The Multilateralist

Luxembourg’s campaign for a seat at the big table

Spiegel reports on diminutive Luxembourg’s energetic campaign for an elected seat on the UN Security Council: Gaining UN Security Council membership depends on successfully closing a good number of bilateral deals, sometimes promising to support another country’s candidacy in exchange, sometimes promising more development aid. [Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean] Asselborn’s approach has centered on specific ...

Spiegel reports on diminutive Luxembourg’s energetic campaign for an elected seat on the UN Security Council:

Gaining UN Security Council membership depends on successfully closing a good number of bilateral deals, sometimes promising to support another country’s candidacy in exchange, sometimes promising more development aid. [Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean] Asselborn’s approach has centered on specific lines of argument. "We’re a founding member of the United Nations, yet we’ve never held a seat on the Security Council," he says. "And we’re not burdened with a legacy of colonialism. When we make foreign policy, we’re not pursuing any hidden agenda."

Asselborn has flown around the globe, sat through conferences in Africa and accepted unusual invitations. Once he was served a sheep’s eye. "I just thought, eyes closed and swallow," he says of that experience. Afterward Asselborn, not generally inclined to drink hard alcohol, ordered himself vodka.

On Oct. 18, Asselborn will know whether all that effort paid off. He needs the votes of at least 129 of the UN’s 193 member states in order to win a Security Council seat…

Luxembourg is locked in a three-way race with Australia and Finland for two seats on the Council. (The ten elected seats on the Council are apportioned by regional grouping, and the three are competing for seats assigned to the Western European and Others group.)

One might think that Australia—a charter member of the G20 boasting one of the world’s larger economies—would have decisive edge. But in UN elections, which are dominated by small and mid-size states, size can be a distinct disadvantage. The scuttlebut I’m hearing is that Finland and Luxembourg may have the edge. Australian prime minister Julia Gillard appears to be lowering expectations:

Indeed, she appeared to be preparing people for the prospect of defeat, by saying it would not be a reflection on the regard in which Australia is held.

”Whatever happens with our Security Council bid, this week at the UN has reinforced to me that Australia is a nation that is respected in the world. Our practical contributions for change are much admired,” she said.

”And whatever happens with our Security Council bid, I’ve certainly been left with an impression of warmth for Australia.”

Australia has been elected to the Security Council four times and last served in 1985-1986. Finland has served twice, most recently in 1989-1990.

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