Every year the United Nations chooses new five member states to serve a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council. While this year’s election wasn’t contentious in terms of the vote itself, as all nominees ran unopposed, the states set to take a seat at the Horseshoe Table come January are a mixed bag in terms of their support for international peace and security. Here’s a look at each of them.
Despite being one of the founding members of the United Nations, this is the first time that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has had a seat on the Security Council. The country, with its vast oil reserves, has nonetheless played the role of regional hegemon, using its clout to influence developments in the Middle East for decades. Historically, Saudi ambassadors have felt more at home in the General Assembly, where they would use the body to pass symbolic resolutions that often reflected their own stance. Now that it has a vote on the Council, in the “Arab seat” informally reserved for countries in the Middle East and North Africa, it will be seen whether that influence translates into setting the tone.
This will come to light during debates over what to do regarding the ongoing civil war in Syria. Saudi leaders were reportedly extremely upset that the United States backed away from its threat to attack Syrian president Bashar al-Assad over the alleged use of chemical weapons in August. Riyadh is also reportedly perturbed by the United States’ recent overtures towards its regional rival Iran, whose nuclear program is another issue that remains on the Security Council’s agenda. However, as Saudi popularity wanes in the region, whether or not Riyadh joins with Washington over these issues or strikes out on its own remains to be seen.
Most controversial among the new slate of Council members is Chad. Taking one of the two open African seats, Chad does have the argument on its side that it is a solid contributor of forces to U.N. peacekeeping missions, such as the recently launched operation in Mali. What makes the pick less palatable, however, is the allegations of rape and other human rights violations that Chadian soldiers have engaged in while serving in U.N. and African missions alike. Chad also was one of several countries to receive a waiver on U.S. sanctions banning military aid to the country for using child soldiers.
On top of these issues, Chad has also played host to Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, despite the latter’s International Criminal Court indictment for genocide. Due to the way that voting works, however, the members of the General Assembly didn’t quite have a choice in whether they wanted Chad to be elevated to the Council. As regions tend to decide the slate far in advance, rotating via sub-region, countries tend to run unopposed. For a short while, it seemed The Gambia would challenge Chad, but withdrew before the vote.
Nigeria is no stranger to the Security Council, having only just completed a two-year term in 2011. The rules of the council state that non-permanent members can’t serve consecutive terms, resulting in Lagos’ time off. Now that it’s back, however, it lends its weight to discussions of regional security in an area that has been heating up as of late. Not only is the country a huge contributor of troops to peacekeeping operations across the African continent, but Nigeria itself has been fighting against the extremist group Boko Haram for years now. A regional powerhouse, Nigeria is one of the three countries — along with South Africa and Egypt — whose names are bandied about in terms of a possible new permanent seat granted to an African state, should Security Council reform ever take place.
Lithuania and Chile
The remaining two newly elected members of the Council don’t quite have the same attention-grabbing international profiles as their fellow classmates. Lithuania will be replacing Azerbaijan in January as the holder of Eastern Europe’s seat, itself a relic of the age in which the Soviet bloc constituted a serious factor in the debates that the United Nations undertook. At the time, Lithuania will just be coming off the Presidency of the European Union. Chile will be replacing Guatemala as one of two Latin American members on the Council. While lacking in flair, the two will likely be stalwart allies of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom when it comes to votes on matters that come before the body. While only permanent members can outright veto a substantive matter, nine votes in favor are still required for any resolution to pass.