Security Council Elections 2016
Expected General Assembly Action
On 28 June, the General Assembly is scheduled to elect five states to two-year terms on the Security Council beginning on 1 January 2017. (Please see our 3 June Research Report: Security Council Elections 2016 for more detailed information.)
The five seats available for election in 2016 will be distributed as follows:
- one seat for the African Group, currently held by Angola;
- one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group), currently held by Malaysia;
- one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), currently held by Venezuela; and
- two seats for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), currently held by New Zealand and Spain.
(The Eastern European Group seat comes up for election every other year and is held by Ukraine through 2017.)
At press time, the elections for the African and GRULAC regional groups were running unopposed, with one candidate put forward by each regional group—Ethiopia and Bolivia, respectively. Both countries have previously served on the Council on two occasions.
Races for the Asia-Pacific Group and WEOG seats are being contested this year. Kazakhstan and Thailand are competing for one seat within the Asia-Pacific Group, while Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden are competing for two WEOG seats. With the exception of Kazakhstan, all candidates have served on the Council in the past: Thailand on one occasion, Italy on six, the Netherlands on five and Sweden on three.
The table below shows the number of seats available per region in the 2016 election, the declared candidates and their prior terms on the Council.
|Region||Seats Available in the 2016 Election||States Running and Previous Terms on the Council|
|African||1||Ethiopia (1967-1968 and 1989-1990)|
|Asia Pacific||1||Kazakhstan (none); Thailand (1985-1986)|
|Latin America and Caribbean States||1||Bolivia (1964-1965 and 1978-1979)|
|Western Europe and Other||2||Italy (1959-1960, 1971-1972, 1975-1976, 1987-1988, 1995-1996 and 2007-2008); The Netherlands (1946, 1951-1952, 1965-1966, 1983-1984 and 1999-2000) Sweden (1957-1958, 1975-1976 and 1997-1998)|
A country must obtain the votes of 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 positive votes are required to win a seat if all 193 UN member states are present.
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 unopposed. In theory, it is possible, although unlikely, that a country running unopposed might 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 by a new candidate and ultimately not obtain a seat.
This will be the first time that elections will be held in June. In previous years, elections were held in October; however, as a result of concerns that elected members did not have enough time to prepare for their terms, the General Assembly decided to hold the elections about six months before new members assume their responsibilities. Resolution 68/307 of 18 September 2014 decided that this would start during the 70th session of the General Assembly.
Potential Council Dynamics in 2017
Existing divisions within the Council over issues such as Ukraine, Syria and Israel/Palestine are likely to remain regardless of the arrival of five new elected members. While it is difficult to assess how Council dynamics in 2017 will develop, especially without knowing the full composition of the new membership, the interests of current candidates provide some perspective on a few general patterns that might emerge.
Some of the candidates could be expected to have a strong national interest in the conflicts in their region that are on the Council’s agenda. Ethiopia shares borders with three countries—Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan—that are on the Council’s agenda and is likely to devote significant attention to these issues. Given its geographical location, Kazakhstan would be likely to have a particular interest in developments in its region, including Afghanistan, Iran and possibly frozen conflicts in the North Caucasus. Given its historical ties to Libya and its exposure to the migration crisis, Italy would be likely to devote particular attention to that country.
Regarding thematic issues, several candidates—including Italy and Ethiopia—have stated their interest in efforts to counter terrorism and transnational organised crime. Given its focus in promoting the international legal order, the Netherlands would be interested in advancing cooperation between the UN and international courts and tribunals. The Netherlands could also pursue its interest in reviving efforts to establish accountability for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in which many Dutch citizens were killed. As a result of its experience, Kazakhstan would be likely to seek a role in non-proliferation issues. Thailand has also expressed interest in non-proliferation, as well as in women and peace and security. Considering its emphasis and experience regarding UN peacebuilding, Sweden would be likely to make this a priority.
All of the candidates contribute troops to UN peacekeeping missions. Ethiopia is currently the single largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, with 8,311 military and police deployed as of 31 March, while Italy is the largest troop contributor among EU and NATO members, with 1,128 military and police personnel currently deployed. Also as of 31 March, the Netherlands had 514 deployed peacekeepers in five missions; Sweden had 272 peacekeepers deployed in seven missions; Thailand had 33 peacekeepers deployed in four missions; Bolivia had 21 peacekeepers deployed in six missions; and Kazakhstan had six peacekeepers deployed in two missions.
Next year, there could be an increase in the number of elected members that are keen to further advance conflict prevention and peacebuilding measures. In addition, all candidates for 2017 have emphasised various aspects of sustainable development and its interconnectedness with peace and security. This could create friction with some Council members that advocate narrowing the Council’s agenda to issues that predominantly involve situations of armed conflict.
Additionally, the majority of the candidates seem to have a strong desire to improve the transparency and inclusiveness of the Council’s work. The commitment to transparency is also understandable for countries in campaign mode as most candidates have pledged to listen to interested stakeholders that are not seated on the Council and to take their perspectives into account. One candidate, Sweden, is a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT), an initiative launched in May 2013 by a group of member states that focuses on the Council’s working methods, in particular those that enhance non-members’ interaction with the Council. (ACT member New Zealand is leaving the Council at the end of this year. Uruguay, also a member of ACT, will remain on the Council in 2017. The goals of ACT also resonate with other Council members that are not members of the group but are nonetheless committed to enhancing the accountability, effectiveness and legitimacy of the Council.)
Some elected members of the class of 2016 have been particularly active in drafting resolutions. Two departing members—New Zealand and Spain, along with Egypt, which will remain on the Council in 2017—led on outcomes on the humanitarian situation in Syria. In a departure from current practice of most outcomes being drafted by one of the P3 (France, UK and US), these countries, along with Uruguay and Japan, took the initiative to draft and negotiate what became resolution 2286 on health care in armed conflict. In addition, Spain has been the penholder on Afghanistan as well as on non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, while another outgoing member—Malaysia—took a lead on children and armed conflict. It remains to be seen whether incoming Council members will take the initiative to draft Council outcomes and further challenge the existing penholder arrangements.
Among the departing Council members are the chairs of six of the 14 existing sanctions committees. Over the past two years, there has been a general trend toward increased transparency in the work of sanctions committees, including public briefings by the chair, engagement with regional actors and several field visits. Given the significance of the chair’s personal engagement and how it impacts the work of sanctions committees, it is unclear to what extent the trend toward increased transparency and outreach will continue.