WASHINGTON—After a four-year campaign costing millions of dollars, Australia has won a position on the United Nations Security Council. A founding member of the U.N. and one of the architects of the Security Council charter, Australia was elected by the U.N. General Assembly—along with Rwanda, South Korea, Argentina, and Luxembourg—in a secret ballot Thursday.
These nations will take their seats in 2013, replacing five of the nonpermanent members on the 15-member council. The council has the power to impose sanctions and authorize military interventions. It also plays a role in the appointment of the secretary-general, the admission of new members to the U.N., and elects judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Australians had mixed reactions to joining the council, as some have disapproved of the campaign to win the position.
The Australian government spent millions of dollars in extra aid money to gain support for their bid, particularly support from African nations in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly. Australia’s opposition party complained that the price of a successful bid was too high.
Our national broadcaster ABC in September opposition leader Tony Abbott accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of wasting tax payers money and “swanning around in New York talking to Africans.”
In New York for the Security Council elections, Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr told Australian reporters it was a “big, juicy, decisive win,” according to the newspaper The Australian Carr defended the four-year campaign to gain the seat.
“Those people who whinge [complain] and say we shouldn’t give any aid or we shouldn’t have a foreign policy, we shouldn’t be expressing a view, listen,” he said on ABC, “Australia is internationally engaged. We’re a good global citizen and accept that, the world accepts that. The world sees us as a good global citizen.”
Australia was not only instrumental in drafting the Security Council Charter; it also held the first presidency of the council in 1946. It also dispatched the first U.N. peacekeeping forces in 1947, to Indonesia. Australia has sat on the council four times before; the last time, however, was 26 years ago during the Cold War.
As part of its bid, Australia has advocated reform to the Security Council. It calls for greater transparency and accessibility for small- and medium-sized countries in a government briefing on the bid. Australia has also been a vocal opponent of the veto power of the five permanent members.
The Security Council is made up of five permanent members—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China—and 10 nonpermanent members, five of which are replaced alternately every two years.
The five new members will replace Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal, and South Africa in January 2013. The other five nonpermanent members Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan, and Togo will remain until their term expires at the end of 2013.
Australia pulled ahead of Finland and Luxembourg in the votes for the Western European and Others group. It gained 140 out of 193 votes, well over the required two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. In a round of voting later in the day, Luxembourg was voted in to fill the second seat available for the Western European and Others group.
In a close race, South Korea beat Bhutan and Cambodia for the one Asia-Pacific seat. Argentina, unopposed in its region, took the Latin American and Caribbean states’ seat with 182 votes.
Rwanda, also unopposed, was selected to represent the Africa seat despite concerns raised this week by the Security Council expert panel. A report from the expert panel claims that Rwandan Defense Minister Gen. James Kabarebe, is commanding a rebellion in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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