Security Council Chamber with open curtains

The year 2023 witnessed a three-decade high in the number of conflicts worldwide, even before simmering situations such as those in Sudan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory boiled over. In the face of escalating violence, however, consensus proved elusive in the Security Council, with its veto-casting permanent members — primarily the United States and the Russian Federation — impeding swift, effective action to address deteriorating situations around the world.


As the Security Council fully resumed in-person meetings, the invasion of Ukraine at the start of the year by the Russian Federation — a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Council — plunged the 15-nation organ into a fractious new normal, widening pre-existing rifts, making consensus more laborious than ever to achieve and impeding efforts to fulfil their responsibility in maintaining international peace and security.


A year into the altered reality that was life during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Security Council found itself in a largely transitional period, focused on shifting geopolitical dynamics and struggling to keep pace with increasingly dire humanitarian needs, as conflicts flared amid the pandemic’s fallout, a vastly unequal recovery began to take shape and extreme poverty rose globally for the first time in decades.


In a year rocked by the novel coronavirus that infected 84 million people, devastated economies and laid bare humanity’s starkest inequalities, the Security Council — working through peacekeepers, aid workers and logistics experts on the ground — pressed forward with its mandate to protect civilians and build peace in the world’s most complex conflict zones.


The Security Council united in 2017 to enact increasingly stringent sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in response to Pyongyang’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but failed to come together over the ongoing crisis in Syria, as it addressed a myriad of international peace and security challenges.


In a push to dislodge entrenched positions around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Security Council ended 2016 by adopting the first of its resolutions in more than three decades to target settlements, capping a year of intermittent divisions and contentious debate over how and even whether to intervene in the world’s fiercest conflicts, from Syria and Yemen in the Middle East to the Central African Republic, Mali and South Sudan in Africa.


Terrorism — and attempts to address both its root causes and colossal humanitarian impacts — pushed the Security Council towards new ground in 2015, with the 15-member body taking far-reaching actions to redefine threats to international peace and security, while struggling to adapt quickly to the technologies and conditions inflaming situations across the Middle East, Africa and other regions.