The Security Council (UNSC)

The Security Council (UNSC) is the UN’s most powerful organ and maintains international peace and security. It has five permanent members (the USA, China, Russia, France and the UK) and ten non-permanent members, elected by the General

Assembly, which serve overlapping 2-year terms. Japan, Germany and India have served most frequently as non-permanent members. UNSC resolutions are legally binding under Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter, which enables the Security Council to impose sanctions or take military action ‘to maintain or restore international peace and security’. The UNSC only tackles issues concerning peace and security (not, for example, climate change or poverty).

The UNSC has passed several important resolutions when the P5 have agreed:

However, the P5’s right of veto means that the UNSC’s ability to prevent human rights abuses and resolve conflict is severely limited. Although the UK and France have not exercised the veto since 1989, China, Russia and the USA have frequently done so in cases involving their geo-strategic interests. This sort of approach to conflict resolution means that the liberal good intentions of the Security Council are frequently undermined by realist self-interest.

The following UN resolutions were all vetoed when issues of conflict resolution clashed with the diplomatic priorities of China, Russia and the USA:

Although UNSC resolutions have approved numerous peacekeeping missions, these missions have often been slow to be implemented, lacked sufficient resources to be effective and haven’t possessed a strong enough mandate to achieve success.