What is the UN Security Council?
The UN Security Council is the world’s leading body in charge of maintaining international peace and security. It has 15 members, 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent, who serve two year terms. It is headquartered in NYC, and works on everything from applying economic pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear program to sending peacekeepers to the Central African Republic.
Cool, so why should I care?
The UN Security Council is where countries of the world go to debate and try to resolve the world’s thorniest issues -- that’s a pretty huge responsibility. Because it is the only UN body whose decisions are binding under the UN Charter, when the Council is united, it can be a real geopolitical problem solver.
Okay, but, what can it actually do?
You’re right. All 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council have to agree for the Council to live up to its responsibilities. Most notably, 4 resolutions aimed at helping to bring peace and security to Syria have been vetoed by Russia in the last few years, and there is no doubt that history will judge the Council harshly for that inaction.
The United States is the Security Council President for September.
As UN Security Council President, the United States can turn the Council spotlight on the world’s most urgent threats to international peace and security, from terrorists like ISIL travelling around the world to wage war, to the violence in Sudan and South Sudan, to the crisis in Ukraine.
Hold on, the Security Council has a President?
Yes, it does. The Presidency of the Security Council rotates. As UN Security Council President, the member nation will be responsible for setting the agenda for the month, organizing meetings, managing the distribution of information to Council members, issuing statements, and communicating the Council’s thoughts to the public.
Isn’t the UN just a bunch of diplomats in conference rooms arguing over word placement?
Yes, there’s that. But diplomacy matters. Negotiation may seem boring at first glance, but it can also be a very intense form of dispute resolution. It’s how we figure out how to tackle the world’s biggest issues, like getting more aid to people in need, sending in peacekeepers to prevent violence, eradicating extreme poverty, and reducing child mortality.
Wait, isn’t September that time of year when every hotel in NYC is booked and no one can get a cab in midtown?
Yes! Each year, world leaders gather in NYC the third week of September, negotiating, giving speeches, and -- yes -- affecting traffic in midtown. This is a big year, though, because the UN General Assembly will kick-off during the United States' UNSC Presidency.
Alright, so what can I do to follow along?
If you’re not a President or Prime Minister (or USUN staffer), you can still catch all the action and follow every tweet and posting the world leaders send. Remember when President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani took to Twitter to announce their historic phone call last year? That all happened during the UN General Assembly! So, follow Ambassador Samantha Power on Twitter and Facebook! And follow the U.S. Mission to the UN on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
About the Author: Aalok Kanani serves as a press advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN).
Editor's Note: Secretary of State John Kerry will chair a ministerial debate of the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Iraq at apprioximately 2:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 19. You can watch a live broadcast on www.state.gov.