U.N. Security Council and Collective Security

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NEW YORK CITY — The Security Council, also known as the U.N. Charter, was introduced in 1945 to the United Nations. The U.N. Charter is a multilateral treaty that is legally binding—by signing the document, states have consented to the outlined rules.  All states have ratified the Charter, making the charter a classic example of legal positivism.

The Security Council consists of five permanent members: U.S., China, Russia, France and Britain. There are also 10 non-permanent members, with five delegates to Afro-Asia, one to East Europe, two to Latin America and two to Western Europe. While the role of the Security Council is to maintain and enforce the peace, it serves as an instrument for collective security and a tool to address global issues.

The Security Council embodies several roles. The primary role of the Security Council is to maintain and enforce the peace, as outlined in Article 1 (1). Although decisions of the Security Council are binding, they are not unlimited in their means. Necessity and proportionality are vital to U.N. Resolutions, although not specifically mentioned in the Charter.

The Security Council’s authority lies primarily in Chapters V-VIII, specifically in Articles 39-51, as well as Articles 23, 24 and 25. There are other significant articles that limit or express the Security Council’s role, such as Article 51 which outlines the use of self-defense and Articles 93-96 which outlines the ICJ.

Another prominent role and expectation of the Security Council is collective security. According to Mary O’Connell, “collective security envisions the enforcement of the rules of international law by all the members of the community of nations, whether or not they have suffered in injury in the particular case.”

The primary actors within the Security Council are states and the individuals who represent these states. However, There has been a recent demand for increased involvement of NGOs. NGO duties range from influencing Council initiatives to developing influential relations with council members, and they offer a strong role in peace-building.

NGOs have become significant global actors that employ a variety of tactics that report on situations such as human rights abuses, recruit/mobilize supporters, protest and lobbying.  NGO tactics include dissemination of information to the media, general public, allies and officials of government and global bodies.Their influence lies primarily in their ability to help draft multilateral treaties, such as Rome Statute that established ICC, and gaining access and consultative status in major global bodies, such as WTO or the World Bank. Humanitarian NGOs provide relief to victims of conflict and other catastrophes, and they have served as a vehicle for over 10 percent of total public development.

It has been argued that the Security Council embraced an innovative character throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. A large contribution to this was the extension of “threats to peace” after the Cold War to include widespread violations of international humanitarian law and the massive flow of refugees. During the Cold War, U.N. actions mainly attempted to maintain the status quo of bipolarity; however, the post-Cold War period was one where the Council actively sought to change the status quo. This change in social and political norms has accounted for the soar of interventions formerly accounted for, as well as an increased interest in collective security post-Cold War. Since the 1990s, the Security Council has acted past its authorized powers by means of flexible interpretation of the charter, but mostly expressed consent.

The United Nations Security Council is a global tool used to address conflicts and mass atrocities. It allows for unilateral or multilateral approaches to these issues and advocates for collective security of the world, by the world.

Neti Gupta

Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, Global Policy Forum, United Nations Security Council
Photo: Atlantic Sentinel

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Neti is a BORGEN Magazine writer.

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