Written by Rachel Levine
As Americans grapple with the consequences of this year’s midterm elections and look ahead to the possibilities in 2016, a recent global election also demands attention – the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Election of 2014.
Most consider the Security Council to be a body consisting of the five most powerful countries in the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France.
However, these countries represent only a third of the Security Council. The UNSC members include these five permanent members and ten non-permanent members. The distinction? Permanent members enjoy veto power and, as the name suggests, permanency on the Council. The non-permanent members do not enjoy such assurances. Every year, the General Assembly elects five new members to the Security Council to replace five non-permanent members.
In the most recent election, Spain, Venezuela, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Angola were elected to the Council. However the biggest contention of the election so far has been Turkey’s upset.
Turkey announced its candidacy on May 2011 citing its usefulness due to the political changes and transformations occurring in the Middle East and Mediterranean. According to Turkey’s official campaign page, “these developments have further increased Turkey’s responsibilities regarding international peace, stability and security, thereby influencing the preference on the term for its next candidacy for non-permanent membership.”
Forecasted to be a clear winner, Turkey later faced diplomatic pushback from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who disagreed with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite this loss, Turkey holds other positions in the UN and European Union, giving it a stage to shine diplomatically. However, Clive Gabay, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Queen Mary University of London, comments that the UNSC is more highly regarded in handling security issues versus other international institutions.
Gabav says, “I think we see that when the UNSC comes into conflict over an issue with another regional body, then the UNSC tends to win out. So, for instance, prior to the Libya conflict, we saw the UNSC pay very little heed when the African Union [were] arguing for a diplomatic solution.” He continues, “Of course, this also does not mean that the UNSC is not riven by hegemonic interests, which make its deliberations highly selective.”
UNSC members may have different special interests that sometimes collide, especially in regards to the Middle East, but can sharing a seat on the UN Security Council help ensure diplomatic peace?
Gabay says that when it comes to inter-UNSC member conflict, it depends. “I’m not certain that [non-permanent] membership in the UNSC makes conflicts between states less likely. Even if you accept Democratic Peace Theory, then clearly not all members of the UNSC are democracies.”
Despite the absence of Turkey, who is directly engaged in the fight against the Islamic State, the UNSC members can make strategic political moves to mitigate world conflict. Gabay points out, “…if we take various embargoes and sanctions into consideration, then it is clear that when we consider, for example Russia, that membership of the UNSC does not mitigate against members engaging in aggressive behavior towards each other.”
Without Turkey on the UN Security Council, other countries can still act to intervene in conflicts in the Middle East, yet Turkey’s absence leaves out first-hand experience and expertise in the region. A lopsided UNSC consisting mostly of Western countries could possibly lend itself to biased, Western solutions to Middle Eastern problems.