The Five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council

Security Council meeting in New York.  Editorial credit: Golden Brown /
Security Council meeting in New York. Editorial credit: Golden Brown /

The United Nations is the largest intergovernmental organization in the world with 193 members. It was founded on October 4, 1945, by fifty-one members. Fifty of the members signed the United Nations Charter on June 26, 1945, during the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, US. Poland ratified the charter on 15 October 1945. Forty-nine of the original states are still members; the Russian Federation took over the membership of the Soviet Union after dissolution while Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were dissolved. The Security Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations that also includes the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. The primary responsibility of the Security Council is to maintain international peace by fostering relations among nations. Members of the UN are required to accept and enforce the decisions of the council. The Security Council consists of fifteen members: five permanent and ten non-permanent.

Organization of the Security Council

Each member is entitled to a single vote, but the United Nations Charter require all member states to comply with the decisions made by the council. Permanent members of the UN are the United States, China, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom. Non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly to serve a two-year term. About sixty member states have never been members of the Security Council. Non-members may participate in the discussions of the council if they are affected by the outcome but cannot cast a vote.

The Presidency of the Security Council rotates among the permanent and non-permanent members based on the alphabetical order in English. Each state elects a permanent representative who acts as the president when it is the country's turn. If a higher authority from the state such as the foreign minister, prime minister or president is present in the council, then he assumes the presidency.

Permanent Members of the Security Council

The permanent members (P5) of the Security Council are the five countries granted permanent membership by the UN Charter of 1945. They are China, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia. These countries were allies during the Second World War and are nuclear capable. Any of the five permanent members can veto a resolution to prevent its adoption by the council regardless of the level of support. Proposals to increase the members of the council by admitting Japan, India, Germany, and Brazil have been opposed by regional powers including India, Argentina, South Korea, Mexico, and Colombia.

5. United States

The United States emerged as a superpower after the Second World War. It was the first nation to develop the atomic bomb, its military might was unchallenged, and its economy was much better than the rest of the world. The state advocated for the formation of the United Nations after the collapse of the League of Nations. It hosts the United Nations Headquarters, the General Assembly, and the Security Council.

4. United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is also Charter members of UN. It was a vital member of the Allied Forces during the Second World War and a powerful European state. It is the closest ally of the United States and the fifth largest contributor to the UN budget. It is also a nuclear-capable country and the fifth largest economy in the world. The United Kingdom barely flexes its veto power; the last resolution vetted by the state was the US invasion of Panama on December 23, 1989.

3. Russia

Russia is a charter member of the UN and a superpower. It was a member of the Allied Forces during the Second World War. It is a nuclear-capable state that is politically and economically stable. Russia is the largest country in the world with a territory extending across Europe and Asia. After WWII, the United States and Russia engaged in cold and proxy wars that strained the relations between the two countries. Today, Russia exercises veto privileges rights against American proposals than any other state.

2. France

France is a charter member of the United Nations and a close ally of the United States and the United Kingdom. It was a member of the Allied Forces during the signing of the chatter and remains a vital member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. France, just like the United Kingdom and China, does not flex its veto power frequently unlike the United States and Russia. The last resolution vetoed by France was on December 23, 1989.

1. China

China is a charter member of the United Nations. The Republic of China initially held the seat, but the nationalist government was overthrown by the Communist Party and forced to the island of Taiwan. In 1971, the General Assembly recognized the communist government as the sole representative of China and expelled the Republic of China altogether. China played a crucial role during the Second World War defeat of Japan, and the United States sought to foster relations by advocating for the inclusion of the state as a permanent member.


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