David vs. Goliath Battle at UN: Russia Fights for Seat on Influential Body It’s Held For 76 Years

(CNSNews.com) – In a little reported but intriguing struggle in New York, Russia is tussling with North Macedonia for a vacant seat on an influential United Nations body, as the invasion of Ukraine continues to impact Moscow’s global standing.

In a series of secret ballot votes on Friday, Russia failed to achieve the required two-thirds of present and voting U.N. members to win the seat on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), earmarked for a country in the Eastern Europe region.

Over six rounds, the vote tally for Russia ranged from a high of 118 – falling short of the required two-thirds by ten votes – to a low of 99.

After the sixth consecutive vote produced 99 votes for Russia to 81 for North Macedonia, the presiding officer announced that the voting would resume “on a date to be determined.”

ECOSOC is a body of 54 member-states that wields significant influence, overseeing a majority of the human and financial resources for the entire U.N. system.


Its members elect members of subsidiary U.N. organs including the executive boards of the children’s agency UNICEF, U.N. Women, the Commission on the Status of Women, and other bodies dealing with issues such as NGO accreditation, narcotics and crime prevention, and criminal justice.

Should Russia fail to be elected for the 2023-2025 term, it will be the first time in ECOSOC’s history that it has been excluded; the Soviet Union was a member every year from 1946-1992, and the Russia Federation every year from 1993-2022.

Since invading Ukraine in February, Russia has been suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council, and the U.N. World Tourism Organization, and faces calls for its expulsion from the cultural agency UNESCO. It has also been suspended from several non-U.N. bodies, including the Council of Europe and the Arctic Council.

North Macedonia seems an unlikely rival to a country that has played a dominant role in the multilateral system for years and is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The small former Yugoslav republic could fit into Russia 665 times over, and has a population 1/67th of the size of Russia’s.

A Russian diplomat accused the U.S. and European Union of prodding North Macedonia into putting itself up for an ECOSOC seat in a cynical anti-Russia move.

Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Dmitry Polyanskiy said the episode “shows how far and low our Western colleagues can go in their pursuit to exclude Russia from participating in U.N. bodies.”

“They are ready to trample on every principle of U.N. work, sacrifice multilateralism in their futile quest of ‘cancelling’ Russia,” he said.

Polyanskiy expressed appreciation for those countries that had resisted Western pressure and voted in support of Russia’s candidacy.

“Russia has been in ECOSOC since its foundation and has a lot to offer to this body as a counterweight to the selfish Western agenda and dictate.”

Polyanskiy said Russia would not back down, and rounds of voting would continue until one of them delivers Russia the two-thirds majority it needs.

“We count on the support of our U.N. partners and friends who do not share dirty methods and divisive agenda of the U.S. and the E.U.”

Voting could continue indefinitely, until enough countries change their position to give either Russia or North Macedonia the necessary two-thirds majority; one of them drops out; or a third country puts itself forward as an alternative candidate and wins sufficient votes.

In the most noteworthy historical case – although for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, rather than ECOSOC – 154 rounds of voting in 1979 failed to hand victory to either Cuba and Colombia. Mexico finally stepped in as a compromise candidate and was elected to the post.

An ideological struggle also lay behind a similar incident in 2006, when the Bush administration backed Guatemala against Venezuela in a bid to deny then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a Security Council seat. After 47 inconclusive rounds of voting, Panama stepped forward and got the seat.

Seventeen of the 18 vacant seats on ECOSOC for 2023-2025 were filled on Friday. They went to Botswana, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea in the Africa group; China, Laos, Qatar, and South Korea in the Asia group; Slovakia and Slovenia in the Eastern Europe group; Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica in the Latin American group; and Denmark, Greece, New Zealand, and Sweden in the Western group.


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