Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1267, (22 - 28 October 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1267, (22 - 28 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Landslide victory at the UN

Winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council will put Egypt closer to international decision-makers, and raise expectations from Arab and African states, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt scored a landslide victory in last week’s vote for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2016-2017. The voting took place on 15 October.

This is the fifth time that Egypt has won a two-year non-permanent seat, said Al-Sayed Amin Shalaby, executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs. However, there is a qualitative change this time.

“This victory came at a time of stifling crises in the Arab region, namely the Palestinian issue and the problems in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya. This has put further pressure and responsibilities on Egyptian diplomacy,” Shalaby said.

The African Group at the UN supported Egypt’s bid, meaning that Egypt can now be expected to work towards resolving the two main African problems of peace and development.

Egypt’s victory in last week’s vote, said Ahmed Al-Soukkary, a scholar of international relations at Cairo University, reflected active diplomacy and popular support for the bid.

“The number of supporting votes — 179 out of 193 — proves that the international community not only accepts but also supports the present government in Egypt,” Al-Soukkary said. It also reflects the failure of those who opposed Egypt’s bid, since “otherwise they would have at least succeeded in reducing the number of supporting votes,” he added.

The size of the support “reflects the international trust that Egypt enjoys among world nations,” Shalaby said.

The UN seat is likely to contribute to the efforts of the Egyptian government to open up to the world and create a new regional and international role for the country. “The seat will help Egypt present Arab and African problems in a more effective way and play a more constructive role regionally and in support of developing countries in Africa and Asia,” Al-Soukkary said.

Egypt’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council was based on reforming the United Nations and expanding the Security Council to make it more democratic and more representative of developing countries, in the words of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri speaking earlier this year.

Egypt’s attainment of the non-permanent seat will give Cairo a greater chance to push to reform the Security Council. Egypt wants more permanent seats on the council, saying that it is important to see a fairer representation of all geographical regions on the Security Council.

Egypt’s presence on the Security Council may also help in the adoption of Egypt’s vision of how best to confront extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and give further backing to its bid to create a region free from weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons.

These are two very important issues, Shalaby said, adding, “Egypt has a long experience in facing terrorism. It can present a comprehensive vision to the Security Council and the world based on this experience.”

According to Shalaby, freeing the Middle East from weapons of mass destructions is a pivotal issue that should be presented and given prominence because these weapons pose a genuine danger to the entire region.

Al-Soukkary agreed with Shalaby on the importance of the two issues. “As a founding member of the UN and by virtue of its role in peacekeeping efforts over the years, Egypt can present its [views on] weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons in the Middle East and push for the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the failure to implement it representing a real threat to peace in the Middle East,” he said.

Ever since Egypt declared its wish to bid for the seat, the issue has been given top priority by the government. A lobbying campaign was launched, starting from as early as the 69th meeting of the UN General Assembly last September.

In his speech to this year’s General Assembly, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi asked member states to support the election of Egypt to the non-permanent Security Council seat.

The Foreign Ministry was employed to help secure the Egyptian bid, and Shoukri flew to New York in April to promote it. Top diplomats in Cairo and at Egyptian missions abroad held meetings with ambassadors from various regional states and from different parts of the world, including with African and Latin American ambassadors in Cairo and various Arab ambassadors.

Egypt was assured of Arab support for the bid at the last Arab League Summit in March. It was also given African support during the last African Summit in January.

The Foreign Ministry issued material dealing with Egypt’s activities, policies and role in the areas of international peace and security, focusing on the country’s role in pivotal Middle Eastern issues, such as the Palestinian issue. The material was distributed during the UN General Assembly meeting last year.

Egypt held a non-permanent Security Council seat in 1996-1997, 1984-1985, 1960-1961 and 1949-1950. Non-permanent members take part in drafting resolutions and help decide on their presentation.

Jordan is currently the only Arab country among the ten non-permanent members on the UN Security Council, traditionally elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly. Jordan’s term expires at the end of this year.

The African Group is one of five regional groups at the UN and includes 54 member states. The group is allocated three non-permanent Security Council seats, to which it elects African nations on a rotating basis.

Egypt wants to see greater influence from the African Group on the Security Council and has called for it to have two permanent and five non-permanent seats.

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