U.N. member states elected six countries Friday to temporary seats on the Security Council, the U.N. body responsible for maintaining international peace and security.
Starting January 1, 2018, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Poland and Peru will serve two-year terms, while the Netherlands will join for one year, in a special arrangement with Italy.
The vote in the U.N. General Assembly generated little suspense, as regional groups had already decided among themselves which countries to put up as their candidates, and there was no competition for the seats. Candidates easily garnered the two-thirds majority of votes required on the first round of ballots.
The only oddity this year was a special “by-election” in which the Netherlands replaced Italy on the council. After five rounds of voting in last year’s election, the two candidates were tied with 95 votes each and unable to reach the two-thirds majority needed to secure the seat, so they decided to share it.
Outgoing council member Egypt expressed some concern about this arrangement. Ambassador Amr Aboulatta told the General Assembly that it is an “exceptional arrangement” between the two countries that “should not be considered as a precedent,” in choosing elected members in the future.
“More than ever the Security Council has to show its relevance in international conflicts; in national conflicts, it has to be active in the prevention of conflicts. The Netherlands will be a proactive partner,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told reporters after the vote.
“We will together with others try to solve and decide about the most important problems of world,” Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told reporters.
“We will not neglect our neighboring issues like the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. But of course, we won’t hesitate to participate in solving other problems of the Middle East, Africa and other continents,” he added.
U.N. analyst Richard Gowan, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it is unlikely any of the incoming members will fundamentally alter Security Council dynamics.
“Poland is likely to follow in the footsteps of Ukraine, and use the council as a platform to challenge Russia repeatedly,” he said.
Outgoing member Ukraine has been in conflict with Russian-backed rebels since early 2014 in the country’s southeast. Moscow also invaded and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, following a controversial referendum in March of that same year the U.N. General Assembly nearly unanimously called illegal.
“The Dutch will work doubly hard to make up for the fact that they only have one year on the council,” Gowan predicted.
New member Ivory Coast will see a U.N. peacekeeping mission shut down at the end of June after 13 years in the country.
“There are serious debates about the future of U.N. peace operations at present, especially as the U.S. wants to cut back their budgets severely,” Gowan noted. “Ivorian diplomats will bring extra experience and insights to those debates,” he added.
But the reality is that the powerful Permanent Five members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – continue to steer the council.
“The P5 are in a mess at present, and remain profoundly divided over Syria, but it is unwise to underestimate their resilience,” Gowan cautioned. “For all their differences, the five remain united in their desire to maintain maximum control over U.N. affairs.”