Security Council

Security Council

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.

Background:

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[1]:

Positive Factors:

- 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

Negative Factors:

- domestic insecurity

- a current campaign for other offices or seats

 

Results of Security Council Elections for 2014-2015 term

 On 17 October 2013 the General Assembly elected five nonpermanent members to the Security Council for the 2014-2015 term. The elections were held to replace five countries whose terms are ending this year: Togo and Morocco (from the African Group), Pakistan (from the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Guatemala (from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States), and Azerbaijan (from the Eastern European Group).  Neither of the two seats allotted to the Western European and Others Group was up for election this year.

The newly elected states are: Chad and Nigeria (for the African Group), Saudi Arabia (for the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Chile (from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States), and Lithuania (from the Eastern European Group). These states were elected in a "clean slate" election (without significant opposition and only requiring one round of voting). In order to be elected, states needed to garner at least a two-thirds majority of states considered "present and voting".

 For more information on the Security Council elections and election rules and procedure, please view the Special Research Report on the 2013 elections from Security Council Report.

 Voting Results from 2014-2015 election:

Africa 

(required 2/3 majority: 128 votes)

  • Chad - 184 votes
  • Nigeria - 186 votes
  • Gambia - 2 votes
  • Senegal - 2 votes

Asia

(required 2/3 majority: 128 votes) 

  • Saudi Arabia - 176 votes
  • Lebanon - 1vote

Eastern Europe

(required 2/3 majority: 126) 

  • Lithuania - 187 votes
  • Croatia - 1 vote

Latin America and the Caribbean

(required 2/3 majority: 124 votes) 

  • Chile - 186 votes 

Western Europe and Other States

  • Seats available: none

Recommended Reading:

  • 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

[1] Source: Security Council Report: Special Research Report – Security Council Elections 2006 (August 14, 2006) (http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/membship/election/2006/0814elections.pdf)