Turning to the UN Security Council: terming crisis a threat to international peace
When do states turn to the United Nations Security Council? Today the term threat to peace is interpreted more widely than ever before ranging from inter-state conflict over internal wars to humanitarian crisis. Alarming the Security Council to international crisis is an exceptional foreign policy choice. By far more conflicts are not brought to the attention of the Security Council than are put before that body. The paper explores when states actually turn to the Security Council and term a crisis a threat to international peace. One the one hand, the Security the Council has assumed a much more visible and active role in international dispute settlement since the end of the Cold War. On the other hand, the unilateral decision of the United States to invade Iraq raised serious doubts about the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UN’s collective security system. A much repeated truism reminds UN scholars that any system of collective security can be only as good as its members want it to be. But so far we do not have a clear understanding of what its members do want it to be. While the option to involve the UN Security Council in any situation endangering peace is equally open to all states, only some states address the UN in some conflict situations. From this starting point, this paper contributes to the understanding of the role of the UN in fostering conflict resolution as well as shedding light on foreign policy choices by states. In what situations do states turn to the Security Council? Which states take the decision to alert the Council? And what do states want from the Council once they did? Addressing these questions, the paper presents instances in which states decided to turn to the Security Council. The systematic assessment builds on a set of case studies that includes different types of conflict situations in the 1990s as well as different states. States bring crisis situations before the Council which they either perceive as an immediate threat to themselves or as a threat to norms shared by the international community. The paper concludes with some generalizations about reasons for states to turn to the UN Security Council.
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