What is the significance of the UN Security Council? Discuss the need for reforms in the UNSC. (15 marks)



  • Introduce with the UN Security Council being one of the principal organs of the United Nations
  • Explain the significance of the UNSC – especially in terms of international peace
  • Discuss the need for various reforms – representation, veto of P5 etc.
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

The United Nations Security Council  (UNSC), one of the six principal organs of the United Nations(UN), has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. All members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. It has 15 Members (5 permanent – US, China, Russia, France and UK; and 10 non-permanent members).

Significance of the UN Security Council:

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  • Peace through peaceful means: The security council is tasked to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations. The Council aims to peacefully resolve international disputes under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which authorizes the council to call on parties to seek solutions via negotiation, arbitration, or other peaceful means. It determines the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken.
  • Assertive actions: Failing peaceful means, Chapter VII empowers the Security Council to take more assertive actions, such as imposing sanctions or authorizing the use of force “to maintain or restore international peace and security.” The council is empowered to impose binding obligations on the 193 UN member states to maintain peace.
  • Others: It also formulates plans to regulate armaments, recommends Secretary-General of the UNGA etc.

Structurally, the body remains largely unchanged since its founding in 1946, stirring debate among many members about its efficacy and authority as a mediator on matters of international security.

Factors requiring reforms in the UN Security Council:

  • Membership: The emerging nations like India now play a larger role in both the international economy and politics but their role (except China) in the UNSC remains limited.
  • Regional underrepresentation: Major regional powers like Japan & India (Asia) and Brazil (South America) and some other global south nations are not yet a part of UNSC thus creating regional imbalance in the Council.
  • Question of Veto held by the 5 permanent members: The five permanent members enjoy the “right to veto” meaning that, if any of them members cast a negative vote in the 15-member Council, the resolution or decision would not be approved. Thus, important world issues are left at the mercy of the five permanent members. For example, China’s veto on declaring a Masood Azhar as terrorist.
  • Changing global issues: Issues such as transnational migration, deepening economic interdependence, terrorism and organized crime etc. need a global consensus rather than just a few select nations.

Other international organisations like the IMF and the World Bank recently underwent reforms to increase developing countries representation in their governance structures but UNSC was last reformed in 1963 despite a manifold increase in the UN’s membership. Thus, in the backdrop of these issues faced by members of the United Nations, there is an urgent need to look into reforms of UNSC, so as to uphold the organisation’s legitimacy.