By–Gu Zhenqiu, UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — Five new members of the UN Security Council, on Friday began to serve a two-year term on the most powerful UN body at a time when the 15-nation council is making painstaking efforts to defuse crises in the Middle East, ending conflicts in Africa and fighting terrorism in the world at large.
Starting from Jan. 1, the new members, including Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay, replaced Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria who completed their terms on Dec. 31. In the election in October, the five countries ran unopposed for the non- permanent seats after regional groups put them forward as their choice.
They took their council seats as the United Nations is mediating a ceasefire in Yemen and brokering a political dialogue on Syria.
Elections for non-permanent membership to the Security Council take place every year and candidates need to win at least two thirds of votes by the 193 members of the UN General Assembly. Five members are voted to the council each year.
The majority votes they garnered in the General Assembly election mean that most of the UN member states have high expectations for the five countries. They should not let them down.
Therefore, they, after being elected as the non-permanent council members, should set a good example for the rest of the international community. Their relevant policies and actions, both at home and abroad, should be in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms guiding international relations.
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.
They joined the five permanent council members — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — and five other non-permanent members — Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela.
The five permanent council members have veto power on the Security Council, which is the only UN body that can make legally- binding decisions.
When people think about the United Nations, they often think of the Security Council. In fact, on the council rests a heavy responsibility to maintain international peace and security in a troubled, complex and inter-connected world.
All UN members agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the world body make recommendations to governments, the Security Council alone has the power to take decisions which member states are obligated under the UN Charter to implement.
In the Security Council, decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members Decisions on substantive matters require nine votes and the absence of a negative vote by any of the five permanent members.
As the new non-permanent council members, the five are urged by the international community to act on the basis of the consensus reached in 2015, which marked the 70th birthday of the United Nations and the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World’s Anti-Fascist War.
The consensus, “learning from the past lessons and looking for a better future,” is widely hailed as being conducive to achieving the target set by the UN Charter to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”
The five new members are also expected to join the other council members in the efforts to attach more importance to preventive diplomacy and mediation to increase the council’s efficiency.
The UN Security Council is urged to exercise greater transparency and effectiveness in the face of a multitude of worldwide challenges.
The Security Council should promote the culture of peace, and increase such peaceful means as mediation and good offices for dispute resolution and push for the diplomatic settlement of crisis and avoid as much as possible resorting to the use of sanctions.
As the five new council members kicked off their terms, the Security Council is dealing with conflicts in such countries as Syria, Yemen, Libya, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Mali, South Sudan and at the same time fighting an uphill battle against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, a terrorist group which seized large areas in Iraq and Syria and claimed responsibilities for terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Europe and other regions.
Egypt returned to the council in 2016 for the sixth time, while Japan took its council seat for the 11th time.
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.
In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the secretary-general and the admission of new members to the United Nations. And, together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.