Egypt submits candidacy for 2016-2017 non-permanent UN Security Council seat

According to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt will seek one of the non-permanent seats allocated to the Africa Group in the United Nations Security Council. The election, which will be held at the UN General Assembly on October 16, 2014, will choose one member state from the African region for a two-year term, which is currently held by Rwanda.

The cover page of Egypt's bid for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat features a polished image of some of Egypt's iconic landmarks (source: mfa.gov.eg)
The cover page of Egypt’s bid for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat features a polished image of some of Egypt’s iconic landmarks (source: mfa.gov.eg)

Egypt has previously held a non-permanent seat on four occasions: 1949-1950, 1961-1962, 1984-1985, and 1996-1997.

The bid emphasizes Egypt’s role as a key player in the Middle East and African region, and espouses Egypt’s history in promoting peace, security and development. The Egyptian bid highlights Egypt’s role in UN peacekeeping initiatives around the world, providing 2,659 military and police personnel in nine UN peacekeeping missions.

Will the United States say “no”? Will Russia say “yes”?

Egypt’s relationship with the United States has been strained, to say the least. Since the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 by Gen. Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the United States has been vocal in its concern about democracy and human rights in Egypt, much to the dismay of Egyptians who see this as an unwarranted interference in Egyptian politics.

The bid for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat would certainly bolster an already sterling reputation among Egyptians for Abdel Fattah el Sisi, and would serve to strengthen his claim as the only leader worthy and capable of leading Egypt in this post-Morsi era. It is the latest addition to the list of accomplishments El Sisi is out to get to silence any critics about his credentials as a leader.

Meanwhile, el Sisi’s budding relationship with Putin in Russia may pay dividends here, as Russia may push its allies to support Egypt in its bid. Putin may want to see Egypt join the UN Security Council for greater support on Russia’s involvement in Syria and the Ukraine, which have been major points of criticisms directed at Putin in recent months. Egypt may seek to swing that support in its favour as it enters the final weeks before the UN General Assembly election.

What would a successful bid mean to the Arab Spring?

This would not be the first time that an Arab state has held a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council since 2011, when the Arab Spring was in full swing (Morocco and Lebanon held seats since 2011). However, it would be the first time that an Arab state highly affected by the Arab Spring (those states being Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia) would hold a seat on the UN Security Council.

It would bring a different dynamic to the discussions at the UN Security Council, which is considered to be the most powerful organ of the United Nations. The Council is made up of five permanent members, each of whom have a veto power on any resolution passed by the council (USA, Russia, China, France and the UK). The remaining 10 members are elected on a two-year term, divided to different regions of the world for greater inclusivity.

Egypt has been vocal in its criticism of the UN Security Council, stating that its conduct violates its intended jurisdiction as outlined in the UN Charter. Egypt rejected a UN Security Council convention called for by France, the UK and Australia in August 2013 regarding Egypt’s dispersal of the Rabaa Square Protests, saying it was a breach of the council’s jurisdiction. Egypt at the same time applauded Saudi Arabia’s rejection of a UN Security Council seat in October 2013, stating that the rejection is “a clear and strong message of the Arab world’s frustration” regarding the lack of implementation of UN resolutions in the Middle East, a subtle hint at Israel’s continuing UN resolution violations in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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