UN member states approve 5 countries for Security Council seats


UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. General Assembly approved five new members Thursday for two-year terms on the organization’s powerful 15-nation Security Council in a lackluster “election.”

Denmark, Greece, Pakistan, Panama and Somalia will start their terms on Jan. 1, 2025.

The annual election is often little more than a rubber stamp of candidates previously agreed within regional blocs. This year, all five candidates ran unchallenged in what is known as a “clean slate” but still needed to win a two-thirds majority of votes to succeed, which they easily did.

While it is the permanent five members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — who have veto wielding power, the 10 elected members help balance the council, and in recent years have banded together more to use their collective weight.

“At the moment, there’s a lot of pressure on the elected members to keep the body working in a period when the permanent members are fiercely divided and often at each other’s throats,” Richard Gowan, U.N. director for the International Crisis Group and a long-time U.N. watcher, told VOA ahead of the vote.

Geopolitical divisions between Russia and China on one hand, and the United States, Britain and France on the other, have grown deeper since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Moscow, Beijing and Washington have repeatedly vetoed the other’s draft resolutions in the council or brought competing ones on the same topic, eroding the council’s ability to take action to mitigate conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Gaza.

“It’s very tough to be an elected member, because you are trapped between the U.S., Russia and China,” Gowan noted. “The big powers are willing to put a lot of pressure on the smaller countries when they want to.”

Of the incoming group of five, Gowan says expectations are especially high for Denmark.

“The Nordic countries have a long history of effective and skillful U.N. diplomacy,” he said, noting that Norway played an important role during its council tenure in 2022 in advancing humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan while the P5 were clashing over Ukraine.

“I think there’s an expectation that Denmark is going to take on a lot of responsibilities, a lot of difficult files, and there’s an assumption that just as a Scandinavian nation, it knows how to make the Security Council work,” he said.

Greece’s foreign minister said they hope to be a facilitator between nations.

“We aspire to provide bridges between South and North, East and West,” Giorgos Gerapetritis told reporters.

It is rare to have a country that has a U.N. political assistance mission and an African Union mission with troops and police in its country on the council. Somalia has been fighting al-Shabab militants, which the United Nations says still pose a serious threat to the country, and working to rebuild its government institutions after a decades-long civil war. Somalia is a regular item on the council’s agenda.

Somalia’s foreign minister sought to characterize their recent history as an asset to the council.

“We are fully prepared to bring our distinct perspectives, experiences and solutions to the global arena, making a meaningful contribution to the work of the U.N. Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security,” Ahmed Moallin Fiqi told reporters after the election.

Panama’s foreign minister said she appreciated the international community’s faith in her country, especially at a fraught time in the world.

“It’s a great challenge, especially in the face of the critical geopolitical moments we are living, in which this challenge is not only the survival of the constituted world order, but also the survival of the inhabitants of the planet,” said Janaina Tewaney.

Panama, which has seen its namesake canal dry up in recent years, has said the impact of climate change on peace and security will be one of its council priorities.

In exercising their responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, the 15 nations on the Security Council have the power to authorize the use of force, deploy peacekeeping missions and impose sanctions.

On January 1, the five new members will replace Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland, whose terms will end on December 31. They will join nonpermanent members Algeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and South Korea, who will remain on the council through 2025, along with the permanent members.

Later Thursday, the General Assembly will reconvene to approve Cameroon’s former prime minister, Philemon Yang, as president of the 79th session of the General Assembly, which will begin Sept. 10, 2024, and run for one year.__VOA News