Antonio Guterres Recommended as Next UN Secretary-General

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Oct. 6, 2016 – The Security Council on Thursday made a recommendation to the General Assembly to appoint Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres as the next and ninth UN secretary-general.

The move came after Wednesday’s sixth straw ballot which saw Guterres, 67, emerge as the clear winner with no opposition among the 15 Council members. He will take office on January 1 after a formal vote by the General Assembly.

Guterres will be the first former prime minister to take the helm at the United Nations having headed Portugal’s government from 1995-2002 as leader of the Socialist party. From 2005-2015 he was head of the UN refugee agency, winning wide praise for his stewardship during the agency’s biggest refugee crisis.

Guterres will also be the first UN secretary-general from a NATO-member country. Portugal was a founding member of the alliance.

Although he led all straw ballots, his victory will be regarded by many as a surprise given the widely held view that it was time for a woman to lead the organization after eight successive male secretaries-general. It was also expected that the next UN chief should hail from Eastern Europe, the only region never to have held the post.

Guterres qualified as an electrical engineer in 1971 but soon became involved in politics and was involved in Catholic youth movements. A committed Catholic to this day, he recently cited the Biblical “parable of the talents” [Matthew:25] as the reason why he entered the race for the UN’s top job. He cited the same parable in a 2005 interview with the Migration Policy Institute.

During interviews with the General Assembly in April, Guterres mooted introducing a Global Tax to fund humanitarian efforts, telling delegates that the UN and international financial organizations need to find ways for humanitarian efforts to be “funded by global funding sources,” such as fees on plane tickets and financial transactions.

In his lengthy vision statement submitted to the UN General Assembly back in April, Guterres called for a surge in diplomacy as a preventive tool, greater accountability in the UN system, and gender parity in senior posts.

While there is little doubt that he has the experience and leadership qualities needed to guide the UN as it confronts multiple crises, some views he held as prime minister will cause unease at Turtle Bay and beyond.

In a 1995 interview with Portuguese television, he said that “homosexuality is not an aspect I particularly like.” He was not questioned about his current views on sexual orientation during the General Assembly hearings and his views may have evolved in the twenty years since. Ban Ki-moon has been widely hailed for consistently speaking out against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Guterres too was opposed to legalizing abortion during his term as prime minister, campaigning actively in a referendum that successfully overturned a parliamentary vote that legalized the procedure. He was also reportedly in favor of a law that sent women who had an abortion to prison.

Speaking at a press conference in Lisbon on Thursday, Guterres expressed his ‘gratitude and humility.’

“To describe what I’m feeling at this moment, I just need two words: humility and gratitude,” he said. “Gratitude firstly towards the members of the Security Council for the confidence in me, but also gratitude towards the General Assembly of the United Nations and all its member states for having decided in an exemplary process of transparency and openness.”

- Denis Fitzgeald
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

Catching Up With Others, U.S. and UN Look Set to Elect Female Leaders

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June 14, 2016 – Later this year, it looks likely that both the United Nations and the United States will respectively elect female leaders. What is remarkable in both these instances is not that women will head both the world body and the world’s oldest democracy but that it will have taken both so long to elect a female leader.

Since its inception in 1945 eight men have held the post of secretary-general, despite UN agencies being at the forefront of advocating for gender equality. But five of the nine current candidates for the post are women and it appears that, more out of a sense of embarrassment than real commitment to gender equality, that the P5 members of the Security Council will nominate one of the five women for the post.

In the case of the United States, all 44 presidents have been men while women have never represented more than 20 percent of elected members of congress, far less for women of color. Only 35 women have ever served in the US Senate.

If elected, Hillary Clinton will be one of some twenty women who are currently either president or prime minster of a UN member state. In total, almost 70 women have served as president or prime minister. Presidents are typically elected directly while prime ministers take office as head of a party that has won the most seats in an election.

Below is a list of current female presidents or prime minsters of UN member states followed by lists of past female presidents and prime ministers, followed by the year first elected. A number in brackets indicates the number of women to hold the post of president or prime minister for a particular country.

Current Female Leaders:

Germany – Chancellor Angela Merkel 
Liberia – President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson 
Bangladesh – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Lithuania – President Dalia Grybauskaite
South Korea – President Park Geun-hye
Brazil – President Dilma Rouseff
Slovenia – Prime Minister Alenka Brautsek
Norway – Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Chile – President Michelle Bachelet
Malta – President Marie-Louise Coleiro
Poland – Prime Minister Beata Szydło
Croatia – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Namibia – Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila
Mauritius - President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
Nepal – President Bidhya Devi Bhandari
Marshall Islands – President
 Hilda Heine

Past Female Presidents:

Argentina 1974 (2)
Iceland 1980
Malta 1982
Philippines 1986 (2)
Nicaragua 1990
Ireland 1990 (2, only country where a woman has succeeded another as president)
Sri Lanka 1994
Guyana 1997
Switzerland 1999 (6 [one year terms])
Latvia 1999
Panama 1999
Finland 2000
Indonesia 2001
Serbia 2002
Liberia 2006
Chile 2006 (2)
Kyrgyzstan 2010
Costa Rica 2010
Malawi 2014
Central African Republic 2014 (interim)
Senegal 2014

Prime Ministers

Sri Lanka 1960 (3)
India 1966
Israel 1969
CAR 1975
UK 1979
Dominica 1980
Norway 1981 (3)
Yugoslavia 1982
Pakistan 1988
Bangladesh 1991
Poland 1992
Turkey 1992
New Zealand 1997
Senegal 2001
Sao Tome 2002
Mozambique 2004
Ukraine 2005
Jamaica 2006 (2)
South Korea 2006
Haiti 2008 (2)
Iceland 2009
Croatia 2009
Australia 2010
Finland 2010
Slovakia 2010
Thailand 2011
Slovenia 2011

Trinidad 2011
Denmark 2011
Jamaica  2006 (2)
Latvia 2014

Italy, Sweden and Netherlands Vie for Two Available Security Council Seats

UN-Sicherheitsrat_-_UN_Security_Council_-_New_York_City_-_2014_01_06 May 23, 2016 – Elections for five non-permanent members of the Security Council take place next month with contested races in three of the five UN regional groups. Bolivia is running uncontested to replace Venezuela for the one available seat for Latin America.

The elections are taking place four months earlier than normal to give new members additional time to prepare for the ever increasing Security Council workload. The five new members will join the Council on Jan. 1 2017 for a two-year term. The Eastern Europe seat, currently held by Ukraine, is not up for election this year.

The most talked about race inside the UN is for the Western Europe and Others Group where EU members Italy, Netherlands and Sweden will battle it out for two available seats.

Candidate countries must secure the votes of 129 member states to secure a seat on the Council and it looks, at this stage, that Sweden will take one of the two seats being made vacant by New Zealand and Spain, with guaranteed support from fellow Nordic as well as Baltic states.

Sweden has served on the Council three times previously, most recently in 2000 and is one of the top aid donors to the UN, contributing $356 million so far this year, far more than either the Netherlands ($94M) and Italy ($16M).

The battle would then seem to be between Italy and the Netherlands. Rome is the biggest EU troop contributor to UN peacekeeping with more than 1,000 troops currently deployed and it is also at the fore of dealing with the migrant crisis with the country often the first intended destination for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean. It last served on the Council in 2008.

The Dutch angered permanent Security Council member the United States back in September when they refused a request to resettle two Guantanamo Bay inmates and this may hinder their bid for a seat. While the US only has one vote out of 193, its influence is much bigger than that particularly among states that are beneficiaries of US aid.

The Netherlands are well served by their foreign minister, Bert Koenders, who until his appointment with the Dutch government was head of the UN mission in Mali, where Dutch troops are also serving.

For their part, the Dutch are keen to stress that the Kingdom of the Netherlands constitutes four distinct countries, including the Caribbean islands of Saint Marten, Curacao and Aruba. Their hope is that the 40 or so small island states will lend their support to Amsterdam with the promise that their voices will be heard on the Security Council.

In the Asia-Pacific group, Thailand and Kazakhstan are in a race for the seat being made vacant by Malaysia. No former Soviet country from Central Asia has served on the Council. Kazakhstan voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal, then the world’s fourth largest, when it became independent in 1991 and it was a key driver of Central Asia becoming a nuclear-weapons-free-zone. It would appear to have the edge on Thailand in the race for a seat.

Thailand is currently ruled by a military junta after a 2014 coup and scheduled elections since have been repeatedly postponed.

Kenya and Ethiopia are both seeking the African seat currently held by Angola. Both countries are home to a large UN presence with the UN Environmental Program and UN Habitat headquartered in Nairobi. Kenya is also home to the Dadaab refugee camp complex, where almost 350,000 refugees live. The Kenyan government announced earlier this month its intention to shut down the camp, a move Ban Ki-moon said could have “potentially devastating consequences.”

Ethiopia is host to one of the largest UN country teams in the world – 27 UN programs and agencies have resident offices there.

That Kenya’s president and deputy president were both subject to indictments from the International Criminal Court and given Nairobi’s vocal campaign against the ICC, there’s speculation that it would use its seat on the UNSC to rail against the ICC. Advantage Ethiopia in this race.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: How Much is a UN Security Council Seat Worth and Which Countries Get Elected?

Helen Clark to Announce Candidacy in Race for Next UN Secretary-General

April 4, 2016 – The much anticipated announcement of Helen Clark’s bid to become the next secretary-general of the United Nations will come on Monday with the former New Zealand prime minister and current head of the UN Development Program set to become the eight candidate for the post.

Clark will be the second Western candidate, after Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, and the fourth woman to enter the race. The New Zealand government have called a press conference for 9am NZ time while Wellington’s UN mission will hold a presser along with Clark at 5.30PM ET Monday in New York.

She is seen as the favored candidate of the P3 – Britain, France and the United States - but New Zealand had stalled on nominating her. Asked in late 2014 about a potential Clark candidacy, a source close to New Zealand’s United Nations mission told UN Tribune that Wellington was supportive of the view that it was Eastern Europe’s turn to nominate a candidate. Clark would be the fourth secretary-general to come from the Western Europe and Others UN regional group but the first from outside Europe.

No other regional group has had more than two secretaries-general while none of the previous eight have come from Eastern Europe. Although the UN Charter says nothing about regional rotation, it has been an established practice for selecting secretaries-general and was codified in a 1997 General Assembly resolution.

Clark was sworn in as administrator of the UN Development Program in 2009 and is currently serving her second term having been re-appointed in 2013.

The United States is believed to particularly favor Clark as a result of the cost-cutting measures she has undertaken at UNDP, including cutting staff. As New Zealand’s prime minister, she also sent troops to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led international coalition. Clark did not send troops to Iraq. Although not a member of the alliance, as prime minister Clark signed an agreement to share classified information with NATO.

Her bid to become the ninth UN secretary-general, and first woman to hold the post, comes barely a week before candidates are scheduled for their first set of interviews with the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly, with the support of civil society, has been trying to wrestle away some control of the procedure for selecting the secretary-general from the Security Council but the permanent five members still retain veto over selecting the next UN chief.

Russia has said it favors an Eastern European woman for the post while the P3 have at various stages each said they support a woman taking the reins. It is understood that besides Clark, the P3 were keen to see Ban Ki-moon’s former chief of staff, and current Argentine Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, along with Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, a former head of UN Women, enter the race too. Neither have announced bids and seem unlikely to do so in the next week.

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That Clark hails from the Global South is sure to stand in her favor but whether Russia will support her bid is quite another matter. Some UN member states may also argue that as Queen Elizabeth II is New Zealand’s official head of state, as a member of the Commonwealth, that this violates the understanding that a secretary-general cannot hail from one of the Security Council’s permanent five member states.

Ghana, where the seventh secretary-general, Kofi Annan, hails from, is also a member of the Commonwealth, but its 1960 constitution decrees that the president replaces the British monarch as head of state.

-Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

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Still Seven Candidates for Next UN Secretary-General Three Weeks Before Selection Process Begins

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From top (l to r) Antonio Guterres (Portugal) Danilo Turk (Slovenia) Natalia Gherman (Moldova) Irinia Bokova (Bulgaria) Srgian Kerim (Macedonia) Igor Luksic (Montenegro) Vesna Pusic (Croatia)


March 21, 2016 – The month of March has so far seen no new candidate announcements in the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon and become ninth secretary-general of the United Nations.

Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, most recently UN high commissioner for refugees, was put forward by his government on February 29, becoming the seventh candidate and the only one from outside the Eastern Europe regional group, which remains the only group to never hold the post.

While Guterres is well-regarded, it surprised many UN watchers that the Western Group put forward a candidate as it has had three previous secretaries-general, albeit the most recent, Kurt Waldheim, finished his second term in 1981. Nevertheless, promoting a fourth Western UN chief, when no other group has had more than two, looked insensitive to the overall UN composition.

Of the seven declared, three are women and in what may be another first, there is a strong desire among the general UN membership that after eight men at the helm, it’s past time for a woman to hold the post.

Only three of the declared candidates, Macedonia’s Srgian Kerim, Montenegro’s Igor Luksic and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman are from a non-NATO country, and, if the past is any indication, this could augur well for their bids – but worth noting that Macedonia and Montenegro are both aspiring NATO members, with Podgorica already in accession talks.

Of the three previous European secretaries-general, only one – the first ever secretary-general, Trygve Lie, was from a NATO member state – Norway was a founding member of the alliance in 1949, but this was three years after Lie assumed his post. In the case of Dag Hammarskjold and Kurt Waldheim, neither Sweden nor Austria have ever been NATO members.

Promoting a NATO-member candidate may well force a Russian and, perhaps, a Chinese veto, while Russia may also balk at supporting an EU candidate – and the four NATO member states with candidates are also EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal and Slovenia).

The first set of interviews with candidates are set for April 12-14 when UN member states will have the opportunity to meet and question each of the seven.

To the credit of civil society and UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, the process to select the next secretary-general, at this stage, appears to be approaching a broader basis, and less like a backroom deal among the P5.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related:

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Race for Next UN Secretary-General Taking Shape

The six official candidates to date to succeed Ban Ki-moon

The six official candidates to date to succeed Ban Ki-moon

Feb. 22, 2016 – There are now six official candidates to succeed Ban Ki-moon and become the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations.

Four of the six declared candidates hail from the Balkans with the former Yugoslav countries hedging that strong trade links with Russia, as well as EU membership in the case of Croatia and Slovenia, and EU accession status, in the case of Macedonia and Montenegro, could see them bridge the West-Russia divide in the UN and get the support of both.

Besides Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, Macedonia’s Srgian Kerim, Slovenia’s Danilo Turk and Montenegro’s Igor Lusik, the two other candidates are Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman.

Bokova, the current director-general of UNESCO, was nominated earlier this month by the Bulgarian government despite much speculation that her compatriot Kristalina Georgieva was Sofia’s favored candidate – the EU budget commissioner is also favored by the Western P5 countries, Britain, France and the US.

But all is not lost for Georgieva as the candidate process does not rule out a UN member state nominating two candidates nor does it stipulate that a candidate has to be nominated by their country of citizenship.

The sixth and most recent declared candidate is Moldova’s Natalia Gherman. UN Tribune was first to write about Gherman as a potential successor to Ban Ki-moon, noting back in April 2015 that Moldova’s strong ties with Russia, its non-membership of NATO, as well as her own pro-EU outlook, could see her emerge as a compromise candidate.

Gherman is scheduled to speak at New York’s Columbia University next week and it is interesting to note in her bio she lists fluency in English, German, Romanian and Russian – but not French, an unofficial requirement of UN secretaries-general. But there’s little reason for her to worry about this as it’s widely known that Ban Ki-moon was taking intensive French classes after his election, and French-languaue reporters still like to test him on his proficiency.

There are no clear favorites yet to succeed Ban and the list of candidates is sure to increase but what is clear so far is that the next secretary-general will come from Eastern Europe – there is no requirement as such but it is the only region not to have had a secretary-general and there is wide agreement in the general membership, if not the P5, that it is Eastern Europe’s turn – and that the UN may well elect its first female secretary-general.

Update: Feb 29, 2016 – Former UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres has been nominated by the Portuguese government. Guterres is a former prime minister of Portugal and served as UN refugee chief from 2005-15, during the worst refugee crisis in UNHCR’s history. The Portuguese government made the announcement on Monday. He is the first candidate to be nominated by a non-Eastern European member state and his candidacy, while popular, is likely to face stiff resistance from veto-wielding Russia.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: Natalia Gherman – Could Moldova’s Foreign Minister be the Next UN Secretary-General?

US’s Power Sole Female Representative on 2016 Security Council

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Dec. 28, 2015 – When Jordan appointed Dina Kawar as its representative to the United Nations in the middle of 2014, it meant that six of the 15 countries serving on the Security Council were represented by women.

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When the body convenes on Jan. 1, the United States’ Samantha Power will be the only female ambassador on the 2016 Security Council.

The departure of Argentina, represented by Maria Cristina Perceval and Luxembourg, represented by Sylvie Lucas, from the Council at the at the end of 2014, saw the number decrease to four as their replacements for a two-year term, Spain and Venezuela, were both represented by men.

This year sees three more countries represented by women on the Council ending their terms and being replaced by countries with male ambassadors.

Jordan, along with Lithuania, represented by Raimonda Murmokaitė, and Nigeria, represented by Joy Ogwu, all end their two year terms on Dec. 31 and will be replaced by Japan, Ukraine and Senegal.

The other new countries on the Council in 2016, Egypt and Uruguay are also represented by men.

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Even though the United States is a permanent member of the Council, Power’s tenure will likely not last for too long beyond the end of 2016 as a new president will be elected in the US in November and will in all likelihood appoint a new envoy sometime in early 2017.

Power is the fourth female envoy appointed to represent the US at the United Nations, following Jeanne Kirkpatrick (1981-85), Madeline Albright (1993-97) and Susan Rice (2009-2013).

Chile’s Ana Figueoa was the 
first woman to serve on the Security Council in 1952.

About 40 of the UN’s 193 member states are represented by women, with Australia, Colombia, Greece, Hungary and Pakistan all appointing female diplomats this year to represent their respective countries at the United Nations.

Among the tasks of the Security Council in 2016 will be agreeing on a candidate to replace Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general. In a letter circulated to member states earlier this month, countries were specifically asked to consider presenting women as candidates.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related StoryNatalia Gherman – Could Moldova’s Foreign Minister be the Next UN Secretary-General?

Three Women, One Man in Race for Top UN Refugee Post

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Oct. 23, 2015 – Among the candidates to take over from Portugal’s Antonio Guterres as the next high commissioner for refugees is Sania Nishtar, a cardiologist, former government minister and founder of a healthcare NGO in her native Pakistan.

Sania Nishtar UNHCR candidate
Nishtar is the only non-European of the four candidates who have applied for the job and agreed to answer five questions posed by the International Council for Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), a global network of NGO’s with a long history of work on forced displacement issues.

She told ICVA that while candidates for top UN posts typically come from donor countries, selecting a candidate from the world’s top refugee hosting country would send a signal that all stakeholders matter and it would be empower the most affected countries to contribute.

Nishtar said her first refugee experience was in 1979 when relatives from Afghanistan arrived to stay with her family in Peshawar.

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The CEO of Save the Children International, Jasmine Whitbread, who holds dual UK and Swiss nationality, told ICVA that with many donor countries facing an influx of refugees for the first time, there is an “unparalleled opportunity to re-frame the issue for good.”

“I believe that the very difficulties of the situation we are facing may prove the galvanising force for change we need,” Whitbread said. “UNHCR is well placed to help catalyse this movement, and I would aim to bring all my experience and skills to bear to ensure we do not miss this opportunity.”

She also said UNHCR must throw its full weight behind breaking down the artficial divide between humanitarian and development work.

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Former Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, told ICVA that if she gets the post she would continue the good work started by Guterres on supporting stateless people. She noted that while much of the attention of UNHCR’s work is on refugees and the internally displaced, there are some 10 million people without citizenship.

Thorning-Schmidt also said she was concerned that even though thee are twice as many internally displaced people as refugees, they are not afforded the same protection.

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Filippo Grandi, the former head of the UN Relief and Works Agency, noted that his humanitarian experience dates back to the early 1990s including in Iraq, DRC and Afghanistan.

The Italian, who as head of UNRWA was responsible for the welfare of five million Palestinian refugees, also told ICVA that the high commissioner, as a senior adviser to the secretary-general, is “an important participant in the global discussions on conflict prevention and resolution, sustainable development, human rights and climate change.”

He noted that funding will continue to be a challenge for the refugee agency with only 12 governments providing over 80 percent of UNHCR’s funding.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

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Ukraine, Egypt Among Five Seeking Security Council Seats in 2016/17

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Sept. 16, 2015 – Heads of states seeking Security Council seats would normally devote considerable time during this month’s high-level segment of the General Assembly to lobbying for votes but the candidates vying for seats for 2016-17 in October’s elections are all running unopposed.

Among those seeking seats next month are Ukraine, which will replace Lithuania in the Eastern European group.

A report last week from the UN human rights office said more than 8,000 people have been killed since April 2014 due to the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In July this year, Russia vetoed a draft Council resolution that would have established an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Ukraine President Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will both be in New York at the end of the month to address the General Assembly.

Also running unopposed for a seat in 2016/17 is Egypt which will occupy one of the two seats being vacated by Chad and Nigeria – Senegal will take over the other. Egypt last served in 1996/97 while Senegal served a two-year term in 1988/89.

Uruguay will take over the Latin American seat currently held by Chile. This will be just its second time ever serving on the Council, having last served a two-year term in 1965/66. Uruguay is the top Latin America troop contributing country to UN peacekeeping operations with some 3,000 blue helmets deployed.

Japan will return to the Council for the eleventh time in 2016/17, having last served in 2009/10. Bangladesh announced earlier this month that it was withdrawing from the race for the Asian seat currently held by Jordan. Japan is the second biggest contributor to the UN budget.

Elections for 2017-18 will take place in June 2016, in order to give elected countries more time to prepare. Among those running are Netherlands, Italy and Sweden for two seats in the Western Europe and Others group currently held by New Zealand and Spain.

The current elected members of the Council, with end of term date, are as follows:

- Denis Fitzgerald @denisfitz

 

Related Story: How much is a Security Council seat worth and which countries get elected?