Chapter 4 The United Nations

􏰉 State sovereignty creates a real need for such organizations on a practical level - why?

-􏰉 No central world government performs the function of coordinating the actions of states for mutual benefit

􏰉 State sovereignty also severely limits the power of the UN and other IGO’s because they do not want to give the UN power

The UN System

􏰉 Founded after WWII

􏰉 Closest entity to a World Government

􏰉 Members are sovereign states that have not empowered the UN to enforce its will within states’ territories except with the consent of those state’s governments

Purposes of the UN

􏰉 UN Charter

􏰉 Based on the principles that states are equal under
international law;
􏰉 States have sovereignty over their own affairs;
􏰉 States should have independence and territorial integrity;
􏰉 States should carry out their international obligations;
􏰉 Also lays out the structure of the UN and how it operates;
􏰉 Costs of membership are dues and the agreement to behave in accordance with the charter

History of the UN

􏰉 Funded in 1945

􏰉 Successor to the League of Nations (Woodrow Wilson after WWI)

􏰉 Tension with the U.S.

􏰉 Constrains U.S. power because it can balance U.S. power 􏰉 BUT it amplifies U.S. power when the U.S. leads a global coalition

􏰉 Increases in membership in the 1950s and 1960s

􏰉 Due to independence of Asian and African states 􏰉 Impact on voting patterns

􏰉 Role during the Cold War - irrelevant

􏰉 Role after the Cold War - center stage in the case of international security

􏰉 Currently follows the principle of ”three pillars”: 􏰉 Security, 􏰉 Economic Development, 􏰉 Human Rights

4.1 Construction of the UN

The UN Charter creates both a formal organization with its own powers and a set of basic rules of conduct for governments. It consists of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Secretariat.

The Security Council (SC) is responsible for responding to threats to international peace and security and has the authority to force states to change their policies through military enforcement if necessary.

The General Assembly (GA) can discuss any matter within the jurisdiction of the UN, including and beyond international peace and security (only making recommendations to states).

The secretariat is the bureaucratic staff of the UN, headed by the Secretary-General.

The Trusteeship Council (TC) is responsible for supervising any people and territories that have been placed under “trusteeship” with the UN.

The International Court of Justice is a judicial body where states bring complaints that other states have failed to live up to their obligations under international law.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) contains a subset of GA members and has the power to undertake studies and make recommendations on a range of non-security topics.

4.2 Law and administration

4.2.1 Obligations

All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against…any states. Article2(4)

The organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members. Article 2(1)

The UN cannot intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. Article 2(7)

Key words: legal, equality, and domestic non-interference

The General Assembly can consider and make recommendations on many topics but its outputs have no coercive or binding authority.

The one exception to this pattern is that the Assembly has decisive power over the UN expenditure budget and the allocation of costs among member states.

4.2.2 Compliance

In the absence of coercion, the Charter is largely designed around taking advantage of the self-interests of states in either preserving their good international reputations or in maintaining an organization that is broadly useful to them.

“A Member of the UN which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two years.”

The politics of great power arrearages are entirely different than those of the smaller states. The U.S. has used its withholding as an instrument to force the UN to change policies that the US opposes, and to reduce the American share of the overall budget.

4.3 International peace and security

UN has the “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” (Art. 24(1)) in world politics and that has the authority to decide what kind of collective response is warranted in times of crisis (Art. 39).

4.3.1 Obligations

The Security Council is the only body in the UN with the authority to take action in defense of the collective security needs of the international community. This includes the authority to take military action to enforce its decisions.

1.  International peace and security matter;
2.  Matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.

UN sanctions:

In 1999, the Council issued the first in a series of resolutions to impound the assets of individuals supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. This has been expanded several times since then and has led to a new norm that UN economic sanctions should primarily take the form of “smart” sanctions/ “targeted” sanctions that attack individuals responsible for threats to international peace and security.

The Council now has established the practice of identifying individuals rather than states as “threats to international peace and security.” Also, its resolutions can function essentially as legislation for states.

4.3.2 Compliance

The Council aims to produce compliance by states by a combination of political suasion and the threat of military enforcement.

UN’s accomplishments are ultimately a result of its ability to influence the choices of states in directions it desires.

  1. Peace-enforcement missions are coercive invasions of countries by a UN-authorized force, intent on destroying or changing a threat to international peace and security.

  2. Peacekeeping missions are negotiated between the UN and states or other parties and have the consent of the state in which they are operating; they often occur in the shadow of a threat from the Council, but in legal form they are always present with the formal consent of the country.

Peacekeeping force is a multinational force authorized by the UN that is:

1.  Impartial between the sides in the conflict;
2.  Authorized to use force only to defend their own lives, and;
3.  Consented to by the relevant governments.

UNAMIR in the Rwandan civil war in 1993. In the case of Rwanda genocide in 1994, it means a mandate for UNAMIR that did not include that right to use force to protect innocent civilians or to challenge the genocidaires.

4.3.3 Enforcement

Peace-enforcement is neither neutral nor consensual, and it is authorized to wage war to accomplish its political goals.

The Council can decide on collective military action on behalf of the entire UN and all its member states.

4.4 Case studies

4.4.1 The Goldstone Report 2009

The human rights council came into existence in 2006, and replaced the former Commission on Human Rights. Mandate: to address human rights violations in UN member states Limitations: its authority is limited to making recommendations about human rights, and these recommendations are not legally binding on states or on the UN.

Richard Goldstone , a prominent international lawyer from South Africa, was asked by the Human Rights Council “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza” from December 2008 to January 2009.

Israel: “military necessity” was sufficient legal rationale for both the war and its oncduct in the war. US.: has used the report as evidence that all sides in the conflict need to strengthen their internal mechanisms for investigating the possibility that their own personnel may have violated international humanitarian law.

4.4.2 Cholera in Haiti

Families in Haiti requested compensation, new investment in water treatment, and an apology. The UN exists in a privileged legal bubble, accountable only to its member states and not to any courts. When on a mission, peacekeepers are exempt from local law and are subject to the law of their home country. The local police cannot arrest or prosecute them; they can only request that the UN send them back home.

Investigating a mysterious Cholera outbreak in Haiti: Correspondent Confidential

4.4.3 Darfur 1990s-2000s

The “problem” of Darfur centers on the fact that the Sudanese government has organized and encouraged attacks on the people in the Darfur region, in the west Sudan, often using para-state militias.

The problem is said to be one of “international peace and security” as opposed to a problem of domestic turmoil and civil war?

The security council cannot act on any matter: “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction” of a member state.

1956 Invasion of Egyptian territory in the Sinai by France, the UK, and Israel: United Nations Emergency Force (patrol the area and monitor a cease-fire agreed by the warring governments)

1993 Rwanda civil war (Rwanda government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF): UNAMIR (genocide: a matter essentially within the domestic jurisdiction; the increasing refugee flows out of Rwanda, as people sought to escape the massacres, were themselves a threat to international peace and security)

1994, April Rwanda genocide (Black Hawk incident in Somalia) – the government drew its political power from sections of the Hutu population of the country, and it decided that the Tutsi population constituted a threat to the continuation of that power. It sought to massacre the Tutsi people. Reason: domestic jurisdiction. The UN could have no authority or obligation to respond.

1990 war between Kuwait and Iraq; Gulf War; Iraq war (2003)

2003-2009 War in Darfur

the legal interpretation of “domestic matters” is extremely powerful, both legally and politically. It limits what the UN can say and do. In 2007, the UN has approved a “hybrid” peace operation in Darfur.

  1. First, it was grafted on to a peace operation of the African Union (AU), known as AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan), and it is meat to support the political reconciliation negotiated by the AU in the Darfur Peace Agreement;

  2. Second, it has aspects of both a peacekeeping and a peace-enforcement mission. Sudan insisted on an “African” rather than international mission.

“Genocide in Africa National Geographic”:

4.4.4 Syrian war since 2011

The security council has not made use of its enforcement powers to impose a solution that resolves the underlying “threat to international peace and security”. Reason: the permanent members in the council disagree on how the Syrian conflict should be resolved.

Us, uk, and France among others have for many years wished to see the Assad government overthrown, though the us at least since 2015 has appeared more interested in “stability” in the country that excludes Da’esh. Russia supports Assad and increases its military commitment any time he appears to be weakening.

Conclusion: when the Great Powers in the Council agree with each other, the organization can act like a global imperial power, imposing itself as it sees fit anywhere. But when they do not agree, it disappears.

Syria’s war: who’s fighting and why-