10-22-14 – Musical Chairs and Suspense in Security Council Vote

By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—In its annual round of diplomatic musical chairs, the General Assembly chose five new members for the coveted seats on the Security Council, the UN’s  most prestigious body.   The new members, Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela begin their two year terms starting in January 2015. 

But beyond what even some diplomats see as an almost  pro forma shuffling of the deck for the fifteen member Council, the seats are selected both for geographical balance and equity in the 193 member state world organization.  In fact, the seats often reflect political influence as much as high stakes behind the scenes bargaining in regional blocs.   

Though the Council’s real power core rests with the permanent five P-5 members, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, all of whom hold the powerful veto, there’s an additional ten non- permanent members, five of which are selected annually.  According to some wags, a campaign for such a seat costs up to $20 million but in the long run is worth it.  Not only does the elected country gather higher profile globally with a place at the green felt table of diplomacy, but especially for developing states, is worth a treasure trove of economic development aid as a way to woo their votes.   

So let’s take a look at the continents, the players and the winners. 

Africa.   Angola, a petroleum rich former Portuguese colony, was elected unopposed.  Though still an authoritarian government lubricated both by petro dollars and corruption, Angola is not the socialist firebrand it was during the post-colonial era.  
As part of the Portuguese speaking, Lusophone world,  Angola can be expected to be a team player with Portugal and Brazil.

Asia/Pacific.  Malaysia, a multi-ethnic moderate Muslim state  ran unopposed for the Asian seat. Though an economic powerhouse, Malaysia has seen itself buffeted by ill fortune with two horrible airline disasters during a six month period.  Malaysia’s credentials  as an economic development model are widely respected. Moreover, Malaysia’s  strong commitment to UN peacekeeping operations has gained friends.  The Kuala Lumpur government has participated in thirty such operations with 29,000 soldiers participating over the years.  

Malaysia replaces the Republic of Korea whose tenure comes to an end; the Seoul government has participated in a tumultuous but crucial Council role. 

Latin America.  The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela garnered the Latin seat.  Despite being blocked by the Bush Administration in 2006 with a withering 48 ballot knockdown contest, this time the Caracas government won unopposed.  
Though the Obama team is not happy about Venezuela’s  victory, they did not try to block it via backing another regional candidate.

Besides being a political comrade of Castro’s Cuba, Venezuela’s socialist regime is close to Mainland China and Russia. Though Venezuela was one of the founders of the UN, in recent years and especially during the rule of the late Hugo Chavez, the country has descended deeper into poverty and social conflict. Venezuela replaces Argentina on the Council.

Both Angola and Venezuela have dismal human rights and media freedom records.  
In each of the above cases a secret ballot  guaranteed a vote for picking one out of one choice. 

West European and Others

This was the true political contest: select two out of three candidates.  
 New Zealand, a founding member of the UN was superbly qualified for the seat and won. When it comes to humanitarian aid and peacekeeping missions, New Zealand is one of the global good guys.  Their election, putting them back in the Council for the first time in 20 years, is richly merited.  New Zealand replaces Australia whose two-year stint was indeed impressive during these trying times. 

Spain also with strong UN credentials has been a powerful supporter of the organization; during the past 25 years  almost 140,000 Spanish troops have served in UN peacekeeping missions. Spain strongly backed by the European Union, won.    

Turkey, posed a more problematic choice.  Though the Turks have played a helpful and hospitable humanitarian role for Syrian refugees, the Ankara government  has been mired in the vortex of Mideast politics.  Equally the country’s Islamic-lite government has tilted the political balance away from Turkey’s  formerly staunchly secular political model.  Many UN delegates remain quietly nervous about what is seen as the creeping authoritarian in President Erdogan’s Turkey.  

So what does this mean for U.S. Policy?  Angola replaces Rwanda; negative. Malaysia replaces South Korea; slight loss.  Venezuela replaces Argentina; negative.  New Zealand replaces Australia; even.   Spain replaces Luxembourg; even.  A re-shuffled Security Council deck faces unprecedented challenges in the upcoming year.

******************
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He’s the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations; Germany, Korea, China (2014).

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

VT Left Wing Media Bias Unmasks Itself

July 24, 2020 By Rob Roper Dave Gram was a long time reporter for the Associated Press, is currently the host of what’s billed on WDEV as a...

Using Guns for Self Defense – 3 Recent Examples

July 24, 2020 By John McClaughry  The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal last week published eleven news stories about citizens using a firearm to stop a crime. Here are...

FERC ruling on solar subsidies could help Vermont ratepayers

July 21, 2020 By John McClaughry Last Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finalized its updates to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), in what the majority...

The Moderate Left’s Stand for Free Speech

July 17, 2020 By David Flemming Harper’s Magazine, a long-running monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, is hardly what you would call a ‘politically...

Trump’s Regulatory Bill of Rights

July 16, 2020 by John McClaughry “President Trump [last May] issued an executive order entitled  ‘Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery.’ The executive order includes a regulatory bill...

Video