They won’t get the power of a veto, but Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine, and Uruguay will soon have seats at the horseshoe-shaped table of the United Nations Security Council.
In an uncontested vote at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday, the nations were given five of the council’s non-permanent seats. The newly elected members will replace Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, and Nigeria when they begin their two-year term in January.
The Security Council, which has five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — is responsible for responding to world crises and maintaining peace through cease-fire orders, collective military action, sanctions, and peacekeeping operations. It is the only U.N. body with the authority to take legal action. Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan have advocated time and again for permanent seats, bids that have been repeatedly vetoed by the general assembly.
Here are the council’s newest members:
Egypt: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised to restore Egypt to democracy when, as army chief, he removed then-President Mohamed Morsi from power in 2013. But instead, his authoritarianism has only increased, with massive crackdowns on free press, as well as the imprisonment and executions of many of his political opponents. In the past year, a military offensive against Islamists extremists operating in Egypt led to even more intense surveillance and tighter restrictions on citizens’ movements. Last month, Sisi came under international scrutiny when a group of Mexican tourists was ambushed by military forces who mistook them for terrorists while they were on a picnic, killing 12. After an official investigation into the attack began, Sisi called for a media blackout on the topic.
Japan: This election marks Japan’s 11th temporary term on the council, despite its repeated bids to join as a permanent member. Japanese President Shinzo Abe called for reforms to the council in a speech at the United Nations University in Tokyo in March, when he made a public plea for Japan to be recognized as a major player that should be able to shape the council’s work. “It is no longer time to discuss. Now it is time for us to produce concrete results,” he said at the time. In September, Japan’s parliament voted to give its military a freer hand when it approved legislation that allowed the country’s military forces to fight outside of Japanese territory for the first time since the end of World War II. The decision sparked massive public protests, with opponents arguing that Japan had caved to American pressure to get more involved in existing conflicts abroad.
Senegal: One of the only stable democracies in West Africa, Senegal has been led by President Macky Sall since 2012. When other African leaders — including those in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — flirted with changes to their constitutions this year that would allow them a third term, Sall offered to reduce his own mandate from seven to five years. “We have to understand, in Africa too, that we are able to offer an example, and that power is not an end in itself,” he said at the time. Although Senegal has remained largely free from internal conflict, including the Islamist extremism that has plagued other countries in West and Central Africa, thousands of its citizens have fled the country because of high unemployment and lack of opportunity for economic growth.
Ukraine: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was only elected last year, but he has already had to face challenges ranging from the fallout of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebels in the country’s eastern region, and opposition from his own nationalist parties. A cease-fire brokered by Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia in February remains shaky, at best, and officials insist that until Russia withdraws from the conflict in the east, it will be impossible to break deadlock at home. Meanwhile, the Security Council has also remained deadlocked on the issue of conflict in Ukraine despite more than 30 conversations on the topic since Crimea’s annexation. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin recently said as a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia “is an aggressor in Ukraine, waging a hybrid war against Ukraine.” It is not clear how the neighbors will interact now that Ukraine is slated to take over a seat in the Security Council, but a probe into the crash of MH17 — the Malaysian airlines flight that crashed in eastern Ukraine last year — will likely be at the top of their agenda.
Uruguay: A country of just three million people, Uruguay has managed to stay away from many of the economic and political woes that plague its Latin American neighbors. That’s thanks in large part to its former president, Jose Mujica, who left office in March. A former guerrilla fighter, Mujica was known for driving himself around in a Volkswagen beetle and never dressing up in a suit and tie. His policies were largely based on socialism, and he legalized marijuana in 2005 in attempt to better distinguish between the work of drug traffickers and marijuana farmers. After Mujica stepped down this year, former president Tabaré Vázquez, who served as president from 2005 to 2010, took over once again. He is also a leftist. Uruguay, though tiny, has a reputation at the U.N. for its commitment to peacekeeping, and provides a large number of troops to missions around the world each year.