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Non-permanent seats in the UNSC, and how they are filled

  Jul 13, 2020

Non-permanent seats in the UNSC, and how they are filled

Q. What is UNSC?

A. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN) charged with ensuring international peace and security, recommending the admission of new UN members to the General Assembly, and approving any changes to the UN Charter. Its powers include establishing peacekeeping operations, enacting international sanctions, and authorising military action. The UNSC is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states.

Q. What are permanent and ‘non-permanent seats’ at the UNSC?

A. The UNSC is composed of 15 members: five permanent members — China France, Russian Federation, the United States and the United Kingdom — and 10 non-permanent members who are elected by the General Assembly. The non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms — so every year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of the total 10.

Q. Are there any Geographical setting for selecting members?

A. Yes, these 10 seats are distributed among the regions of the world: five seats for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; and two for Western European and Other Countries.

Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia. Also, there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one seat for an Arab country. The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.

Elections for terms beginning in even-numbered years select two African members, and one each within Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Terms beginning in odd-numbered years consist of two Western European and Other members, and one each from Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Q. Which all are the current non-permanent members?

A. Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa, all of whose terms end this year; and Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam, whose terms end in 2021.

Q What will be India’s term

A. India begins its term in the beginning of 2021, and will hold the position until the end of 2022.

Q. What happened at the election that India won?

A. India was the only candidate for the vacancy from the Asia Pacific. Its candidature for the seat was endorsed unanimously by the Asia Pacific group, which comprises 55 countries, including Pakistan and China, last year.

Q. Has India been in the UNSC earlier?

A. India has earlier been a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2011-12. For the 2011-12 term, India won 187 of 190 votes after Kazakhstan stood down from its candidacy.

Unlike Africa, which has formalised a system of rotation of its three seats, the Asia Pacific grouping has often seen contests for seats. Even if a country is a “clean slate” candidate and has been endorsed by its group, it still needs to secure the votes of two-thirds of the members present and voting at the General Assembly session — which is a minimum of 129 votes, if all 193 member states participate.

Q. What is vote share of India? 

A. India won 184 of the 192 votes cast.