New Security Council Takes Shape

Azerbaijan bested Slovenia in the sixteenth round of elections for a two year Security Council seat representing eastern Europe. The Security Council for the next 12 months is now all set. Here it is:

Perm Five: USA, Russia, UK, France, China

Everyone Else: Germany, Portugal, Colombia, South Africa, India, Morocco, Togo, Pakistan, Guatemala, Azerbaijan

You’ll notice that the Council includes such rivals as India, China, and Pakistan.  While it is tempting to play up the political divisions in the Security Council it’s worth pointing out that this is how it is meant to be. A Security Council that is broadly representative of different regions and different global powers (at various stages of ascent or descent) means that no single country or group of like-minded countries can dominate.

The Security Council is not a club for rich countries; not a club for human rights loving countries; not a club of democracies; and not a club of military power. Sure, the Perm 5  represent some of the biggest economic and military powers, but they have their own rivalries and issues with each other.

While some decry these divisions as a recipe for weakness or inaction, it is worth noting that the Security Council does a whole lot — from authorizing over a dozen peacekeeping missions to monitoring sanctions to figuring out the legal authority under which pirates should be brought to justice. When the Security Council does intervene in an ongoing crisis (like Cote D’Ivoire, Libya, Darfur) it demonstrates the international communities resolve. If a group of countries as diverse and politically fractured as the Security Council can come together on an issue–well, that means that people should pay attention and listen to what it has to say.  Last Friday, for example, the Council unanimously made President Saleh of Yemen an offer he couldn’t refuse. More than anything else, that Council resolution was the writing on the wall that Saleh’s days are seriously numbered.

The point is Security Council consensus is a very powerful political tool. When you can get a group of countries this divided and diverse to agree on something it means that the world is literally united around a cause.  That’s not something to scoff at.