The U.N. General Assembly approved five new members for two-year terms on the organization’s powerful 15-nation Security Council on Tuesday, rejecting a bid from Belarus.
Algeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and South Korea will start their terms on January 1, 2024.
The annual exercise held little excitement this year, as all but one seat was previously agreed on within regional blocs, setting up uncontested races. The only competition was between Belarus and Slovenia for a seat in the Eastern Europe Group. Slovenia defeated Belarus with 153 votes to 38.
“The race between Belarus and Slovenia is something of a litmus test for how U.N. members see East-West divisions now,” said Richard Gowan, U.N. director at the International Crisis Group and a long-time U.N. watcher, ahead of the vote.
Slovenia is a member of the European Union and NATO. Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has supported Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine, even agreeing to house Russian tactical nuclear weapons on its territory.
Slovenia, a small country in central Europe that was part of the former Yugoslavia, was a late entry, declaring its candidacy at the end of 2021 and campaigning intensively for about one year. Belarus, by contrast, announced its candidacy in 2007.
Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon told reporters ahead of the vote that, if elected, Slovenia would act as a unifying force on the Security Council.
“And with tensions and divisions that we all face today between the major players in the international community, many countries especially the smaller ones which make up the majority of the U.N. membership, want to connect with trusted partners,” she said.
Even though nearly all the seats were uncontested, candidates still needed to win a two-thirds majority of votes cast to succeed.
South Korea was confirmed for its seat with 180 votes. It will be the first time it sits on the council at the same time as Japan and comes as the two countries are repairing their historically strained relations.
“Tokyo and Seoul probably share the view that the council is not doing its job holding the DPRK to account over its proliferation activity,” Gowan told VOA. “I think we will probably see Japan and South Korea adopt a fairly common approach to urging China and Russia to put more pressure on DPRK to stop launching missiles.”
North Korea has launched dozens of ballistic missiles this year and last week attempted to put a spy satellite in orbit – all in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions. China and Russia have blocked council action.
Guyana (191 votes) will take over the seat for Latin America and the Caribbean Group. Algeria, which received 184 votes, and Sierra Leone (188 votes) will represent the African Group on the council.
Sierra Leone’s foreign minister, David Francis, told reporters after their election that his country has made the successful transition from war to peace and would bring its unique experiences to the council.
“We bring hope to all the war-torn countries in the world – from Ukraine to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Sudan, to Yemen, to Arab-Israeli, that it can be done,” he said.
There were no available seats this year in the regional bloc dedicated to countries in the Western Europe “and others” group.
In exercising their responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, the 15 nations on the Security Council have the power to authorize the use of force, deploy peacekeeping missions and impose sanctions.
On January 1, the five winners will replace exiting members Albania, Brazil, Ghana, Gabon and the United Arab Emirates. They will join non-permanent members Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland, which will remain on the council through 2024, along with permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.