An Insider’s Guide to U.N. Security Council Diplomacy in 2021

An Insider’s Guide to U.N. Security Council Diplomacy in 2021
An area of the U.N. headquarters that houses the Security Council is closed off to members of the media during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart M. Patrick, who will return next week.

What lies in store for the United Nations Security Council in 2021? People unfamiliar with the council’s inner workings might be surprised to learn how much of it is routine, as diplomats update mandates for ongoing peace operations and sanctions regimes on a pre-set schedule. But unforeseen wars and crises always force their way onto the agenda.

Addressing incoming diplomats of the council’s temporary members at an event in Brussels in December 2019, I warned that they must expect to address at least one totally unexpected event in their two-year terms. I had in mind an outbreak of violence somewhere. I had no inkling that the defining crisis for the U.N. in 2020 would be a pandemic that would require those same diplomats to hold meetings with their fellow council members online.

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