What are Egypt’s chances of gaining UNSC non-permanent seat?

Marwa Al-A'sar
14 Min Read
Egypt to applied for North Africa candidacy on UN Security Council. (AFP/File Emmanuel Dunand)
Egypt has been garnering the support of United Nations member states to approve its candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). (AFP/File  Emmanuel Dunand)
Egypt has been garnering the support of United Nations member states to approve its candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC).
(AFP/File Emmanuel Dunand)

Egypt has been garnering the support of United Nations member states to approve its candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). Acquiring that seat will add to Egypt’s status and impact regionally. But what are Egypt’s chances of winning membership? And why is Egypt seeking this position at this point in time?

A country’s ability to preserve international peace and security as well as its geographic location are among the conditions for attaining membership in the UNSC.

Egypt held a non-permanent seat at the council four times since it was established in 1945. The country’s last membership in the Security Council was in 1997.

“We have made the decision long ago that it is our turn to acquire a membership in the UNSC…Egypt is seeking to represent North Africa,” said Ambassador Badr Abdelatty, spokesman of the foreign ministry.

Abdelatty believes it’s the perfect time for Egypt to attain UNSC membership.

“Egypt has restored its regional role… [it has an impact on several countries] besides taking part in peacekeeping operations, factors that will be [considered] by the Security Council,” Abdelatty said.

According to Abdelatty, after Egypt had an influential role in resolving the recent Gaza-Israel conflict, “the world realised that Egypt is the only country capable of preserving peace in the region.”

In August, Egypt negotiated an open-ended ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas faction that ended a seven-week war against the Gaza Strip.

However, Nabil Abdel-Fattah, senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, begs to differ.

“Seeking out a non-permanent seat in the UNSC is an attempt to improve Egypt’s image after the recent political disturbance, the distortion of Egypt by the western media…and the fierce criticism by the US, Europe, and other countries in the region of the political changes in Egypt following 30 June  [2013],” Abdel-Fattah said.

“This pursuit is not new as, since the era of [ousted president Hosni] Mubarak, Egypt has been trying to acquire a UNSC seat,” he added.

Abdel-Fattah added that Egypt is currently facing difficulties and serious consequences following the 30 June 2013 nationwide protests and the army’s removal of president Mohamed Morsi.

Last week, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi expressed in his speech before the UN General Assembly Egypt’s aspiration to win a seat within the UNSC.

Al-Sisi said that Egypt’s wish is part of a desire to protect the interests of developing countries, particularly in Africa. He invited member states to support Egypt’s candidacy.

“Al-Sisi seized the opportunity of being at the UN and spoke in his speech about the new, strong Egypt, counter-terrorism, and democracy [in order to promote] Egypt’s chances to get elected,” said Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University.

“I believe there is a great opportunity for Egypt to win a UNSC seat, especially if stability and security are further achieved in the country,” he added.

Egypt seeks to attain membership in the round to start in January 2016.

The council members are elected by the UN 193-member general assembly. The elections are due in October 2015.

“Egypt is member in the Afro-Asian group which should agree on its nomination; then the General Assembly selects the winning countries,” added Nafaa. “If the group disapproves the candidacy of a certain country, the General Assembly is the entity that resolves this disagreement.”

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has been lobbying the support of his counterparts for Egypt’s nomination. On Sunday, the foreign ministry said in a statement on its official website that Shoukry handed his counterparts during the UN meeting a booklet on Egypt’s regional and international role and the activities and events it takes part in as to preserving world peace and security.

As a founding member of the UN, Egypt has been involved in efforts by the UN and regional organisations to promote peace in conflict areas, including Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

Egypt has been supporting the UN peacekeeping operations since the establishment of the first mission in 1948. Egypt currently provides 2,659 military and police personnel who serve under the UN in nine peace missions. Egypt has been involved in most UN activities in the political, economic and social spheres as well as in UN peacekeeping operations in several countries, including Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Abdelatty is optimistic about the outcome, believing that Egypt will not face the rejection of any country.

“In all the meetings the foreign minister held, the countries showed support for Egypt…they see Egypt as the main [catalyst] of stability in the region…where terrorism and chaos spread,” he added.

Yet Abdel-Fattah has another opinion.

“I think that there will be struggles over the UNSC seat by other influential countries in Africa such as South Africa, Nigeria, and Ethiopia,” he said. “These countries may even garner support for other countries to divert the attention from Egypt.” Abdel-Fattah said that other strong candidates include Nigeria and Morocco.

Nevertheless, Abdel-Fattah said there might be a glimmer of hope if “the political system in Egypt is reshaped.”

“It will be like a state of political nostalgia…going back to the role Egypt used to play [in the past],” he said.

It is believed that the policy influence is the most important reason for a state to seek a UNSC membership, even though there are some exceptions where a country competes for a seat in order to promote a particular cause.

But what if Egypt’s candidacy is rejected?

“It will add to the accumulation of frustration towards the political performance of Egypt over the past few years,” Abdel-Fattah said, adding that the Egypt’s position will likely be supported by Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf, excluding Qatar.

UNSC takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It demands the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends means of adjustment or terms of settlement.

In some cases, the council may resort to imposing sanctions or even authorise the use of force to sustain or restore international peace and security.

UNSC also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the secretary general and the admission of new members to the United Nations.

Moreover, together with the General Assembly, UNSC elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.

In October 2013, Saudi Arabia rejected a non-permanent seat in the Security Council even though it was elected to win it.

The kingdom justified its decision by saying that the previous pursuits that to end wars and disputes around the world did not result in the desired outcome, including the Palestinian cause.

UNSC non-permanent (elected) members from 1946 – 2016:

Terms in UNSC Member States
 1946- 1947


Australia, Brazil, Egypt (1946 only), Mexico(1946 only), Netherlands(1946 only) and Poland


 1947- 1948


Belgium, Colombia and Syria
 1948- 1949


Argentina, Canada and The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
 1949- 1950


Cuba, Egypt and Norway
 1950- 1951


Ecuador, India and Yugoslavia
 1951- 1952


Brazil, Netherlands and Turkey
 1952- 1953


Chile, Greece and Pakistan
 1953- 1954


Colombia, Denmark and Lebanon
 1954- 1955


Brazil, New Zealand and Turkey
 1955- 1956


Belgium, Iran and Peru
 1956- 1957


Australia, Cuba, Iraq, Yugoslavia (1956 only – resigned)
 1957- 1958


Colombia, Philippines (1957 only) and Sweden
 1958- 1959


Canada, Japan and Panama
 1959- 1960 Argentina, Italy and Tunisia
 1960- 1961


Ecuador, Poland (1960 only – resigned) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
 1961- 1962


Turkey (1961 only)
 1961- 1962


Chile, United Arab Republic (Egypt), Liberia (1961 only – resigned) and Turkey (1961 only)
 1962- 1963


Ghana, Ireland (1962 only), Venezuela and Romania (1962 only – resigned)
 1963- 1964


Brazil, Morocco, Norway and Philippines (1963 only)
 1964- 1965 Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire and Czechoslovakia (1964 only – resigned)
 1965- 1966


Jordan, Malaysia*, Netherlands and Uruguay
 1966- 1967


Argentina, Bulgaria, Japan, Mali, New Zealand (1966 only), Nigeria and Uganda (1966 only)
 1967- 1968 Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia and India
 1968- 1969


Algeria, Hungary, Pakistan, Paraguay and Senegal
 1969- 1970


Colombia, Finland, Nepal, Spain and Zambia
 1970- 1971


Burundi, Nicaragua, Poland, Sierra Leone and Syria
 1971- 1972


Argentina, Belgium, Italy, Japan and Somalia
 1972- 1973


Guinea, India, Panama, Sudan and Yugoslavia
 1973- 1974


Australia, Austria, Indonesia, Kenya and Peru
 1974- 1975


Belarus, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Iraq and Mauritania
 1975- 1976


Guyana, Italy, Japan, Sweden and Tanzania
 1976- 1977


Benin, Libya, Pakistan, Panama and Romania
 1977- 1978


Canada, Germany, India, Mauritius and Venezuela
 1978- 1979


Bolivia, Gabon, Kuwait, Nigeria and Czechoslovakia
 1979- 1980


Bangladesh, Jamaica, Norway, Portugal and Zambia
 1980- 1981


German Democratic Republic, Mexico, Niger, Philippines and Tunisia
 1981- 1982 Ireland, Japan, Panama, Spain and Uganda
 1982- 1983 Congo, Guyana, Jordan, Poland and Togo
 1983- 1984


Malta, Netherlands, Nicaragua and Pakistan
 1984- 1985


Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Peru and Ukraine
 1985 -1986


Australia, Denmark, Madagascar, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago
 1986- 1987


Bulgaria, Congo, Ghana, UAE and Venezuela
 1987- 1988


Argentina, Germany, Italy, Japan and Zambia
 1988- 1989


Algeria, Brazil, Nepal, Senegal and Yugoslavia
 1989- 1990


Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, Finland and Malaysia
 1990- 1991


Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Romania, Yemen and Zaire
 1991- 1992


Austria, Belgium, Ecuador, India and Zimbabwe
 1992- 1993


Cape Verde, Hungary, Japan, Morocco and Venezuela
 1993- 1994


Brazil, Djibouti, New Zealand, Pakistan and Spain
 1994- 1995


Argentina, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Oman and Rwanda
 1995- 1996


Botswana, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia and Italy
 1996- 1997


Chile, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Poland and Korean Republic
 1997- 1998


Costa Rica, Japan, Kenya, Portugal and Sweden
 1998- 1999


Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia and Slovenia
 1999- 2000


Argentina, Canada, Malaysia, Namibia and Netherlands
 2000- 2001


Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine


Colombia, Ireland, Mauritius, Norway and Singapore


Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Syria


Angola, Chile, Germany, Pakistan and Spain


Algeria, Benin, Brazil, Philippines and Romania


Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Japan and United Republic of Tanzania


Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia
2007-2008 Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, South Africa and Panama


Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam


Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda


Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria


Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa


Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo
2014-2015 Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea and Rwanda
2014-2016 Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria



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