UN Security Council


Thematic Mechanisms

Thematic Mechanisms have been in use since 1980. They were originally created in response to disappearances in Argentina. In order to preserve national integrity, avoid political embarrassment, and protect economic issues, they were created on an international level as opposed to an individual country level. The Commission used a ‘thematic’ mechanism to avoid a “country-specific inquiry”. They are only allowed to make ‘opinions’ not decisions and are allowed to make recommendations to the Commission. Different techniques include requests to governments for information that is case specific, and that the government take “immediate action” to remedy the situation, as well as on-site visits. How do thematic mechanisms interact with 1503 and 1235 procedures?

United Nations Security Council

The UNSC is comprised of 15 member states, 5 permanent members (US, UK, France, Russia, and China) and 10 rotating members elected by the GA every two years. Each member has one vote and the 5 permanent members have a “veto-power”. In order for a resolution or a substantive decision to be passed, it must have 9 affirmatives and all 5 members states must vote affirmative, if one abstains or dissents, that is the veto power and the resolution is not passed. The primary responsibility of the UNSC is to maintain international peace and security under the collective security system provided for in the UN Charter. They are empowered to investigate disputes and make recommendations regarding appropriate procedures such as sanctions or military intervention. The Security Council is arguably the most powerful UN organ with a “monopoly over the use of force”.

SC Humanitarian Intervention

Humanitarian intervention is the use of force justified by reference to an overriding humanitarian emergency, ranging from small scale relief operations to long-term military engagement. Its use requires consensus among the members of the Security Council, and within the discourse of intervention, the question of protecting sovereignty (from intervention) is raised time and time again by those who would seek to delay or to stop intervention. The Security Council thereby intervenes within a State in order to stop or prevent gross violations of human rights. Secondly, human rights themselves are used as a justification for intervention itself. Nonetheless, how do we justify intervening in the domestic affairs of a sovereign State when scholars like Michael Ignatieff argue that the sovereignty of the State is “the best guarantee of human rights that there is” (pg. 657).

Sanctions range from comprehensive embargos, to a more limited embargoes which freeze assets and halt arms trade. Multilateral sanctions would include the economic embargo against Iraq (prior to the War), freezing of assets of the Taliban, and unilateral US sanctions against Cuba and North Korea. They can be seen as either a violation of human rights or a form of humanitarian intervention. Sanctions almost always impact the rights outlined in the ICESCR by diminishing the ability of the impacted State to provide for their populations. If we follow Ignatieff’s argument, then how do we justify the imposition of economic sanctions against any State?

In the response to Kofi Annan’s speech on the events in Kosovo (pgs. 658 – 659), we are faced with the notion that the common interest so necessary for humanitarian intervention can itself be questioned. Who defines the common interest? Who should defend the common interest? How should the common interest be defended? With the events described in Kosovo, and the most recent events in Iraq, can the common interest be defined solely by any one State power, or a coalition of State powers, or is there some other mechanism by which the common interest can be defined?



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