The highly credible Stockholm International Peace Research institute (SIPRI) has identified sixty-three multilateral peacekeeping operations throughout the world. Africa hosts the largest number, with twenty-five missions. For perspective, there were eighteen in Europe, nine in the Middle East, six in Asia, and five in the Western Hemisphere. African peacekeeping missions accounted for some 75 percent of all peacekeeping personnel, with African countries accounting for the majority of those troops.
Either immediately or over time, almost all peacekeeping missions involve the UN Security Council. Furthermore, over 60 percent of all Security Council resolutions, beyond just peacekeeping, concerned Africa at one point. The predominance of African peacekeeping operations and Africa in general is a central argument among those who advocate for a permanent African seat on the Security Council. At present, the permanent members of the Security Council are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, a roster that has not changed since the end of World War II. The “Permanent Five” each have the power to veto proposed Security Council actions. The other ten seats are allocated among regional blocs but without veto power. The African bloc is the largest and currently comprises Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Equatorial Guinea, but South Africa will replace Ethiopia in 2019.
It is fair to say that among politically aware Africans, support for a permanent African seat on the Security Council is nearly universal, as is, though to a lesser extent, support for the abolition of the veto as a step toward a reformed UN Security Council. However, Africans are by no means in agreement as to which African country should hold a permanent African seat. The two largest African economies, Nigeria and South Africa, are the leading contenders for the seat. But, were there to be a real prospect for an African permanent seat, other rivals would likely emerge.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s apparent expression of support for an African permanent seat produced some African excitement. From time to time, other political figures from the Permanent Five have paid lip service to a Security Council reform agenda that could include a permanent African seat. However, in general, the Permanent Five appear to be dead set against the diminution of their power within the UN system that would almost certainly result from Security Council reform.
Council of Foreign Relations
Sahel-Elite/Image: A Ghanaian UN peacekeeper stands watch as children look on at a protection camp for displaced civilians in Bentiu, South Sudan June 18, 2017. David Lewis/Reuters