7th October 2016

Updates from the UN

In this section you can find updates on current developments, discussions and events related to peacebuilding and conflict prevention in and around the UN in New York.

Updates from the UN

UN elects five new members of the security council and next president of the General Assembly

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Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden new members of the Security Council - Netherlands and Italy proposes split term

This week, the UN’s member states elected five new non-permanent members of the Security Council on June 28th. In a prolonged and narrow voting session, the 193 member states elected Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden as new members of the Security Council from January 2017 to the end of 2018. However, after 7 hours of voting and five rounds of voting, the fifth seat remained vacant, as Italy and the Netherlands received an equal amount of votes. They therefore proposed to split the term, so Italy would serve for 2017 and the Netherlands for 2018. This is a rare case, but the regional group and the General Assembly is expected to accept the proposal. Curiously, The Netherlands has once before served a split term, in 1946.

Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands were the countries that campaigned most heavily for their seats. Both the Netherlands and Sweden are championing several of the issues on GPPAC’s agenda and  have campaigned on their commitment to peacebuilding and conflict prevention as well as the 2030 Agenda. The Netherlands and Italy are both very engaged in UN’s peacekeeping efforts. Sweden is a great proponent of prevention-oriented approaches, protection of civilians and is a driving force in making the  Peacebuilding Commission more effective. Both member states are also vocal on cooperation with regional cooperation, protection of civilians and advancing the role of women in peace processes. 

Bolivia was the only nominated country from the Latin America and Caribbean group. In the African group, Seychelles and Kenya withdrew their candidacy in favor of Ethiopia. In a peace and a security perspective, Ethiopia’s membership of the Security Council may be interesting to follow due to Addis Ababa being the headquarters for the African Union. Egypt, another important supporter of the African Union, is a non-permanent member until 2017. In the  Asia-Pacific group, Kazakhstan (focusing mainly on disarmament) defeated Thailand (focusing mainly on tolerance between different ethnic and religious groups). Their campaigning is covered in a previous post on the News from UN Blog.

The total of ten non-permanent seats for the Security Council are allocated to UN’s regional groups based on the number of countries in each group. Some groups agree on beforehand on which nominee(s) to put forward, while others let it be decided at the elections where all UN’s member states can vote. The Western European and Other Group could fill two seats, but had three candidates in form of Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands. The newly elected members now have some months to prepare before taking up their seats from the beginning of 2017.


Fiji elected as next president of the General Assembly

Earlier this month, the UN’s 193 member states elected Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji as their next President. Mr Thomson was elected on 13 June and will take over from the current Danish President of the General Assembly (PGA) from September, where the UN will begin its 71th session, as its annual programme of work is called.

Mr Thomson said the main focus of the 71th session would be to keep momentum on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving progress on all 17 Goals. Being the first pacific small island developing state elected to serve as the PGA, Fiji also promised extra attention to climate change during the 71th session.

In his current role as ambassador to the UN, Mr Thomson has served as chairman for the Group of 77 and China, a group of developing member states that seek to put focus on economic development and south-south cooperation. Mr Thompson himself has a experience with UN’s development work as he has served as Chair of the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). Moreover, Mr Thompson was Vice President of the GA from 2010 to 2011.

The current PGA,  Mogens Lykketoft, has worked to make the presidency of the GA more effective, professional and transparent. This meant that the candidates for the first time were elected after an actual campaign where they presented their priorities and arguments in public hearings as to why they would be a good president.

Fiji secured the seat with 94 votes; 4 more than its competitor, Cyprus, received. The presidency follows a  principle of regional rotation, and after the 70th session was led by a member state from the Western European and Other Group, only countries from the East Asia group could compete for the 71th session. Because this group could not agree on a single nominee, Fiji was elected through a secret ballot, a rare thing at the UN. After Fiji, the next PGA will be elected from the group of Eastern European states.

After receiveing an equal amount of votes, Netherlands and Italy proposed to split their two-year term in the Security Council. (Image source)