France and the United Nations Security Council


What is the United Nations Security Council?

Created in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the UN Member conferred on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It adopts resolutions, legally-binding texts which apply to all UN Member States under the Charter of the United Nations.

As such, it can, for example, recommend procedures or methods for peaceful settlement of disputes, authorize use of force, implement a peacekeeping operation, create sanctions regimes, establish international criminal courts or extend the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Under the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council is made up of five permanent members with veto rights. These permanent members are France, the United States, Russia, China and the United Kingdom.
The Security Council also has ten elected members. They are elected by the United Nations General Assembly for a two year term.

France is a permanent member of the Security Council. What does that mean?

France was one of the UN’s founding members in 1945. It is a Security Council member and has a permanent seat like the United States, China, United Kingdom and Russia, under the Charter of the United Nations. As a nuclear-weapon State and intervention and mediation power present in numerous theatres of operation, including within peacekeeping operations, France plays a leading role in the management of numerous international crises, the promotion of human rights and respect for international law, especially international humanitarian law in conflict environments.

The five permanent members may use their veto to prevent a resolution from being adopted. France has not used its veto since 1989.

What is the Presidency of the Security Council?

The Presidency of the Council is carried out by each of the permanent and non-permanent members of the Council for a period of one month on a rotational basis according to alphabetic order in English.

What does the President of the Security Council do?

The Presidency of the Security Council is responsible for facilitating the debates and the general organization of the Council’s work for the month. While the position does not have any particular prerogatives, it is nevertheless an opportunity to give political impetus in certain direction.

In general terms, a presidency is punctuated by:

  • the calendar of regular and obligatory deadlines such as renewal of mandates for peacekeeping operations, Secretariat’s briefings and open debates;
  • the adoption of Council texts;
  • the organization of meetings at the initiative of the Presidency in order to define its priorities.

What is France’s position on UN Security Council reform?

France has long been in favour of Security Council reform in order to increase its authority and representativeness, while maintaining its decision-making abilities. France is in favour of expanding the Security Council in both categories of members: permanent and non-permanent. It also supports permanent Security Council seats for Germany, Brazil, India and Japan, as well as a greater representation of African countries at the Security Council, including among permanent members.

Furthermore, in 2013 France launched an initiative proposing a collective and voluntary agreement by permanent members of the Security Council whereby permanent members shall not exercise the right to veto in the event of mass atrocities. The Security Council’s ability to prevent or put an end to situations of mass atrocities is key to its legitimacy. In September 2020, the political declaration in support of this initiative set out by France and Mexico had been approved by 105 countries.

Find out more about the French initiative.

Updated: September 2021