General Studies IIImportant International InstitutionsInternational Organizations

United Nations Security Council


The United Nations Security Council has endorsed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a second five-year term- from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2026.

About United Nations Security Council:

United Nations Security CouncilUNSC

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), charged with ensuring international peace and security, recommending the admission of new UN members to the General Assembly, and approving any changes to the UN Charter. 
  • Its powers include:
    • establishing peacekeeping operations,
    • enacting international sanctions, and
    • authorizing military action.
  • The UNSC is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states.
  • Like the UN as a whole, the Security Council was created after World War II to address the failings of the League of Nations in maintaining world peace.
  • The Security Council was established by the UN Charter in 1945
  • It held its first session on 17 January 1946
  • The council is headquartered at New York.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members, of which five are permanent: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. These were the great powers, or their successor states, that were the victors of World War II.
  • Article 23 of the UN Charter concerns the composition of the UNSC.
  • Permanent members can veto any substantive resolution, including those on the admission of new member states to the United Nations or nominees for the office of Secretary-General.
  • The remaining ten members are elected on a regional basis by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to serve a term of two years.
    • The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.
  • In accordance with rule 92 of the rules of procedure, the election is held by secret ballot and there are no nominations. Under rule 83 of the rules of procedure, the non-permanent members of the Security Council are elected by a two-thirds majority.
    • Five for African and Asian countries.
    • One for Eastern European countries.
    • Two for Latin American and Caribbean countries.
    • Two for Western European and other countries.

  • Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members. A “No” vote from one of the five permanent members blocks the passage of the resolution.
  • Any member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that member are specially affected.

Why there is a need for UNSC reform?

The debate about reforming the UN Security Council is about as old as the UN itself. One of the most contested issues under this debate has been the veto power of P-5 which they assigned to themselves under UN charter. Over time the chorus for UNSC reform has grown significantly and at present, it includes various other aspects besides veto power such as regional representation, membership reform, procedural reforms etc.

  • Changing geopolitical situation: The Security Council’s membership and working methods reflect a bygone era. Though geopolitics have changed drastically, the UNSC has changed relatively little since 1945, when wartime victors crafted a Charter in their interest and awarded “permanent” veto-wielding Council seats for the Allied victors.

  • Reforms Long Overdue: The UNSC was expanded only once in 1963 to add 4 non-permanent members to the Council. Although the overall membership of the UN has increased from 113 to 193, there has been no change in the composition of the UNSC.
  • Inequitable economic and geographical representation: While Europe is over-represented, Asia is underrepresented. Africa and South America have no representation at all.
  • Crisis of legitimacy and credibility: Stalled reform agenda and various issues including its interventions in Libya and Syria in the name of responsibility have put questions on the credibility of the institution.
  • North-South Divide: The permanent UNSC membership portrays the big North-South divide in the decision making of security measures. For instance, there is no permanent member from Africa, despite the fact that 75% of its work is focused on that continent.
  • Emerging issues: Issues such as deepening economic interdependence, worsening environmental degradation, transnational threats also call for effective multilateral negotiations among the countries based on consensus. Yet, all critical decisions of the UNSC are still being taken by the permanent members of the Security Council.

Obstacles in UNSC reform

  • The P-5 will never agree to give up their veto right, nor will they agree to accord this right to any other country
  • United States and China are opposed to any major restructuring
  • France has reiterated India’s view of veto for additional members
  • United Kingdom has supported G-4 as new permanent member without Veto power
  • Russia, while not opposing expansion has supported two or three classes of UNSC members. The G-5 with veto powers, G-4 permanent members without the veto and whoever else may be elected by the General Assembly.
  • There is lack of unity and difference of views in terms of reform agenda among G-4 members also their regional rivals are opposed to the G-4 becoming permanent members.
  • Any changes in the structure of UNSC will require amendment in the UN charter that will have to be signed and ratified by two third majority of UNGA membership and it will also require concurrence of current P-5 members. Veto of even one permanent member can do away with Indian dream.
  • General membership of the UN wants to eliminate the existing veto; they will never agree to new veto-wielding powers.
  • China is most likely to block India s and Japan s bid for permanent seat considering its border disputes with these two nations
  • There are pressure groups within UN such as Uniting for consensus (Ufc) who are against any expansion in the permanent membership with veto power
  • Civil society, the most effective engine of change has not been actively engaged in UNSC reform to any meaningful extent

Reform process so far

In 1965, the number of elected, non-permanent seats without veto power was extended from six to ten, bringing the Council up to its current configuration. This remains the only Security Council reform since its formation.

In 2015 UNGA adopted a framework text for further discussion on UNSC reform by means of an Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN). This indicates most of the members support the restructuring of UNSC.

India at the UNSC

Take a look at its seven previous terms, and what its agenda will be amid events concerning China, Pakistan and the US:

  1. In 1950-51, India, as President of UNSC, presided over the adoption of resolutions calling for the cessation of hostilities during the Korean War and for assistance to the Republic of Korea.
  2. In 1967-68, India co-sponsored Resolution 238 extending mandate of UN mission in Cyprus.
  3. In 1972-73, India pushed strongly for admission of Bangladesh into the UN. The resolution was not adopted because of a veto by a permanent member.
  4. In 1977-78, India was a strong voice for Africa in the UNSC and spoke against apartheid. Then External Affairs Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke in UNSC for Namibia’s independence in 1978.
  5. In 1984-85, India was a leading voice in UNSC for resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, especially Palestine and Lebanon.
  6. In 1991-92, PM P V Narasimha Rao participated in the first-ever summit-level meeting of the UNSC and spoke on its role in the maintenance of peace and security.
  7. In 2011-2012, India was a strong voice for developing world, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism and Africa. The first statement on Syria was during India’s Presidency at the UNSC.

Why India wants to become a permanent member

India believes that the UNSC constituted post World War II does not reflect the geopolitical realities of today. India wants a permanent membership to the UNSC for two reasons.

  • First, the veto power which could be used by India to defend its own interests, especially in case of Pakistan and China, like Russia did against Ukraine.
  • Second, the sheer prestige associated with permanent membership of the most powerful multilateral forum.

Along with above reasons, India’s elevation will also be an acknowledgement of its rise as a global power.

Arguments in favor of India’s bid for a permanent seat

  • India is the 2nd most populous nation, the 3rd largest economy in PPP terms, a responsible nuclear power and the largest democracy in the world.
  • India is a founding member of the UN, and it has been the temporary member of the UNSC for 7 terms.
  • India has provided the 2nd largest number of troops in peacekeeping missions. In Africa alone 6000 of our troops have been stationed under UN peacekeeping missions. India has argued in UN that troops contributing nations should have greater say in UNSC.
  • India enjoys the backing of major powers including four permanent members other than China and those of African Union, Latin America, middle eastern countries and other LDCs from different parts of the globe.
  • India has been a responsible power and it has contributed significantly in global peace efforts. India rescued not only Indians but also many persons from other countries including Pakistan and USA from war ravaged Yemen and South Sudan under its operation Rahat and Sankat Mochan respectively.

India’s Roadblocks in Getting a Permanent Seat at UNSC

  • Although it may seem like a simple process, it is made difficult by the objections of certain permanent members of the Security Council. China, in particular, has been blocking India’s push for a permanent seat at the Council. China believes that granting India a permanent seat at the UNSC will lead to Indian interests being of paramount importance in the geopolitics of the subcontinent, a sentiment echoed by its ally, Pakistan.
  • In addition to this, India is also seen as a proliferating nuclear power. Analysts believe that this is the single most factor that is being a roadblock for India’s UNSC dreams.
  • To grant it a permanent seat without asking for any steps to cap its nuclear capabilities is an exercise in futility. As of late 2019, France has become the latest to join other nations in pushing for India’s permanent UNSC seat, but with the permanent 5 members obstinate about India having to give up its nuclear capabilities to join, India being a permanent member of the UNSC seem like a distant dream.

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