Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility of maintainingpeace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
The United Nations Security Council is the most powerful organ of the United Nations as it is charged with maintaining peace and security between nations. While other organs of the UN only make recommendations to member governments, the Security Council has the power to make decisions, which member governments must carry out under the United Nations Charter. The decisions of the Security Council are known as UN Security Council Resolutions.
The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means. It recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In certain cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Under Chapter 6 of the Charter, “Pacific Settlement of Disputes”, the Security Council “may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute”. The Council may “recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment” if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.
Under Chapter 7, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving “threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression”. In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force “to maintain or restore international peace and security”. Decisions taken under Chapter 7, such as economic sanctions, are binding on UN members. The UN’s role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:
- Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
- Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
- Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
- Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.
The United Nations has helped prevent many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts. It has opened the way to negotiated settlements through its service as a center of debate and negotiation, as well as through UN-sponsored fact-finding missions, mediators, and truce observers. UN peacekeeping forces, comprised of troops and equipment supplied by member nations, have usually been able to limit or prevent conflict. Some conflicts, however, have proven to be beyond the capacity of the UN to influence. Key to the success of UN peacekeeping efforts is the willingness of the parties to a conflict to come to terms peacefully through a viable political process.