UN to decide how to proceed with election for Security Council seat

Ireland competing with Norway and Canada for two non-permanent seats on key UN body

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has been vocal on several international issues in recent weeks. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has been vocal on several international issues in recent weeks. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

 

The United Nations will decide this week how to proceed with a key election for membership of the Security Council, as Ireland competes for a seat on the influential body.

The UN vote had been scheduled to take place on June 17th, with Ireland competing with Norway and Canada for two non-permanent seats during the 2021-2022 session. But the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the process into doubt because member states are unable to vote in person at the agency’s headquarters in New York.

UN sources said that a decision on how to proceed will be made by the end of this week, though the body may first reach out to its 193 members for opinions.

While the UN General Assembly has not been sitting in person since the coronavirus hit, a so-called “silent voting” method has been adopted for resolutions, which gives countries 72 hours to register their objections.

Last week the president of the General Assembly wrote to members proposing an e-voting system, but this would apply to votes for resolutions and other matters – not for elections.

UN sources said that no decision had been made, and that a postponement was possible.

Unlike other votes in the multilateral body, the election of non-permanent Security Council members is by secret ballot.

Five seats are up for grabs in June for the 2021-2022 session. While Ireland is competing for one of two seats in the “Western Europe and other states” category, a representative for Africa, the Latin America and Caribbean region, and Asia Pacific will also be chosen.

Ireland has held a seat on the Security Council three times in its history. The last occasion was in 2001 in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has dominated political life in Ireland and elsewhere for more than a month, Irish officials have been continuing to drive the Government’s foreign-policy agenda in Brussels, Geneva and at the UN in New York.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has also been vocal on several international issues in recent weeks.

Annexation

Last week he issued a strongly-worded statement criticising the new Israeli government’s inclusion of a pledge to annex parts of the West Bank in the new coalition agreement. While welcoming the formation of a government in Israel, he said: “Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN charter, whenever and wherever it occurs, in Europe’s neighbourhood or globally. This is a fundamental principle in the relations of states and the rule of law in the modern world. No one state can set it aside at will.”

Ireland’s decision to quadruple funding for the World Health Organisation – a UN agency – is also likely to be welcomed by some members as a sign of Ireland’s commitment to the UN, despite questions over the organisation’s early handling of the pandemic and its relationship with China.

The Security Council has yet to take a strong stance on the pandemic sweeping the world, amid tensions between two of its permanent members, China and the US. The Trump administration has sought to highlight the virus’s origin in the Chinese city of Wuhan, an emphasis resisted by Beijing.