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Background information
Tuesday, 01 January 2008 09:00


The Security Council is the most powerful organ of the United Nations (UN). According to the UN Charter, it has the 'primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security'.


Its main functions are:

  • To investigate situations that threaten international peace and security and make recommendations towards the pacific settlement of disputes (Chapter VI of the UN Charter)
  • To make recommendations with regard to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression (Chapter VII of the UN Charter)

It can take a number of actions to enforce its mandate, including carrying out military operations, imposing economic sanctions, ordering arms embargoes and inspections, and deploying human rights and election monitors. 


The Security Council functions continuously throughout the year and is composed of 15 members. Five are permanent members (China, France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and the Russian Federation) and ten are non-permanent members. The presidency of the Security Council rotates on a monthly basis following the English alphabetical order of the names of member States.

Human rights and the Security Council

Serious and persistent human rights violations can often be the source of and accompany situations that threaten international peace and security. Under Article 39 of the Charter, the Council may also "determine" that a situation characterized by grave human rights violations constitutes a "threat to the peace", which can lead to taking enforcement measures to restore the peace. The Council’s concern with human rights stems largely from these contexts, although it has been slow to effectively integrate human rights concerns into its work.> top

Further  reading

  • The UN Security Council's webpage provides basic information on the Security Council including its rules of procedures, programme of work and subsidiary bodies as well as links to resolutions, presidential statements, press releases and records of Security Council meetings.
  • The non-governmental organisation Security Council Report provides comprehensive monthly reports and updates on the Security Council's current and future work.
  • The non-governmental organisation Global Policy Forum provides extensive background information on the Security Council, its agenda, its working methods, the issues it has taken up and NGO engagement.
Last Updated on Friday, 29 October 2010 20:10

© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2018