What's In Blue

Posted Thu 5 Dec 2013

Extraordinary Election to the Security Council

Tomorrow morning (6 December), the General Assembly will hold an extraordinary election to fill one of the five non-permanent seats in the Security Council for the 2014-2015 term. On 17 October, Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were elected for a two-year term starting on 1 January 2014. In an unprecedented move, on 18 October, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement announcing its “apology for not accepting [the] membership of the Security Council” citing the double standards of the Council and its failure to tackle the conflict in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The decision was formalised in a 12 November letter addressed to the Secretary-General.

Jordan submitted its formal candidacy to fill the vacant seat on 18 November and was unanimously endorsed by the Arab Group on 19 November. On 22 November, the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (Asia-Pacific Group) also endorsed its candidacy. (Through an informal agreement, an Arab country has continuously occupied a non-permanent seat at the Council since 1968. This practice, which is known as the Arab Swing seat, spans the Asia-Pacific and African Groups, which take turns every two years to field a candidate.)

Jordan is headed for a “clean slate” election as it is the only candidate for the vacant seat of the Asia-Pacific Group and will be elected to the Council for the 2014-2015 term as long as it gets two-thirds of the votes of the members of the General Assembly present and voting.

Jordan, which has been a UN member since 1955, has served twice in the Security Council, in 1965-1966 and 1982-1983. (Its 1964 election to the Council was also the result of an unprecedented decision. In December 1964 there were four candidates—Jordan, Mali, the Netherlands and Uruguay—competing for three seats. The President of the General Assembly chose to forego elections completely, fearing they would be protracted and inconclusive, as they had been in 1963 when Czechoslovakia and Malaysia agreed to serve split terms to resolve the impasse. Instead, he consulted privately with member states on their preferences among the candidates. The result of these consultations was that Netherlands and Uruguay were given two-year terms while an agreement was brokered between Jordan and Mali to serve a split-term of one year each. However, due to the enlargement of the Security Council in 1965—from eleven to fifteen members—Jordan served a complete two-year term.)

While on the Council, Jordan is likely to have a keen interest in a number of Middle East issues. Given that it shares a border with a number of situations on the agenda of the Council, such as Israel-Palestine, Iraq and Syria, Jordan may be able to bring a regional perspective to the discussions on these issues. It is also likely to have a strong interest in peacekeeping issues, as Jordan currently ranks eighth in military and police contributions to UN operations. (As of 31 October, there were 3,264 Jordanian peacekeepers in eight peacekeeping missions.)

Jordan’s election to the Council could also have interesting implications for decisions related to the International Criminal Court (ICC), bringing the total number of Council members that are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC to 11.

In recent years, Jordan has played an important role in developing the working methods of the Security Council. Along with Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland, Jordan was a member of the Small Five Group (S5). The S5’s main focus was to improve the working methods of the Council. The S5 was disbanded in 2012 but a larger group, with similar aims, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT) was launched last May. Jordan is member of ACT – as is incoming Council member Chile – and thus will likely continue to pursue efforts to improve Council working methods. (Concrete issues that members of ACT appear to be interested in include, inter-alia, the use of the veto, the allocation of chairs to subsidiary bodies, the relationship between the Council and the ICC, and the penholder issue [i.e. who drafts Council outcomes]).

The Women, Peace and Security agenda might also be high on the list of Jordan’s priorities during its tenure. In 2005, following a request by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (A/59/19), Kofi Annan tasked Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN and a former civilian peacekeeper, to produce a comprehensive report with recommendations on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel. The report “A comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping operations” (A/59/710), proposed a set of recommendations to enhance investigative mechanisms, to enforce individual accountability, both financially and criminally and to institute some organisational, managerial and command measures to address sexual exploitation and abuse. Eight years later, the issue of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers is still an issue that requires Council attention, and one on which Jordan may be able to play a leading role.

Jordan, if elected tomorrow, will take on the Council presidency in January.

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