United Nations Security Council

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United Nations Security Council

United Nations flag

Members of the UN Security Council 2020
  • Permanent members
  • Temporary members
  • English name United Nations
    Security Council (UNSC)
    French name Conseil de sécurité
    des Nations unies
    status active
    Seat of the organs New York City , New York , United States
    United StatesUnited States 
    Chair TunisiaTunisia Tunisia
    (January 2021)
    Member States 15
    (five permanent and ten
    non-permanent members)

    Permanent members
    (with right of veto)

    Non-permanent members
    (2020 and 2021)

    Non-permanent members
    (2021 and 2022)

    founding January 17, 1946
    at Church House , London , United Kingdom
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
    Upper organization United NationsU.N. United Nations
    Security Council meeting room at UN headquarters in New York City

    The United Nations Security Council , often referred to as the World Security Council , is an organ of the United Nations . It consists of five permanent members (also called P5 ) and ten non-permanent members (elected members) or states. The five permanent members ( France , Russia , the United States , the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom ) have in the adoption of resolutions (Resolutions) an expanded veto power and are therefore also called veto powers referred.

    The constituent meeting of the Security Council took place on January 17, 1946; this and the following 23 sessions were held at London's Church House, later sessions were held at Hunter College in the Bronx , the Henry Hudson Hotel on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and the Sperry Gyroscope Factory in Lake Success before the Council in 1951 moved into his current domicile, the UN headquarters , on the East River in Manhattan.


    According to Article 24 I of the Charter of the United Nations , the member states are to give it "primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security". While other UN organs can only make recommendations directly, the Security Council can, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter VII of the Charter, take decisions that are binding on the member states - "Measures in the event of a threat to or breach of peace and in the event of acts of aggression". There is a fundamental legal binding to the norms of the UN Charter. In addition to the political prerogative of the Security Council to interpret the factual requirements of Art. 39 in concrete terms , its practice can lead to the development of existing law. According to the prevailing opinion , in the absence of its own legislative authority, the Security Council must not, however, explicitly contradict the recognized legal sources of international law (interpretation contra legem ). However, the decisions of the Security Council are not subject to effective legal control.

    Members of the Security Council

    The council consists of five permanent and ten non-permanent members of the United Nations. When the United Nations was founded, there were five permanent and six non-permanent members. On December 17, 1963, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution 1991 (XVIII) to increase the number of non-permanent members from six to ten. This was justified with the increase in the number of member states. This regulation came into force on August 31, 1965.

    Every year half of the non-permanent members are re-elected for a two-year term by the UN General Assembly. They are selected according to regional groups and confirmed by the general assembly. It is ensured that of the ten non-permanent members, three come from Africa , two from Asia , two from Latin America , one from Eastern Europe and two from Western Europe or the rest of the western world ( Canada , Australia or New Zealand ). These non-permanent members take up office on January 1st of each year. There must be at least one year between the departure of a state from the Security Council and re-election - direct re-election is therefore not possible. A law that has not been established, but is still practiced, is that within the above-mentioned regions of the world there is a rotating system that enables all countries to have a seat on the Security Council in a fixed rotation. The representative of each Security Council member must be available at UN headquarters at all times so that the Council can meet at any time.

    Permanent members

    These members have the right to veto decisions by the Security Council in accordance with Art. 27 III of the UN Charter. H. no resolution is passed if one of these states does not agree to it. In practice, an abstention will not be considered a veto .

    Temporary members

    The ten temporary seats are divided among the regional groups of the UN : The African bloc is entitled to three seats. Asia, the group of Latin American and Caribbean countries and the group of Western European and other countries each to two and Eastern Europe to one seat. Every year five non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for a period of two years.

    The chairmanship of the UN Security Council changes monthly among the members, in alphabetical order of the English names of the states. In addition to the permanent and non-permanent members, the Secretary General of the United Nations has a seat on the UN Security Council. However, he has no voting rights .

    Reform discussions

    The permanent member states in the UN Security Council (light blue) and the G4 states that are promoting a permanent seat (dark blue).

    Discussions are currently under way to add further permanent members to the council. At the end of September 2004, Brazil, India, Japan and Germany announced that they would support each other in their efforts to obtain a permanent seat. As a result, these nations were referred to as the G4 countries . An African state could also be included as part of the reform. Nigeria is being discussed alongside South Africa and Egypt. The veto is declared not to be part of the primary goal of this concept, as it can initially be dispensed with for a period of 15 years or entirely. In addition to the 10 permanent members, 14 non-permanent members could now belong to the Security Council on a rotation basis. However, the G4's actions were viewed with suspicion by some states. Japan was expressly supported by the United States, but categorically rejected by China. Italy spoke out vehemently against a German seat and instead demanded a European seat. The USA also signaled, among other things, since Germany had not participated in the Iraq war , rather the rejection of a permanent seat on the Security Council for Germany. France and Great Britain, on the other hand, are basically in favor of a German seat.

    The opposite was said by US diplomat Richard Holbrooke .

    Argentina and Mexico also compete with Brazil .

    For an enlargement of the council it would be necessary to change the charter of the United Nations by a decision with a two-thirds majority in the UNO general assembly and afterwards the ratification of this change also by two thirds of the member states. In particular, this requires ratification by all permanent members of the Security Council.

    In 2005, an initiative to expand the Council, which was advocated by the G4, failed due to the resistance of the African Union and several African states, which continued to demand that all new permanent members of the Security Council be given a right of veto for as long as this exists.

    According to a further reform concept, no new permanent members are planned, but the establishment of a new category: “semi-permanent” seats, which can be elected and extended to four years.


    Resolutions of the Security Council on procedural issues require the consent of nine members (Article 27 II of the UN Charter ). According to Article 27 III of the UN Charter, resolutions of the Security Council on all other issues require the approval of nine members, including all five permanent members. Votes are made publicly by show of hands. Contrary to the wording of the charter, voluntary abstention is now mostly qualified as a declaration variant established under customary international law, with which a politically more ambivalent “approval” of Council decisions can be expressed below formal approval. Far more controversial is the evaluation of the non-appearance in the council either as an abstention (approval) or as a lack of approval (decision ineffectiveness), since the USSR from 1949 because of the refusal of the permanent Security Council mandate to the new Chinese government by the Western powers through their so-called "empty chair policy “Blocked the Security Council, which was considered by the Western powers as a harmless abstention, especially on the Korea question in 1950. The resolutions of the Security Council from that time are still not recognized by the People's Republic of China, the USSR or Russia.

    Any decision on the “other questions” can be prevented by a no from one of the five permanent members ( veto ). The permanent members exercised their right of veto 261 times between 1945 and 2008.

    Criticism of the veto right

    Again and again the possible blockade of the Security Council by the permanent members is criticized and a need for reform is warned. Since each of the permanent members has the right of veto, they can block important decisions in this way. The other non-permanent members do not have this right - there is practically nothing they can do about it.

    In the 1994 genocide in Rwanda , hundreds of thousands (some sources speak of a million) people were murdered within a few weeks. The Security Council is accused of having failed to sanction or intervene in the conflict.

    Almost ten years later there was a conflict in Darfur , a region in the north-east African Republic of Sudan . However, the People's Republic of China blocked the Security Council from dealing with the Darfur crisis for a long time because it has interests in the Sudanese oil sector; the US blocked a transfer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it does not recognize it. Meanwhile, human rights violations in Sudan continued. It was not until March 2005 that the Security Council decided that the ICC should investigate war crimes in the region. China and the US abstained from voting on this resolution - the US had previously received the concession that US citizens who work for the United Nations in Sudan would be exempt from prosecution by the ICC.

    The constellation was criticized again because of the human rights violations during peaceful protests in Myanmar , as China refused to admonish the local military junta . The conflict was expressed that a permanent member who is accused of violating human rights should punish another for it or can always prevent the punishment.

    Resolutions against Israel regularly failed because of the US veto. Most recently, in December 2014, the United States prevented a draft resolution against Israel. This approach ended on December 23, 2016, when the US abstained from an Egyptian resolution against Israel's settlement building . It called the settlements illegal and called for the construction of settlements to be stopped immediately. In addition, the Security Council has come under fire because the extensive activities of the United States , referred to as the “ war on terrorism ”, are neither legitimized nor criticized by the Security Council.

    Sanctions against Syria also failed after the protests in Syria in 2011 due to the vetoes of Russia and China.

    Russia subsequently also vetoed the continuation of the investigation into poison gas attacks during the war in Syria and increased the number of its vetoes to shield President Assad to eleven in November 2017.

    After the shooting down of a Malaysian civilian aircraft from the territory of the Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine , Russia vetoed the establishment of a UN tribunal on July 29, 2015.


    Boardroom seen from the visitors' gallery (2006)

    The meetings of the Security Council take place in the "Norwegian Hall" of the UN building in New York City, a gift from the State of Norway . The room designed by the architect Arnstein Arneberg is equipped with a mural by the artist Per Krohg , which shows a phoenix for the new beginning after the Second World War. Further symbols can be found in the blue and gold silk hangings: anchors for faith, ears of wheat for hope, hearts for mercy.

    The seating arrangement is based on the colors of the seats:

    • At the round table the delegates from the member states of the Council (on dark gray seats)
    • Their advisors on the blue chairs.
    • The red seats are for other members of the UN who can attend a meeting but do not have the right to vote.

    The hall has a visitors' gallery which is open to the public as part of guided tours. Interpreters sit behind the windows on the left and right.

    See also


    Web links

    Commons : United Nations Security Council  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
    Wiktionary: United Nations Security Council  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
    Wiktionary: UN Security Council  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. 1991 (XVIII). Question of equitable representation on the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. United Nations, December 17, 1963, accessed April 19, 2019 (English, 1285th session).
    2. ^ Security Council Membership. United Nations, accessed April 19, 2019 .
    3. Richard Holbrooke (2004): “It is not America's failure that Germany is not a member of the Security Council. First of all, Germany's European allies England and France, who do not want to diminish their own status in the Security Council, are primarily responsible for this, and secondly other large EU countries such as Italy and Spain “ Fundamental break . In: Der Spiegel . No. 36 , 2004 ( online ).
    4. a b Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany: Reform of the United Nations Security Council. September 22, 2020, accessed December 17, 2020 .
    5. African states insist on the right of veto in the Security Council. In: Tagesspiegel. July 18, 2005, accessed December 17, 2020 .
    6. Charter of the United Nations. UNRIC , accessed August 1, 2016 .
    7. Changing Patterns in the Use of the Veto in the Security Council ( English , PDF; 57 kB) Global Policy Forum. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
    8. ^ A b Arab crisis increased distrust between Israel and the USA . The standard. March 4, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
    9. Security Council - 7354th meeting. (PDF; 314 kB) In: un.org. United Nations Security Council, December 30, 2014, accessed August 1, 2016 .
    10. UN chief welcomes Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements as 'significant step'. In: un.org. United Nations Security Council, December 23, 2016, accessed December 14, 2016 .
    11. Syria resolution fails again because of Putin and Hu . Zeit Online , July 2012; Retrieved August 21, 2012.
    12. Russia's eleventh veto , Tagesschau, November 18, 2017
    13. Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution on Tribunal for Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine, Amid Calls for Accountability, Justice for Victims , United Nations Press Release, July 29, 2015