Security Council Elections 2021
The 75th session of the UN General Assembly is scheduled to hold elections for the Security Council on 11 June for five non-permanent members of the Security Council for the term 2022-2023.
The five seats available for election in 2021, according to the regular distribution among regions, will be as follows:
- two seats for the African Group (currently held by Niger and Tunisia);
- one seat for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group) (currently held by Viet Nam);
- one seat for the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC, currently held by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines); and
- one seat for the Eastern European Group (currently held by Estonia).
The Western European and Others Group (WEOG) is not contesting any seats this year, as its two seats, held by Ireland and Norway through 2022, come up for election every other year. The five new members elected this year will take up their seats on 1 January 2022 and will serve until 31 December 2023.
Six member states—Albania, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates—are currently running for the five available seats. The DRC, Gabon and Ghana are contesting the two African Group seats, while the other three candidates are running unopposed. Since 2010, 78% of races for Council seats have been uncontested.
Five out of the six candidates have served on the Council previously: Brazil has served ten times; Gabon and Ghana both three times; the DRC twice; and the United Arab Emirates once. Albania has never served on the Council.
The table below shows the number of seats available by region in the 2021 election, the declared candidates, and their prior terms on the Council.
|Region||Seats Available in the 2021 Election||States Running and Previous Terms on the Council|
|Africa||2||The DRC (1982-1983, 1990-1991); Gabon (1978-1979, 1998-1999, 2010-2011) and Ghana (1962-1963, 1986-1987, 2006-2007)|
|Asia-Pacific||1||United Arab Emirates (1986-1987)|
|Latin America and Caribbean||1||Brazil (1946-1947, 1951-1952, 1954-1955, 1963-1964, 1967-1968, 1988-1989, 1993-1994, 1998-1999, 2004-2005, 2010-2011)|
|Eastern Europe||1||Albania (never served)|
Even if a country is running on a “clean slate”—that is, unopposed—it 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. 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, a member state running unopposed might not garner the requisite votes in the General Assembly in the first round, and be challenged in subsequent rounds by a new candidate. This is possible, but unlikely.
There have been several instances in which extended rounds of voting were required to fill a contested seat, however. Such situations have usually been resolved when one of the contenders withdraws, or a compromise candidate is elected. Exceptionally, countries competing for a seat have decided to split the term between them, but the only time this has happened since 1966 was in 2016, when Italy and the Netherlands agreed to split the 2017-2018 term.
Potential Council Dynamics in 2022
The ongoing tensions among the P-5 can be expected to persist and colour Council dynamics in 2022, making it difficult for the Council to gain traction on Israel/Palestine, Myanmar, Syria, and Ukraine, among other issues.
At the same time, widespread agreement is likely to continue on the fundamental value of UN peace operations. While there are disagreements about particular mandate elements and donor concerns about the cost of peace operations, most mandate resolutions continue to be adopted unanimously. This seems unlikely to change dramatically.
As troop-contributing countries, the African candidates—the DRC, Gabon and Ghana—can be expected to take keen interest in the ongoing discussions about the Council’s role in designing and overseeing peacekeeping mandates, including efforts to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. The need for more predictable, flexible and sustainable funding for AU peace operations is a longstanding concern—highlighted by Gabon during its campaign—that could be raised by African members again in 2022. In this regard, following the adoption of resolution 2568 reauthorising the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in March 2021, the African Council members and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (the A3 plus one) issued a joint explanation of vote in which they expressed their disappointment that UN assessed contributions were not included in the resolution as one of the possible options for more secure funding for AMISOM.
Tensions over the Council’s scope of discussion—and action—can be expected to persist in 2022. Some members regard issues such as food security and climate change, for example, as part and parcel of the maintenance of international peace and security. Most of the current Council line-up, and aspiring members such as Albania, Gabon, Ghana, and the UAE, espouse a role for the Council on climate change and security matters. On the other hand, China, Russia, India, and aspiring member Brazil have long had reservations about the Council’s work on this issue.
Efforts to fight terrorism and violent extremism feature in the campaign platforms of several candidate countries. Ghana is keen to forestall the expansion of terrorism from the Sahel region, while Gabon has also indicated an interest in this issue, possibly spurred by the threat in its own sub-region. In their campaigns, Albania and the UAE have also noted the importance of countering violent extremism.
Earnest efforts to implement the women, peace and security agenda are likely to continue, with several of the candidate countries having presented this as a priority of their Council tenures. In 2022, elected members Ireland and Mexico are expected to continue as the chairs of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security, which has been very active to date in 2021. Among the permanent members, the UK, France and the US can be expected to remain strong proponents of this issue. Other member states, such as China and Russia, will probably continue to maintain that this agenda item should not be expanded to post-conflict situations and to emphasise that the issue of gender equality should not be under the Council’s purview.
Depending on the trajectory of international efforts to emerge from the pandemic, the Council may continue to address the impacts of COVID-19 with implications for international peace and security. During the past year, several Council members have held signature events during their presidencies focusing on the pandemic, and the Council has adopted two resolutions (S/RES/2532 and S/RES/2565) and one presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/10) seeking to address its effects.
Many members have lamented the absence of face-to-face meetings and in-person diplomacy occasioned by New York City’s COVID regulations. As the city recovers, members are increasingly able to meet in person to negotiate texts and discuss thorny issues. Into 2022, Council members can be expected to consider whether or not to retain any of the COVID-necessitated working methods adopted since March 2020.
 Arab countries are a sub-group within the Asia-Pacific Group.The UAE is running unopposed for the single Asia-Pacific Group seat this year. It will also fill the “Arab Swing Seat”, which alternates every odd calendar year between the Asia-Pacific Group and the African Group. The Arab Swing Seat is being vacated by Tunisia on 31 December 2021.