From Iceland — Should Iceland Pursue a Seat in the United Nation’s Security Council?

Should Iceland Pursue a Seat in the United Nation’s Security Council?

Published February 9, 2007

Should Iceland Pursue a Seat in the United Nation’s Security Council?

Sæunn Stefánsdóttir, Candidate for the Progressive Party
Yes, I think we should. In the United Nation’s charter, the Security Council is given the main responsibility of retaining peace and security in the world. As members of the United Nations for more than 60 years we are bound to contribute to pursuing these main goals. Therefore it is time to take full action and apply for a seat on the Security Council.

My opinion is actually that Iceland’s candidature on the Security Council isn’t a goal in itself but a logical continuation of the development in securing Iceland’s foreign interests, with an active participation in international cooperation, not least in the United Nations. As a prosperous and sovereign nation we have a duty to take responsibility in international relations.
I’m therefore convinced that such candidature would strengthen Iceland’s position in the international arena and take care of Iceland’s interests in foreign affairs, and other Nordic countries interests as well, as our candidature is Nordic.

If Iceland is elected and takes a seat in the UN Security Council I am convinced that we have a valid role in being there. Iceland is a peaceful nation and doesn’t have any complex interests to protect around the globe. Therefore we have credibility and we will be listened to.

Iceland’s emphasis in the candidature focuses on these facts and I like it. There, the emphasis has been on respect for international law, human rights and democracy; respect and tolerance in international relations and the importance of facing threats against security in the widest context, especially regarding individuals’ safety and connection between development and peace building. The importance of considering the needs of women in war-torn areas and in peacekeeping has also been stressed, which I find very important as women are often victims of conflicts, directly and indirectly.

Ármann Kr. Ólafsson, Candidate for the Independence Party
It is tempting for a nation like Iceland, with only 300 thousand inhabitants, to get a seat on the Security Council and have a profound influence on the development of world affairs. In short, this influence, could help present our good causes in the international community. We can’t forget though that the five member states who have permanent seats on the Security Council – Britain, The United States, France, China and Russia hold veto power which underlines the great imbalance between real powers of influence in the Council.

When Iceland pursued a seat on the Security Council for the term 2009 to 2010, everything indicated that there was broad support for that decision. Support from the Nordic countries was known in advance, and usually that should be enough. Later on, Turkey also made a claim for a seat and therefore Nordic solidarity is no guarantee for Iceland’s plans becoming a reality, seeing that three states want the two seats available. The struggle for the seat will therefore become really expensive, as would membership itself.

In my opinion it is possible to achieve many noble goals with systematic work-methods and less expenditure than by joining the Security Council. Here we can point to specific projects in the field of human rights, development and welfare aid.

The question here was: Should Iceland apply for a seat in the UN Security Council?
The status now is that Iceland has done that and if we get the seat we have to be careful that we will be listened to. We can’t just present some general goals. Iceland’s initiative has to be to review specific matters concerning individual nations. What the international community gains by our membership is that we don’t have any interests vested in the states the Councils powers are, for the most part, governed by and we can arrive fresh to the table.

Magnús Þór Hafsteinsson, Candidate for the Liberal Party
The chapter addressing foreign affairs in the Liberal Party’s political proposal, which was accepted at the party’s national convention held January 26th and 27th, reads as follows:
“The Liberal Party declares that it is against Iceland’s application for a seat in the United Nation’s Security Council and criticizes the amount of money spent already.

We in the Liberal Party are opposed to Iceland applying for a member seat on the Security Council and think that the money supposed to be wasted in applying would be better spent in developing aid for states and ethnic groups that need guidance and help to pursue a better life and education. We can’t see how it can be justifiable to spend hundreds of millions just to undergo such world-power dreams and ambitions. In our opinion, that amount is better spent on other projects and humanitarian issues.”

Guðmundur Steingrímsson, Candidate for the Social Democratic Alliance
No, I see little reason for that. Participating is expensive and I think the money would be better spent elsewhere. Besides, it is hard to see what we are meant to do in the Security Council. I suspect that what we have here is the extravagant ambition of a few people who rushed in on this without asking a single soul. It has never been explained well enough why on earth it is supposed to be important for us to join the Security Council with all the expenses attached.

The diplomatic service’s strengths would come to better use in other projects, in development aid for example or to support Icelandic interests in foreign trading. The main reason why I don’t feel we have a specific business in the Security Council is because the nation’s foreign policy has been deeply abject in recent years, if not always. We have gone along with the United States far too much, as can be seen in the government’s support of their invasion in Iraq. We have presented an independent foreign policy far to rarely. Icelandic authorities emphasized disarmament on open waters by the time of the Cold War, but any other examples are hard to find.

If we, on the other hand, had adopted an independent, unique and noteworthy foreign policy, which would emphasize pacifism and the fact that this nation has no army – a fact that gives us unique position – I think we could possibly have some purpose in the Security Council, as an essential voice. But sorry to say, this isn’t the voice Icelandic government uses when addressing foreign affairs. As long as this is the case, we have no business in joining the Security Council except for drinking cocktails and chatting with powering nations

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Candidate for the Left-Green Movement
It is natural for an independent nation with some ambition in international issues to want a seat on the Security Council. But then, the purpose has to be clear. What business has Iceland in the Security Council?

An issue Icelanders should address in this assembly is respect for international law, increased emphasis on peace-building and unconditional denunciation of war-invasions of any kind. We can also point out more initiative in international environmental affairs, such as climatic change, which will by all likelihood become the biggest security issue in the future.

It’s really important that a responsible nation take the initiative in working against climate change and, in that field, Icelanders could have a significant role if there were the political will to adopt a new environmental policy.

On the other hand, it is hard to see what Icelanders are planning to do in the Security Council if the present foreign policy does not change, where we would always look to the American representative before passing a vote. That’s how Iceland’s foreign policy has been in reality; unconditional support of Uncle Sam, probably reaching its peak with our support of the pointless and bloody war in Iraq in 2003. While we still follow such foreign policy we have no business in joining the Security Council and it’s plainly a waste to spend hundreds of millions in such process.
The main issue in foreign affairs should be to change this policy. Before we do that, we have no business in the Security Council or any other international institutions where important decisions are made.

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