Unlike the General Assembly, the Security Council functions continuously at the seat of the United Nations. It is prepared to act as soon as there is a threat to world peace.
Preparatory work for resolutions
The President or any member of the Council may initiate a meeting. The preparatory work for the official meetings is conducted as informal meetings called consultations. Each formal meeting covers only one topic.
Proposals and draft resolutions
Any member of the Security Council may submit proposals and draft resolutions. These may, however, be put to a vote only at the request of a representative of the Council. Nowadays, it is customary for the three permanent members - France, the United Kingdom and the United States (the P3-group) - to submit a draft resolution. Their UN Ambassadors or other representatives meet every day to discuss the issues on the Security Council agenda and to agree on the texts.
This procedure is followed by consultations in the permanent P5-group and among the other groups within the Council. It is important to have gained broad support when the draft resolution is submitted before the official meeting.
Closed informal meetings
The Security Council members may have to consult their national groups in the General Assembly. The representatives meet at closed informal meetings at the UN Headquarters. It is in the informal consultation chamber, next to the Security Council chamber, that the travaux préparatoires of the Council (working papers, draft resolutions etc.) are completed.
Informal consultations on the whole can last for several hours and may run into several sessions. When a given resolution or action has been agreed upon, the consultation is adjourned and the members move next door to open a formal session of the Council.
Official formal meetings
Finally, when the formal meeting takes place, it is often very brief without long discussions. Security Council resolutions are usually adopted by a recorded vote, i. e. a vote which clearly identifies the stand that a Council member took on the issue under discussion. Any member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council may be invited to participate as the result of a decision of the Security Council, without any vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council. This takes place when the Security Council considers that the interests of that member are specially affected, or when a member brings a matter to the attention of the Security Council.
The formal meetings are the only official meetings of the Security Council. They are open to all to observe, but only Council members are allowed to vote or make statements.
The Security Council Meeting Records
Statements made during UN meetings may be issued as documents called meeting records. Documents from the Security Council meetings carry the following symbols:
S/ Security Council
-/PV. Procès verbaux - verbatim records
Ex. S/PV.5021 Security Council, verbatim records, meeting no 5021
N.B.! The meeting records are consecutively numbered starting from 1946-. The year is excluded.
- Meeting records in fulltext, from 1994-, are posted at the Security Council website. These documents, which include the statements and speeches made during the meeting, are official meeting records. The preparatory work for formal meetings is conducted in informal consultations for which no public record exists.
- Research guides by UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library (New York):
Key UN documents
UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases
- United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
- UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
- ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
- Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
- UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
- Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
- a list of all documents
- a comprehensive subject index
- an index to speeches
- a voting chart of resolutions
- United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
- All UN documents from 1993-.
- All resolutions of the Principal Organs from 1946-.
- All Security Council plenary documents from 1946- in English, French and Spanish.
- All supplements to the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR) from 1946-.
- All General Assembly plenary meeting records from 1946- in English, French and Spanish.
- Older documents are being scanned: Update on UN Digitization Programme.