Chris Michaelsen comments on contemporary role of the UN Security Council

After handing out chocolate Koalas to all delegates in the UN General Assembly in a desperate last-minute effort to shore up support, Australia was elected on 18th October 2012 to serve a 2-year term on the UN Security Council. Beating Finland, Australia, together with Luxembourg, secured the two non-permanent seats of the Western European and Others Group, one of the five regional voting blocs in the United Nations. Australia's campaign, which, for the first time in history, did not enjoy bipartisan domestic support, was initiated by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008, several years after Finland and Luxembourg had embarked on their campaigns. It was for this reason that Australia was considered to face an uphill battle in securing the necessary 129 votes in the General Assembly. Nonetheless, in the end, Australia's candidacy attracted 140 votes, a considerable success.

A major challenge for the Australian government will now be to turn the campaign efforts into effective preparation for taking over the non-permanent seat on the Security Council on 1 January 2013. Australia joins the Council at a difficult time where the political climate between some of the Permanent Five (US, Russia, China, France, UK) has hit rock bottom as a result of the controversial military intervention in Libya in 2011 as well as due to continuing disagreements on how to respond to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Writing for the most recent policy commentary of the Australian Institute of International Affairs published at the eve of the election in the General Assembly, Chris Michaelsen explains the contemporary role of the Security Council and addresses some of the challenges it currently faces.