Security Council

 

Meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 9 January 2007The Security Council is one of the main organs of the United Nations. It has primary responsibility, under the Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is so organized as to be able to function continuously, and a representative of each of its members must be present at all times at United Nations Headquarters. On 31 January 1992, the first ever Summit Meeting of the Council was convened at Headquarters, attended by Heads of State and Government of 13 of its 15 members and by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the remaining two. The Council may meet elsewhere than at Headquarters; in 1972, it held a session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the following year in Panama City, Panama.

 

When a complaint concerning a threat to peace is brought before it, the Council's first action is usually to recommend to the parties to try to reach agreement by peaceful means. In some cases, the Council itself undertakes investigation and mediation. It may appoint special representatives or request the Secretary-General to do so or to use his good offices. It may set forth principles for a peaceful settlement.

 

US ambassador Adlai Stevenson presents evidence on the Soviet missiles on Cuba, 25 October 1962When a dispute leads to fighting, the Council's first concern is to bring it to an end as soon as possible. On many occasions, the Council has issued cease-fire directives which have been instrumental in preventing wider hostilities. It also sends United Nations peace-keeping forces to help reduce tensions in troubled areas, keep opposing forces apart and create conditions of calm in which peaceful settlements may be sought. The Council may decide on enforcement measures, economic sanctions (such as trade embargoes) or collective military action.

 

Under the Charter, all Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to Governments, the Council alone has the power to take decisions which Member States are obligated under the Charter to carry out.

 

A Member State against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. A Member State which has persistently violated the principles of the Charter may be expelled from the United Nations by the Assembly on the Council's recommendation.

 

Queen Juliana, Prince Bernhard and Trygve Lie in the Security Council, 8 April 1952A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that that country's interests are affected. Both Members of the United Nations and non-members, if they are parties to a dispute being considered by the Council, are invited to take part, without a vote, in the Council's discussions; the Council sets the conditions for participation by a non-member State.

 

The Presidency of the Security Council is held in turn by the members of the Security Council in the English alphabetical order of their names. Each President holds office for one calendar month.

 

The Council is composed of five permanent members - China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States - and ten non-permanent members

 

The ten non-permanent members, elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms and not eligible for immediate re-election. The number of non-permanent members was increased from six to ten by an amendment of the Charter which came into force in 1965. The countries that have served the most times as non-permanent member are Brazil and Japan, ten times.

 

Agnes van Ardenne, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, addresses the Security Council meeting on Sudan, 9 May 2006The Netherlands has served as a non-permanent member in 1946, 1951-1952, 1965-1966, 1983-1984 and 1999-2000.

 

Each Council member has one vote. Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members. Decisions on substantive matters require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members. This is the rule of "great Power unanimity", often referred to as the "veto" power.

 

At the moment a possible reform of the Security Council is on the agenda. Considered options are more permanent members (with or without veto) or more non-permanent members.

 

Photos:

meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 9 January 2007

US ambassador Adlai Stevenson presents evidence on the Soviet missiles on Cuba, 25 October 1962

Queen Juliana, Prince Bernhard and Trygve Lie in the Security Council, 8 April 1952

Agnes van Ardenne, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, addresses the Security Council meeting on Sudan, 9 May 2006

 

 

Links

 

The Security Council website.

Speech of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands to members of the Security Council, 8 April 1952.

 

 

Stamp catalogue - Security Council presidency

 

Tunisia                        19 February 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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last revised: 5 July 2009