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United Nations Security Council

 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is 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, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

The Security Council held its first session on 17 January 1946 at Church HouseLondon. Since its first meeting, the Council, which exists in continuous session, has travelled widely, holding meetings in many cities, such as Paris and Addis Ababa, as well as at its current permanent home in the United Nations building in New York City.

There are 15 members of the Security Council, consisting of 5 veto-wielding permanent members (ChinaFranceRussia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and 10 elected non-permanent members with two-year terms. This basic structure 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.

Members

Permanent members

The Security Council's five permanent members have the power to veto any substantive resolution:

 China

 France

 Russia

 United Kingdom

 United States

The five permanent members (also known as the P5 or Big 5) were drawn from the victorious powers of World War II, and at the UN's founding in 1946, the Security Council consisted of France, the Republic of Chinathe United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR. There have been two seat changes since then, although not reflected in Article 23 of the Charter of the United Nations as it has not been accordingly amended:

China's seat was originally filled by the Republic of China, but due to the stalemate of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, there have been two states claiming to represent China since then, and 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 (based in Taiwan) soon lost membership in all UN organizations.

Russia, being the legal successor state to the Soviet Union after the latter's collapse in 1991, 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 coincidentally the only countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states (NWS) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, their nuclear weapons status derives from the fact that they are the five countries that tested nuclear weapons before 1967; it is not linked to their membership of the UN Security Council and membership of the UN Security Council is not dependent on nuclear weapons status.

Non-permanent 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 Europeanbloc chooses one member. Also, one of these members is an "Arab country," alternately from the Asian or African bloc

For the 2-year term which begins on the January 1, 2011, the elected non-permanent members for this 2-year period will be Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal, South Africa.

President

The role of president of the Security Council involves setting the agenda, presiding at its meetings and overseeing any crisis. The President is authorized to issue both presidential statements (subject to consensus among Council members) and notes, which are used to make declarations of intent that the full Security Council can then pursue. The Presidency rotates monthly in alphabetical order of the Security Council member nations' names in English and is held by Uganda for the month of October 2010[

 

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, also known as the rule of "great Power unanimity", by a permanent member prevents adoption of a proposal, even if it has received the required number of affirmative votes (9). 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 123 times; the United Kingdom 32 times; and the United States 82 times. The majority of Russian/Soviet vetoes were in the first ten years of the Council's existence. Since 1984, China and France have vetoed three resolutions each; 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.

Status of non-members

A state that is a member of the UN, but not of the Security Council, may participate in Security Council discussions in matters by which the Council agrees that the country's interests are particularly affected. In recent years, the Council has interpreted this loosely, allowing many countries to take part in its discussions. Non-members are routinely invited to take part when they are parties to disputes being considered by the Council.

Role

Under Chapter Six of the Charter, "Pacific Settlement of Disputes", the Security Council "may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute". The Council may "recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment" if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.

Under Chapter Seven, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving "threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression". In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force "to maintain or restore international peace and security". This was the basis for UN armed action in Korea in 1950 during the Korean War and the use of coalition forces in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. Decisions taken under Chapter Seven, such a s economic sanctions, are binding on UN members.

The UN's role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:

Investigate any situation threatening international peace;

Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;

Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations;

Enforce its decisions militarily, or by any means necessary;

Avoid conflict and maintain focus on cooperation.

They also recommend the new Secretary-General to the General Assembly.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court recognizes that the Security Council has authority to refer cases to the Court, where the Court could not otherwise exercise jurisdiction. The Council exercised this power for the first time in March 2005, when it referred to the Court “the situation prevailing in Darfur since 1 July 2002”; since Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute, the Court could not otherwise have exercised jurisdiction.

Responsibility to protect

Security Council Resolution 1674, adopted on 28 April 2006, "reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity". The resolution commits the Council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict.

 

 

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