Towards a more accountable United Nations Security Council: why, to whom, for what, and how

Options not requiring change to the UN Charter

Reform discourse about the United Nations Security Council gives every reason to believe that flaws in its legal and institutional design prevent the Council from adequately meeting its responsibility to maintain or restore international peace and security, in part by allowing the Council to act in an ad hoc and unprincipled manner.  

Contemporaneous geopolitics were naturally at the heart of the socio-legal framing of the Council’s composition and tasks.  While such contexts do not remain static, the Council has, however, been very largely untouched by reform of the Charter of the United Nations to date, and geopolitical realities suggest it will remain so in the future.  

Legal and institutional arrangements for the Council’s work are, nonetheless, still susceptible to progressive amendment via changes to practice, and processes for improving accountability can provide an approach to suitably informing such changes.  

Accordingly, a key focus in my research is to argue that enhanced accountability of the Council, and evolution of practice that this would inform, are both possible and salutary changes to strive for.

My work uses various case examples selected from the Council’s work over seven decades, to explore question about the rationale of accountability in this context - why? - given the politico-legal  nature of what the Council is there to do; the audience - to whom? - which may include those empowering the Council plus those affected by its work; and the matters for which accountability would be desirable - what? - when consequences of what the Council does or does not do spread so far and persist for so long.  

Ultimately, the point of this work is to consider how to progress towards a more accountable Council, where the activities of the Council’s elected, non-permanent members are central to its legal and institutional practice and influential in shaping the Council’s conduct.  

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Law & Justice