Security Council Elections 2018
The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly is expected to hold elections on 8 June for five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the term 2019-2020. (For more detailed information please see our 21 May Research Report: Security Council Elections 2018.)
The five seats available for election in 2018 according to the regular distribution among regions will be as follows:
- one seat for the African Group (currently held by Ethiopia);
- one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (the Asia-Pacific Group, currently held by Kazakhstan);
- one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC, currently held by Bolivia); and
- two seats for the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG, currently held by the Netherlands and Sweden).
The East European Group is not contesting any seat this year as its seat, held by Poland through 2019, comes up for election every other year.
Six member states—Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, the Maldives and South Africa—are running for the five available seats. Indonesia and the Maldives are contesting the Asia-Pacific Group seat, while the other four candidates will run unopposed.
Among the current six candidates, four have previous Council experience. Belgium and Germany have served five times, Indonesia three times, and South Africa twice. The Dominican Republic and the Maldives have never served on the Council.
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 a minimum of 129 positive votes are required to win a seat if all 193 UN member states are present and voting.
Election to the Council, as with other principal organs of the UN, requires 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 member state running unopposed might not garner the requisite votes in the General Assembly in the first round. Such a country could then be challenged in subsequent rounds by a new candidate and ultimately not obtain a seat.
Historically, there have been several instances in which extended rounds of voting were required to fill a contested seat. This was more common before the Council’s enlargement from 11 to 15 members starting in 1966 and resulted in a number of agreements to split terms. Despite the enlargement, extended voting has still occurred, although such situations have usually been solved by the withdrawal of one of the contenders or the election of a compromise candidate, rather than by agreeing on a split term. The sole exception to this practice since 1966 was the 2016 agreement between Italy and the Netherlands to split the 2017-2018 term.
Potential Council Dynamics in 2018
This will be the third Council election since the timing was brought forward from October to June. As a result, the incoming members enjoy a longer preparatory period, including three months of participation as observers in Council consultations of the whole, Council subsidiary bodies, and some informal Council meetings.
Some of the candidates appear to have a strong national interest in particular regional issues and county-specific situations on the Council’s agenda. South Africa can be expected to emphasise African issues, which make up a significant portion of the Council’s workload. In its previous two terms on the Council, in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012, South Africa advocated closer cooperation between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council, on the basis that this would enhance the effectiveness of the UN Security Council in addressing challenges to peace and security in Africa.
The Dominican Republic is also likely to take a keen interest in its own region, in particular the situation in Haiti, given its proximity. With the possibility that the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti may draw down or even close in the coming years, it is likely that the Dominican Republic will seek to influence this process so as to promote stability.
Germany has expressed interest in engaging closely on several issues on the Council’s agenda. High on its list of priorities are the Syrian conflict, Libya, Yemen, and what it has described as the migration crisis. Given its engagement in the Normandy format (along with France, Russia and Ukraine) which played an instrumental role in negotiating the Minsk agreement in February 2015, Germany could be expected to play a role in the Council’s discussions on Ukraine as well.
On thematic issues, this year’s candidates seem to have a shared interest in thematic issues concerning the protection of civilians, including children in armed conflict; women, peace and security; and youth, peace and security.
The conflict prevention and sustaining peace agenda is another common priority among this year’s candidates, which is also in line with the Secretary-General’s renewed emphasis on these issues. Several candidates, most notably Germany and Indonesia, have played an active role in the Peacebuilding Commission and could be expected to further advance this work if elected to the Council.
The role of the Council in designing and overseeing the mandates of peacekeeping operations is likely to be an important issue for several of the candidates, as most of them contribute personnel to UN peace missions. It is likely that these member states will continue to build upon ongoing efforts by the Council and the Secretariat to conduct strategic assessments of peacekeeping operations with the aim of increasing their effectiveness and efficiency. As troop- and police-contributing countries, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa, if elected, are likely to be interested in fine-tuning the Council’s approach to mandating and will encourage constructive engagement with other troop- and police-contributors regarding the mandates of peace operations.
Over the past several years, a growing number of the Council’s elected members have emphasised the interlinkages between development and international peace and security. This trend is likely to continue next year since several candidates have stressed the importance of this issue and have supported the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Similarly, the Council has increasingly acknowledged climate change as a root cause of conflict in several areas on the Council’s agenda. Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany and the Maldives have all stressed that the Council must address climate change and security, and will likely advocate for this if elected. Some members, however, are resistant to integrating this issue into the Council’s work.
There appears to be a strong desire among most candidates to enhance the transparency and inclusiveness of the Council’s work. This has been a prominent trend in candidates’ campaigns during recent election cycles. Although there have been some positive developments regarding the working methods of the Council, most elected members have continued to draw attention to aspects of the Council’s work that need further improvement. These include inadequate time to negotiate Council outcomes and the limited interactivity of Council meetings. In their campaigns, most members have pledged to listen to stakeholders not on the Council and to take their perspectives into account.