What Is the United Nations Security Council?

(Last Updated On: June 11, 2019)
What Is the United Nations Security Council?

The United Nations Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations as outlined by the UN charter. It is primarily responsible for maintaining peace and ensuring the international security of UN member states.

The United Nations

The United Nations is an international organization that was established in 1945 to oversee global relations. Its charter grants it the power to take action on a wide variety of world issues including war, poverty, human rights, climate change, armament, development, terrorism and other emergencies, just to name a few. This broad mandate came about in direct response to the war-torn early decades of the 20th century.

Try to name all the original members of the United Nations.

Creation of the United Nations Security Council

The first session of the United Nations Security Council was held on January 17, 1946 in London. Not long after, its permanent home was established at the main United Nations headquarters in New York. Over the years it has been temporarily moved on occasion to facilitate better access to areas of great tension and conflict, such as Ethiopia, Panama and Switzerland. The council is led by a President which rotates through each of the council members equally in one-month increments.

The first Security Council resolution resulting in military action was the U.S.-led intervention in Korea in 1950. The first UN peacekeeping mission deployed by the council was during the Suez Crisis of 1956.


The Security Council provides the primary voice when it comes to determining what constitutes an act of aggression or threat to world peace. As set out in the UN Charter, the United Nations has four purposes:

  • To maintain international peace and security.
  • To develop friendly relations among nations.
  • To cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights.
  • To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

The Security Council represents the branch of the UN charged to deal with conflict, war and peacekeeping. Because it is much smaller than the UN as a whole it, theoretically, can more easily reach consensus and take action as needed.

Functions and Powers

As with all of the major organs of the UN, the mandate and powers of the Security Council are specifically set out in the UN Charter. The Security Council specifically attempts to impact those responsible for aggression and conflict while minimizing effects on the population as a whole. The following are its main tasks:

  • Maintain international peace and security following the principles and goals of the United Nations.
  • Investigate all disputes or scenarios which may result in international friction.
  • Recommend action toward dispute settlement and conflict resolution. This may include assigning envoys, setting out guidelines or direct mediation.
  • Formulate systems to regulate international armaments.
  • Recognize threats to peace and acts of aggression and recommend appropriate action. They can impose ceasefire directives, deploy peacekeeping forces or assign UN observers. As a last resort, they are also empowered to organize military action.
  • Call on Members to apply peaceful methods to prevent or stop aggression such as economic sanctions, blockades, financial penalties, travel bans or even cutting off diplomatic relations.
  • Recommend admission of new Members.
  • Act as trustee in “strategic areas” as determined by the United Nations.
  • Recommend the appointment of the Secretary-General participate in the election of Judges to the International Court of Justice.

UN Security Council Members

While the council consists of fifteen members at all times, five of these have been established as permanent members of the council. The other ten members are elected to two-year terms which ensures continual change in membership over time. Each member gets a single vote, although the five permanent members have the power to veto any resolution not involving themselves.

Permanent Members

  • United States
  • China
  • Russia
  • France
  • United Kingdom

Current Elected Members

  • Belgium
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Dominican Republic
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Germany
  • Indonesia
  • Kuwait
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • South Africa

It is not necessary to be a member of the Security Council to be involved in discussions. In fact, it is standard practice for all UN member states involved in a particular situation or conflict to be included in meetings, although they are not granted voting powers.