October 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2013
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Security Council Elections 2013

Expected General Assembly Action

On 17 October, the General Assembly is scheduled to elect five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the two-year term beginning on 1 January 2014.

(Please see our 24 September Special Research Report: Security Council Elections 2013 for more detailed information.)


The five seats available for election in 2013 will be distributed regionally as follows:

  • two seats for the African Group, currently held by Morocco and Togo;
  • one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group), currently held by Pakistan;
  • one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), currently held by Guatemala; and
  • one seat for the Eastern European Group, currently held by Azerbaijan.

The Western European and Others Group is not contending this election as its two seats (currently held by Australia and Luxembourg) come up for election every even calendar year.

At press time, four of the candidates—Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia—seemed to be headed for a “clean slate” election as sole candidates for their respective regional groups. However, unlike Chile—a UN member state since 1945 that has served four terms on the Council (1952-1953, 1961-1962, 1996-1997 and 2003-2004), the other three have never been members of the Security Council. Saudi Arabia also joined the UN in 1945, but it is one of four original UN member states that have yet to serve on the Council. (The others are the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Haiti.)

One race will likely be contested this year as Gambia and Nigeria are competing for the one seat allotted by the African Group to West Africa. Gambia, a UN member state since 1965, has had one term on the Council (1998-1999). Admitted to the UN in 1960, Nigeria has been a Council member four times (1966-1967, 1978-1979, 1994-1995 and 2010-2011).

The table below shows the number of seats available per region in the 2013 election, the declared candidates and, where applicable, their prior terms on the Council.

Region Seats Available  States Running and Previous Terms on the Council
Africa 2 Chad (never served), Gambia (1998-1999) and Nigeria (1966-1967, 1978-1979, 1994-1995 and 2010-2011)
Asia-Pacific 1 Saudi Arabia (never served)
Eastern Europe 1 Lithuania (never served)
Latin America and Caribbean 1 Chile (1952-1953, 1961-1962, 1996-1997 and 2003-2004)
Voting Procedures

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, regardless of whether the election is contested. This means that 129 votes are required at a minimum to win a seat if all 193 UN member states participate. A member state can be prohibited from voting as a result of arrears in payment of financial contributions, in accordance with Article 19 of the UN Charter.

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”. 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.

In theory, while unlikely, it is possible that a country running on a “clean slate” may not garner the requisite votes of those present in the General Assembly in the first round of voting. Such a country may then be challenged in subsequent rounds and ultimately not obtain a seat.

Historically, there have been a number of instances in which extended rounds of voting were required to fill a contested seat. The most recent such situation occurred in 2006 when Guatemala and Venezuela went through 47 voting rounds before both withdrew and Panama was elected in the 48th round. In 1979, Colombia and Cuba contested a seat for 154 rounds, a record for Security Council elections, before Mexico was elected as a compromise candidate in the 155th round.

Potential Council Dynamics in 2014

While it is difficult to evaluate how Council dynamics in 2014 will evolve with the new membership, the interests of the current candidates provide some perspective on general patterns that might emerge.

The candidates appear to have a strong national interest in Council agenda items within their respective regions. Several of them are influential regional actors whose perspectives are likely to carry weight in the Council. Chad and Nigeria, if elected, are likely to maintain their strong engagement on Mali where both have contributed a significant number of peacekeepers to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. (It appears that Nigeria is drawing down its peacekeeping presence in the country.) Saudi Arabia will enter the Council at a time of significant turmoil in the Middle East and has an important stake in developments in several neighbouring situations. Chile should find a strong ally in its support of Haiti in fellow GRULAC Council member Argentina. Both are members of the Group of Friends of Haiti, and jointly they contribute more than 1,000 of the 8,690 peacekeepers serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

There may be a larger number of elected Council members championing human security issues next year. Candidates such as Chile and Lithuania have underscored their support for agenda items such as the protection of civilians, children and armed conflict and women, peace and security. Their perspective on these matters is likely to resonate with several other elected members. Azerbaijan and Pakistan, which take a more restrictive approach to these agenda items, will be leaving the Council, which could provide an opportunity for progress in the eyes of those supporting human security issues. However, it should be noted that permanent members China and Russia, which hold similarly conservative perspectives on such matters, will continue to exert their influence.

Chad, which is in the annex of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict for recruitment of child soldiers, has signed an action plan that it is striving to implement in an effort to be delisted. It will be interesting to see how it approaches children and armed conflict and other protection issues as a Council member.

EU representation on the Council will increase from three to four countries, as Lithuania will join France, Luxembourg and the UK, which are also EU members. EU countries share similar perspectives on a number of agenda items and coordinate on some of them. However, it should be noted that at times the solidarity of the P3, or even the P5, can trump coordination among EU Council members.