The UAE, Albania, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana on Saturday commenced their two-year terms on the UN Security Council, the world’s top body for addressing threats to international peace and security.
The newcomers were elected unopposed by UN members in June and will each serve until the end of 2023, addressing issues such as terrorism, child soldier recruitment and conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and beyond.
The UAE has served on the council once previously, from 1986-1987. Brazil has served 10 times, and Gabon and Ghana three times each. Albania is serving on the council for the first time.
The UAE mission this week posted on social media that “climate change and global health” were priorities for its stint in the 15-nation chamber.
Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh has represented the UAE at the UN since 2013. She was on Tuesday elevated to the rank of minister.
She will join envoys from the council's other 14 members on Tuesday to agree on the meeting schedule for January. Later, Ms Nusseibeh will speak at a flag-raising ceremony for council newcomers.
Ms Nusseibeh has stressed the importance of tackling terrorism and improving the lives of women in the world’s war zones.
She says the council should recognise climate change as a threat to global peace and security, amid evidence that droughts and other harsh weather lead to extremism and conflict.
“You cannot look at what is happening around the world, whether it's food insecurity, water scarcity or countries literally fearing their existence might end because of the impacts of climate and not have a conversation about it at the top table of peace and security,” she told The National in June.
She will be flanked by two deputies — Mohamed Abushahab and Amiera Al Hefeiti — and operate from the UAE's new diplomatic mission on East 46th Street.
The 10-storey, energy-saving building is less than a block from UN headquarters in midtown Manhattan.
The UAE’s route back to the council was years in the making. Its candidacy was endorsed by the Arab League in 2012 and by a group of Asia-Pacific nations in 2020.
It will take a seat typically reserved for Arab nations, replacing Tunisia.
Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, said the Arab council member is in part supposed to channel views from across the region.
This can be a “tough balancing act if the Arab bloc is split over a crisis”, he added.
The Security Council has 10 seats for temporary members but it is dominated by its five permanent members — Russia, China, the US, Britain and France — which hold the power of veto.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy this week welcomed incoming members, saying the council has a “big responsibility on [its] shoulders” and urging the newcomers to help “find compromises” to global problems.
The council meets regularly on threats to international peace and security and makes the ultimate decisions on resolutions to impose sanctions, authorise the use of military force and launch peacekeeping missions.
To be adopted, council resolutions need at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes from permanent members.
Members take turns holding the council’s rotating presidency each month, during which they manage the agenda, preside over meetings and decide on topics for debate. The UAE will assume that role in March.
In his New Year message, UN Sectary General Antonio Guterres said humanity was starting 2022 amid myriad crises, including the lack of Covid-19 vaccines in poor countries and weak progress on tackling climate change.
UN members must step up to the plate, he said.
“These are not just policy tests. These are moral and real-life tests,” Mr Guterres said.
“And they are tests that humanity can pass, if we commit to making 2022 a year of recovery for everyone.”