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02/01/2013
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UK Mission to the United Nations

New York

London 18:05, 02 Jan 2013
New York 13:05, 02 Jan 2013

Security Council

Security Council by UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Security Council Chamber

The Security Council comprises fifteen Member States. Representatives of its Members are permanently present in New York so that the Council can function continuously, although the Council can meet, and has met, elsewhere.   Security Council membership always includes the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, ten Council members are elected by the General Assembly each to serve a two year term. As such, five elected members rotate on and off the Council on an annual basis. The current elected members are Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo (Terms began in 2012). Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa (Terms began in 2011) will be replaced by Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea and Rwanda at the start of 2013.     


The Presidency of the Council rotates monthly, according to the English alphabetical listing of its members. The UK last held the Presidency of the Security Council in March 2012 and will next hold it in June 2013.

Under Chapter V of the UN Charter, the United Nations membership confers on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.  

When a complaint concerning a dispute that might lead to a threat to international peace and security is brought before the Security Council, the Council may respond in a number of ways. Under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, the Council may, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by peaceful means. It may undertake to investigate and mediate, or appoint special representatives or request the Secretary-General to do so or to use his good offices, or may make recommendations with a view to a peaceful settlement.  

When an actual threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression has occurred – as determined by the Security Council – the Council may decide what measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter are necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. The Council may issue cease-fire directives. Or it may send United Nations peacekeeping forces to help reduce tensions in troubled areas, keep opposing forces apart and create conditions of calm in which peaceful settlements may be sought. The Council may also decide to adopt enforcement measures, including sanctions (e.g. trade and arms embargoes, travel bans, financial restrictions etc.). In certain cases, the Council may decide to authorise military action.

The Council also has the ability to recommend to the General Assembly that a Member State against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken should be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership. Or if a Member State has persistently violated the principles of the UN Charter, the Council may recommend to the General Assembly that it be expelled from the United Nations.  

Currently, reform of the Security Council, including its structure and working methods, is a subject of considerable debate among the UN membership.