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Security Council Resolutions and Global Legal Regimes


Security Council resolutions have undergone an important evolution over the last two decades. In addition to its traditional role of determining country-specific situations which amount to threats to the peace, and imposing various measures, the Security Council has adopted resolutions which effectively impose new legal regimes on all UN Member States, dealing with counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, international criminal tribunals, and protection of civilians, among others. Some of these regimes have been enforced through specially created implementation mechanisms, such as sanctions committees. With this stronger “legislative” role of the Security Council, one can now identify parallel regimes—some adopted through traditional law-making by states, and some adopted by the Security Council and made either compulsory or recommendatory on member states. Thus it might be argued that the role of the Security Council is shifting from global executive to, additionally, global legislator.

This project assesses whether and how such legislative activity is beneficial to international peace and security. If instead of waiting for threats to the peace to emerge from country-specific situations, where permanent members can be biased and use their veto power, the Security Council is addressing generic international threats—such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons, war crimes, crimes against humanity, targeting of civilians, and recruitment of child soldiers—this can be instrumental in creating a preventive role and can guide, restrict and monitor member states’ policies. The project considers whether the regimes established by the Security Council serve their purpose, and explores the synergies and tensions with conventional legal regimes. 

This project engages three groups of scholars:

  • Security Council analysts: to assess whether or not the resolutions contribute to increased efficiency and legitimacy for the council, and whether or not its development as a legislator is problematic from a constitutional perspective;
  • international lawyers: to examine how traditional international legal regimes have been influenced by the legislative activities of the Security Council; and
  • peace/security scholars: to assess the success of the council’s legislative resolutions in eliminating or reducing threats to the peace.

An experts’ advisory meeting is planned for 12 June 2012, to be hosted at the City University of New York. A project workshop will be held in November 2012 at the University of St. Andrews. The project will result in an edited academic book and a UNU Policy Brief.