How the United Nations Security Council Works:
The Security Council is made up of 15 member states; five (the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, and the United States) are permanent members, and 10 are nonpermanent members elected by the General Assembly to serve for two-year terms. Elections of nonpermanent members are staggered, with five brought onto the council each year; a retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election. Since 1963, the geographic distribution of the 10 nonpermanent members has been mandated as: five from African and Asian states; one from Eastern European states, two from Latin American and Caribbean states, and two from Western European and other states.

The presidency of the Security Council rotates among council member states according to the alphabetical order of their names (as the names are written in English). Each council president holds office for one month.

Under Article 24(1) of the U.N. Charter, the Security Council is entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security. It says: "In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf."

Article 25 of the charter makes clear that the Security Council's decisions are binding on member states. It says: "The members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter."

P-5 Members:
Although the Security Council has a total of 15 members, only five of these members-China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States-have a permanent seat on the council. Known as the "P-5" (permanent-five), these are the only states that may veto resolutions before the council. (Vetoes are allowed only on non-procedural questions.)
Rotating Members: In addition to the Permanent-Five Security Council members, there are 10 nonpermanent members who hold a seat on the council for two-year terms. The terms are staggered so that five new members join the council each year. Currently, the nonpermanent members of the Security Council are: During the year 2002 (when Resolution 1441 was passed), the nonpermanent members of the Council were: Voting Procedures:
Article 27 of the charter regulates voting procedures in the Security Council. It says:
1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VIa party to a dispute shall refrain from voting. This means that on nonprocedural issues, such as a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, nine members of the Security Council must vote for it-and none of the permanent-five members may veto it-if it is to pass. Abstentions, however, are not considered vetoes.

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