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Understand the new changes in the UN Security Council

The Security Council of the United Nations is one of the main bodies of the current international order. It is the only one with the authority to adopt decisions binding on all UN Member States and also the only one that can authorize the use of military force, in accordance with Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. This week we had both an announcement and an “old news” about the Security Council.

As our readers may know, the UNSC is made up of fifteen countries. Best known are the five permanent members: USA, UK, France, Russia and China. These are the countries that have the so-called “veto power”, a term referring to the fact that these countries can either prepare the agenda for Council meetings, determining the subjects that will be debated, as well as the fact that, in of a negative vote of one of these countries, a resolution is not passed.

Rotating Members

The Council is also composed of ten other countries, rotating, elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Terms start on the first day of the year, and every year, half of the countries are renewed. The distribution of the ten rotating seats is geographical and is also staggered. Africa has three members, while Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific and Western Europe and Others have two each. Finally, Eastern Europe has a member.

The five countries that will leave the Council on the last day of 2022 are Kenya, India, Mexico, Ireland and Norway. This week we had the election of the five substitute countries. Mozambique, Japan, Ecuador, Switzerland and Malta, respectively. They will complete the organ in 2023 Gabon, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, occupying the seat that traditionally belongs to an Arab country, Albania and Brazil. In other words, we will have Brazil and Japan together, the two countries that have occupied the most rotating mandates in the UNSC.

The two countries are part of the G-4, together with Germany and India, a group of countries that defends a reform of the UNSC and greater representation for developing countries, in addition to possible permanent vacancies for Japan and Germany, two powers that are excluded because, when the UNSC was formed, they were the defeated countries in World War II.

BRICS Summit

This refers to the “old news” this week in relation to the UNSC. China hosted the virtual summit of BRICS leaders, a group that brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. As in all summits, the final declaration called for the reform of international organizations, created in the post-Second World War and which would be outdated in representing and portraying the current world.

This includes from the Monetary Fund International to the UNSC, with South Africa always projecting itself as an eventual permanent representative of its continent. The BRICS declaration recalls the reform project elaborated in 2005, on the sixtieth anniversary of the UN, calling for a “more representative and efficient” UNSC. China and Russia “reiterate the importance they attach to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa” and “support their aspirations to play a greater role in the UN.”

The statement also “reminds” that only the UNSC has the authority to impose “legitimate” international sanctions, a reference to the sanctions imposed against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow considers illegitimate. Of course, it is also important to remember that Russia itself would have the power to avoid such sanctions within the UNSC, in a scenario of “who watches the vigilantes”.

The point is that, as said, asking for the reform of the UNSC is “old news”. The defended project is already seventeen years “old”. Even the reform of the institution collides with the permanent members, who do not want to see their so-called “veto power” diluted by the expansion of the body. China proposes, for example, an expansion of permanent members, but without the so-called “veto power”.

Reform and newcomers

E, while Beijing supports the Brazilian election, it would not accept Japan in the Council. Brazil’s participation in the BRICS and the G-4 are not contradictory, but face opposing challenges. For example, some European countries support the idea of ​​a permanent seat for Africa, while these same countries are opposed to an eventual permanent seat for Germany.

The big news of the week in relation to the UNSC is in the election of rotating members. Of course, it may sound like mere protocol or curiosity, but there is one notable fact. It will be the first time that Switzerland will occupy a seat on the Security Council, breaking with more than seventy years of neutrality, together with a recent expansion of its military budget.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Switzerland, participation in the UNSC will give the country “an additional instrument to represent its interests and achieve its foreign policy objectives”. Possibly the decision was made with two main factors behind it. The European security scenario, intensified with the invasion of Ukraine, and human rights agendas, weakened in the UN system with the subversion of inspection mechanisms, with countries such as Saudi Arabia occupying seats in Organs relevant bodies.

As a record, Mozambique will also occupy a rotating seat at the UNSC for the first time, and the year of 2023 will be one of the rare occasions when two Portuguese-speaking countries will be on the Council. Still, even with the “old news” and with the rotating seat guaranteed for next year, the Brazilian dream of a permanent seat at the UNSC remains as likely as it was ten years ago. That is, not much.

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