Its ability to do so has been severely constrained in recent years, in large part because of bitter divisions between Russia and the West.
The Council has been feckless in the face of major conflicts, particularly those in which permanent members have a stake.
Efforts to expand the permanent membership of the Council to include powers that have emerged since 1945 — such as India, Japan and Germany — have been stymied.
For every country that vies for a seat, rivals seek to block it.
The United Nations Security Council has emerged as the key arena and barometer for evaluating the promise and progress of accommodating new, rising powers in the international system.
The case of India provides one of the best examples of a rising power coming to terms with its increased power, role and expectations of itself and of other powers, great and small, in negotiating its place in the reformed Council as a permanent member.
■ Can peacekeeping operations be repaired so the protection of civilians is ensured?
■ Can the United Nations persuade countries to come up with new ways to handle the new reality of mass migration?
Or why, as world leaders gather to kick off the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, the institution has struggled to live up to the promise of its founders: making the world a better, more peaceful place? Much of Africa and Asia was still ruled by colonial powers.
(The Assembly is responsible for making some budgetary decisions.)In principle, nations small and large, rich and poor, have equal voice in the Assembly, with each country getting one vote. The 15-member Security Council is by far the most powerful arm of the United Nations.