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Role And Function Of United Nation Security Council In Maintaining Global Peace And Harmony

"Peace is not made at the council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men" - Herbert Hoover

The United Nations was established in 1945 in the wake of the devastating impact of World War II, with the primary purpose of promoting international peace, security, and the protection of human rights. At the heart of the United Nations Charter, Article 7 establishes the principal organs of the United Nations: The General Assembly, the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.

This study focuses specifically on understanding the nature and diverse functions of the Security Council within the United Nations framework. The Security Council is the central body charged with the important task of identifying threats to world peace and aggression among its member states. Its main role is to mediate disputes and encourage the parties to a peaceful resolution.

Furthermore, if peaceful means prove insufficient, the Security Council may impose sanctions or authorize the use of force as a means to restore and maintain international peace and security. The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and ten rotating non-permanent members to ensure diversity.

Additionally, the Council's functions extend beyond immediate conflict resolution to include deploying peacekeeping missions, monitoring ceasefires, overseeing disarmament efforts, and recommending adjustments to the United Nations Charter to adapt to current world conditions. Understanding the delicate nature of the Security Council's role reveals the complex balance between sovereignty and collective security and the complexities inherent in interventionist measures in pursuit of global stability.

Through its actions and decisions, the Security Council remains an influential cornerstone in shaping international relations, striving to defuse conflicts and uphold the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Public International law is concerned with how to maintain the structure and behavior of sovereign states, similar entities, and intergovernmental organizations. International law has unique characteristics that make it different from the laws of national legal systems. International law does not have a central legislative authority and instead recognizes a non-hierarchical judicial authority. The largest international organization is the United Nations (UN) which currently has 193 member states[i]. Resolutions and declarations of the UN and other international[ii] organizations are non-legally binding instruments and do not create legal obligations[iii] for States.

The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945.The International Court of Justice identifies the sources of international law in Article 38 of the Statute[iv].

Examples include mass vaccination programmes (through WHO), the avoidance of famine and malnutrition (through the work of the WFP), and the protection of vulnerable and displaced people (for example, by UNHCR)[v]. Board for coordination (CEB) at the inter-secretariat level[vi]. Specialized agencies may or may not have been originally created by the United Nations, but they are incorporated into the United Nations System by the United Nations Economic and Social Council acting under Articles 57 and 63 of the United Nations Charter[vii].

At present the UN has in total 15[viii] specialized agencies that carry out various functions on behalf of the UN[ix].Civil society organizations also engaged in the post-2015 process, along with academia and other research institutions, including think tanks[x].

The Council is made up of 15 Member States. There are five permanent Members (the P5) - the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, and the United States - and 10 non-permanent Members (the E10) elected by the UN General Assembly to serve for two-year terms[xi].

Elections of non-permanent Members are staggered, with five elected each year[xii]. A retiring Member is not eligible for immediate re-election. In 1963, the UN General Assembly decided the geographic distribution of the 10 non-permanent Members would consist of three from the African group, two from the Asian group, two from the Latin American and Caribbean group, two from the Western European and Others group and one from the Eastern European group. Australia is a member of the Western European and Others group.

The Security Council has unique responsibility and decision-making powers and has a range of tools at its disposal[xiii].

When faced with a potential conflict, the first response of the Council is to recommend to the parties that they reach agreement through peaceful means. The Council may appoint, or ask the UN Secretary General to appoint, special representatives to assist and guide efforts towards conflict resolution.

In cases where conflict is occurring, the Council may issue ceasefire directives, send in UN peacekeeping forces or use enforcement actions, such as sanctions[xiv].

With or without agreement of national governments, the Council can take steps to protect civilians caught in the conflict, for example by allowing access[xv] across national borders for humanitarian organisations. The Council can direct Government's to limit stockpiling of certain weapons or disarm, for example by nuclear non-proliferation and destruction of chemical weapons.

The Council's day-to-day functions include the review of UN peacekeeping operations, consultations on specific country situations and monitoring the implementation of UN sanctions regimes through the work of its sanction's committees[xvi].

The Council is the only UN body that allows use of the veto[xvii]. The veto is exercised when a country votes against a draft decision and so prevents its adoption. It can only be used by the five permanent Members.

Article 27 of the UN Charter distinguishes between procedural and non-procedural (substantive) matters in Council decision-making[xviii].

For decisions on procedural matters, such as working practices or organisation of the agenda, at least nine Members must vote in favour of the decision for it to pass.

For decisions on substantiative matters, such as establishing a peacekeeping force or sanctions regime, the decision again needs at least nine Members to vote[xix] in favour. But those countries voting in favour must include all the permanent members - "including the concurring votes of the permanent members".

A resolution will also to fail if seven Members vote against the resolution or abstain from voting.

How does the UN maintain international peace and security?

It is the responsibility of the Security Council to decide when and where to send UN peacekeeping operations. The Security Council responds to crises around the world on a case-by-case basis and has a wide range of options. When considering the creation of a new peace operation, various factors are considered, including:
  • Whether there are clear political objectives and whether they are reflected in the mandate;
  • Whether specific mandates can be developed for United Nations operations;
  • Whether the safety of United Nations personnel is adequately guaranteed, and in particular whether adequate guarantees of the safety of United Nations personnel are obtained from major political parties or factions;
  • Whether there is a ceasefire in place and the parties have committed themselves to a peace process intended to reach a political settlement[xx].

The Security Council establishes peace operations by adopting Security Council resolutions. This resolution establishes the mission and scope of this mission. The Security Council continuously monitors the activities of United Nations peacekeeping operations, including through periodic reports from the Secretary-General and holding special Security Council meetings to discuss the activities of specific operations.

The Security Council may vote to extend, modify, or terminate mandates as it deems appropriate. According to Article 25 of the Charter, all United Nations Member States undertake to accept and implement the decisions of the Security Council[xxi]. While other UN bodies make recommendations to member states, only the Council has the power to make decisions that member states are obliged to implement[xxii].

According to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council may take coercive measures to maintain or restore international peace and security [xxiii. Such measures range from economic sanctions to international military action. The Council also establishes a UN peacekeeping mission and a special political mission[xxiv].

The board expresses its will in a resolution. Some possible ways are:
  • Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation:
    The most effective way to reduce the human suffering and enormous economic costs of conflict and its consequences is to prevent conflict in the first place[xxv].

    The United Nations plays an important role in conflict prevention, using diplomacy, courtesy and mediation to help countries prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts[xxvi]. The Secretary-General of the United Nations dispatches special personal representatives, envoys, and advisors to areas of tension around the world to assist in de-escalating crises and mediating negotiated solutions to disputes.

    The Secretary-General may also exercise ``good faith'' to facilitate the resolution of disputes. This means relying on the independence, impartiality and integrity of the Secretary-General to take public and private measures to prevent the outbreak, escalation and spread of international conflicts.

    Civilian-led political missions are sent into the field with the task of promoting dialogue and cooperation within and between states, or to promote reconciliation[xxvii] and democratic governance in societies rebuilding after civil war.

    The United Nations' efforts to promote credible elections around the world also directly contribute to efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict. This activity is based on the belief that the roots of many conflicts are political and that their resolution requires political solutions.
  • Peacekeeping:
    Some of its peacekeeping missions were successful in operations such as Suez crisis, Cyprus and West New Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan. Some of its present operations are, such as UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, UN Truce Supervision Organization stationed in Middle East, working.
  • Peacebuilding:
    The commission addressed several country specific, regional and thematic issues to help to maintain and draws attention, to and enhance, coherence[xxviii] in peace-building, sustaining peace to strengthen coordination and synergies. In Chad and Brundi, the commission has helped in implementing the national development plan and strengthening cooperation with multilateral and bilateral partners.
  • Countering Terrorism:
    CT Committee passed a resolution 1373 against the terror activities in 2001. The terror financing resolution 2462 was passed in 2019. The resolutions against the terror activities of Iraq and Levant, Al-Qaida and associated groups were passed in UNSC.
  • Disarmament:
    Resolution 1540 (2004) was passed to oblige the states to refrain from supporting non-state actions from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing[xxix], transporting chemical or biological, nuclear weapons. The respective states report the action taken by them.

Women, Peace and Security
While women remain a minority of combatants and perpetrators of war, they increasingly suffer the greatest harm. The UN Security Council recognized that including women and gender perspectives in decision-making can strengthen prospects for sustainable peace with the unanimous[xxx] adoption of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security[xxxi]. The landmark resolution specifically addresses the situation of women in armed conflict and calls for their participation at all levels of decision-making on conflict[xxxii] resolution and peacebuilding.

Peacekeeping and Youth
Young people are essential actors of peace[xxxiii]. Sustainable development and peace cannot be achieved without their active contribution. In conflict areas, youth often have invaluable knowledge about their communities and can drive remarkable change[xxxiv]. For youth to actively contribute to building peace within their communities, their needs must be addressed, their voices amplified, and their engagement advanced[xxxv].

UN Peacekeeping has long recognized the importance of engaging with youth as an essential demographic in most host countries, as well as to welcome them within operations[xxxvi] as civilian, police and military peacekeepers[xxxvii]. UN peacekeepers under 30 are often able to better connect with and serve as role models to young members of the local populations[xxxviii]. They help to increase innovation and overall performance in UN peace operations.

What criticisms has the Security Council faced?
Many critics, including member states from the developing world, charge that the Security Council's structure does not reflect current geopolitical realities. Its membership was expanded from six elected members to ten in 1965, and, in 1971, the People's Republic of China took the permanent seat previously occupied by the Republic of China (Taiwan). Since then, the body's composition has remained unchanged.

Regional powers such as Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Nigeria, and South Africa have sought to enlarge the Security Council or secure permanent seats of their own[xxxix]. Others have called for France to cede its permanent seat[xl] to the European Union in the wake of Brexit, especially after France and Germany decided to share the presidency of the Security Council for two months in 2019. In 2021, Britain announced its support[xli] for Germany receiving a permanent seat. And in early 2023, China, France, and Germany called for two permanent seats for Africa on the Security Council.

The debate about expansion is often framed as a trade-off[xlii] between legitimacy and efficacy. Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step[xliii] of declining a non-permanent Security Council seat in 2013, announcing a day after it was elected to a 2014�15 term that it would not serve in the absence of institutional reform[xliv].

Other critics include advocates of R2P, who say the veto gives undue deference to the political interests of the P5, leading to inaction in the face of mass atrocities. Russia's two vetoes of Security Council action on Ukraine, for instance, have spurred calls[xlv] to kick Russia out of the P5.

This line of criticism was growing even before the invasion; Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief from 2014 to 2018, repeatedly criticized[xlvi] the outsize power of the veto-wielding member states, warning that without institutional change, the United Nations could collapse. But it is not just P5 members who have demonstrated reluctance to use force. Aspirants to permanent-member status, including Brazil, Germany, and India, have generally opposed interventions as violations of sovereignty[xlvii].

While R2P advocates criticize the Security Council and its members for a lack of political will, others question the United Nations' conflict-management capacity, often citing 1990s peacekeeping crises in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda.

In the shadow of its 1993 experience in Somalia, in which eighteen U.S. Army Rangers were killed in an attempt to capture a warlord, the United States was among the powers that prevented a robust UN response in Rwanda. Despite alarming reports received by the Security Council in 1994, it declined to respond as an estimated eight hundred thousand people were killed in a genocide[xlviii] committed against ethnic Tutsis.

The United Nations also suffered humiliating defeats in the Balkans, where peacekeepers were used as human shields in the siege of Sarajevo and failed to protect civilians in the designated safe area of Srebrenica from massacre. Experts say these missions were undermined by both logistical and political problems, including muddled mandates, inadequate resources, and the parochial interests[xlix] of major powers. In an effort to combat these and other problems, delegates have advocated for more transparency and efficiency in the Security Council's decision-making process, as well as more interaction with the General Assembly.

Peacekeeping mandates continue to be scrutinized for their scope, cost, and cases in which peacekeepers themselves have committed abuses[l]. A 2000 self-evaluation, commissioned by Annan and led by veteran envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, said the United Nations had "repeatedly failed," and would continue to do[li] so absent "significant institutional change and increased financial support." Peacekeepers deployed in Haiti, for example, have faced intense criticism for widespread sexual exploitation, as well as for sparking a cholera outbreak that has[lii] killed more than ten thousand people since 2010.

However, many experts say the United Nations' overall track record is relatively strong: recent studies[liii] have found that, in general, UN peacekeeping prevents the resumption of violence in post-conflict scenarios[liv].

What are the prospects for reform?
The odds of substantial reform are seen as remote because amending the UN Charter requires an affirmative vote and domestic ratification by two-thirds of UN member states. This includes all of the Security Council's permanent members, which are unlikely to take measures that would curb their own influence. While there is broad agreement among UN members that the Security Council's makeup is outdated, each of the various proposals for reform inevitably leaves some aspirants[lv] alienated.

Some proposals call for additional permanent members and others for a new class of elected seats that have the possibility of renewal. In the absence of charter reform, smaller states have advocated for procedural changes, including greater transparency and closer consultations with troop-contributing countries.

Still, in early 2022, UN General Assembly President Csaba Korosi and U.S.[lvi] President Joe Biden both said that reforming the Security Council should be an important objective. In his 2022 address to the United Nations, Biden urged P5 countries to refrain from overusing the veto and called for enlarging the Security Council, particularly by adding more members[lvii] from Africa and Latin America.

The United Nations Security Council is the foundation for the pursuit of world peace and security. Its role is rooted in its mandate, structure and decision-making mechanisms, which are central to addressing diverse challenges and fostering international cooperation. The Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security and has therefore played a central role in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and the prevention of armed conflict around the world.

One of the Security Council's most important contributions is its power to adopt binding resolutions that enable rapid response to emerging crises. These resolutions outline diplomatic solutions and serve as important tools for imposing sanctions and authorizing peacekeeping operations. Furthermore, the Security Council's power lies in its ability to bring together world leaders, foster dialogue, and facilitate negotiations aimed at resolving conflicts by peaceful means.

Fundamentally, the Security Council's effectiveness in international peacekeeping depends on its ability to adapt to evolving geopolitical circumstances and respond to new threats. However, its effectiveness was criticized because the veto power of the permanent members-imposed restrictions and sometimes prevented prompt action in critical situations.

Despite these challenges, the Security Council remains an essential forum for international diplomacy and cooperation. Its interventions have brought stability to conflict-torn regions, prevented escalation to full-scale war, and provided a platform for dialogue between states with divergent interests.

In summary, the Security Council's role in maintaining international peace is irreplaceable, but its effectiveness depends on the commitment of its members to act in the interests of collective security. Strengthening mechanisms, improving cooperation among member states, and removing the constraints of the veto will result in a stronger and more responsive Security Council that can effectively manage the complexities of the global security landscape. This is an essential step towards achieving this goal.

  1. Chandler Green, 'The United Nations by The Numbers', 2018, (accessed on 17th Dec 2023)
  2. Mirkovich, Nicholas. The United Nations in War and Peace. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 228, The United Nations and the Future (Jul., 1943), pp. 30-33.
  3. "Millennium Development Goals and post-2015 Development Agenda". The United Nations. (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023)
  4. Charter of United Nations, INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE (accessed on 17th Dec. 2023)
  5. Fasulo, Linda (2004). An Insider's Guide to the UN. Yale University Press.
  6. (accessed on 17th Dec 2023)
  7. UNESCO and the Economic and Social Council, UNESCO.ORG (accessed on 17th Dec. 2023)
  8. 'Repertory of practice of United Nations organs supplement no. 10 (2000-2009) - Article 17(3)'. United Nations. (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023)
  9. Eckart Klein: United Nations, Specialized Agencies, para.9. In: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law
  10. 'United Nations Millennium Development Goals'. (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023)
  11. [xi] The role of the United Nations Security Council, DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE- AUSTRAILIAN GOVERNMENT (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Role of The Security Council, UN.ORG (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  21. Model United Nations, UN.ORG (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  22. What is the Security Council?, UN.ORG (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  23. Maintain International Peace and Security, UN.ORG (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  24. Peace and Security, UN.ORG (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  25. Supra note 23.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Report of the Peacebuilding Commission on its thirteenth session, United Nations- General Assembly Security Council (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  29. (1st meeting) 1540 Committee (Non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons) Open Consultations - Opening and General debate, UN WEB TV (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  30. Supra note 24.
  31. UNSCR 1325 at 20: Achievements and remaining Challenges in Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  32. Ibid.
  33. Report of the Peacebuilding Commission on its thirteenth session, United Nations- General Assembly Security Council (accessed on 17th Dec. 1023)
  34. (1st meeting) 1540 Committee (Non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons) Open Consultations - Opening and General debate, UN WEB TV (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  35. Supra note 24.
  36. UNSCR 1325 at 20: Achievements and remaining Challenges in Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  37. Giji Gya, Women, Peace and Security in EU Common Security and Defence Policy, EUROPEAN PEACEBUILDING LIAISON OFFICE (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  38. Supra note 24.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Leveraging the power of youth for a better peace, UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  41. Supra note 24.
  42. The Protection of Civilians in United Nations Peacekeeping, United Nations Department of Peace Operations Ref. 2019.17, UNHCR EMERGENCY HANDBOOK (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  43. Supra note 24.
  44. The UN Security Council, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  45. Hajnalka Vincze, 'One Voice, But Whose Voice? Should France Cede Its UN Security Council Seat to the EU?', 20-03-2019, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023)
  46. 'Germany gets British support for UN Security Council seat', 30-06-2021, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  47. Susan E. Rice, 19-02-2009, 'Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at an Informal Meeting of the General Assembly on Security Council Reform Print', (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  48. David Bosco, 18-10-2013, 'Saudi Arabia's Civil Disobedience at the United Nations', (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  49. 'Statement by Saudi Foreign on UN Security Council Membership', 18-10-2013, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  50. Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, 13-10-2022, 'Helsinki Commission Recommends Kicking Russia Off U.N. Security Council' (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  51. "Human rights chief expresses fear over possible UN 'collapse'", 20-08-2018, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  52. Supra note 39.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Dr Ramesh Kumar, India's Claim for Permanent Seat in UNSC: A Need of the Hour, International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Review (IJMDRR)'S_CLAIM_FOR_PERMANENT_SEAT_IN_UNSC_A_NEED_OF_THE_HOUR
  57. Supra note 39.
  58. Roland Paris, 'Peacekeeping Works Better Than You May Think', 12-08-2014, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  59. Lesley Diane Hsu, Foreign Aid and the Recurrence of Violence in Post-Conflict Countries, DIGITAL GEORGETOWN (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  60. Supra note 39.
  61. Roland Paris, 'Peacekeeping Works Better Than You May Think', 12-08-2014, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).
  62. Shashank Mattoo, How is India pushing to reform the UN Security Council? MINT (accessed on Dec. 17th 2023)
  63. Supra note 39.
  64. Remarks by President Biden Before the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly,
    21-09-2021, (Accessed on 17th Dec 2023).

Written By: Geetika Rathore- student of B.A. LL.B. at S.S. Jain Subodh Law College, Jaipur.

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