are ready in all the languages on time. 

Second, there is the Subsidiary Organs Branch, which is the largest. This consists of 14 sanctions committees committees, chaired by elected members of the SC, and the Secretariat provides them with the same kind of substantive support (meeting preparation, handling correspondence, notifications, etc.). Moreover, 10 of the 14 sanctions regimes are supported by a panel of experts or monitoring teams which work from various parts of the world. This support is also provided by SCAD, who arrange their travel to allow them to carry out their investigations. This Branch also supports the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflicts. There is a list of 676 individuals and 193 entities that were subject to UN targeted sanctions last year, so there is a lot of work that goes into preparing the decisions eventually taken by the sanctions committees.

Third, there is the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch, which is mandated to put the history of the SC on paper. They analyze how the SC interprets the Charter in its work, produce statistics on the work of the SC, and they handle complex practice and procedure queries.

This is all that goes into “providing substantive support to the Security Council in carrying out its functions,” as our mandate states.

How many staff work in SCAD and what are their profiles?

We are roughly 150 staff, including the experts. Their profiles range from political affairs officers to meeting and research assistants. SCAD is part of the Department of Political Affairs and colleagues need to be able to understand political dynamics, analyze, and write reports. The Subsidiary Organs Branch also prepares SG reports so that the Secretariat can assess the measures taken. The Council can thus determine which measures that they have imposed in a given context need to be reviewed. 

Do monthly program meetings with the President for that month need to be rescheduled according to evolving situations? 

The first thing we ask the President is: “What would you like to get out of your month?” because we want to be client-oriented. However, we are part of the Secretariat and work within an agreed framework and advise the presidencies accordingly. It is our responsibility to point out if something isn’t in line with normal practice and procedures, remembering that if all 15 members agree, the decision is theirs in the end. We also look at the practicalities and advise what is workable and what makes sense in terms of time and schedules.

What kind of support does SCAD provide the Security Council while on mission?

First, missions are a good opportunity for the Council, provided the conditions are there, to send out a unified message to countries in a peace process for instance, to assess firsthand what the situation is. Missions allow the Council to assess the impact of its decisions on the ground. SCAD organizes the mission program in collaboration with relevant Secretariat counterparts and host countries, and takes care of the logistics, the tickets, the flights, etc.

What challenges does SCAD encounter daily?

The world is in a difficult place now, as is the Security Council. This affects our work too. There are many more unscheduled meetings added, more correspondence, less consensus, more difficult discussions and more challenges, regarding to procedures. This can be challenging and stressful, but it is also extremely interesting because then the Council needs the Secretariat’s support even more.

And of course, we are also affected by the hiring freeze. We must do more with less, which is almost impossible.

How has SCAD’s work evolved over the years?

It has changed very much. The number of meetings has grown exponentially over the years. But fewer decisions are made, and members are less unanimous on many issues, even sometimes on regular items on 

its agenda. Nowadays, almost all members speak in open meetings, and non-permanent members are much more active. The practice is definitely evolving.

Moreover, social media didn’t exist years ago and now it has a role to play, specifically X, as it means more public eyes on the Security Council. The SC is now much more visible. Innovation is also a priority for us (live list of speakers, eDelegate), and this is new too. Our work is changing.

What did you do before joining SCAD as a Director a year ago?

Before taking up my function as the Director of SCAD, I was in Mali for 2.5 years as the Chief of Staff of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which recently closed. Since 

I joined the organization 20 years ago, I have worked in peacekeeping both at Headquarters and in the field. I worked in SCAD from 2016 to 2018 when I was the Chief of the Secretariat Branch.

Are there any benefits of being the second woman in a row to lead SCAD?

It is great to be a woman in such a visible position, for the organization and what it stands for. I don’t know if it makes the job easier to be a woman though. However, it makes me happy to see many more women in senior positions than a few years ago. I would not be where I am without the support of so many women I have worked with since I joined the organization. 

* Valerie Coutarel is Chief of the French Section Interpretation Service at the UN in New York.
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