How to leverage power and influence on the UN Security Council: Briefing the incoming elected members.

5 December 2018

As a popular political saying goes, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

There are 188 UN member states that are not permanent members of the UN Security Council. When a country serves a 2-year elected, non-permanent term on the council - as Australia did in 2013-2014 - they must use innovative diplomacy if they want their voice heard.

Australian researchers are conducting a 4-year ARC Discovery Project to investigate which diplomatic practices can help elected members wield influence on the Security Council, and the world stage. The project, Leveraging Power and Influence on the UN Security Council: the Role of Elected Members, is co-run by a team of four international lawyers and political scientists at The Australian National University (ANU), the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and the University of Queensland (UQ). The project commenced in 2016 and received the highest ARC funding amongst Law, Political Science/IR, and Sociology disciplines.

This December the project leaders have been invited to lead a high-profile event at UN Headquarters in New York to brief the newly elected 2019-20 UN Security Council members - Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa - on the preliminary findings of the research project. This briefing forms part of those countries preparations for their incoming seats on the UN Security Council, commencing in January 2019.

“At the briefing we will share how elected members can influence the Council’s decision-making and norm development” explains Associate Professor Jochen Prantl from the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU.

The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Forged by a post-World War II settlement of the victorious powers, the UN Charter allocates special rights and responsibilities to five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the P-5). More than 70 years later, this structure has not essentially changed. Conventional wisdom suggests that the UN Security Council is controlled by the P-5, while the other 188 UN member states are effectively sidelined, including those serving two-year terms on the Council as elected, non-permanent members.

Our project challenges the conventional wisdom of unfettered P-5 predominance. By drawing on recent experiences of elected members and the larger UN membership, our projects can help non-permanent member states to better understand when and how they shape Council outcomes, evaluate the factors that affect their capacity to advance an agenda despite the opposition of one or more permanent members, and identify the most promising pathways by which they can influence Council decision-making.

This opportunity to brief the incoming non-permanent member states, ahead of their 2 year term, is a landmark opportunity to assist non P-5 countries to shape decision-making and have more influence during their term on the Council. For our project, this December new-members briefing is a highly impactful outreach activity and we are grateful to the Australian Mission in New York for facilitating the opportunity.

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