UNITED NATIONS— Five countries have won two-year terms on the U.N. Security Council, including two potentially controversial countries.
U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe announced the winners of the secret ballot vote. “Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are elected members of the Security Council for a two-year term beginning on 1 January 2014,” he said.
They will replace outgoing members Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo.
The seats are allocated regionally, and all five candidates had been agreed upon in advance within their regional groups, so they faced no competition. But they all were required to win a two-thirds majority approval of voting U.N. member states, which they did.
Chad, Saudi Arabia and Lithuania have never served on the 15-nation council.
Two of the new members are potentially controversial.
Chad has faced U.N. scrutiny for its use of child soldiers among the ranks of its military, while Saudi Arabia regularly faces international criticism for the state of human rights, and especially women’s rights, in the oil-rich kingdom.
New York University’s Richard Gowan noted that Chad may feel it deserves a seat on the council because it played a major part in stabilization operations in Mali this year, but noted it is a very weak and corrupt state. Despite these negatives, he said Chad can still bring something productive to the council.
"I think that the council is going to spend a lot of the next two years looking at instability in the Sahel region, including Mali and Niger. Chad is a very significant military player across that region. So it may be quite central to some debates about security in Africa,” said Gowan.
The Chadian National Army has been on a U.N. watchlist for child soldiers since 2009, and in 2011 signed a U.N. action plan setting a timetable for the release and reintegration of underage recruits, as well as measures to prevent future recruitment.
Gowan said Saudi Arabia has been very active on the Syrian crisis at the United Nations, often using their economic and energy muscle to pressure council members to take a hardline against the Syrian regime. He said that aggressive diplomacy likely will continue once Saudi Arabia joins the Security Council and may extend to other areas.
“The Saudis are accused of fueling the war in Syria. It is clear that Riyadh is increasingly unhappy with American policy toward Iran," said Gowan. "So although the Saudis are typically seen as close allies of the U.S., they may frequently clash with the Americans over the Middle East at the U.N.”
Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told reporters after the vote that Riyadh supports the Syrian people in their struggle to achieve freedom, prosperity and unity. Aside from Syria, though, he said there is another issue that is very significant for Saudi Arabia.
"But equally important, if not more so in our opinion, is the Palestinian issue. Because we believe the Palestinian issue is the core issue of the difficulties in the Middle East, and we hope that we will be able to work with the other members of the council to achieve a peaceful resolution and to enable the Palestinians to establish their independent state on the territories occupied in June 1967, with East Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of the state of Palestine,” said Al-Mouallimi.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Viola Onwuliri welcomed her country's return to the council for a fifth term in 53 years, saying it is a show of international confidence in Nigeria. She said Nigeria would not disappoint anybody, especially not Africa.
“We are coming come to the U.N. Security Council to talk about international peace and security, also coming with our own experiences, we will talk for Africa," said Onwuliri. "We need to have a strong voice to help the U.N. to deal with issues in Africa, since the African issues are majority of issues facing the U.N. Security Council today.”
The new council members will begin their terms on January 1. They will join the five permanent council members: China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States. The five other non-permanent members are Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda.