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Your guide to UN and UN documents and reports

Security Council

The Security Council is the United Nations' most powerful body. Its primary responsibility is maintenance of international peace and security. It can also make recommendations to the General Assembly on the appointment of a new Secretary-General and on the admission of new Members to the UN.

Powers of the Security Council

Under the Charter, member states are obliged to carry out its decisions. Even though it is, in theory, a very powerful organ, UN history has shown that political reality is an obstacle for the Security Council in carrying out its duties as established by the Charter.

All international disputes do not have be brought before the Security Council. It is up to the Council to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction.

Under the Charter, the Council may take measures towards any threats to world peace. It may act upon a notification by, or complaint of

  • any member of the United Nations.
  • a non-member state involved in a dispute and prepared to accept the Council's decision for a pacific settlement.
  • the General Assembly.
  • the Secretary-General.

Threats to peace

When a dispute is brought before the Security Council, its first action is usually to recommend to the parties to try to reach agreement by peaceful means. The Council may initiate an investigation or mediation by appointing a special representative, or by using the good offices of the Secretary-General.

Acts of aggression

If the situation involves breach of peace or acts of aggression, the primary goal of the Council is to reach a peaceful agreement as soon as possible. The Council may take action in order to reduce tension in troubled areas. Such measures include

  • peace-keeping forces
  • economic sanctions
  • collective military action.

Members of the Security Council

The Security Council is composed of representatives of 15 member nations. There are five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly to serve for two year terms. Five members are brought onto the Council each year. The geographical distribution of the non-permanent membership should reflect all regions of the UN member states.

The Presidency of the Security Council rotates monthly in English alphabetical order of the state members of the Council.

Permanent members

  1. China
  2. France
  3. Russia
  4. United Kingdom
  5. United States.

Daily programme

The Programme of work, scheduled meetings and agenda of the day, is posted on the website of the Security Council.

More on the Security Council

Security Council documents are identified by the following symbols:

S/ Security Council


-/consecutive number

Ex. S/2003/207 Security Council, year 2003, document 207

For the period 1946-1993 the year references were excluded and the documents only carried the symbol S/ and a current number consecutively through the years.

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library. UN official documents and open access publications, UN maps, UN voting data and speeches.
  • UN iLibrary. UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS. 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 is 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


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