Un Security Council Background Paper

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History and Structure of the Security Council

The Security Council is the “acting arm” of the United Nations. Their decisions can destabilize oppressive regimes, send accompanying troops for relief aid workers, and provide framework for alternative conflict resolution through diplomatic means. There are 15 member states total in the Council with five countries holding permanent non-rotating seats, These Countries are commonly referred to as “The Permanent 5” and are as follows: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There are also rotating members whose memberships are two years in length. The 10 rotating member states currently in the Security Council are: Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya, Vietnam, Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda.

The Security Council beginnings are deeply intertwined with those of the United Nations itself. Evidence of this can be found in the first article of the UN Charter:

The Purposes of the United Nations are: To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.

Both entities began with The Declaration of St. James Palace which resulted from a 1941 meeting attended by nine exiled governments that were witnessing World War II play out on their sovereign lands and five countries who were concerned about how the effects of the war on the world. Part of the Declaration read as follows:

The only true basis of enduring peace is the willing cooperation of peace: peoples in a world which, relived of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security: “It is our intention to work together, and with other free peoples, both in war and peace, to this end.

The declaration reflected the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa. Their meeting with the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia, and General de Gaulle representing France began the process that led to the international organization known today as the United Nations.

In its original form the Security Council had eleven members, of which five would be permanent members and six would hold seats for two years. The Security Council was given the responsibility of preventing future wars, and it was responsible for making decisions on what actions the United Nations needed to take, The Security Council held its first historic meeting January 17, 1946, and has been taking actions in order to maintain peace ever since.

Article 27 stipulates that a majority of seven is required to pass all procedural matters, and all other “non-procedural” matters require a majority vote and an affirmation from all permanent members. Due to diplomatic pressure in 1965 the number of members in the Security Council was increased to 15, but the permanent positions remained the same. There has been much discussion of changing the veto positions, especially after the fall of USSR and its permanent position being given to the Russian Federation. This action has opened the door to the possibility of changing the veto power in the Security Council. The current structure is France, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Peoples Republic of China, and the Russian Federation having veto power.

The elected term for the rotating member states is two years, and they are selected by a vote of the General Assembly, which typically emphasizes candidates’ history of peace and contributions to the UN. The GA also attempts to obtain geographic representation. The...
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