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United Nations Security Council’s Obligations Essay


The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the main body of the United Nations (U.N.) that has powers to pass obligations about peace and security that are binding to the 193 member states. It is composed of ten elected members and five permanent members who meet regularly to evaluate the international security status and take appropriate measures that relate to matters that threaten peace and security.

The key issues it assesses include civil wars, terrorism, control of arms, and natural disasters. The five permanent member states have veto powers while the ten elected member states do not have the powers. On the other hand, the charter of the United Nations is a foundational treaty; it is a constituent treaty that binds all member states (Mahmood 117). Therefore, the following paper analyses obligations of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as per the terms of the charter of the United Nations.

Powers of Enforcement

The main responsibility of the UNSC under the charter is to maintain peace and security. The powers are provided in different articles of the charter. For example, in chapter V, the member states confer responsibility to UNSC to act on their behalf. In article 10, the UNSC is given the powers to discuss issues that concern international peace and security. The detailed powers of the UNSC are contained in articles 24, 25, and 26 of the U.N. charter (Liivoja 584).

Article 24 confers responsibility to the Council to maintain international peace and security. This is normally invoked during discussions that relate to the appropriateness of the Council’s mandate to include situations or a thematic idea concerning its competencies (United Nations par. 3). Concerning the powers provided in article 24, in the period between 2010 and 2011, the Security Council took actions as per provisions of Chapter VII of the charter.

This entailed imposing measures against Eretria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Libya. One of the resolutions was to end enforcement action against Libya. This was done under the obligations provided in article 41, which states that the Security Council has the powers to make decisions that do not involve the use of force to coerce states to abide by the council’s decisions. Article 41 of the U.N. charter gives it the power to impose sanctions. The provision gives the council the powers to call upon the U.N. members to apply the resolved measures which may involve interruptions of economic relations, rail, sea, postal, radio, air, and other communions and severance of diplomatic relations (Liivoja 589).

Article 25 gives the powers that ensure that the member states accept decisions made by the Security Council; this implies that the decisions made by the council are binding. Article 26 gives the council the powers of regulation of armaments. Based on this, UNSC formulates plans to establish systems to be used to regulate armaments. For example, it has the power to consider the general principles that relate to the disarmament, importation, and exportation of arms (Weib 47).

Also, it has the powers to discuss issues that pertain to international security that are brought to the council by members of the U.N. For example, on 25 March 2004, the council addressed the issue of instability in West Africa. It invited the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and advised it on the need to control the manufacture, importation, and exportation of small and light arms in the region.

UNSC Enforcement Competency

Enforcement entails the use of coercive pressure to make deviant member states adhere to the resolutions of the Security Council (Roscini 331). Concerning the powers and functions conferred to the council, the primary focus is to ensure that international disputes are resolved peacefully as provided in chapter five of the U.N. charter. The chapter gives the council the authority to ensure that conflicts are solved through arbitration, negotiations, and any other peaceful means. The failure to adhere to the provisions of the chapter gives the council the power to take assertive actions such as the use of economic sanctions or authorize the application of force to restore international peace and security.

In many instances, the implementations of assertive measures have been hindered by the rivalry between the member states that have veto powers. For example between 1945 and 1989, the implementation of its functions was constrained by the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviets. Similarly, since 2014, the tensions between the U.S. and Russia have gripped the council, and there are concerns that it may be unable to take appropriate actions in case of a crisis where the two nations have different opinions (CFR Backgrounders par. 10). A good example relates to 2015 when Russia vetoed a resolution by the Security Council that required the creation of an international tribunal to prosecute Pro-Russian separatists believed to have shot down the Malaysian Airline Flight MH17.

For any matter to qualify consideration by the UNSC, it must be a threat to peace and security. This has resulted in arguments that humanitarian crises may not qualify as threatening peace. Concerning the issues of international humanitarian law, the U.N. charter has no express reference on how to deal with such issues. To some extent, this limits the actions of the council. Besides, there are times that the UNSC has been bypassed by some regional organizations.

For example, NATO bombed Yugoslavia without seeking authorization from the UNSC. Even though the military measures by NATO could be justified by arguments that the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia was a threat to peace and security in the region, it shows that other organized forces can still bypass the U.N. charter and UNSC provisions without fear of reproach. Similar scenarios have been experienced when NATO started military actions in Libya in 2011 without UNSC’s authorization. The involvement of international forces in military interventions in the Syrian Civil war points to the failure to consult UNSC. Regional organizations seem to have taken positions that disregard the UNSC’s mandate on international security and peacekeeping.

From the above, it is evident that the competence of the UNSC is limited especially when dealing with countries that have veto powers and some regional organizations from developed countries. CFR Backgrounders pointed out that most of the resolutions and operations sanctioned by the UNSC have been in failed and developing states (par. 12).


The UNSC enforcement powers are enshrined in the U.N. charter which outlines the mandates, functions, and powers of UNSC. The enforcement of the powers is important in ensuring international peace, security, and harmonious coexistence of nations. Articles 24, 25, 26, and 41 are crucial in defining the mandates and obligations of the council. However, its competence in ensuring that member states comply with the charter’s provisions has faced challenges due to the rivalry between countries with veto powers and actions of regional organizations that bypass the council to implement their decisions that relate to peace and security.

Works Cited

CFR Backgrounders. The UN Security Council. 2015. Web.

Liivoja, Rain. “The Scope of the Supremacy Clause of the United Nations Charter.” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 57.3 (2008): 583-612. Print.

Mahmood, Fakiha. “Power versus the Sovereign Equality of States: The Veto, the P-5 and United Nations Security Council Reforms.” Perceptions18.4 (2013): 117-119. Print.

Roscini, Marco. “The United Nations Security Council and the Enforcement of International Humanitarian Law.” Israel Law Review 43.02 (2010): 330-359.Print.

United Nations. . 2016. Web.

Weib, Wolfgang. “Security Council Powers and the Exigencies of Justice after War.” Yearbook of United Nations Law 12.1 (2008): 45-111. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'United Nations Security Council's Obligations'. 2 September.

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