- The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote.
- Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
- The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression..
- It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.
- In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Members of UNSC:
- The Security Council is made up of fifteen member states - consisting of five permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States and ten non-permanent members elected for a two-year term by the General Assembly on a regional basis.
- "Veto power" refers to the power of the permanent member to veto (Reject) any resolution of the Security Council.
- Each year the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members by 2/3rd majority (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term. In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991 (XVIII) of 17 December 1963.
- The 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows: five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.
Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:
- to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
- to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
- to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
- to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
- to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
- to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
- to take military action against an aggressor;
- to recommend the admission of new Members;
- to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in "strategic areas";
- to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.
UNSC non-permanent seat: India’s candidature receives unanimous endorsement by Asia-Pacific group
- India has won the unanimous support of all countries in the 55-member Asia-Pacific Group at the United Nations in support of its bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year term in 2021-22.
- India has already held a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for seven terms: 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012.
- Each year the 193-member of UNGA elects five nonpermanent members for a two-year term at the UNSC, with five replaced each year.
- To be approved, a candidate must receive at least two-thirds of all votes cast for that seat, which can result in deadlock if there are two roughly evenly matched candidates.
- A retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election.
- The Asia-Pacific Group gets to nominate one of its members for the 2020 elections to a non-permanent seat of UNSC.
- Currently the 10 non-permanent members are Belgium, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait, Peru, Poland and South Africa.
Significance of such unanimous support:
- Pakistan and China, both countries with which India has had diplomatic challenges at the UN, supported the move.
- Vote of two-thirds of the 193 UN General Assembly members is required to win a non-permanent seat on the UNSC.
- India has been keen to hold the seat in 2021-22 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022.
UNSC NON-PERMANENT SEAT: INDIA’S CANDIDATURE
In a major diplomatic win and testament to its global stature, India's candidature for a non-permanent seat at the powerful UN Security Council for a two-year term has been unanimously endorsed by the 55-member Asia-Pacific grouping, including China and Pakistan.
India has criticised the slow pace of UN Security Council reform process, saying the adoption of "opaque" methodologies, non-attribution of assertions and "obfuscation" of references by the member states is blocking the early reform of the world body.
Need for reforms
There are four major flaws in the design of the Security Council which cause it to be dysfunctional and these flaws are currently ignored in the reform process. The four flaws are: inequality, exclusiveness, rotating seats, and representation.Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has hotly debated Council reform but has not been able to reach agreement.
- First, the membership of the Security Council has changed very little since its inception in 1945, even though the number of UN member states has almost quadrupled since then and the relative power of member states has changed significantly. The only change in membership has been the addition of four non-permanent seats in 1965. African states call the under-representation of Africa a “historical injustice” which needs to be corrected.
- Second, the differences between permanent and non-permanent seats produce a highly unequal and inefficient Security Council. The five permanent members (P5) – Britain, France, United States, Russia and China – possess permanent seats and have the privilege of the veto whilst the status of non-permanent members is low.
- The performance of the Security Council in maintaining international peace and security has been poor. It failed in its actions in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.
- In short, in the years ahead, the world will need an effective and legitimate UNSC.
What constitutes the UNSC reform agenda?
- The current negotiation process is based on Decision 62/557 which was adopted in 2008.
- It defines five key issues for reform: categories of membership, the question of the veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Security Council and its working methods, and the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly.
- Decision 62/557 also stipulates that any solution must garner “the widest possible political acceptance”, although in 1998 the UN General Assembly already agreed that the support of two-thirds of UN member states is sufficient.
- Yet even if these conditions are met any of the P5 will still be able to veto the final resolution. For example, China and Russia have previously stated that reform should be based on a consensus and not on a majority vote.
On the issue of reform, the UN member states are divided into several groups. Their positions on the most important questions, membership and the veto, are as follows.
- First, the G4 consists of Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. The G4 mainly seek permanent seats for themselves, but are willing to forego their veto rights for fifteen years or possibly even longer.
- Second, the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) consists of various states – including Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Pakistan – which oppose the G4 and the addition of any new permanent seats. The UfC would instead add only non-permanent seats and preferably abolish the veto or at least restrict its use.
- Third, the African group consists of members of the African Union. It seeks two permanent and five non-permanent seats for Africa. The African group would preferably abolish the veto, but it insists that as long as the veto exists all permanent members should possess it.
- Fourth, the L69 consists of some 40 developing countries from all over the world, including Brazil and India. It seeks six new permanent seats and six new non-permanent seats balanced across UN regions. Its stance on the veto is similar to that of the African group; either the veto is abolished or it is extended to all permanent members.
- Fifth, the Arab group consists of 22 states and it demands a permanent Arab seat. It heavily criticises the veto, but does not present any solution to it.
- The final significant group is the ACT which consists of 21 smaller member states, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Peru, Uruguay and Liechtenstein. The ACT concentrates solely on improving the working methods – accountability, coherence, and transparency – of the Security Council so that all UN member states, not just the Council members, can take part in its decisions.
- The P5 are generally hesitant towards reform. Of the five, France and Britain are most open to reform. Whilst all permanent members accept the reform in principle, they have often fought popular reform proposals.