The Security Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. According to Chapters 5-7 of the UN Charter the Council bears primary responsibility for the “maintenance of international peace and security.”
The Security Council is made up of only fifteen members, making it the smallest of the principal organs. This group of fifteen includes five non-elected, permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), leaving only ten countries as the elected portion. By contrast, the General Assembly includes all 192 member states and ECOSOC has 54 elected members. Proposals for the expansion of the Security Council’s membership and reform of its working methods to incorporate more transparency mechanisms currently are being considered in the General Assembly.
The scope of the term “international peace and security” is currently a topic of discussion and disagreement between the Security Council – who see security as a widening concept as global circumstances shift – and members of the General Assembly, who are wary of Security Council “encroachment” on issues under the GA purview.
The Security Council’s ten elected members hold staggered two-year terms, which are not immediately renewable.
Each year the General Assembly elects five new non-permanent members to the Security Council, where they serve two-year terms. The elections follow the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, in particular Rules 83 and 93, which call for an unlimited number of voting rounds until one candidate obtains a two-thirds majority of the present members.
The voting rounds alternate between “restricted” and “unrestricted.” In unrestricted ballots, votes can be cast for any member of the regional group that is not currently a member of the Council. In restricted ballots, only the two highest-scoring candidates of the previous round can be voted for.
There are no Charter-specified qualifications for membership. Factors that are informally taken into account by member states in electing Security Council members:
- troop contributions to UN peacekeeping operations, peacekeeping experience and record
- representation of a significant demographic group
- experience in international leadership
- financial contributions to the UN budget
- domestic insecurity
- a current campaign for other offices or seats
On October 26, 2011, the General Assembly elected five new Security Council members in three rounds of voting.
The Member States elected were: Guatemala, Morocco, Togo, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan. The new members replaced Brazil, Gabon, Nigeria, Lebanon, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose terms ended on December 31, 2011.
They joined current members Colombia (elected), China (permanent), France (permanent), Germany (elected), India(elected), Portugal (elected), Russia (permanent), South Africa (elected), the United Kingdom (permanent), and the United States (permanent) on January 1, 2012.
Regions and Member States are already preparing for the elections for membership in 2013-2014.
- Seats available: 1 (to replace South Africa).
- Expected candidates: According to the African Group's formal system of sub-regional rotation, the next sub-region to be endorsed for a seat on the Council will be East Africa.
- Seats available: 1 (to replace India).
- Expected candidates: Bhutan and Cambodia have indicated interest in non-permanent membership in the near future, but it is unclear which year it will run.
- Seats available: none
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Seats available: 1 (to replace Colombia).
- Expected candidates: unknown
Western Europe and Other States
- Seats available: 2 (to replace Germany and Portugal).
- Expected candidates: Australia, Finland, and Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the only founding member of the UN that has never held a place on the Security Council.
In addition, recent calls have been made for Security Council reform. On 10 November 2011, the Small Five Group (S5) presented a report to the General Assembly that called for greater transparency within Security Council working groups. (Click here for more information on SC reform.)
- How Much Is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations (2006), by Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker, Forthcoming: Journal of Political Economy (http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/06-029.pdf)
- Security Council Report: Special Research Report – Security Council Elections 2006 (August 14, 2006) (Click Here)
- Vote buying in the UN Security Council, David Woodward, The New Economics Foundation, The Lancet, Vol. 369, January 6, 2007, pp 12-13 (http://www.jubileeresearch.org/news/LancetCmtFinal.doc)
- Does membership on the UN Security Council influence IMF decisions? Evidence from panel data, by Dreher, Axel, Jan-Egbert Sturm, and James Raymond Vreeland, August 2006 (http://www.yale.edu/leitner/unsc_imf.pdf)
Related UNElections Monitors
- Issue 39 - November 14 - Analysis of Security Council Elections, Open Letter to UN Member States
- Issue 34 - October 16 - Security Council Elections Concluded – Costa Rica and Croatia Elected in Third Round
- Issue 33 - October 15 - General Assembly to Elect Five Members of Security Council Tomorrow
- Issue 31 - October 11 - Security Council Election October 16 – Two Regions Contested
- Issue 1 - 7 November 2006 - Security Council Elections Concluded - Panama Wins GRULAC Seat
 Source: Security Council Report: Special Research Report – Security Council Elections 2006 (August 14, 2006) (http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/membship/election/2006/0814elections.pdf)