New SCAN project: The influence of elected members

ARC Discovery Project

Leveraging power and influence on the UN Security Council: The role of elected members


Inaugural workshop launches new project to investigate the power and influence of UN Security Council elected members

When countries serve a two-year elected term on the UN Security Council—as Australia did in 2013–14—they must use innovative diplomacy if they want their voice heard. Australian researchers have begun a four-year project to discover the diplomatic practices that can help elected members wield influence on the world stage.

The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Forged by a post-World War II settlement of the victorious powers, the UN Charter allocates special rights and responsibilities to five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the P-5). More than 70 years later, this structure has not essentially changed. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Council is controlled by the P-5, while the other 188 UN member states are effectively sidelined, including those serving two-year terms on the Council as elected, non-permanent members.

This project challenges the conventional wisdom of unfettered P-5 predominance. It examines how elected members on the Security Council can influence Council decision-making and norm development. Assembling a research team of international lawyers and political scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the University of Queensland (UQ), and the Australian National University (ANU), the project provides a rigorous, multi-disciplinary evaluation of why and when non-permanent Council members have been able to shape the Council’s decision-making process, despite lacking the veto power available to the P-5.

The four-year research project was officially launched at the ANU’s Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy on Friday, 19 February 2016, when the project team convened a roundtable of key stakeholders from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the academy and from the wider policy community, under the Chatham House rule.

Three preliminary findings stand out:

  1. For Australia, finding effective means of leveraging power and influence on the UN Security Council is of utmost importance, given the centrality of the Council in, and Canberra’s dependency on, a functioning rules-based global order.
  2. The project’s outputs, which include advancing evidence-based and empirically grounded policy proposals designed to increase the capacity of elected members to exercise power and influence over the Council’s agenda and policy, will be of vital interest to the 188 UN member states that are not permanent Security Council members.
  3. Finally, the project raises larger questions of global governance in times of shifting power. At the beginning of the 21st Century, the global order is in transition. The liberal institutional architecture that was created in the aftermath of World War II is not only challenged by complex problems but also by the lack of voice and representation of those countries to which global power is shifting. This wider background turns the project into a compelling case study with profound implications beyond the case of the UN Security Council.

Contact: Ms Marie-Eve Loiselle, Project Manager,

Project website:

Brisbane, Canberra, and Sydney, 19 February 2016