United Nations Security Council

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One of the six principal organs of the United Nations, based at UN headquarters in New York, whose prime responsibility is to maintain world peace and security. The Security Council, which first met in January 1946, consists of five permanent members (the USA, Russia, China, France, and the UK), and ten non-permanent members elected by the United Nations General Assembly for two-year terms on a rotating basis. The Security Council can investigate any international dispute, and recommend ways of achieving a settlement, including ‘enforcement measures’, such as sanctions, or the use of force by UN members (as, for example, in Somalia in 1992). It is also responsible for peacekeeping forces. Decisions taken by the Security Council require a majority of nine, including all five permanent members. This rule of great power unanimity, usually referred to as the right of veto, had been the cause of controversy. The effectiveness of the Council was improved after the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991. Since the 1990s the composition of the Security Council has been questioned. In particular, there have been proposals to increase the number of permanent members to reflect the changes in the economic and political balance of power since the UN's foundation. Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, and one Arab or African country have been suggested as appropriate candidates.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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