Jordan took over the UN Security Council presidency on Wednesday, the first day of its two-year stint on a 15-nation body struggling to cope with conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and elsewhere.
Jordan will join Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria on the council until December 31, 2015. The UN General Assembly elected Amman in early December as a replacement for Saudi Arabia after Riyadh turned down the seat in protest at the council's failure to end the Syrian war and act on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other Middle East issues.
Although Jordan was a last-minute stand-in for the Saudi Kingdom, Amman's UN Ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein (photo), has a reputation at the United Nations for his outspoken stance on human rights issues, UN Diplomats say.
In April Zeid helped organize a boycott of a General Assembly meeting on international justice organized by Vuk Jeremic, a Serbian politician who headed the UN General Assembly. The United States called it “inflammatory.”
Several UN Security Council Diplomats said Zeid may turn out to be an influential member of the most powerful UN body, even though Jordan, like the other temporary members, will not have the veto power wielded by the five permanent council nations - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
As President of the Council for January, Zeid will organize briefings on the delayed destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and the escalating conflict in South Sudan, as well as the situation in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan's Western Darfur region.
Another change in the Council's composition is that at least one-third of the Security Council Ambassadors in 2014 will be women - Samantha Power of the United States, Maria Cristina Perceval of Argentina, Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, Raimonda Murmokaite of Lithuania and Joy Ogwu of Nigeria.
But Diplomats and analysts says the new composition of the Council - including the presence of Jordan - is unlikely to break the impasse over Syria's nearly three-year-old civil war, which the United Nations says has killed over 100,000 people.
Diplomats said there will likely be heated Security Council discussions in 2014 on challenges facing UN peace keepers, including stabilizing South Sudan and launching a UN peace-keeping operation in Central African Republic. One issue for the West, they say, is the rising cost of peace keeping.
The five temporary Council members staying through 2014 are Australia, Argentina, Luxembourg, Rwanda and South Korea.