Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council
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Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (also known as the Permanent Five, Big Five, or P5) are the five sovereign states to whom the UN Charter of 1945 grants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[1]

The permanent members were all allies in World War II (and the victors of that war), and are also all states with nuclear weapons (though only the United States had developed nuclear weapons prior to the formation of the United Nations). The remaining 10 members of the council are elected by the General Assembly, giving a total of 15 UN member states. All five permanent members have the power of veto, which enables any one of them to prevent the adoption of any "substantive" draft Council resolution, regardless of its level of international support.[2]

Current permanent members

The following is a table of the current permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.


The original permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in 1945 (dark blue) with their respective colonies and other holdings shown (pale blue).
Leaders of the five permanent member states at a summit in 2000. Clockwise from front left: Chinese paramount leader Jiang Zemin, U.S. President Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and French President Jacques Chirac.

At the UN's founding in 1945, the five permanent members of the Security Council were the French Republic, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There have been two seat changes since then, although these have not been reflected in Article 23 of the United Nations Charter, as it has not been accordingly amended:

Additionally, France reformed its provisional government into the French Fourth Republic in 1946 and later into the French Fifth Republic in 1958, both under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle. France maintained its seat as there was no change in its international status or recognition, although many of its overseas possessions eventually became independent.

The five permanent members of the Security Council were the victorious powers in World War II and have maintained the world's most powerful military forces ever since. They annually top the list of countries with the highest military expenditures; in 2011, they spent over US$1 trillion combined on defence, accounting for over 60% of global military expenditures (the U.S. alone accounting for over 40%). They are also five of the world's six largest arms exporters (along with Germany[12]), and are the only nations officially recognised as "nuclear-weapon states" under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), though there are other states known or believed to be in possession of nuclear weapons.

Veto power

The "power of veto" refers to the veto power wielded solely by the permanent members, enabling them to prevent the adoption of any "substantive" draft Council resolution, regardless of the level of international support for the draft. The veto does not apply to procedural votes, which is significant in that the Security Council's permanent membership can vote against a "procedural" draft resolution, without necessarily blocking its adoption by the council.

The veto is exercised when any permanent member--the so-called "P5"--casts a "negative" vote on a "substantive" draft resolution. Abstention or absence from the vote by a permanent member does not prevent a draft resolution from being adopted.


There have been proposals suggesting the introduction of new permanent members. The candidates usually mentioned are Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. They comprise the group of four countries known as the G4 nations, which mutually support one another's bids for permanent seats.[13]

This sort of reform has traditionally been opposed by the Uniting for Consensus group, which is composed primarily of nations that are regional rivals and economic competitors of the G4. The group is led by Italy and Spain (opposing Germany), Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina (opposing Brazil), Pakistan (opposing India), and South Korea (opposing Japan), in addition to Turkey, Indonesia and others. Since 1992, Italy and other council members have instead proposed semi-permanent seats or expanding the number of temporary seats.[]

Most of the leading candidates for permanent membership are regularly elected onto the Security Council by their respective groups. Japan was elected for eleven two-year terms, Brazil for ten terms, and Germany for three terms. India has been elected to the council eight times in total, with the most recent successful bid being in 2020.

In 2013, the P5 and G4 members of the UN Security Council accounted for eight of the world's ten largest defence budgets, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Country comparison

UNSC Member state People's Republic of China
French Republic
Russian Federation
United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland

(United Kingdom)
United States
of America

(United States)
Coat of arms National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg Armoiries république française.svg Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation 2.svg Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
Flag China France Russia United Kingdom United States
Population 1,411,778,724 (2020)[14] 67,427,000 (2021)[15] 146,171,015 (2021) 67,886,004 (2020)[16] 331,449,281 (2020)[17]
Area 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) 640,679 km2 (260,558 sq mi) 17,125,242 km2 (6,612,093 sq mi) 242,495 km2 (93,628 sq mi) 9,833,520 km2 (3,796,742 sq mi)
Population density 145/km² (375.5/sq mi) 104.71/km² (40,4/sq mi) 8.4/km² (21.8/sq mi) 270.7/km² (701.1/sq mi) 87/km² (33.6/sq mi)
Time zones 1 12 11 1 11
EEZ 877,019 km2 11,691,000 km2 7,566,673 km2 6,805,586 km2 11,351,000 km2
Capital Beijing Paris Moscow London Washington, D.C.
Largest cities Shanghai
Saint Petersburg
New York City
Los Angeles
Continent Asia Europe
North America/South America/Oceania/Africa
Europe/Asia Europe
North America/South America/Oceania/Africa
North America/Oceania
Government Unitary Marxist-Leninist one-party socialist republic Unitary semi-presidential
constitutional republic
Federal semi-presidential
constitutional republic
Unitary parliamentary democratic
constitutional monarchy
Federal presidential
constitutional republic
Ruling political party Communist Party of China La République En Marche! United Russia Conservative Party Democratic Party
State leaders Xi Jinping[b]
Li Keqiang
Emmanuel Macron
Jean Castex
Vladimir Putin
Mikhail Mishustin
Queen Elizabeth II
Boris Johnson
Joe Biden
Kamala Harris
Official languages Standard Chinese[d] French Russian English None at federal level, but English de facto
Economic alliance BRICS
Military alliance SCO NATO CSTO
Subdivisions with highest GDP Guangdong
$1.11 trillion (2014)
$882 billion (2019)
$340 billion (2012)
$2.69 trillion (2013)
$2.99 trillion (2020)
GDP per capita (nominal) $8,141 (73rd) $37,653 (21st) $9,243 (64th) $43,902 (13th) $56,084 (6th)
GDP per capita (PPP) $14,340 (84th) $41,476 (26th) $25,965 (48th) $41,499 (25th) $56,084 (11th)
GDP (nominal)[18] $11.38 trillion (2016)[19] (2nd) $2.422 trillion (2015)[20] (6th) $1.178 trillion (2016)[21] (12th) $2.679 trillion (2015)[22] (5th) $18.558 trillion (2016)[23] (1st)
GDP (PPP)[24] $20.85 trillion (2016)[25] (1st) $2.647 trillion (2015)[26] (10th) $3.493 trillion (2016)[27] (6th) $2.849 trillion (2015)[28] (9th) $18.558 trillion (2016)[29] (2nd)
Military expenditures $145.8 billion (2015)[30] (2nd) $46.8 billion (2015)[31] (7th) $65.6 billion (2015)[32] (4th) $56.2 billion (2015)[33] (5th) $597.5 billion (2015)[34] (1st)

Military personnel

The following list is sourced from the 2018 edition of "The Military Balance" published annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Country Active military Reserve military Paramilitary Total Per 1,000 capita
Per 1,000 capita
China China[35] 2,035,000 510,000 1,500,000 4,045,000 2.9 1.5
France France[36] 202,700 72,300 103,400 378,400 5.6 3
Russia Russian Federation[37][e] 1,013,628 2,572,500 2,310,859 5,896,987 41.5 7.1
United Kingdom United Kingdom[38] 146,650 44,250 0 190,900 2.9 2.3
United States United States[39] 1,348,400 857,950 0 2,206,350 6.8 4.2

Historical leaders

Harry S. TrumanDwight D. EisenhowerJohn F. KennedyLyndon B. JohnsonRichard NixonGerald FordJimmy CarterRonald ReaganGeorge H. W. BushBill ClintonGeorge W. BushBarack ObamaDonald TrumpJoe BidenClement AttleeWinston ChurchillAnthony EdenHarold MacmillanAlec Douglas-HomeHarold WilsonEdward HeathHarold WilsonJames CallaghanMargaret ThatcherJohn MajorTony BlairGordon BrownDavid CameronTheresa MayBoris JohnsonJoseph StalinGeorgy MalenkovNikita KhrushchevLeonid BrezhnevYuri AndropovKonstantin ChernenkoMikhail GorbachevBoris YeltsinVladimir PutinDmitry MedvedevVladimir PutinCharles de GaulleVincent AuriolRené CotyCharles de GaulleGeorges PompidouValéry Giscard d'EstaingFrançois MitterrandJacques ChiracNicolas SarkozyFrançois HollandeEmmanuel MacronChiang Kai-shekLi ZongrenChiang Kai-shekMao ZedongHua GuofengDeng XiaopingJiang ZeminHu JintaoXi Jinping

Current leaders of the permanent members

The following are the heads of state and government that represent the permanent members of the UN Security Council as of 2021:



  1. ^ On 25 October 1971, with opposition from the United States, the mainland communist People's Republic of China was given the Chinese seat on the Security Council in place of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
  2. ^ a b c The President of China is legally a ceremonial office, but the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (de facto leader) has always held this office since 1993, except for the months of transition. The current paramount leader is President Xi Jinping.
  3. ^ The de jure head of government of China is the Premier, whose current holder is Li Keqiang.
  4. ^ English in Hong Kong and Portuguese in Macau
  5. ^ The potential reserve personnel of Russia may be as high as 20 million, depending on how the figures are counted. However, an est. 2 million have seen military service within the last 5 years.
  6. ^ President of China since 14 March 2013.
  7. ^ Previously President of Russia in 2000-2008.


  1. ^ "Security Council Members | United Nations Security Council". Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ [1] Archived 20 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Ambassador Zhang Jun, PR". Retrieved 2020.
  4. ^ "Nicolas de Rivière". France ONU. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ "? ? ". Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ "Barbara Woodward DCMG". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ "Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield". Retrieved 2021.
  8. ^ Froehlich, Annette; Seffinga, Vincent (2019). The United Nations and Space Security: Conflicting Mandates between UNCOPUOS and the CD. p. 40. ISBN 9783030060251.
  9. ^ Sarmento, Clara (2009). Eastwards / Westwards: Which Direction for Gender Studies in the 21st Century?. p. 127. ISBN 9781443808682.
  10. ^ Hudson, Christopher (2014). The China Handbook. p. 59. ISBN 9781134269662.
  11. ^ Rigger, Shelley (2002). Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Reform. p. 60. ISBN 9781134692972.
  12. ^ [2] Archived 30 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Sharma, Rajeev (27 September 2015). "India pushes the envelope at G4 Summit: PM Modi tells UNSC to make space for largest democracies". First Post. Retrieved 2015.
  14. ^ Wee, Sui-Lee (11 May 2021). "China's 'Long-Term Time Bomb': Falling Births Drive Slow Population Growth". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  15. ^ "Demography - Population at the beginning of the month - France". Insee. 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  16. ^ "World Population Prospects - Population Division - United Nations". Retrieved 2020.
  17. ^ "Census Bureau's 2020 Population Count". United States Census. Retrieved 2021. The 2020 census is as of April 1, 2020.
  18. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF.
  19. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF.
  20. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects".
  21. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects".
  22. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects"
  23. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF.
  24. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF.
  25. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF.
  26. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects"
  27. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects"
  28. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects"
  29. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF.
  30. ^ "Top 15 Defence Budgets 2015". International Institute for Strategic Studies. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  31. ^ "Top 15 Defence Budgets 2015". International Institute for Strategic Studies.
  32. ^ "Top 15 Defence Budgets 2015". International Institute for Strategic Studies
  33. ^ "Top 15 Defence Budgets 2015". International Institute for Strategic Studies.
  34. ^ "Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2015" (PDF). Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  35. ^ IISS 2018, pp. 249-250
  36. ^ IISS 2018, pp. 102
  37. ^ IISS 2018, pp. 192
  38. ^ IISS 2018, pp. 160-161
  39. ^ IISS 2018, pp. 46

Further reading

See also

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