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
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.
When 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 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
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 -
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
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.
meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the
Juliana, Prince Bernhard and Trygve Lie in the
van Ardenne, Minister for Development Cooperation of
the Netherlands, addresses the Security Council meeting on Sudan,
The Security Council .
Speech of Queen Juliana of the
Stamp catalogue - Security Council presidency