Posted on 8 June 2019

Chapter 3:   THE PEOPLE

Section 3:   Non-permanent members


Significant drop in number of Member States never elected to the Security Council


When the millennium began on 1 January 2000, out of then 191 UN Member States,[1] eighty had never served on the Security Council.  By 7 June 2019, the date of the most recent Council elections, seventeen additional countries have been elected as first-time members.  They are (with year of election):


Azerbaijan (2011)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (2009)

Chad (2013)

Croatia (2007)

Dominican Republic (2018)

Equatorial Guinea (2017)

Estonia (2019)

Guatemala (2011)

Kazakhstan (2016)

Lithuania (2013)

Luxembourg (2012)

Qatar (2005)

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (2019)

Saudi Arabia (2013)[2]

Singapore (2000)

Slovakia (2005)

Viet Nam (2007)


Of these first-time Council members, seven are relatively new UN Members States, owing to their previously having been part of larger countries.  Four are former republics of the Soviet Union:  Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania.  Two were constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia:  Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.  Slovakia was formerly one half of Czechoslovakia.  Two other first-time members were elected to the Council after they emerged from instability in the aftermath of previous conflict situations:  Chad and Viet Nam.  Most of the other first-time members are relatively small States which, in the view of their governments, have come to possess sufficient capacity to serve on the Council. 


Only two of these first-time members – Guatemala and the Dominican Republic – were previously unsuccessful candidates.  In 2006, after a three-week deadlock in the General Assembly between Guatemala and Venezuela, both countries withdrew so that Panama could be elected as a compromise candidate to fill the seat accorded to their region.  The Dominican Republic lost elections in 1982 (to Nicaragua), 2001 (to Mexico), and 2007 (to Costa Rica). 


The attached table lists, by region, the 63 UN Member States which have never served on the Security Council.  The regional group which has the highest number of States never having served is Asia-Pacific, i.e., 28 States out of the 53 members in the group eligible for election to the Council.[3]  The regional group which has the lowest number of States never having served on the Council is that of the Western European and Other States, i.e., seven out of 26 eligible States.  The tally for all UN regional groups is as follows:


Asia-Pacific:  28 out of 53

Africa:  10 out of 54

Latin American and Caribbean States:  10 out of 33

Eastern Europe:  8 out of 22

Western European and Other States:  7 out of 26


By 2023, the number of States never having sat on the Council is likely to have further diminished.  That is because four countries having not yet served have announced their candidacies for elections in the next few years:


Albania (2021)

Mongolia (2022)

Switzerland (2022)

Tajikistan (2023)


If all these countries are successful in their bids, by 2023, only 59 Member States will have never sat on the Council.  Accordingly, the ratio of those having never served will drop from 41.9 percent of the total UN membership in 2000, to 30.6 percent in 2023.  In addition, it is possible that other countries which have not previously served will also announce candidacies closer to each election.


As described in the book (page 141), there are a few countries not likely to be elected to the Security Council in the near future because they are directly involved in situations presently on the Council’s agenda.  These include the Central African Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel,[4] Myanmar, Serbia and South Sudan. 


Some very small countries, especially small island developing States, are also unlikely to seek a Council seat in the near future, owing to the diplomatic and financial resources necessary for such a demanding responsibility.  However, an increasing number of small States are showing a willingness to take on the heavy workload of Council membership.  These include most recently Saint Vincent and the Grenadines which, with a population of 110,000, is the smallest country ever to be elected to the Council.  It is noteworthy that this trend is occurring during a period when the Council’s formal and informal work programmes have continued to expand.


The growing interest among a broader range of Member States to become candidates for Council seats is, to a degree, already reducing the frequency with which other countries are able to return to the Council.  In particular, this may mean in future that larger States which have served multiple terms – such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India, Japan and Pakistan – may not have the opportunity to be re-elected as often as before. 


It remains to be seen whether the number of States never having served on the Security Council will continue to drop after 2023, or whether it will reach a plateau and stabilize there.


[1] Montenegro joined the UN in 2006 and South Sudan, in 2011.

[2] After the election, the Government of Saudi Arabia declined to take up the seat, to which Jordan was subsequently elected.

[3] The Observer State of Palestine, although a member of the Asia-Pacific Group, is not a full UN Member State and therefore is not eligible for election to the Council.  By reason of their being permanent members of the Council, China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States have not been counted as States eligible for election in their regions. 

[4] Israel announced its candidacy for the 2018 elections, but then withdrew the month before.



The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th Edition is available at Oxford University Press in the UK and USA. 

The Procedure of the UN Security
Council, 4th Edition

ISBN: 978-0-19-968529-5


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