United Nations Security Council

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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the organ of the United Nations charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions regimes, and the authorization for military action.[1] Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council Resolutions.


The Security Council held its first session on January 17, 1946 at Church House, London.

Since its first meeting, the Council, which exists in continuous session, has traveled widely, holding meetings in many cities, such as Paris and Addis Ababa. For the most part, however, it has remained located at UN Headquarters — first at Lake Success in New York and then at its current home in New York City.

Significant changes in the Council’s composition have occurred on three occasions. In 1965, amendments to articles 23 and 27 of the Charter came into effect, increasing the number of elected members from six to ten.

In 1971, the General Assembly voted to remove the Republic of China representative, establishing that a delegate from the People's Republic of China was the legitimate representative of China. Because the issue was presented as one that involved which delegation would properly represent China instead of admission or expulsion of a member, this issue required only action by the General Assembly. Under typical circumstances, removal of a member from the Council requires endorsement from Council itself, or the amendment to article 23 that specifies the identity of the permanent members on the Council.

Similarly, there was no amendment to article 23 following the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991. In much less contentious circumstances the Russian Federation acceded to the former Soviet seat.


The basic structure of the UNSC is set out in Chapter V of the UN Charter.

Security Council members must always be present at UN headquarters in New York so that the Security Council can meet at any time. This requirement of the United Nations Charter was adopted to address a weakness of the League of Nations since that organization was often unable to respond quickly to a crisis.

The role of president of the Security Council involves setting the agenda, presiding at its meetings and overseeing any crisis. It rotates in alphabetical order of the Security Council member nations' names in English.

There are two categories of membership in the UN Security Council: permanent members and elected members.

Permanent members

The Council seated five permanent members who were originally drawn from the victorious powers after World War II:

Two of the original members, the Republic of China and the Soviet Union, were later replaced by recognized successor states, even though Article 23 of the Charter of the United Nations has not been accordingly amended:

Since the stalemate of the Chinese Civil War, there have been two states claiming to represent "China" and thus both officially claim each other's territory. In 1971, the People's Republic of China was awarded China's seat in the United Nations by UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, and the Republic of China (which had lost mainland China and been in Taiwan since 1949) soon lost membership in all UN organs. In 1991, Russia, being the legal successor state to the Soviet Union acquired the originally-Soviet seat, including the Soviet Union's former representation in the Security Council.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are the only nations recognized as possessing nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, although it lacks universal validity, as some nuclear nations have not signed the treaty. This nuclear status is not the result of their Security Council membership, though it is sometimes used as a modern-day justification for their continued presence on the body. India[2], Pakistan[3] and North Koreareference required possess nuclear weapons outside of the anti-proliferation framework established by the Treaty. Israel does not officially confirm or deny having nuclear weapons, but is generally believed to[4].

In 2004, four of the five permanent members were also the world's top four weapons exporters when measured by arms value; China was seventh.

Each permanent member has the power to veto any substantive resolution. (See Veto power, below.)

The Permanent Representatives of the U.N. Security Council permanent members are Wang Guangya, Jean-Marc de La Sablière (until November 2007), Vitaly Churkin, John Sawers and Zalmay Khalilzad.[5]

Elected members

Ten other members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms starting on 1 January, with five replaced each year. The members are chosen by regional groups and confirmed by the United Nations General Assembly. The African bloc chooses three members; the Latin America and the Caribbean, Asian, and Western European and Others blocs choose two members each; and the Eastern European bloc chooses one member. Also, one of these members is an Arab country, alternately from the Asian or African bloc.[6]

The current (2008) elected members, with the regions they were elected to represent and their Permanent Representatives, are:

Country Regional bloc(s) Ambassador
Belgium Western Europe and Other Johan Verbeke
Burkina Faso Africa Michel Kafando
Costa Rica Latin America and Caribbean Jorge Urbina Ortega
Croatia Eastern Europe Neven Jurica
Indonesia Asia Marty Natalegawa
Italy Western Europe and Other Marcello Spatafora
Libya Africa, Arab Jadallah Azzuz at-Talhi
Panama Latin America and Caribbean Ricardo Alberto Arias
South Africa Africa Dumisani Kumalo
Vietnam Asia Lê Lương Minh

Until 2000 Israel was the only United Nations member country not a member of any regional group and so could not be elected to the Security Council or become involved in many consultative UN bodies. Israel would normally fall within the Asia group but many Arab states blocked Israel's inclusion in this group. In 2000 Israel was granted temporary membership in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) and this was extended indefinitely in 2004. Israel is limited in the activities that it can undertake as part of WEOG.[7]

Veto power

Under Article 27 of the UN Charter, Security Council decisions on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members. A negative vote, or veto, by a permanent member prevents adoption of a proposal, even if it has received the required number of affirmative votes. Abstention is not regarded as a veto despite the wording of the Charter. Since the Security Council's inception, China (ROC/PRC) has used its veto 6 times; France 18 times; Russia/USSR 122 times; the United Kingdom 32 times; and the United States 81 times. The majority of Russian/Soviet vetoes were in the first ten years of the Council's existence. Since 1984, China (ROC/PRC) has vetoed three resolutions; France three; Russia/USSR four; the United Kingdom ten; and the United States 43.

Procedural matters are not subject to a veto, so the veto cannot be used to avoid discussion of an issue.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. Under the Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:.
  2. Norris, Robert S. and Hans M. Kristensen. "India's nuclear forces, 2005", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 61:5 (September/October 2005): 73–75,[1]
  3. Glionna, John M. "Pakistan says its nuclear weapons are secure" "Los Angeles Times" [2] 27 January 2008
  4. Norris, Robert S., William Arkin, Hans M. Kristensen, and Joshua Handler. "Israeli nuclear forces, 2002," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 58:5 (September/October 2002): 73-75.
  5. List of heads of missionsPDF (60.1 KB)
  6. The United Nations Security Council. The Green Papers. Retrieved on 2006-05-14.
  7. Rebecca Weiner. Israel Wins Membership on WEOG. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved on 2007-09-08.