Resolutions and veto
When a complaint concerning a threat to the peace or a breach of the peace is brought before the Security Council, the President of the Council or any member state may initiate a resolution. The process leading to a resolution is called consultation. If one of the permanent members votes against a resolution, it cannot be passed. This is the rule often referred to as the veto.
Prepatory work for resolutions
Nowadays it is customary for the three permanent members - France, the United Kingdom and the United States (P3) 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 of the draft resolutions.
This procedure is followed by consultations in the permanent five (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. While formal meetings do not last very long, an informal consultation of 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.
The most important decisions by the Security Council are passed at informal consultations of the whole. They are completely closed to any nonmembers and completely off the record. Such meetings take place very often - sometimes late at night.
Official formal meetings
When, finally, the official meetings take place, they are often short without long debates, and voting procedure. Statements by member states can be made, if desired.
The resolutions of the Security Council, unlike those of the General Assembly, are binding upon all UN member nations. In accepting the Charter, all nations agree to accept and carry out these decisions of the Security Council.
Under the UN Charter, article 27, all decisions of the Security Council on substantive issues, i.e. non-procedural, require nine affirmative votes including those of the permanent members. Consequently, if one of the permanent members votes against a resolution, it cannot be passed. This is the rule often referred to as the veto.
The Security Council Resolutions
The Security Council resolutions carry the following document symbol:
S/ Security Council
-/consecutive number (year)
Ex. S/RES/1325 (2000) Security Council resolution, number 1325 and the year of adoption.
The text of the Security Council resolutions are published in different versions:
- The official version is an annual compilation in Resolutions and decisions of the Security Council, published as part of the Official Records of the Security Council.
- Security Council resolutions 1946-.
- A printed index to Security Council resolutions for the given session is published in the Yearbook of the United Nations.
Voting records are not given in the resolutions. They can be retrieved through other sources:
- The first unofficial version is reproduced in the Security Council Press Releases.
- A voting chart from 1976 onwards is published in the Index to Proceedings of the Security Council.
- More background information about the resolution can be retrieved through the official meeting records.
- The UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library research guide: How to Find General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions and Voting Records.
As the decisions have already been taken during the informal consultation, the formal vote becomes a quick and simple procedure, in which delegates vote by show of hands.
- Index to resolutions of the Security Council 1946-1996 consists of a checklist of resolutions and decisions and a subject index.
- Resolutions and statements of the United Nations Security Council (1946-2000), A thematic guide is a publication containing all the resolutions for the period grouped into eight subject areas.
- Security council - Veto list from 1946 and onwards.
- The Security Council meetings records is another official source.
- The voting information is included in the Security Council Press Releases, which is the first unofficial summary of the meetings.
Read more about meeting records in DagDok.
There are a few publications on the veto:
- The UN veto in World Affairs, 1964-1990 : a Complete Record and Case Histories of the Security Council's Veto contains the text of vetoed draft resolutions and statements of voting members' indications on the consequences for the continued action of the Security Council. A broad subject index according to the following topics: 1) vetoes on membership 2) vetoes on political questions 3) vetoes on organizational matters and United Nations operations.
- The Veto : a Historical Necessity, 1946-2001 : a Comprehensive Record of the Use of Veto in the UN Security Council. CD-ROM included, contains text of Security Council resolutions 1-1350, membership of the Security Council 1946-2001. Full text of vetoed draft resolutions with statements and indications of continued action of the Security Council.
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.