Hello Togo! Will the new Security Council play ball with the U.S.?
The U.N. General Assembly today elected four new temporary members to the U.N. Security Council: Guatemala, Pakistan, Morocco, and Togo — part of an annual U.N. ritual that permits small and mid-sized countries a two-year chance to play alongside the world’s big boys. A race between Slovenia and Azerbaijan for a fifth Security Council seat ...
The U.N. General Assembly today elected four new temporary members to the U.N. Security Council: Guatemala, Pakistan, Morocco, and Togo -- part of an annual U.N. ritual that permits small and mid-sized countries a two-year chance to play alongside the world's big boys.
The U.N. General Assembly today elected four new temporary members to the U.N. Security Council: Guatemala, Pakistan, Morocco, and Togo — part of an annual U.N. ritual that permits small and mid-sized countries a two-year chance to play alongside the world’s big boys.
A race between Slovenia and Azerbaijan for a fifth Security Council seat was deadlocked as of tonight. The new members will replace Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon, and Nigeria, which will all step down on December 31.
But will the new council make it easier or more difficult for the United States to pursue its objectives? Probably a bit of both.
The Security Council’s composition can have important ramifications for the pace of U.N. crisis management, and can be critical, if not necessarily decisive, in determining whether an important U.S. initiative is perceived as enjoying the backing of the wider world.
U.N. watchers say that this year’s changing of the guard provides some fresh opportunities for the United States and its allies as Brazil and Lebanon, who resisted U.S.-backed efforts to sanction Syria, will be replaced by Guatemala and Morocco, who are more closely aligned with U.S. priorities.
At the same time, Pakistan, an influential developing-world power broker with an increasingly strained relationship with Washington, could complicate U.S. goals at the United Nations on a number of fronts, from the promotion of human rights to the transition in Afghanistan to imposing economic sanctions on Iran.
Pakistan will also share a seat on the council with its regional rival, India, setting the stage for an interesting sideshow. At least for now the two sides are seeking to showcase their ability to work together amicably: Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador Hussein Haroon received a congratulations call from his Indian counterpart, Hardeep Singh Puri, while he addressed reporters outside the General Assembly chamber.
Edward Luck, a historian on the U.N. who also advises Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on human rights and intervention, says that the challenges facing the United States reflects a broader shift in the international balance of power.
With the power of the United States and its allies to dominate the Security Council diminishing, a group of increasingly assertive emerging powers, including Brazil, Turkey, India and South Africa, have been demanding a greater say in the council’s decisions. These middle powers are also seeking to serve temporary stints on the council more frequently than in past, reflecting a skepticism about the prospects for gaining admission in an enlarged permanent membership in the future.
"The Security Council is going through an adjustment to a new international order; it’s no longer dominated by a few powers," Luck said. "It’s much more of a free for all. It all makes for a more interesting place to watch but a very complicated place to get business done."
"It’s not been easy this year; it’s not going to be east next year," he added. "We’re seeing a more complicated set of negotiations because more players have to be listened to. It seems to me the world is moving into a time where we no long have a bipolarity or unipolarity and many actors are not shy about voicing their views on any number of issues."
The shift has led Brazil and Turkey to mount a high-profile diplomatic challenge to a 2010 agreement by the council’s five big powers to impose sanctions on Iran for failing to suspend its nuclear program. Last month, Brazil, India, and South Africa and Lebanon, abstained on a U.S. backed resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Syria for its repression of peaceful demonstrators. The vote was blocked by a joint veto by China and Russia, but the abstentions sent a clear message that these emerging powers were not prepared to follow the West’s lead.
The departure of Brazil from the 15-nation council will likely diminish the power of a bloc of emerging powers — Brazil, India, South Africa, or IBSA – that had banded together to challenge U.S.- and European-led initiatives on Libya and Syria. The departure of Lebanon, the council’s lone Arab member, could improve prospects for a tougher response to Syria, however, which dominates Lebanese political life.
But the changing of the guard will also see the exit of three reliable U.S. allies — Bosnia, Gabon, and Nigeria — who have consistently voted alongside the United States. Guatemala, Morocco, and Togo are also expected to vote with the United States.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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