On October 17, 2008, Austria was elected as a Non-Permanent Member of the Security Council for the period of 2009-2010. "Austria's election to the Security Council is a strong expression of the faith other nations have in Austria as a reliable and active partner within the global community," Foreign Minister Plassnik stated after the election by the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The Security Council is the most powerful body of the U.N. and has the ability to impose sanctions and deploy peacekeepers. Ten of the council's fifteen seats are filled by regional groups who serve for two years, including those elected this year. The other five are permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, who have the right of veto. The five countries elected to the council will take their seats in January, replacing Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa. Austria was the first country to announce its candidature for one of the two non-permanent seats allocated to the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG) in February 1999. Austria won 133 votes in the first round and, therefore, had the necessary two-thirds majority needed for election. In these elections Austria had two strong competitors, Turkey and Iceland, the representative of the Nordic states. Turkey also won a place on the Security Council.
For the past fifty years, Austria has sought to contribute effectively to the work of the United Nations, particularly to the fields of peace and security, international law, human rights and disarmament. It supports and works constructively towards continued disarmament and non-proliferation and the ban of landmines. Austria’s promotion of and respect for international and humanitarian law and human rights have been at the core of their U.N. activities.
Since becoming a member of the United Nations in 1955, Austria has put particular emphasis on peacekeeping and conflict resolution and has become one of the major contributors of troops for U.N. operations. Some 60,000 Austrians have participated in more than 50 peacekeeping operations worldwide. 1,400 Austrian peacekeepers are currently serving in missions from Kosovo to the Golan Heights and Afghanistan, protecting and maintaining peace and security around the world. As a member of the European Union, Austria is committed to close cooperation between the EU and the United Nations in the field of crisis management.
Austria’s two prior terms as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 1973-1974 and 1991-1992 were certainly among the highlights of its longstanding involvement in the United Nations. This consistent commitment is a visible expression of Austria’s recognition of the fundamental role the United Nations plays in promoting the peaceful co-existence of states and peoples.
With a long tradition of hosting meetings and conferences to promote international peace and dialogue, Austria has always considered the United Nations as the primary center for multilateral cooperation and is honored to host one of the United Nations headquarters in Vienna since 1979. As the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna has become a hub for dealing with the key security challenges of our time, including combating terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime as well as promoting nuclear safety and energy security.
Austria also believes that peace and security can only be maintained by working together to solve problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian nature. By assisting countries in their fight against poverty it can help put them in a position to develop and prosper. Austria will also continue to actively address the key challenges of the future, such as climate change, promoting dialogue among civilizations, and eradicating poverty.