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The UN Security Council and Informal Groups of States$

Jochen Prantl

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199287680

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199287686.001.0001

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Janus‐faced Structure of the Security Council: Open System and Closed Shop

Janus‐faced Structure of the Security Council: Open System and Closed Shop

(p.29) 1
The UN Security Council and Informal Groups of States

Jochen Prantl (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes the institutional setting of the United Nations. The underlying assumption is that the Security Council can best be described as a Janus-faced structure of both an open system and a closed shop. This notion reflects the Council’s sensitivity towards external change, while the restrictive provisions of the Charter constrain the possibilities of formal adaptation. The chapter examines: (1) the role of great powers in international organizations, (2) the role and function of the Security Council according to the Charter of the United Nations, and (3) the ‘constitutional practice’ of the Council, elaborating on certain variants of the collective security scheme as envisioned in the Charter.

Keywords:   military force, decision-making, formal consultations, informal consultations, peacekeeping, regional alliances, great powers, collective security

The UN Security Council (SC) can best be described as a Janus‐faced structure of both an open system and a closed shop, given its sensitivity towards changes in the international system while facing considerable constraints to adapt itself internally given the restrictive provisions of the UN Charter. This chapter places informal groups of states into the wider context of the SC's so‐called ‘informal consultations other than consultations of the whole’.1 In order to address the Janus‐faced structure of the Council, it proceeds on three levels of analysis, examining (a) the role of great powers in international organizations, (b) the role and function of the SC according to the Charter of the UN, and (c) the ‘constitutional practice’ of the Council, elaborating on certain variants of the collective security scheme as envisioned in the Charter.

Governance in the SC comprises the following dimensions. Firstly, it involves the formal process of decision‐making according to the UN Charter and the Council's Provisional Rules of Procedure. Secondly, it involves the actual process of decision‐making that is characterized by the established practice of holding informal consultations (of the whole) before decisions are being taken in formal meetings of the Council. With no official records kept, they form an essential part of the SC's the (p.30) decision‐making.2 Neither the Charter nor the Rules of Procedure refer to those meetings. And finally, it involves the informal consultations other than consultations of the whole, under which informal groups of states may be gathered.

The SC is the master of its Rules of Procedures, with a plethora of possibilities to convene bi‐ and multilateral meetings on an informal level, as Davidson Nicol has succinctly summarized:

If bilateral they may involve the President and one other party who may or may not be a member of the Security Council, they may involve two members of the Security Council, or they may involve one member of the Security Council and one other party who may or may not be a member of the Security Council. If multilateral, they may involve the President and some other members of the Council; the President and some non‐members of the Council; the President and parties to a dispute; the President and representatives of some regional groups; the President and Secretariat officials possibly including the Secretary‐General; the President and representatives of liberation movements; or they may involve the President and a mix of two or more of these categories. They may involve one or more members of the Security Council and persons in one or more of the above categories with or without inclusion of the President.3

As these examples illustrate, members and non‐members of the SC including the Secretariat consult and coordinate their policies in various informal settings, though some formulas tend to be more institutionalized than others.4 These include regular meetings between the five permanent members of the Council (P‐5)5 or the three Western permanent members (P‐3)6 respectively. Other groupings are the Non‐Aligned Security Council Caucus, that is, countries of the Non‐Aligned Movement (NAM)7 elected to the Council. Furthermore, in 1994, the NAM and the Group of 77 (G‐77),8 another coordinating mechanism of developing countries, established a (p.31) Joint Coordinating Committee to enhance the cooperation between the two groupings in New York. Those members on the Council that neither belong to the P‐5 nor the Non‐aligned constitute the so‐called Non‐non‐aligned group. Given the fluid composition of this loose gathering, the Non‐non‐aligned does not constitute a group as such, although countries do cooperate on certain matters. Regional organizations such as the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU),9 and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) may coordinate their policies on matters under consideration in the Council. Respective members bring their joint positions into the Council's decision‐making process. The EU in particular has established a high level of cooperation and coordination, even though France and the United Kingdom have been quite reluctant to comply fully with the words and spirit of Article 19.2 of the Treaty of European Union (TEU). It requires them to ‘ensure the defence of the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter’. The coherence of EU member states tends to be much stronger on General Assembly than SC affairs.

Informal meetings of the SC may also convene in a rather ad hoc setting. These include consultations under the so‐called Arria formula, named after Diego Arria, the then Venezuelan Ambassador who devised it and chaired the first meeting under this format in 1993. It is an informal arrangement under which Council members and non‐members may gather. Having proliferated over recent years, meetings involve furthermore consultations with non‐state actors being party to a conflict, also with Non‐governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, or Médecins sans Frontières, or various think tanks such as the International Crisis Group or the International Peace Academy.10 Other ad hoc meetings may include informal consultations of so‐called drafting groups, convening on expert level, to negotiate the specific wording of a pending Council resolution or Presidential statement.11

Groups of Friends, Contact and Core Groups may be summarized under the rubric of ‘ad hoc settings’.12 However, Groups of Friends and (p.32) Contact Groups obviously differ from the above‐mentioned informal groupings in some important aspects. By name, Groups of Friends are first and foremost created to support the implementation of peacemaking and peacekeeping mandates entrusted to the Secretary‐General, while Contact Groups are self‐selected ad hoc coalitions of able and willing countries, working separately from the Council. This broad division line is however blurred when looking at empirical evidence. Both groupings may meet away from UN headquarters on various levels in different compositions. Since one of their primary functions is helping to manage ‘the making of peace on a consensual basis’,13 they seem to form—at first sight—a different category. However, in their specific functions as agenda‐setter of the Council or drafting group, preparing SC resolutions and Presidential Statements, they still fit under the heading of SC ad hoc settings.

Pointing to the various possibilities of informal meetings, bi‐ and multilateral settings of members and non‐members of the Council, demonstrates that Groups of Friends and Contact Groups are by no means exclusive instruments to exert influence on SC decision‐making. However, the analysis will elaborate on the circumstances that triggered the emergence of informal groups of states and the reasons why these groupings have gained considerable importance in the post‐Cold War era. Placing informal groups of states into the wider context of SC ad hoc settings opens the gate to a closer examination of the degree to which those groupings complement or compete with Council action. Such analysis will set the parameter to define the answer to the question of ‘Who governs?’.

1.1 Role of Great Powers

Since the end of the eighteenth century, it seems to be a common pattern for great powers after the cessation of major wars to remodel the international order according to their lessons learned, aimed at preventing the outbreak of future conflicts.14 The search for international order after World War II continued this tradition. However, it differed in one (p.33) important respect. While the Covenant of the League of Nations differentiated between bellum iustum and bellum iniustum, the Charter of the UN tried to contain the ius ad bellum via several provisions and, for the first time, outlawed war as a means of policy.15

The maintenance of international peace and security should be one of the primary functions of the UN in general and the SC in particular. Founded on the belief that aggression could be countered by the collective will of powerful states, the UN founding fathers perceived the Organization as the centre of military action, or at least its legitimation. However, the functions allocated to the UN never implied that the Organization would have a monopoly on the use of force. The possibility of casting a veto should involve the five members of the former Grand Alliance (namely China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia) only in those conflicts where they were not immediately affected, for example in disputes between smaller states.16

Furthermore, it had been clear from the very beginning that the UN could work effectively only if the five victorious powers of World War II were able and willing to cooperate in the future. Their solidarity has been, therefore, a precondition to the functioning of the SC. Writing his final report in 1945 on the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, US Secretary of State Edward Stettinius stated: ‘It was taken as axiomatic at Dumbarton Oaks, and continued to be the view of the Sponsoring Powers at San Francisco, that the cornerstone for world security is the unity of those nations which formed the core of the grand alliance against the Axis’.17

From this point of view, the conception rejuvenated the idea of the nineteenth century great power concert.18 Furthermore, it reflected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's vaguely defined concept of the four world policemen who should have the primary responsibility for maintaining and enforcing international peace and security.19 Ideas on the (p.34) conception of the SC had already been developed during World War II, whereby the overall approach appeared much more down‐to‐earth than the somewhat lofty model of the League of Nations. It emphasized the political responsibility of the great powers and their allocated function to maintain order.20 At the same time, it reflected the lessons learned of a misguided policy, as Edward Hallett Carr has observed in his analysis of international relations between 1919 and 1939:

Periods of crisis have been common in history. The characteristic feature of the twenty years between 1919 and 1939 was the abrupt descent from the visionary hopes of the first decade to the grim despair of the second, from a utopia which took little account of reality to a reality from which every element of utopia was rigorously excluded.21

One might conclude, consequently, that the fine‐tuned balance between utopia and reality ought to be the defining moment for the future development of the UN SC. On the one hand, the Charter of the UN formulated high hopes ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’.22 On the other hand, it acknowledged the fact that if there should be any realistic chance to live up to those high expectations the great powers had to be granted special privileges in order to keep engaged. In case of an institutional deadlock, the Charter offered, furthermore, the possibility of exit via the right of individual or collective defence to conduct conflict management outside the Organization: ‘Article 51 “turned the veto inside out”…by recognizing that a majority of powers cannot be prevented from cooperating to pursue outside an international organization a policy which the unanimity rule prevents them from pursuing inside the organization’.23

Based upon this interpretation of Article 51, one might argue that such cooperation may include the building of ad hoc coalitions of able and willing countries. Looking from this angle, informal groups of states do not infringe on existing Charter provisions, but can be directly derived from them. However, Article 51 cannot be interpreted as a blank cheque to bypass the UN. It is not an invitation for unilateral action by single states, since there is a clear, although not clearly defined, reference that—in Martin Wight's words—‘a majority of powers cannot be prevented’ from conducting conflict management outside the Organization. (p.35) The key to understanding this provision lies less in the futile exploration of the question of how many states are needed to get this very majority, but rather in the interpretation that a minority of one or two countries should not be able to stop a majority of like‐minded states from taking action. Should members exert their right of individual or collective self‐defence, the actions taken entail, however, a clear time horizon. The Charter grants the possibility to act until the SC has agreed upon the measures to restore international peace and security.24 The UN SC, therefore, shall come into play at the earliest possible stage.

The possibility of veto was perceived as a kind of reinsurance, providing the great powers with the option of an exit to preserve their vital national interests. Furthermore, the five victorious powers were granted the privilege of permanent membership on the SC, whereas the other (non‐permanent) members should be elected for a term of two years, without being eligible for immediate re‐election. The veto power in combination with the restrictions of Charter revision hermetically sealed their privileges under the conditions of 1945. However, it has not been a new phenomenon to think about the allocation of special privileges and duties within a group of states characterized by an asymmetric power structure. It already existed in 1685 when the Advocate Samuel Pufendorf observed in his opus De Jure Naturae et Gentium Libri Octo:

Another consideration is that it would often involve great injustice in a system of confederates for the vote of a majority to bind the rest when there is a great difference in resources, and so one contributes more to the common safety than another. For despite the fact that those who contribute in proportion to their wealth appear to bear equal burdens, it may frequently happen that one man is readier to expose his own modest fortune to risk than another his, a large one. Thus supposing that one state of a system contributes more to the common defence than all the others together, it would be manifestly unjust for it to be possible for the rest to force such a state to undertake something that would devolve the chief burden upon it. But yet for the votes of each state to weigh in proportion to its contribution to the society would grant such a powerful state sovereignty over the rest.25

This fundamental problem of international relations has not significantly changed even three centuries later. UN membership is composed of a large group of states that have only limited capacities to contribute to the aims of the Charter. At the same time, there is a minority of states having more (p.36) resources than the majority of other states taken together. While only a few members have the capacity for a credible projection of power, this minority, however, is not necessarily represented on the SC, for three reasons. First, the composition of the SC, consisting of permanent and non‐permanent members, reflects a trade‐off between inclusiveness and efficiency. Second, the election of non‐permanent members follows the same pattern according to Article 23 of the UN Charter, paying regard to contributions to the maintenance of international peace and security as well as to equitable geographical distribution. Third, the strict provisions regarding Charter amendments—as embodied in Article 10926—prevent the adaptation of the SC composition according to shifts in the relative power of UN member states. Informal groups of states may therefore provide a convenient exit strategy to include those countries that have the capacities at their disposal, but no formal voice on the Council to define the chain of action.

Those UN member states with only limited capacities at their disposal generally refer to the principle of equality and sovereignty, while the powerful minority points to its privilege qua exposed position and the necessity of having an efficient Organization.27 This clash of interests was already apparent during the San Francisco Conference in 1945, when forty‐nine states were engaged to find a workable mechanism to prevent another world war by an alliance of states for collective security. The structure of the SC reflects this circumstance by differentiating between permanent and non‐permanent members, granting China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States the privilege of permanent membership.

In conclusion, the thinking about how to model the international order after World War II had been translated into an institution that mirrored a policy mix of elements of utopia and reality. Firstly, the UN Security Council is composed of a limited number of permanent and non‐permanent members (Article 23). Secondly, it has the primary though not exclusive responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security (Article 24.1). Thirdly, the Council acts on behalf of all UN member states. Furthermore, it defines any threat to or breach of peace, (p.37) deciding whether there is an act of aggression (Article 39). Fourthly, it adopts resolutions that are legally binding for all members of the Organization; even non‐members can be affected to some extent (Article 2.5, 2.6, Article 25, Article 49). Fifthly, the five permanent members of the SC possess the right of veto in all matters going beyond procedural questions, a privilege acknowledging the asymmetric power structure within the UN. The veto explicitly includes all aspects of Charter revision (Article 27.3, Article 108, Article 109). Sixthly, Article 51 turns the veto inside out and offers via the right of collective or individual self‐defence a limited exit strategy to conduct conflict management outside the Organization. Finally, the right to adopt its own Rules of Procedure (Article 30) provides the Council with a flexible instrument to adapt the formula of its meetings according to changing circumstances.

1.2 Variations on the Collective Security Scheme

The system of collective security as agreed upon in San Francisco and embedded in the Charter of the UN faced a deep crisis immediately after its adoption.28 The ambitious provisions of Chapter VII (Articles 43–8) were not implemented. The most obvious reason was the antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union, which already foreshadowed the outline of the Cold War. In the SC, this conflict of interests became visible by the increasing number of vetoes cast in formal meetings.29

While the Soviet Union had used this privilege from 1946 to 1955 in seventy‐five cases, between 1956 and 1965 in twenty‐six cases, the United States used it only once up until 1965. Between 1966 and 1975, they cast it in twelve, and from 1976 to 1985 in thirty‐four cases. The year 1966 appears as a watershed, since the recomposition of the SC, namely the enlargement of its non‐permanent membership from six to ten seats, changed the institutional balance at the expense of Western powers. The action threshold was increased from seven to nine votes. This had the effect that, after 1966, eighty‐six percent of all vetoes were cast by the P‐3, that is, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.30


Table 2 Number of vetoes cast in the UN Security Council, 1946–2004



































































*Source: Bailey and Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 239; www.globalpolicy.org/ security/data/vetotab.htm

* The Republic of China (Taiwan) occupied the Chinese permanent seat on the Council in the period from 1946 to 1971.

Although these numbers do suggest a paralysis of the SC, scrutiny reveals a more accurate and complex picture. Even for the so‐called hot phase of the Cold War, complete stalemate in the Council was not maintained. Sydney Bailey, Inis Claude, and Francis Delon point to a considerable number of cases that support this argument.31 The causal connection between veto and the incapacity of the SC to act therefore has serious shortcomings in its explanatory power. It is not only the veto that determines an active or passive role for the Council, but other factors like political will or leadership by one single country or groups of states. The reflexive pointing to the veto as a monodimensional explanation of the potential paralysis of the SC all too often distracts from a broader understanding. This brings into question the truism that Articles 43–8 could not be implemented due to Cold War antagonism. The lack of action also reflects a deep‐rooted reluctance of governments to become involved in seemingly distant regions and risky military operations without reserving the right to their explicit consent.

The non‐implementation of central Articles in the Charter permitted an environment that led, according to Adam Roberts, to three developments (p.39) highlighting the inherent flexibility of the UN Charter. These variants of collective security include: (a) the tendency to regional alliances and military action in a multilateral framework, (b) the delegation of the enforcement powers of the SC authorizing (coalitions of) states or regional arrangements to use military force on behalf of the UN, and (c) peacekeeping operations under the authority of the UN.32 Informal groups of states shall be introduced later as a fourth variant of collective security, caused by, and evolving as part and parcel of, the development of UN crisis response.

1.2.1 Regional Alliances and Multilateral Action

The creation of regional alliances reflects the fact that most states tend to use their forces for military operations on a regional rather than a global level.33 The San Francisco Conference in 1945 had agreed to include in the UN Charter a special authorization for regional organizations or agencies to deal with security problems that are appropriate for regional action. The final report of Commission III dealing with questions relating to the SC underlined that ‘[m]embers should make every effort to settle local disputes by regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council’.34 Those provisions should become later embodied in Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. The development of nuclear weapons in the hands of a few states fostered the trend towards the creation of alliances, which undermined the far more ambitious system of global collective security. With nuclear deterrence as one of the defining moments of the bipolar system, the growing perception of vulnerability led states to align themselves with a nuclear power.35

The emergence of several regional alliances after 1945 was also accompanied by the tendency to use force in a multilateral framework rather than to intervene unilaterally. The preference for multilateral action—or what Ruth Wedgwood calls ‘technical multilateralism’36 to keep up appearance of collective action—gained currency. When the United States intervened in the Dominican Republic in 1965, it achieved prior authorization (p.40) through a resolution adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS), thereby avoiding a Soviet veto in the UN Security Council. Furthermore, US efforts were flanked by the deployment of an Inter‐American Peace Force. Even the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was the hidden behind the fig leaf of the multilateral action of the Warsaw Pact, with the participation of Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, and Hungary.37 The US–American intervention in Grenada in October 1983 was based upon the placet of the rather inactive Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. These few post‐1945 examples of ‘thin multilateralism’,38 which can be further continued in extenso, illustrate that multilateral action became the screen behind which the great powers could hide their interests. At the same time, the appearance of legitimate state action gained importance as a means of ‘social control’,39 restricting the uncontrolled exercise of power in the conduct of international relations.

Regional alliances can be perceived as both starting point and turning away from the system of collective security. Looking at the development of the international system since 1945, there has not been a ripe moment for implementing such an ambitious scheme. Consequently, despite the examples of thin multilateralism, arrangements of regional security should rather be seen as the best possible, though sub‐optimal, rapprochement to the concept of collective security, as envisaged by the Founders of the UN.40 Regional arrangements remain sub‐optimal since they have never been a substitute for the idea of a collective force under UN authority. However, this optimal solution has always been out of reach.

The structural conditions of the post‐Cold War era have reinforced this trend towards regionalism in dealing with crisis situations that may endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.41 It has led to a decentralization of global security, with the stakeholders seeking ‘cooperative regional solutions’.42 The reliance upon regional and sub‐regional settings, including informal groups of states constitutes a variant of collective security that ‘may cause sleepless nights for some international lawyers, but has often seemed to salve the concerns (p.41) felt by other countries at the singular career of a country with formidable military power’.43

1.2.2 Authorization of Military Force

The strongest variant of collective security has been the authorization to use force, thereby delegating the enforcement powers of the SC. This shift of competence developed out of the circumstance that member states could not agree upon the use of force during the Cold War era. The Korean War (1950–3) marked the beginning of the subsequent practice to delegate the enforcement powers of the SC to (coalitions of) states or regional arrangements.44 After the outbreak of the conflict on 25 June 1950, the SC determined there had been a breach of peace. It called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and demanded the withdrawal of North Korean troops to the 38th parallel.45

These far‐reaching decisions were possible at this stage since the Soviet Union had conducted an ‘empty chair’ policy at the time the crisis emerged: it had boycotted virtually all Council meetings in protest because the government in Taiwan instead of Communist Beijing was still holding the seat of China. Consequently, the SC was able to authorize a UN military operation under the unified command of the United States.46 Not the least due to this unusual activism of the Council, the Soviet Union terminated its boycott in August 1950 and vetoed all subsequent decisions of the Council.47 Facing complete paralysis, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson submitted an Action Plan to the Western‐dominated General Assembly, which was adopted on 3 November 1950, as the so‐called ‘Uniting‐for‐Peace’ resolution:

[I]f the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or acts of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security. If not in session at the time, the General Assembly may meet in emergency special session within twenty‐four hours of the request therefore. Such an emergency special session may be called if requested by the Security (p.42) Council on the vote of any seven members, or by a majority of the members of the United Nations.48

The General Assembly established furthermore a fourteen‐member Peace Observation Commission,49 which should report on potential threats to international peace and security, thereby entering into competition with the authority of the SC under Article 39 to ‘determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression’.

The Uniting‐for‐Peace procedure constituted a precedent case in the application of UN Charter provisions. The resolution significantly expanded the competence of the General Assembly, while restricting the provisions of Article 24, which had granted the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security to the Council. The resolution was a gate‐opener, providing the General Assembly with the possibility of convening a special session and advising military measures on its own. This revaluation was, however, limited since its vote did not imply a legally binding decision. Consequently, the resolution did not transfer any of the enforcement powers from the Council to the Assembly. Enforcement action under Chapter VII continued to be reserved to the SC. The Uniting‐for‐Peace resolution pointed to the flexible, if not uncontested, mechanisms of the Charter that allowed the UN to take action even when the SC was blocked. Due to the contentious nature of the decision, this procedure has not been evoked very often.50 Another emergency special session was convened during the Suez crisis in 1956, when the General Assembly adopted a resolution to send a ten‐nation‐peacekeeping force to supervise the cessation of hostilities. Such agreement was possible since the interests of the two superpowers converged, acting against the veto of France and Britain, which were directly involved in the conflict. In consequence, this peacekeeping operation had been made possible by invoking the Uniting‐for‐Peace procedure, whereby the Soviet Union this time deliberately supported the decision taken by the General Assembly.

In conclusion, the delegation of the SC's enforcement powers to (groups of) states marked a significant deviation of the collective security scheme of the UN Charter. While this practice developed against the background of a lack of agreement among permanent members of the SC to use force, the (p.43) reliance on delegation would continue to be a defining element of peace enforcement actions in the post‐Cold War era. It prepared the ground for a scenario in which the Council is most likely to act if (groups of) states signal in advance the political will to bear the financial burdens and to suffer the human costs of such operations.

1.2.3 Peacekeeping Operations

The evolution of peacekeeping can be analysed as an ad hoc mechanism of the UN, customized out of practice. It also demonstrates another example of the flexibility of the UN Charter. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) of 1948 is generally seen as the first peacekeeping operation consisting of unarmed military observers who supervised the ceasefire between Israel and its Arab neighbours in Palestine.51 The first armed UN operation emerged, however, in October 1956 as the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) during the Suez crisis.52 Peacekeeping, as an instrument of the UN, is not explicitly mentioned in the Charter. Implicitly, it can be derived from Article 33,53 which allows UN member states, in the context of the pacific settlement of disputes, to use ‘other peaceful means of their own choice’.54 Other scholars define peacekeeping as a subsidiary organ established by either the General Assembly or the SC under Article 22 and 29 respectively.55

Originally, UN peacekeeping was characterized by three distinct principles.56 First, the forces were expected to maintain impartiality between the conflicting parties. Second, and this remained valid up to the early 1990s, the consent of the parties to send UN peacekeeping forces was the sine qua non of every operation. Although this principle has been seriously tested in the post‐Cold War era, it has not lost its importance. However, consent of the parties is not an independent variable, but ‘a function of the alternatives’.57 It may be induced by a (p.44) stick‐and‐carrot‐policy, creating a policy mix of positive incentives and threats of coercion. A third principle was to avoid the use of force. Early peacekeeping forces were allowed to use force only for purposes of self‐defence.

The Congo operation in the 1960s showed very quickly that UN peacekeeping tended to move within a grey zone between Chapter VI and VII of the UN Charter. Since 1973, the original doctrine has been changing with the deployment of interposition forces between the Egyptian and Israeli lines after the Yom Kippur War. The possibility to use force was extended to those cases where parties hinder the ability of UN troops to fulfil their mandate.58 Furthermore, even between 1945 and 1989 peacekeeping has never been exclusively used in inter‐state conflicts. UN involvement in intra‐state wars, which have become ‘normality’ after the end of bipolarity, was already taking place in crises like those of the Congo (1960–4) and Cyprus (since 1964).59 In both cases, the SC decided to send interposition forces without being able to define clear‐cut frontlines or without an existing ceasefire between the parties concerned. All too often, the fundamental principles of peacekeeping like impartiality, consent of the conflicting parties, and non‐use of force have been put into question. Although UN forces have helped to stabilize conflicts and, indeed, to keep the peace, it has often been overlooked that the long‐term presence of peacekeeping forces may reduce the pressure to work towards a solution of the conflict: the tendency to freeze the status quo increases while incentives for any long‐term constructive conflict management will decrease.

In conclusion, the evolution of UN peacekeeping formed another innovative element in the constitutional practice of the UN. Peacekeeping, regional alliances, and the delegation of the SC's enforcement powers constitute three variants of collective security emerging against the background that the UN Charter was being challenged by systemic change. In consequence, the UN has never been able to fulfil its functions as originally envisioned by the Founders of the Organization. In the following chapters, informal groups of states will be introduced as a fourth variation on the collective security scheme. Analysis of the emergence and proliferation of informal groups of states allows for setting up a framework to grasp the dynamics between informal settings and the UN Security Council.


(1)  Bailey and Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 6. Although the term is vague, it may serve as a useful distinction between the Council's consultations of the whole, taking place in the consultation room opposite the SC Chamber, and the various other bi‐ and multilateral informal meetings outside this Chamber, involving both members and non‐members of the Council.

(2)  ‘The informals are virtually formal’, is the assessment of the representative of an elected member serving on the Council in the period of 2000–1, UN Doc S/PV.4445, 21 December 2001.

(3)  Davidson Nicol, The United Nations Security Council: Towards Greater Effectiveness (New York: UNITAR 1982), 77.

(4)  See Anthony Aust, ‘The Procedure and Practice of the Security Council Today’, in Hague Academy of International Law (ed.), Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding: The Development of the Role of the Security Council (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993), 365–74.

(5)  The permanent members of the SC include China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

(6)  The P‐3 comprises France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

(7)  The NAM comprises 115 members. The movement provides a platform for representing the interests of developing countries. Available at: www.nam.gov.za/background/background.htm.

(8)  The G‐77 owes its name to the seventy‐seven founding members that established the organization in 1964. Being the largest gathering of developing countries in the UN, the membership of the G‐77 has increased to 133 countries. Available at: www.g77.org

(9)  In 2002, the AU replaced the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The AU held its inaugural summit in Durban, South Africa, 28 June–10 July 2002.

(10)  See Bailey and Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 73 et seq.; see also the useful summary available on the website of the Global Policy Forum, New York. Available at: www.globalpolicy.org/security/mtgsetc/ arria.htm.

(11)  See Hans‐Peter Kaul, ‘Arbeitsweise und informelle Verfahren des Sicherheitsrates: Beobachtungen eines Unterhändlers’, Vereinte Nationen, 46/1 (1998), 11.

(12)  See Bailey and Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 72.

(13)  Doyle, ‘War Making and Peace Making’, 540.

(14)  See Francis Harry Hinsley, ‘Peace and War in Modern Times’, in Raimo Väyrynen (ed.), The Quest for Peace. Transcending Collective Violence and War among Societies, Cultures and States (London: Sage, 1987), 63–79.

(15)  The right of individual and collective defence as later embodied in Article 51 remained unaffected; ibid., 67.

(16)  See Francis Harry Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace: Theory and Practice in the History of Relations between States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 340.

(17)  Quoted in James S. Sutterlin, ‘The Past as Prologue’, in Bruce Russett (ed.), The Once and Future Security Council (New York: St Martin's Press, 1997), 3.

(18)  See Herbert George Nicholas, The United Nations as a Political Institution, 5th edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 19.

(19)  See Georg Schild, Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks. American Economic and Political Postwar Planning in the Summer of 1944 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), 22; Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, FDR and the Creation of the U.N. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 43–54.

(20)  See Jürgen Heideking, ‘Völkerbund und Vereinte Nationen in der internationalen Politik’, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, 36/83 (1983), 3–16.

(21)  Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919–1939, 207.

(22)  See Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations.

(23)  Martin Wight, Power Politics (London: Leicester University Press, 1978), 218.

(24)  See Bruno Simma, The Charter of the United Nations. A Commentary, 2 nd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 788–806.

(25)  Quoted in Bardo Fassbender, UN Security Council and the Right of Veto: A Constitutional Perspective (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998), 17.

(26)  Article 109 reads as follows: ‘Amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two‐thirds of the Members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two‐thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.’

(27)  In this context, efficiency however is only vaguely defined.

(28)  See Fernand van Langenhove, La Crise du Système de Sécurité Collective des Nations Unies, 1946–1957 (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1958).

(29)  See Table 2.

(30)  Bailey and Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 228.

(31)  See Bailey, Voting in the Security Council; Claude, Swords into Plowshares, 140; Delon, ‘La concertation entre les membres permanents du conseil de sécurité’, 56.

(32)  See Roberts, ‘The United Nations: Variants of Collective Security’, 309.

(33)  Ibid., 319; a notable exception of that pattern is the United States.

(34)  ‘Report of the Rapporteur of Commission III to the Plenary Session’, in United Nations, (ed.), Documents of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, 1945, III (ed.) (London/New York: United Nations, 1945), 234 et seq.

(35)  See Adam Roberts, ‘The United Nations: Variants of Collective Security’, 310.

(36)  Ruth Wedgwood, ‘Unilateral Action in a Multilateral World’, in Stewart Patrick and Shepard Forman (eds.), Multilateralism and US Foreign Policy: Ambivalent Engagement (London: Lynne Rienner, 2002), 178.

(37)  See Roberts, ‘The United Nations: Variants of Collective Security’, 319.

(38)  Wedgwood, ‘Unilateral Action in a Multilateral World’, 178.

(39)  Ian Hurd, ‘Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics’, International Organization, 53/2 (1999), 379.

(40)  See Roberts, ‘The United Nations: Variants of Collective Security’, 322.

(41)  For a good analysis of this trend, see Michael Pugh and Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu (eds.), The United Nations and Regional Security: Europe and Beyond (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003).

(42)  Andrew Hurrell and Louise Fawcett, ‘Conclusion: Regionalism and International Order?’, in Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell (eds.), Regionalism in World Politics: Regional Organization and International Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 311.

(43)  Wedgwood, ‘Unilateral Action in a Multilateral World’, 185.

(44)  See Hiscocks, The Security Council, 163 et seq.

(45)  Ibid.

(46)  See UN Doc S/RES/84 (1950), 7 July 1950, op. 3 and 5.

(47)  See Richard Hiscocks, The Security Council, 166.

(48)  The title of this resolution stems from its introductory call ‘Uniting for Peace’. The resolution was adopted by the General Assembly with fifty‐two votes in favour, five against, and two abstentions; UN Doc A/RES/377, 3 November 1950, op. 1.

(49)  The fourteen members were China, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, France, India, Iraq, Israel, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Soviet Union, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay; ibid. op. 3.

(50)  Ten emergency special sessions have been convened so far; information available at www.un.org/ga/documents/liemsps.htm.

(51)  See Marrack Goulding, ‘The Evolution of United Nations Peacekeeping’, International Affairs, 69/3 (1993), 452.

(52)  See Brian Urquhart, Hammarskjöld (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972), 159–94.

(53)  See Roberts, ‘The United Nations: Variants of Collective Security’, 327.

(54)  Measures for the pacific settlement of disputes include, according to Article 33, negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies, or arrangements and other peaceful means of their own choice.

(55)  See Simma, The Charter of the United Nations, 648–700.

(56)  See Roberts, ‘The United Nations: Variants of Collective Security’, 327.

(57)  Kofi A. Annan, ‘Challenges of the New Peacekeeping’, in Olara A. Otunnu and Michael W. Doyle (eds.), Peacemaking and Peacekeeping for the New Century (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), 172.

(58)  See Goulding, ‘The Evolution of United Nations Peacekeeping’, 455.

(59)  See Anthony Parsons, From Cold War to Hot Peace: UN Interventions 1947–1995 (London; New York: Michael Joseph, 1995), 77–93 and 167–82.