Germany as an almost permanent member of the Economic and Social Council

Published: 24 September 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. Its tasks include coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and making recommendations on economic, social, and environmental issues, as well as the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals. ECOSOC’s 54 members are elected for overlapping three-year-terms by a two-thirds majority of the members of the General Assembly present and voting. Members are elected directly and individually through a secret ballot. Seats are allotted based on geographical representation, with fourteen allocated to African States, eleven to Asian States, six to Eastern European States, ten to Latin American and Caribbean States, and thirteen to Western European and other States. Germany is part of the so-called “Western European and other States” group (WEOG).

Germany has been continuously represented on ECOSOC since 1974, with the exception of the year 2008 when it had relinquished its seat for the remaining unexpired term of office in favour of Liechtenstein. On 17 June 2020, Germany was once again elected to ECOSOC as one of 18 new Council members that were to serve from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2023.  Germany ran on a clean slate ballot alongside Austria, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom as the only candidates for the five vacant WEOG-allocated seats. In an uncontested vote, Germany received 176 votes – one of its worst results in recent years. Of the eighteen new members elected, only the United Kingdom received fewer votes than Germany.

While 192 UN members cast their vote in the election of the candidates from the group of African States, and while some States abstained in the election of the candidates from other regional groups, of the 192 States present in the General Assembly, ten abstained from voting on the candidates of the WEOG. Abstention, like casting an invalid ballot, is usually an expression of political protest. This may have been a way for abstaining States to show their displeasure with the over-representation of the WEOG in UN organs or a sign of protest against the WEOG’s practice of putting forward a clean slate in which the number of candidates is equal to the number of vacant seats. As, however, other regional groups also practice the clean slate principle, the former seems to be the more likely explanation.

Germany’s record in ECOSOC elections 1973-2020

Year (election period)Number of ballot papersHighest number of votes for all candidatesInvalid votes in election of WEOG candidatesAbstentions in vote on WEOG candidatesHighest number of votes for WEOG candidatesNumber of votes for Germany
2020 (2021-2023)192191 (Nigeria)010182 (Portugal)176
2017 (2018-2020)188185 (Japan)03182 (Germany)182
2014 (2015-2017)187185 (Ghana)05178 (France, Germany)178
2011 (2012-2014)193193 (Burkina Faso)02182 (Spain)181
2008 (2009-2011)184180 (Saudi Arabia,

Guatemala, Saint Kitts

and Nevis)

01179 (Portugal)178
2005 (2006-2008)189186 (Angola)15175 (Austria, France)174
2002 (2003-2005)182179 (Germany)11179 (Germany)179
1999 (2000-2002)174168 (Cameroon)46161 (France)153
1996 (1997-1999)181178 (Mozambique)02176 (Germany)176
1993 (1994-1996)171167 (Egypt)02164 (Ireland)156
1990 (1991-1993)154147 (Togo)02144 (Austria)140
1987 (1988-1990)154145 (Ghana)05141 (Greece)136
1984 (1985-1987)152144 (Nigeria)07140 (Spain)137
1981 (1982-1984)153147 (Mali)01146 (Austria)136
1978 (1979-1981)142/143136 (Turkey)01136 (Turkey)130
1975 (1976-1978)140135 (Malaysia)01134 (Portugal)126
1973 (1973-1975)128126 (Sweden, Turkey)00126 (Sweden, Turkey)119

Category: United Nations

DOI: 10.17176/20220627-172720-0

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  • Stefan Talmon

    Stefan Talmon is Professor of Public Law, Public International Law and European Union Law, and Director at the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and practices as a Barrister from Twenty Essex, London. He is the editor of GPIL.

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