UN Security Council Working Methods

Posted 29 January 2019

Procedural Vote


Download a PDF of the complete table: The Procedural Vote

The voting procedure of the Security Council is governed by Article 27 of the UN Charter and Rule 40 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure. Article 27 provides that decisions of the Security Council are made by an affirmative vote of nine members, whereas each member has one vote. The Charter distinguishes, however, between votes on “procedural matters” and votes on “all other matters”. Article 27 stipulates that the concurring votes of the permanent members are required for the adoption of substantive decisions. Accordingly, when voting on procedural matters, a negative vote cast by a permanent member does not invalidate a decision, it stands if it secured nine affirmative votes. (Conversely, Article 27 of the Charter, by requiring the concurring votes of all permanent members for a non-procedural decision to be adopted, establishes the veto system.) In resolution 267(3) of 14 April 1949, the General Assembly recommended to the Security Council to consider as procedural several types of issues listed in detail in an annex. These included:

  • submission to the General Assembly of any questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security;
  • request to the General Assembly that it make a recommendation on a dispute or situation the Council is seized of;
  • request to the Secretary-General for the convocation of a special session of the General Assembly;
  • approval of annual reports to the General Assembly;
  • holding of meetings at places other than the seat of the UN; or
  • establishment of subsidiary organs the Council deems necessary for the performance of its functions.

Early in its history, the Council occasionally found it necessary to first decide by a vote whether a particular matter was procedural or substantive in nature and resorted to voting on the so-called “preliminary question”. Depending on the outcome of the vote on the preliminary question it would then proceed to a procedural or substantive vote. In the period 1946-1989, 153 procedural votes were recorded. Since the end of the Cold War, resort to procedural votes has been infrequent. Most procedural decisions—such as the adoption of the agenda, an invitation to an individual to participate in Council meetings, adding a new item to the seizure list or the suspension or adjournment of a meeting—have been arrived at by consensus.

However, some procedural votes were recorded during the period since 1990, the most recent one of them on 22 December 2014 on the adding of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the Council agenda. (As stated in rule 9 of the Council’s rules of procedure, the first item of the provisional agenda for each meeting of the Council shall be the adoption of the agenda. It has been the practice of the Council to adopt the agenda without a vote unless an objection is raised. If differences over the agenda cannot be worked out among Council members, they are resolved by a procedural vote.)