The UN Security Council: Key Challenges and Strategic Opportunities for Non-permanent Members

On May 27, the United Nations University (UNU) brought together representatives of Algeria, Denmark, Japan and Slovenia in Tokyo to share United Nations Security Council (UNSC) experiences and best practices for enabling successful cooperation in the UNSC, the premier global body for maintaining international peace and security.

What followed was a dialogue on the decision-making process including a candid exchange on priorities that helped illuminate how to achieve lasting solutions to global challenges.

The UNSC has five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms, including currently Algeria, Japan and Slovenia. Denmark is running for a seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2025-2026. If elected to the Council, Denmark says it will work constructively with fellow Member States to ensure that the Security Council delivers on the aspirations of the UN Charter and fulfills its vital mandate.

The opening speech was delivered by Dr. Sawako Shirahase, senior vice-rector of UNU. She said that the world needs a UNSC that is willing and able to address the multiple crises and conflicts that threaten our collective security. Respect for international law is indispensable to the cause of peace. It is the foundation for a world in which might does not make right.

UN Security Council

Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, Danish Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, called the event a very timely discussion as his nation was hopeful to be elected to the UNSC on June 6. He said there are many flaws in the UNSC and too many wars and conflicts around the world today. “Urgent and fundamental reform of the UN is needed, but I do not see a major breakthrough coming soon.”

He said Denmark would stand up for international law and humanitarian access, and strive for a  more effective and accountable UNSC, but does not aspire to tell other nations what to do. “We would pursue cross-border partnerships to fight against climate change and achieve peace and security. “I will make no heroic assumptions for after 2025/26, but we would try to address issues. Unfortunately, I don’t think the world will be much more harmonious in 2026 than it is today.” 

Algerian Ambassador Farid Boulahbel then slammed the West for “double standards” in international law and demanded full UN membership for Palestine, but argued that “some European nations have started to recognise Palestine.” The world should work together for cooperation, he said, and complained that the disputed “Western Sahara issue is not blocked, but is not going forward.”

He claimed “(Former UK and US leaders) Tony Blair and George Bush are war criminals because of what they did in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Slovenian Ambassador Jurij Rifelj said his government stands for open, transparent  and principled agreement on international law. “But the UN is highly polarised over Russian aggression in Ukraine and the October 7 events.” New UNSC members bring fresh ideas, he said, but they serve for only two years. “Real power is in the hands of the permanent members.”

Shigemi Ando is director of the United Nations Policy Division in the Foreign Policy Bureau at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He defended the UN by saying: “Despite major issues, the world would be much worse off without the UN.” He complained that: “It is difficult to implement sanctions against North Korea with Russia opposing them.” He added that best efforts are being made for “conflict resolution and enforcing international laws without double standards that protect all countries.”

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