Implications of Somalia’s election to the UN Security Council

Implications of Somalia’s election to the UN Security Council

Implications of Somalia’s election to the UN Security Council
Somalia FM Ahmed Ahmed Moallim Fiqi. (X/@MOFASomalia)
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The election of Somalia to a two-year seat on the UN Security Council earlier this month was a significant step for a country that has long been torn by civil war, secession, piracy and terrorism. The last time it served on the council was more than 50 years ago, in 1971-72. This membership could provide Somalia with a rare opportunity to galvanize the global community to deal with the country’s long-standing challenges.

Countries go to great lengths to get one of the 10 rotating nonpermanent seats on the UNSC. To win a seat, a country needs to secure the support of at least two-thirds of the General Assembly delegations that are voting. During the June 6 elections, Somalia won unopposed, overwhelmingly earning 179 votes, almost 93 percent of the UN membership. It will serve for two years starting January 2025.

The election could not have been timelier for Somalia and the region at large. Somalis are trying hard to preserve their country’s unity and stability as they face a breakaway province in the north, terrorism in the south and long-standing frictions with Ethiopia to its west. These challenges come on top of the country’s multiple civil conflicts, droughts and the destruction of its economic base.

As one of the larger countries in the Horn of Africa, which geographers also call the Somali Peninsula, the future of this region will be affected by how Somalia deals with these challenges. Freedom of navigation in that area, especially security of the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, will also be influenced by what takes place in Somalia, as Houthi attacks on passing ships continue to wreak havoc on regional economies and the global economy. A recent resurgence of piracy off the Somali coast, which the international community had succeeded in defeating a decade ago, raises additional concerns about freedom of navigation in that area.

If Somalia winning a nonpermanent seat on the UNSC helps train the world’s spotlight on its predicaments, it could turn out to be a giant step for this troubled land. The council is the highest authority at the UN, as it determines how the organization responds to conflicts around the world. Its membership is therefore coveted by most nations. While Somalia, like the other 10 nonpermanent members, will not have a veto like the five permanent members, its vote will be sought after and, with it, the country’s influence and prestige at the world body will rise.

Being a member of the UN’s highest body is a significant turnaround for Somalia’s international image. It reflects the new goodwill the international community demonstrates toward the country. For decades, Somalia was on the receiving end of UN sanctions and embargoes. Last December, there was a change when it was finally allowed to purchase its own weapons to upgrade its military capabilities. Its international debts were also forgiven around the same time and it was admitted into the East African Community, a bloc of eight member states.

Following the vote, Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Fiqi said his country would now take up “its position on the global stage” and “stand ready to play a vital role in promoting peace and security in the world.”

James Swan, the UN secretary-general’s acting special representative for Somalia, said the country’s experiences placed it in a unique position to contribute to the UNSC’s deliberations on international peace and security. “Somalia has come a long way over the past three decades on its path to peace, prosperity and security,” Swan said.

However, as a nonpermanent UNSC member, Somalia will be limited by the five permanent members’ veto power and near-monopoly over crucial decisions of global peace and security. But in a sharply polarized setting, as we have at the council these days, the permanent members will need to woo the nonpermanent members to secure a majority for the decisions they support.

In addition, Somalia is likely to bolster its international presence and influence by being able to present African, Arab and Muslim views at the council, as it is a member of the African Union, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Gaza war, the Palestine cause and the conflicts in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Horn of Africa, including in Somalia itself, are expected to be on the top of its agenda.

Somalia’s concerns have a bearing on regional and international peace, including its ongoing efforts to rebuild state institutions, end corruption and fight Al-Shabab terrorists, who still control large parts of the country.

Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, still represents a formidable security challenge, operating across borders in the Horn and beyond. In recent months, the Mogadishu government has intensified its fight against the group as foreign troops withdraw, leaving the responsibility to the Somali army.

If this helps train the world’s spotlight on Somalia’s predicaments, it could turn out to be a giant step.

Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

Somalia’s effort to reassert control of its territorial waters and reclaim its economic zone is key to its development. With the longest coastline in continental Africa and vast marine resources, Somalia’s waters are especially vulnerable to illegal and unregulated fishing and associated crimes. UN reports suggest that about $300 million is lost annually due to unlawful fishing. Hundreds of foreign vessels, largely from Iran but also from South and Southeast Asian countries, are involved in these activities, including the use of trawling and dynamite fishing, which damage local marine resources, affect the livelihoods of local fishermen and divert funds away from Somalia’s economic development.

In response, the Somali government has mobilized to strengthen its fisheries management, with the help of UN agencies and other international partners. The UNSC has also pushed specialized UN agencies to provide help for Somalia in this regard, including through training, over the past few years.

More needs to be done to help the country. Getting a nonpermanent seat on the UNSC could provide the nudge Somalia needs to get the international community to provide it with the assistance required to fight the enormous security, political and economic challenges with which it is grappling — challenges that do not affect Somalia solely, but are important to regional and global peace and security.

  • Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the Gulf Cooperation Council assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiation. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily represent the GCC. X: @abuhamad1
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