Regulating the rule of law through the Security Council

Hilary Charlesworth, Jeremy Farrall

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Introduction On 24 September 2003 the United Nations (UN) Security Council (UNSC) inaugurated a new agenda item entitled ‘Justice and the Rule of Law’, acknowledging the UNSC’s ‘heavy responsibility to promote justice and the rule of law in its efforts to maintain international peace and security’.1 This book examines how the UNSC has responded to this mandate, particularly in the areas of peacekeeping, sanctions and the use of force. The contributors to this volume discuss both how the concept of the rule of law (ROL) regulates, or influences, UNSC activity and how the UNSC has in turn shaped the notion of the ROL. The UNSC’s designation of the ROL as an important theme offers principled law as the solution to the problem of unprincipled politics, and stable peace as the alternative to destabilising war. The idea is that threats to peace and security should be managed in accordance with the norms and values enshrined in the UN Charter. However, as many contributors to this collection note, the concept of the ROL is famously opaque and contested. Some commentators question the ability of the ROL to guide actions to maintain international peace and security on the basis that it is insufficiently coherent.2 Others criticise attempts to transplant a notion with western origins and an associated suite of western rule-oflaw institutions into other contexts.3 The veto power accorded to the UNSC’s five permanent members by the UN Charter is also regarded as undermining the capacity of the ROL to temper the exercise of raw power in and through the UNSC.4 The relationship between the UNSC and the ROL provides a fascinating case study of how powerful actors both shape and are shaped by powerful ideas. Terence Halliday has pointed to the tension between two different modes of UNSC interaction with the ROL – the external and the internal. Halliday describes the UNSC’s external invocations of the concept as ROL ‘on the offense’ and claims of internal disregard of the ROL placing the UNSC ‘on the defence’.5 It is difficult for the UNSC to claim to act in the name of the ROL externally, without at the same time accepting the concept’s applicability to the internal workings of the UNSC. Given these tensions and weaknesses in the ROL, how does it regulate behaviour in the international arena?
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStrengthening the Rule of Law through the UN Security Council
    Editors Jeremy Farrall and Hilary Charlesworth
    Place of PublicationOxon, United Kingdom
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    ISBN (Print)9781138959033
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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