October 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2012
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Security Council Elections 2012

Expected Action

On 18 October, the General Assembly is expected to hold elections for five members of the Security Council. The new members will take up their seats on 1 January 2013 and will serve on the Council through 31 December 2014.  

(Please see our 25 September Special Research Report: Security Council Elections 2012 for more detailed information.)


The five seats up for election in 2012 will be distributed regionally as follows:

  • one seat for the African Group, currently held by South Africa;
  • one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group), currently held by India;
  • one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), currently held by Colombia; and
  • two seats for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), currently held by Germany and Portugal.

At press time, it appeared that Argentina and Rwanda would enjoy a “clean slate” (uncontested) election.  (Argentina is a member of GRULAC, while Rwanda is part of the African Group.)

  • Argentina, a UN member since 1945, has served on the Council eight times (1948-1949, 1959-1960, 1966-1967, 1971-1972, 1987-1988, 1994-1995, 1999-2000, 2005-2006). 
  • Rwanda, admitted to the UN on 18 September 1962, has served on the Council once (1994-1995).

In contrast, it seems that the other two races will be contested. 

The Asia-Pacific Group has three candidates vying for one available seat:

  • Bhutan, admitted to the UN on 21 September 1971, has never served on the Council.
  • Cambodia, which became a UN member on 14 December 1955, has also never served on the Council.
  • Republic of Korea, which became a UN member on 17 September 1991, has served on the Council once (1996-1997).

Three WEOG candidates–Australia, Finland and Luxembourg–are competing for two seats:

  • Australia, a member of the UN since 1945, has been on the Council four times (1946-1947, 1956-1957, 1973-1974, 1985-1986).
  • Finland, a member of the UN since 14 December 1955, has served on the Council twice (1969-1970, 1989-1990).
  • Luxembourg, a member of the UN since 1945, has never served on the Council.

The table below shows the number of seats available per region in the 2012 election, the declared candidates and their prior Council terms.  

Region Seats Available in  2012  States Running and Previous Terms on the Council
Africa 1 Rwanda (1994-1995)
Asia-Pacific 1 Bhutan (never served) Cambodia (never served) Republic of Korea (1996-1997)
Western Europe and Other 2 Australia (1946-1947, 1956-1957, 1973-1974, 1985-1986)  Finland (1969-1970, 1989-1990) Luxembourg (never served)
Latin America and Caribbean 1 Argentina (1948-1949, 1959-1960, 1966-1967, 1971-1972, 1987-1988, 1994-1995, 1999-2000, 2005-2006)
Voting Procedures

Elections to the Council, as with other principal organs of the UN, require formal balloting, even if candidates have been endorsed by their regional group and are running on a “clean slate”. Furthermore, a country must secure votes from two-thirds of the member states present and voting at the General Assembly session in order to secure a seat on the Council. If no candidate obtains the required number of votes in the first round, voting in the next round is restricted to the candidates that received the most votes.  In this restricted ballot, the number of countries included is limited to twice the number of vacant seats; for example, if one seat is available only the two countries that received the most votes in the first round would contest the next round. (Any votes for other candidates during this restricted voting round are considered void.) This restricted voting process can continue for up to three rounds of voting.  If, at this point, a candidate still fails to garner the minimum number of votes, unrestricted voting is reopened for up to three rounds. This pattern of restricted and unrestricted voting continues until a candidate is successful in securing the required two-thirds of the votes.

Potential Dynamics Involving Council Membership in 2013

While it is impossible to evaluate how Council dynamics in 2013 will evolve without knowing the exact composition of the new Council, the interests of the current candidates provide some perspective on general patterns that might emerge.

Several of the candidates appear to have a strong interest in situations in their respective regions that are on the Council’s agenda. Rwanda sees its security as closely connected to events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and will likely play an active role.  Argentina has several hundred peacekeepers in Haiti and is a member of the Group of Friends on Haiti. It should find a strong ally in its support of Haiti’s reconstruction in current GRULAC Council member Guatemala.  If elected to the Council, the Republic of Korea will likely take a keen interest in, and play an active role in, the Council’s approach to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).   

There also appears to be a strong desire among all the candidates to enhance the transparency and inclusiveness of the Council’s work. While progress in its working methods has been modest in recent years, there have been some developments, with innovations such as the informal interactive dialogues, the Department of Political Affairs “horizon scanning” briefings and more frequent briefings by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The newly elected Council members may build on the recent developments in working methods, while attempting to reach out in meaningful ways to the wider membership and civil society.  

Another notable factor is that most of the candidates have a broad perspective on issues that constitute threats to peace and security and the range of tools at the Council’s disposal. Nearly all underscore the linkages between security and development, and several of them emphasise the importance of emerging threats such as climate change, transnational organised crime and drug trafficking. Several of the candidates, particularly Rwanda and the three WEOG candidates, have also underscored the value of conflict prevention and peacebuilding, in keeping with a trend that has been developing in the Council’s work over the past several years.     

Argentina and Rwanda—as well as the three WEOG candidates—share a strong interest in the responsibility to protect (R2P) concept.  It is not clear how they might choose to promote this concept within the Council, as there seems to have been a lingering backlash among some Council members toward the concept as a result of the controversies surrounding the implementation of resolution 1973 on Libya.

EU presence on the Council will either remain at four countries or decrease to three. This depends on whether both Finland and Luxembourg are elected, to replace current EU members Germany and Portugal or if only one is elected, alongside Australia. (Permanent members France and the UK are also members of the EU.) 

With India and South Africa rotating off the Council at the end of the year, members of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) will no longer have a presence on the Council after serving together in 2011 and at times coordinating on issues of common concern.    

General Assembly Documents on Elections

General Assembly Documents  
24 October 2011 A/66/PV.40 This was the plenary record of the 2011 elections of non-permanent members.
24 October 2011 A/66/PV.39 This was a plenary record of the 2011 elections of non-permanent members.
21 October 2011 A/66/PV.38 This was a plenary record of the 2011 elections of non-permanent members.
21 October 2011 A/66/PV.37 This was a plenary record of the 2011 elections of non-permanent members.
17 December 1963 A/RES/1991(XVIII) Part A of this resolution adopted amendments to the Charter on the composition of the Council and establishing the allocation of seats to various regions.
12 January 1946 A/PV.4 This was the first election of non-permanent members.


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