Issue 155 – October 21 – Five New Members Elected to Security Council

New York, October 21, 2010 - On Tuesday, October 12, the UN General Assembly elected five countries to two-year seats on the Security Council. Colombia, India, Germany, Portugal, and South Africa will begin their terms on January 1, 2011. The new non-permanent members will replace Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, and Uganda, whose terms end on December 31, 2010.

It was reported that "A diplomat from a developing country told IPS [that this year's composition] will be a ‘test' of the Council's effectiveness - whether the presence of potential permanent members makes a real difference to the work of the Council."


Prior to the election, a press conference was held outlining the rules of procedure for the election. At the press conference, Ion Botnaru, Director of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, noted that "due regard should be paid to candidates' contributions to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the United Nations and also to ‘equitable geographical distribution'."

He also outlined details on the balloting process, including how to proceed in the case of inconclusive rounds of voting and what constitutes a valid ballot. He also noted that "...In order for a State to be elected, a two-thirds majority of Member States present and voting was required", or 127 votes..


This year, the seats for the African Group, Asian Group, and Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) were uncontested. Only the Western European and Other States' Group (WEOG) had more candidates running than seats available. Thus South Africa, India and Colombia ran unopposed, while the race for the WEOG seats was contested by three candidates for two seats.

Unopposed, Colombia was elected with 186 votes, India with 187 votes, and South Africa with 182 votes. Germany received one more than the required minimum, 128 votes, to secure a seat in the first round. Since neither Portugal nor Canada received a two-thirds majority (122 and 114 votes, respectively), the voting went to a second round. Neither country received a majority of votes in the second round, with Portugal coming out ahead with 113 votes and Canada receiving just 78 votes. Canada's Permanent Representative subsequently withdrew its bid, allowing Portugal to win with 150 votes in an uncontested third round.

The five newly-elected countries will join Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon, and Nigeria, as well as the five permanent members, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Many were surprised by Canada's defeat - the first time it has been unsuccessful in a campaign for a rotating Security Council seat -expecting that a non-European country would be at an advantage given the already strong presence of European countries on the Council. There have been several theories in the Canadian press seeking to explain the lost bid.

Some sources, such as the Calgary Herald, attributed the loss to the conservative government's foreign policy and international aid strategies, while others have blamed domestic party politics. Prior to the election, controversy surrounded a Liberal leader's public remarks, which questioned whether Canada deserved a seat on the Council. Others have suggested that while Portugal appealed to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) group and conveyed support for the Arab Peace Initiative, Canada failed to do so and may be perceived by some members as "too close" to the United States and Israel on some "initiatives of interest" to the Islamic bloc.  

Case for Reform?

Making the non-permanent additions to the Security Council especially interesting this year is the fact that India, Germany, and South Africa all have expressed an interest in gaining a permanent seat on the Council in the future.

Following the election, India said that its large margin of victory (187 seats) indicates a strong case for a permanent seat for India on the Security Council.

Germany's Foreign Minister said that its election was a "significant vote of confidence," while Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany would "work hard during its term to push ahead on reforms of the UN Security Council."

South Africa also has expressed ambitions for a permanent seat, and like India and Germany, saw its election as a significant step toward this goal. As a government spokesperson said, "This election indicates the UN's confidence in South Africa as a global player."

While many critics argue that the Security Council does not reflect the realities of today's global balance of power, others, such as Al Jazeera, claim that the newly-elected members add increased credibility to the institution:  "... the five countries that have won non-permanent seats on the Council give it a complexion far more in keeping with the global order of the 21st century.... With some of the world's most important emerging economies winning seats on a Council that already includes Brazil, a South American powerhouse, and Nigeria, a key African power, the UN's most powerful body looks more representative than ever before."


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