According to Article 24 of the UN Charter, all members of the organisation confer on the Security Council "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security". In a global forum whose central mission is promoting diplomacy over conflict, the council arguably shoulders its most important responsibility.
On Friday, the UN General Assembly elected the UAE to sit on the Security Council for the term spanning 2022-2023. Speaking before the vote, the country's UN ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh, said the UAE will use its tenure to push for a wide multilateral response to deal with global challenges, as well as diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions in the Middle East.
The UAE joins four other elected countries, Albania, Brazil, Ghana and Gabon. All bar Albania have served the council before, with the UAE taking a seat between 1986-1987. During that time, like today, the world was on the cusp of great geopolitical change. In 1986, the effects of Chernobyl nuclear accident reverberated globally. During that same year, in an interesting parallel with our times, the first cases of mad cow disease were recorded in the UK, provoking global conversation about the threat posed by diseases that originate in animals.
Memories of this eventful period give a new generation of Emirati diplomats lessons from history. They will need it. Today's challenges are arguably greatest the world has faced in decades. Finding global solutions to global problems is not going to be easy.
The post-pandemic rebuild will be a central subject within international forums for the foreseeable future. The Security Council's new members have a chance to set the tone for how bodies like the UN frame the issue. For its part, the UAE has said it will focus on certain key topics, two of which are closely tied to recovery from Covid-19.
A number of countries have already committed to rebuilding in a manner that creates a more environmentally friendly world. US President Joe Biden's "Green New Deal" is set to prioritise eco-friendly economic initiatives. Its central slogan is "Building Back Better", an objective reiterated recently at the G7 Summit in the UK. In an interview with The National, Ms Nusseibeh echoed these calls, joining the host of nations who see the difficult task of rebuilding as an opportunity to create a more sustainable world economy.
Promoting women's rights is another priority of Ms Nusseibeh's team, an issue that has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic. Female participation in the labour market, as well as women taking on a disproportionate burden of care within families, have hindered advances in gender parity. Moreover, the UN estimates that during the past year, almost 250 million women aged between 15-49 experienced some form of violence by an intimate partner. The UAE's role in ending this global tragedy will be driven by a team of Emirati diplomats, of whom more than half are women.
The country can also lend a hand to addressing the dynamic between the council's increasingly gridlocked permanent members. Throughout its history, the Permanent Five (P5) have historically had the biggest sway over decisions, diluting the contribution of elected members. But diplomatic efforts to correct the impasse among the P5 could boost the influence of this year's newly chosen nations.
Whatever the future term holds, an early certainty is that the UAE, Albania, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana are taking a seat at one of the most important diplomatic bodies, at the time of one of the UN's most important junctures. This is a privilege and historic responsibility that will shape Emirati diplomacy for decades to come. In return, the UAE's experience in tackling Covid-19 and developing future-focussed policies, as well as its diplomatic clout in the region and beyond, will bring great value to the council.