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.


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


Recent Developments



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 (
  • 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 (
  • 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 (

Related UNElections Monitors

[1] Source: Security Council Report: Special Research Report – Security Council Elections 2006 (August 14, 2006) (