Ethiopia’s election to the United Nations Security Council

Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has entrusted questions of international peace and security maintenance duties to the Security Council. The Security Council is also mandated to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new members to the United Nations. With the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice. The Security Council is, in fact, the major instrument to ensure peace and stability in any part of the world, and wherever conflicts and instability flare up, it is the pertinent organ of the United Nations. Being a member of the Council is, therefore, a highly significant achievement. While five of the Council's 15 seats are held by the permanent members of the Council (China, France. Russia, the UK and the US), the remaining ten seats are reserved for countries serving two-year terms. The competition for these rotating seats can be intense. The desire to participate more meaningfully in world affairs is one reason to motivate countries to fight for a spot on the Security Council. Another is that that rotating members can enhance their diplomatic credentials by membership.

The most recent election of five non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council was held on June 28, 2016 at the 106th plenary meeting of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. On this occasion, the General Assembly elected Ethiopia to serve as a non-permanent member on the Security Council for a two-year term commencing on January 2017. Ethiopia was elected in the first round of voting with the support of 185 member countries of the 190-member states, far in excess of the required two-thirds of the members. In addition to Ethiopia's election, Bolivia and Sweden obtained 183 and 134 votes respectively, while Netherlands and Italy garnered 125 and 113 respectively in a second round vote for a shared seat, and Kazakhstan took the Asia-Pacific seat with 138 votes in the second round.

Ethiopian's Foreign Minister, Dr Tedros Adhanom, described the victory as a tribute to Ethiopia's global standing and extended his deepest gratitude to all United Nation member countries. He said, "We thank all those countries that supported us. We had strong friends and advocates in every region in the world—in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, the Pacific and Asia and Eastern and Western Europe." Throughout this campaign Ethiopia has gained a new level of profile on the international stage and strengthened the countries reputation as active global citizens. Ethiopia's membership to the United Nations Security Council is a significant achievement and provides the opportunity for Ethiopia to continue to demonstrate its unreserved efforts in support of international peace and security, along with discharging the main duties and responsibilities of the membership of the United Nations Security Council. Ethiopia will use this opportunity to increase its engagement in peacekeeping operations and contribute further to the world peace and tranquility.

The United Nations Security Council is also the body that can decide on enforcement measures, economic sanctions (such as trade embargoes) or collective military action in order to ensure peaceful solutions to conflict. It is, in this sense, the most powerful organ of the United Nations. Countries like Ethiopia that have contributed significantly to United Nations operations in the past will always welcome the opportunity to more effectively influence decisions. On another level, Ethiopia also welcomes the opportunity to advance cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub regional organizations, including the African Union or IGAD,  on pressing issues such as terrorism and climate change. Dealing with terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab requires extensive international cooperation, especially in intelligence-sharing and the prevention of terrorist fund raising activities. Ethiopia, as a member of the United Nation Security Council as a non-permanent member, allows the country, and the continent it represents, to voice its own concerns and those of Africa in the United Nations and its institutions. This is of particular importance as Africa deserves, and needs, to be heard more prominently. Ethiopia's membership of the Security Council, in fact, will provide an opportunity for the country to serve all members of the United Nations in discharging the charter–mandated responsibilities bestowed upon it in a true spirit of partnership and transparency. 

Ethiopia's election allows it to underline its renewed commitment to middle-level diplomacy and support its ambition to actively develop its regional and global policy agenda. It offers the opportunity to have a voice in shaping global agendas and respond to global issues, to engage and negotiate with the major international powers on a regular basis, and raise its own international profile and standing. This is particularly important for developing countries in such areas as climate change and green economic development, areas in which Ethiopia is deeply concerned and involved both on its own behalf and on behalf of Africa. It similarly regards its involvement in peace keeping and peace-building operations as a major contribution to the promotion of regional, and continental, peace and security, one of the most important elements of its foreign policy aims. It has consistently demonstrated the importance of regional peace and security as a necessity for regional development over the last two decades and this is one of the major pillars of its foreign policy. Ethiopia has also made it clear there are a number of areas in which reform is required in the United Nations, in order to deliver effective UN activity in world security, climate change and the global economic problems. The voice of Africa deserves to be heard fully in the UN and its institutions. Membership of the Security Council offers the opportunity to encourage the establishment of a permanent seat for Africa in the Security Council, and allow for Africa to address the challenges more effectively in the future. This is something Ethiopia will work to provide.