What is the United Nations Military Staff Committee?

The Military Staff Committee is a United Nations Security Council subsidiary body whose role is defined by the United Nations Charter.

The Mandate

The role of the MSC is “to advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council’s military requirements for the maintenance of international peace and security, the employment and command of forces placed at its disposal, the regulation of armaments, and possible disarmament.”

After nearly seven decades, the roles and functions of the MSC envisioned by the UN Charter have adapted to the realities of a UN system that has evolved significantly since 1946. Cold War dynamics and the early rejection of an autonomous, permanent UN military force prevented the MSC from fulfilling its intended purpose of serving as the UN’s global defence department. The organization and activities associated with UN peacekeeping, an enterprise not specifically identified in the UN Charter, evolved as the UN Secretariat looked to all Member States to provide troop contingents to implement Security Council mandates; the first such mission was the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) established in 1948. In 1992, the Secretariat created the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) “to provide political and executive direction to UN peacekeeping operations and maintain contact with the Security Council, troop and financial contributors, and parties to the conflict in the implementation of Security Council mandates.” The creation of the Department of Field Support (DFS) and the work of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) have further amplified the UN Secretariat’s role in implementing security elements of the Council’s mandates. Thus, the UN Secretariat, rather than the MSC, has become the centre for the UN’s military management activities. This evolutionary process has left the MSC in an advisory-only capacity with respect to the work of the Security Council.

Having met since the MSC’s inaugural meeting in London on 4 February 1946, the MSC is the longest standing subsidiary body of the Security Council.

The MSC remains active in the UN as a cadre of Military Advisors to their government's diplomats (PRs).