United Nations Security Council

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    The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The Security Council held its first session on 17 January 1946. Like the UN as a whole, the Security Council was created following World War II to address the failings of another international organization, the League of Nations, in maintaining world peace. In its early decades, the body was largely paralysed by the Cold War division between the US and USSR and their allies, though it authorized interventions in the Korean War and the Congo Crisis and peacekeeping missions in the Suez Crisis, Cyprus, and West New Guinea. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, UN peacekeeping efforts increased dramatically in scale, and the Security Council authorized major military and peacekeeping missions in Kuwait, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Security Council consists of fifteen members. The great powers that were the victors of World War II—Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members. These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General. The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members. Security Council resolutions are typically enforced by UN peacekeepers, military forces voluntarily provided by member states and funded independently of the main UN budget. As of 2013, 116,837 peacekeeping soldiers and other personnel are deployed on 15 missions around the world. Evaluations of the Security Council’s effectiveness are mixed, and calls for its reform predate the body’s first meeting; however, little consensus exists on how its structure should be changed.

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