Security Council gets new members

India, South Africa, Germany, Colombia and Portugal win seats on the United Nations’ most powerful body.

UN Security Council
The Security Council will include countries that have been fighting to revamp the UN’s most powerful body [AFP]

India, South Africa and Germany have all won two-year terms that will put them on the UN’s Security Council at the same time as Brazil and Nigeria, important players in Latin America and Africa.

The three nations from Asia, Africa and Europe will give next year’s council a unique membership of global powers and important emerging countries that have been campaigning for a revamp of the UN’s most powerful body.

Colombia and Portugal were also elected in Tuesday’s secret ballot.

For the first time, the Security Council will include countries that are seeking permanent seats and have been fighting to reform the body responsible for international peace and security so that it reflects the world in the 21st century.

Japan, which leaves the council at the end of the year, was also campaigning for a permanent seat.

The big loser was Canada, another major economic power which was in a three-way race for two Western bloc seats. It dropped out after Germany won in the first round by a single vote and Portugal was ahead by 35 votes in the second round.

Emerging powers

Ten of the Security Council’s 15 seats are filled by regional groups for two-year stretches, with five elected each year. The other five seats are occupied by the council’s veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

“It is important to note that some of the countries that are coming on are some of the most important emerging powers,” Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s UN ambassador, said after the election.

“We think that all of them will bring their own unique advantages and make this a very strong security council for the next two years.”

The council, also for the first time, will include major regional powers – China and India in Asia, South Africa and Nigeria in Africa, and Brazil and Mexico in Latin America.

The outgoing non-permanent members of the council are Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda, whose terms end on December 31.

The five members elected last year – Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria – will remain on the council until the end of 2011.

Canada’s loss

Lawrence Cannon, Canada’s foreign minister, said that he did not think the vote was a repudiation of the country’s foreign policy, though others in Canada disagreed and blamed Stephen Harper, the prime minister.

Cannon said a statement by Michael Ignatieff, the opposition Liberal Party leader, “indicating that Canada did not deserve a seat … was used as an issue” by Germany and Portugal “to prevent Canada from acceding to the Security Council”.

“We can speculate until tomorrow, but I can’t give you any definite response as to what the real issue was, but I can say that Michael Ignatieff’s statements hurt us,” Cannon said after the vote.

Joao Cravinho, Portugal’s deputy foreign minister, said that his country was “fairly confident that in a second round we would win against either candidate.

“It turned out to be Canada, and I think that the fact that we are representative of a smaller and medium-size group of countries was, in the end, decisive.”

Failed attempts

There is widespread support for revamping the Security Council but all previous attempts, starting in 1979, have failed because rivalries between countries and regions blocked agreement.

Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s UN ambassador, said “naturally all of us will try and use the time that we have during this two-year tenure to also give our partners a sense of confidence and build trust so that they are comfortable with our membership of the Security Council on an extended basis”.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, earlier said that Germany, if elected, will first “want to use this seat to increase our influence on the reform of the UN … by working constructively and in a creative way with the president of the general assembly, who’s obviously primarily in charge of it”.

She said Germany also could be “in a better position to have an impact on many processes of conflict resolution and peacemaking” as a non-permanent council member.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s foreign minister, promised to work with countries inside and outside the Security Council, calling the country’s election a “stamp of approval for us to come back and serve the international community in peacemaking, peacebuilding, peace maintenance and making sure that we keep the world free of conflicts”.

Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, called the election result “a great recognition for our country”.

Source: News Agencies