Race for the UN Security Council

Kevin Rudd, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia addresses the UN GA, courtesy of UN Photos/Marco Castro

The race for the 2013/14 election for non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council is raging among a group of countries, including several EU countries, Australia, Switzerland, and Turkey.

Luxembourg and Finland are the official EU candidates and enjoy the support of the EU member states and have the advantage of not having been regular UN SC members. Luxembourg was never elected and Finland was elected twice, the last time in 1989-1990. In an attempt to win more votes for the election, the two countries have engaged in ‘cash-diplomacy‘ by increasing their aid money abroad, especially in Africa, amongst countries that form the most influential grouping in the UN General Assembly.

Recently, Australia also declared itself a candidate for the council. Some analyst says that Australia’s chances are low. It already lost against two EU members (Sweden and Portugal) in 1996, it does not have the EU’s support, it entered the race later than its opponents, and is less engaged in a cash-diplomacy than Luxembourg or Finland. According to the Lowy Institute, Luxembourg and Finland respectively gave $137 and $237 million in aid money to Africa while Australia only gave $80 million.

At first glance it seems that Luxembourg and Finland have a better chance to win the race to the UN SC. But if we look a bit more closely, the election might actually be much tighter.

Australia is currently the 12th biggest financial contributor to UN Peacekeeping missions. It is also contributing with twice the amount of Luxembourg and three times the amount that Finland contributes to the regular UN Budget. It is contributes four times more soldiers than Finland to UN Peacekeeping missions. Luxembourg does not even send a single policeman abroad for the UN.

Australia is a middle-size power, member of the G20, and a key player in the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. It would make sense that a country with a relatively large population, a large geographic size and a strong economy is represented at the UN SC. Luxembourg, on the other hand, is a tiny country whose influence barely reaches beyond the EU.

The non-permanent spots on the Security Council should be awarded to countries that provide robust contributions to UN activities and whose decision can have an impact on their regional sphere of influence, not simply states that are able to buy more votes in the UN General Assembly.

It’s high time that the UN gives credit where credit is due and that reach and committment are awarded with a spot on the decision-making table. The Aussies deserve to have a seat on the UN Security Council.

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