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The United Nations’ Security Council Membership


The United Nations’ Security Council is increasing becoming a critical player in the world affairs and power relations between nations. The Security Council was established to manage threats to the world peace and human being existence. It was established in the post world war two era under a background of cold war, rapid military technology advancement and mutual mistrust among states. In modern times, new threats to the world peace and stability have emerged.

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Competition for limited natural resources such as oil, gas or fish may lead to conflicts between neighbouring countries. Religious or political ideological differences among political players may lead to secessionist wars. Systematic profiling of a country’s citizens based on racial, religious, political or tribal contexts may degenerate into massacres and genocides. Terrorism and abuse of nuclear energy technology are emerging as challenging threats to world peace and stability. All these events have the capability to degenerate into regional, continental and global humanitarian crisis.

The UN Security Council has several mandates geared towards effective management of events that have the potential to disrupt the world peace and stability. Some of the mandates include investigation of conflicts that may advance to international proportions and regulation of military armaments (United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) 2011). Other mandates include authorization of military actions against rogue nations and recommendation of economic sanctions against aggressive nations amongst other functions (UNSC 2011).In this context, the Security Council is arguably the most powerful organ of the United Nations.

The Security Council is composed of fifteen members of which five members are permanent and the rest serve for a two-year rotational basis. The five permanent members include the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China (UNSC 2011). The current temporary members include Gabon, South Africa, Germany, India and Brazil (UNSC 2011).

The other members are Bosnia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Colombia and Portugal (UNSC 2011). A nine vote’s majority is required to make decisions that touch on procedural matters. In addition to the nine votes, the five permanent members must be agreement in the execution of decisions on substantive matters (UNSC 2011).The five permanent members thus have a greater say on substantive matters of the council. Indeed, the permanent members have been known to veto decisions that go against their national interests.

The need to increase United Nations Security Council membership

Increase of United Nation’s Security Council membership has been a thorny issue for decades. At its inception, the five permanent members were arguably some of the most developed countries in terms of military might, technology and economic advancement. However, shifting dynamics necessitates reforms to the council. Such dynamics includes emerging economic powerhouses, power realignment among states, and new challenges to the council amongst other issues. Minimal reforms have taken place in the Security Council representation. This lack of reforms to reflect the changing face of United Nations undermines its credibility, relevance, and legitimacy (Russet 2005).

Equitable representation

The membership of the United Nations has greatly expanded over the years to its current membership of 192 states. This means that the membership has increased fourfold from an original membership of 50 states. Majority of the new members come from Africa and Asia (Ronzitti 2010).However, the composition of the five permanent members excludes members from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East (Russet 2005). It is worth noting that four of the permanent members are developed countries. This would mean that only one member represents the developing countries. On the other hand, over three quarters of the human population live in the developing countries (Mateja 2011).The Security Council membership thus needs to be more reflective of its membership, embrace regional balance and have the developing countries more represented in the council.

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Changing power structures

The United Nation Security Council membership in general and the permanent members in particular was broadly conceived along the military powers of the day. These military powers were the victors in the just ended world war two. The military powers also generally had advanced economies. However, due to changing military and economic fortunes there are new emerging powers. These new emerging powers have demonstrated military might, technology and economic advancement. In order for the substantive motions of the Security Council to gain legitimacy and wider acceptance, these new emerging powers must be considered. Some of the emerging powers in this context include Germany and Japan (Russet 2005).

Increased role of the Security Council

The post cold war era has given the Security Council an avenue to concentrate on its mandate. This is in contrast with the cold war era where the council’s operations were hampered by the infighting between two of its permanent members: the United States and Russia. The end of the cold war energized the Security Council and it began taking action on security threats to the world peace.

In this context, the Security Council interventions have greatly increased compared to the cold war era. The number of peacekeeping missions that the council has authorized in post cold war era can testify to this. The Security Council is thus more powerful today than it was in the cold war era. In this context, its decisions are likely to impart significantly to a wider geographical reach. This justifies the need to increase the membership of the council to be more representative of the subjects affected by its decisions.

United Nation’s Budget

Concerns have emerged over the contribution to the United Nation’s budget. The United States contributes 22 percent and 25 percent of the United Nation’s overall budget and United Nations’ peacekeeping mission budgets respectively (Ronzitti 2010).However, other emerging economic forces are contributing significant amounts of money to the UN’s budget. Such countries include Japan and Germany. Japan is the second largest contributor to the UN’s budget while Germany is ranked third (Ronzitti 2010). These two countries therefore make a significant contribution to funding UN Security Council’s resolution yet they have limited sway in its decision-making. This justifies the need to increase the council’s membership to capture this aspect.

Security Council composition; the way forward

It is clear that there is a consensus on the need to reform the Security Council in reference to its membership and procedures of operation. In the context of membership expansion, it is clear that there is no consensus on the way to expand the council’s membership. However, significant progress has been made in this regard through the introduction of the option A and option B on the expansion of the council’s membership. More work need to be done to make draw consensus on any of these two options and eventually adapt one.


Mateja P2011, Should the UN Security Council be expanded? Web.

Ronzitti N 2010, The Reform of the UN Security Council. Web.

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Russet B 2005, Security Council Expansion: Can’t, and Shouldn’t. Web.

United Nations’ Security Council 2011, Functions and powers. Web.

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"The United Nations' Security Council Membership." StudyCorgi, 10 Dec. 2020,

1. StudyCorgi. "The United Nations' Security Council Membership." December 10, 2020.


StudyCorgi. "The United Nations' Security Council Membership." December 10, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "The United Nations' Security Council Membership." December 10, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The United Nations' Security Council Membership'. 10 December.

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