chapter  1
19 Pages

The Security Council, the security imperative and international law: Nigel D. White

The United Nations Security Council plays various roles on the international stage, which makes it difficult to prescribe the legal framework within which it should operate. It is wrong, however, to see the Council either as untrammelled by international law, or to see it as judge, jury and executioner – effectively a law unto itself. Its primary function according to the UN Charter is the maintenance of international peace and security. Just as governments act to protect the security of states from threats, so the Security Council performs a similar role in relation to the international order. Its constitution means that the Council’s security function is both erratic and inconsistent; but that should not detract from its competence in tackling situations which threaten the security of states, groups or individuals. In so doing it may use powers that are mandatory, coercive and give rise to supreme duties, but the question this chapter addresses is whether this places the Council outside the international legal order, or whether it must, as a matter of law, still respect principles of the UN Charter and international law. Further, as a political organ that is central to the international legal order, its legitimacy is dependent upon it respecting the law. If it acts outside the international legal order, or its resolutions are susceptible of being interpreted in such a way, then the Security Council will be a divisive actor rather than a force for unity; its actions will be a cause of fragmentation and unilateralism rather than a source of cohesion and integration.