The Age of International Law in Security Council’s Practice


Non-thematic resolutions

Women

Children

Civilians

International terrorism

Pream.

Op.part

Pream.

Op.part

Pream.

Op.part

Pream.

Op.part

Afghanistan

18

11

15

7

22

0

31

23

Burundi

8

2

7

1

7

1

0

0

Chad, Central African Republic and the sub-region

4

0

3

0

4

0

0

0

Children in armed conflict

3

0



3

0

0

0

Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Democratic republic of the Congo

17

7

18

4

17

0

0

0

General issues relating to sanctions

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Great Lakes region

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Guinea-Bissau

3

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

Haiti

3

13

1

10

1

4

0

0

High-level meeting of the SC: combating international terrorism

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

Implementation of the report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations (S/2000/809)

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

Iraq

3

0

2

0

0

0

6

0

Ivory Coast

23

11

21

6

19

0

0

0

Letters from the Secretary-General

7

0

6

0

0

0

0

0

Liberia

6

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

Libya

5

0

5

0

5

0

0

0

Maintenance of international peace and security

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Maintenance of international peace and security: conflict prevention

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Maintenance of international peace and security: security sector reform

1

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

Mali

0

4

0

4

0

4

3

5

Middle East

9

0

1

1

2

0

10

5

Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

Peace and security in Africa

1

1

2

1

0

1

1

3

Protection of civilians in armed conflict

3

0

2

1



0

0

Protection of UN and associated personnel

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

Reports of the Secretary-General on Sudan and South Sudan

23

13

19

1

20

1

1

0

Sierra Leone

0

6

0

0

1

0

0

0

Situation between Iraq and Kuwait

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

Small arms and light weapons

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

Somalia

8

7

8

5

8

7

0

0

Sudan

12

2

12

0

12

0

0

0

Sudan sanctions

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Sudan and South Sudan

2

2

3

0

2

0

0

0

Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts

1

0

1

0

0

0

9

4

Timor-Leste

2

0

0

0

1

2

0

0

UN peacekeeping operations

2

0

2

0

1

1

0

2

Women and peace and security



5

2

5

1

0

0





4.3 Conceptualizing Thematic Resolutions


This section examines the main features of four sets of SC resolutions addressing thematic issues. As shown in Sect. 4.2 above, they are regularly referred to in the text of most SC resolutions as well as PRSTs, and appear to set a standard of legality of SC actions. The analysis aims at establishing whether the SC resolutions on civilians, children, women and international terrorism are able to limit the discretionary powers of the SC. To that end, each set of resolutions is taken into consideration individually and examined in its entirety since its introduction on the SC agenda.


4.3.1 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict


The resolutions on the protection of civilians in armed conflict were first introduced in 1999 9 on ground of humanitarian concerns. 10 Aimed at protecting civilians as persons protected under international law, 11 this set of resolutions is regarded as a contribution towards the effective implementation of existing humanitarian law. 12 Resolution 1894(2009) states:

[T]he Geneva Conventions of 1949… together with their Additional Protocols constitute the basis for the legal framework for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. 13

The legal basis of the SC commitment to the protection of civilians in armed conflict 14 also includes other relevant international instruments such as the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), 15 and the Convention on the Safety of United Nations ad Associated Personnel (1994). 16 Relevant SC decisions are mentioned along with primary sources of international law as well. 17 From this perspective, violations of relevant rules of applicable international humanitarian and human rights law appear to be the threshold of legitimacy for SC actions. 18 This seems to be confirmed by the explicit recognition that ‘peace and security, development and human rights are the pillars of the United Nations system and the foundations for collective security and well-being.’ 19

Other factors contributing to exacerbate the negative impact of conflicts on civilians include the proliferation of arms, in particular small arms and light weapons, 20 and disarmament. 21 Accordingly, the SC notes that the implementation of relevant international instruments, such as the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction (1997), may have beneficial effects on the safety of civilians. 22

The considerations above suggest that this set of resolutions strongly contributes to strengthening existent international legal instruments. For example, the SC recognizes that one of the core challenges to the effective protection of civilians in armed conflict consists in enhancing compliance with international law. 23 Accordingly, rules and principles of international law, the UN Charter and SC resolutions are often mentioned in the same provision and appear to stay on an equal footing. 24 However, the scrutinized SC decisions do not create new legal obligations beyond the SC commitment to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. What emerges from the text of SC resolutions and PRSTs under scrutiny is that international law is recognized as the benchmark of legitimacy of SC actions. 25 For example, a passage from resolution 1296(2000) reads:

[The SC] Notes that the deliberate targeting of civilian populations or other protected persons and the committing of systematic, flagrant and widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of armed conflict may constitute a threat to international peace and security. 26

In light of the preceding, the issue of the effectiveness of this set of resolutions turns out to be of paramount importance in determining whether international law is able to contain, wholly or partially, the discretionary powers of the SC. The progressive consideration by the SC of the protection of civilians as a thematic issue has led to the adoption of the Aide Memoire as a means to facilitate its consideration of issues pertaining to civilians. 27 The Preamble to the Fifth Edition (2014) reads:

Enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict is at the core of the work of the United Nations Security Council for the maintenance of peace and security. 28

Primarily aimed at facilitating SC deliberations on the establishment, change or close of peacekeeping operations, 29 the Aide Memoire may also provide guidance in circumstances outside the scope of peacekeeping operations which may require the urgent attention by the SC. 30 The document is based on the SC previous consideration of these issues and lists SC resolutions and PRSTs that make reference to such concerns. 31 However, the Preamble to the Aide Memoire provides that its adoption is without prejudice to the provisions of SC resolutions and other decisions. 32 Considering that the rationale behind SC interventions is represented exclusively by violations of rules and principles of international law, 33 two issues emerge.