Time for the UN Security Council to adapt to the 21st Century

Belgium is on track to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council when voting takes place later today, following a campaign dedicated to building consensus and fostering peace.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Didier Reynders, speaking at a dinner organised by the Brussels Press Club earlier this month, outlined Belgium’s aspirations towards membership of the Security Council.

During its bid for a non-permanent seat on the UNSC Belgium has endorsed the need for a holistic approach towards ensuring both democratic stability and sustainable economic development.  

This is very much in line with the views of the outgoing Kazakh Presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Speaking at the end of his country’s month-long Presidency of the Council, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, said that the UNSC and the UN as a whole, need to adapt in order to meet the threats and challenges of the 21st century.

President Nazarbayev
President Nursultan Nazarbayev

Kazakhstan’s programme for their presidency was based largely on the conceptual approaches laid out by President Nazarbayev in March 2016 in the manifesto “The World, XX1 Century”, which focussed on the  need for security in the nuclear, food, energy and water sectors, all considered essential in order to ensure stability and peace, and to provide for continued and sustainable economic and social development, prioritising:

  • achieving a world free of nuclear weapons;
  • eliminating the threat of a global war and settling local conflicts;
  • promoting the interests of Central Asia while strengthening regional security and cooperation;
  • countering terrorism;
  • peace and security in Africa;
  • ensuring an inextricable link between security and sustainable development

At the end of the presidency, a high-level conference, “The Chairmanship Of The Republic Of Kazakhstan In The UN Security Council: New Opportunities In Global Scale”, was held in Astana under the auspices of the Association of Political Studies in Astana to consider its effectiveness. Delegates agreed unanimously on the need to ensure that these issues remain as priorities beyond the Kazakh presidency.

Brussels-based publisher Gary Cartwright, attending the Astana conference, said “the input of non-permanent members of the UNSC is essential for a number of reasons: they prevent stagnation, ensure transparency, and it gives a voice to countries that in 1948 were marginalised, or in some cases did not even exist, and which have now emerged as major world players”.

Belgium, a founder member of the UN and an active participant in the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC), also shares the Kazakh presidency’s views on non-proliferation: the Central Asian Republic abandoned its nuclear arsenal – inherited from the Soviet Union – almost immediately after declaring independence in 1991. 

Closing Kazakhstan’s Presidency of the Security Council, President Nazarbayev emphasised particularly the need for a solution to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, stating that a non-military solution was the only way forward. Economic solutions, he believes, are needed in order to tackle the problem of the drugs trade that not only causes misery for so many millions of people, but which also fuels terrorism by providing funds. Lack of opportunity for meaningful participation in the democratic process for so many citizens also hinders development, and has contributed to the internal divisions in Afghan society that fan the flames of conflict.

As a new member of the Security Council, Belgium will take on the challenge of how to help the UN and the Security Council to evolve to meet contemporary needs in the face of frequent vetoes and blocks to consensus.