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Is the Security Council relevant?

In contemporary politics, the Security Council is under scathing attack. However, it still is the only podium for all the nations to hold diplomacy talks. Posited here is a collage of the remit, role and functions of the SC that helps in understanding its nature and scope.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2003 15:24 IST
Ingrid Roder
Ingrid Roder

Everyone agrees that the Iraq war constituted a big blow to the prestige of the UN Security Council. Every one also agrees that multilateralism or universal morality of the super-power are the latest additions towords increasingly doubted in theinternational relations lexicon.

A lot many will also agree that the US is unableto establishpeace in Iraq after deposing Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial regime. Thus clearing highlighting the pit falls of going into war on a unilateral footing without a clear consent of the Security Council.

Posited here, is a collage of the remit, role and functions of the Security Council. There is also a collation of the Resolutions-successful and unsuccessful that have attemptedat making this world that slightlybetter place than it is for the present and future generations.

The Security Council

The primary responsibility of the UN Security Council is to promote international peace and security. Itacts on behalf of all the UN-members and according to the UN-Charter (Article 24). The Council determines "the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression (Article 39). The Security Council alone has the power to take decisions which Member States are obligated under the UN-Charter to carry out.The Security Council consists of fifteen members: five permanent member states and ten non-permanent members.

UN Security Council Tasks

Peace Making

Preventive Diplomacy

Peace Keeping: establishing of a UN force under UN command to be placed between the parties to a dispute after a cease-fire. First used in 1956 in Egypt.
Post-Conflict Peace-building
Peace - Building
Peace - Enforcements: based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter; operations are carried out under SC Mandate.

Invocation of the Veto

The permanent members have the right to exercise their veto-power regarding any Security Council decisions. To date, the veto has been invoked 241 times: 4 times by China, 18 times by France, 29 times by the United Kingdom, 117 times combined by the Soviet Union and its successor state the Russian Federation and 73 times by the United States. During the Cold War it was used repeatedly: a whopping 238 times in total! Since 1989 the Security Council has been able to effectively carry out its mandate. As a result the United Nations has had as excess of peace-keeping missions betweenthe period 1988 - 1992.

Measures of the Security Council

The Security Council can pass resolutions deciding on pacific or military actions as suggested in theUN-Charter (Chapter VI, VII). The first aim is always to seek a peaceful solution to the problem by negotiations and talks.

If these fail, economic sanctions can be implemented, which could include methods like "complete or partial interruption of economic relations, rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations" (Article 33).

Again, if these do not improve the situation in question or are not feasible, the Security Council can decide on military action like "demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations (Article 42)".

Security Council Resolutions

Contrary to the decisions taken by the UN General Assembly, the Resolutions adopted by the Security Council are binding to all member states. Nonetheless, "the success of a resolution depends on its implementation" emphasises Christoph Leischwitz, Assistant Professor for the National Model United Nations at the Ludwig-Maximilans-University, Munich, Germany (international student simulation of the UN).

"Looking at the resolutions alone will not give you an impression on how successful the mission of the UN has been". Punishments for non-compliance vary in each case, from nothing to the use of military force.

Since the creation of the Security Council in 1946, 1511 Security Council Resolutions (SCRs) have been passed.

First Published: Nov 13, 2003 18:14 IST