Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1277, (7 - 13 January 2016)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1277, (7 - 13 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s UN term begins

Egypt has started participating in UN Security Council meetings as a new non-permanent member, writes Doaa El-Bey

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Al-Ahram Weekly

“The resolution of conflicts on the African continent to strengthen peace and security tops Egypt’s agenda at the UN Security Council,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid told the media last Friday.

He was speaking after Egypt’s permanent representative, Amr Abu Atta, started participating in all UN Security Council sessions after Egypt received its non-permanent seat for the 2016-2017 term.

The seat puts Egypt closer to international decision-makers and will help it play a wider role at the African, Arab and Islamic levels.

Some diplomats have noted that Egypt’s job will not be easy because the appointment has come at a time of major crises in the Arab region. Conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya, in addition to the Palestinian issue, are all on the table, putting further pressure on Egyptian diplomacy.

Egypt’s presence on the Security Council also allows Cairo to push for greater international efforts to confront extremism and terrorism in the region, an issue that is having an impact on the wider world.

Reforming the United Nations and expanding the Security Council to make it more democratic and more representative of developing countries were additional reasons for Egypt’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Council, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said during a visit to New York last year.

Egypt’s presence on the Security Council will give Cairo a greater chance to push for reform. It has called for more permanent seats on the council, saying that it is important to see fairer representation of all geographical regions on it.

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

Should that formula be accepted, winning a non-permanent seat will place Egypt in the front rank of contenders seeking a permanent place on the Security Council. Egypt’s presence on the council may also give further backing to its bid to create a region free from weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Egypt won a landslide victory in mid-October’s voting for non-permanent seats on the council, garnering 179 out of 193 votes from UN member states.

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

In last October’s round of voting, the UN General Assembly elected Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay to serve as non-permanent members on the Security Council for two-year terms beginning on 1 January 2016. They will serve until 31 December 2017.

The five states occupy the seats open for election in 2015, which are distributed regionally: two seats for the African Group (previously held by Chad and Nigeria), one seat for the Asia-Pacific Group (previously held by Jordan), one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (previously held by Chile), and one seat for the Eastern European Group (previously held by Lithuania).

The five permanent Security Council members, which have the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The non-permanent members that will remain on the council until the end of 2016 are Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela.

The ten non-permanent members on the council are traditionally elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Each of the council’s members has one vote. Under the Charter, all UN Member States are obligated to comply with council decisions.

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 in September 2014.

In his speech to the General Assembly in 2015, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi asked member states to support the election of Egypt to the non-permanent Security Council seat. It was also an objective pursued on many of his foreign trips, especially to European states, Russia and China.

The Foreign Ministry was employed to help secure the Egyptian bid, and Shoukri flew to New York in April last year to promote it.

Top diplomats in Cairo and at Egyptian missions abroad held meetings with ambassadors from various regional states and different parts of the world, including meetings with Cairo-based Arab, African and Latin American ambassadors.

The Foreign Ministry issued a booklet that highlighted Egypt’s role in the UN and in efforts to establish peace in conflict zones across Africa and the Middle East, noting that more than 30,000 Egyptian peacekeepers have taken part in 37 UN peacekeeping missions deployed in 24 countries. Egypt currently deploys 2,659 military and police personnel in UN peacekeeping forces.

The booklet also cast light on Egypt’s ongoing attempts to promote development projects under the umbrella of the UN, African Union and Arab League. It was distributed during the 2014 UN General Assembly meeting.

Egypt was assured of Arab support for the bid at the last Arab League Summit in March 2015. It was also given African support during the January 2015 African Summit.

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