The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or an act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. Under Chapter VII of the Charter, the Security Council can take enforcement measures to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such measures range from economic sanctions to international military action. The Council also establishes UN Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. Through regular meetings, the General Assembly provides a forum for Member States to express their views to the entire membership and find consensus on difficult issues. It makes recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority, but other questions are decided by simple majority.
How does the UN maintain international peace and security?
Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation
The most effective way to diminish human suffering and the massive economic costs of conflicts and their aftermath is to prevent conflicts in the first place. The United Nations plays an important role in conflict prevention, using diplomacy, good offices and mediation. Among the tools the Organization uses to bring peace are special envoys and political missions in the field.
Peacekeeping has proven to be one of the most effective tools available to the UN to assist host countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace. Today's multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security, but also to facilitate political processes, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support constitutional processes and the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law and extending legitimate state authority. Peacekeeping operations get their mandates from the UN Security Council; their troops and police are contributed by Members States; and they are managed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and supported by the Department of Field Support at the UN Headquarters in New York. There are 15 UN peacekeeping operations currently deployed and there have been a total of 71 deployed since 1948.
United Nations peacebuilding activities are aimed at assisting countries emerging from conflict, reducing the risk of relapsing into conflict and at laying the foundation for sustainable peace and development. The UN peacebuilding architecture comprises the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office. The Peacebuilding Support Office assists and supports the Peacebuilding Commission with strategic advice and policy guidance, administers the Peacebuilding Fund and serves the Secretary-General in coordinating United Nations agencies in their peacebuilding efforts.
The United Nations is being increasingly called upon to coordinate the global fight against terrorism. Eighteen universal instruments against international terrorism have been elaborated within the framework of the United Nations system relating to specific terrorist activities. In September 2006, UN Member States adopted the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. This was the first time that Member States agreed to a common strategic and operational framework against terrorism.
The General Assembly and other bodies of the United Nations, supported by the Office for Disarmament Affairs, work to advance international peace and security through the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and the regulation of conventional arms.
This course is for anyone interested in the UN, international law and the politics of the international community
The course will give you insight into how international actors make use of international public law in international politics and in their interactions with each other in questions relating to international peace and security.
During the course we will further study and discuss
The main focus of the course is the UN and its legal framework that determines the principles and goals of international peace and security. We will get a deeper understanding of the workings of the UN and the historical and legal development that has taken place in the post-war world in regards to international conflicts.
We will also focus on:
Is there such a thing as a just war? Is conflict always illegal?
We will take a closer look at public international law and questions relating to how international peace and security is dealt with within international politics. The UN-charter is the foundation for peaceful international relations and should be upheld by all states. However, despite the aims of the UN-charter and the world organization we live in a world plagued by war, conflict and gross human rights violations. Today’s wars are fought in a variety of ways and with different means such as for instance the war against terrorism, internal conflicts and interstate conflicts. There are as many different political interests as there are states which means that in the reality of politics conflicts are interpreted and understood differently. Who is wrong and who is right? And can war and conflict be justified legally?
What rules are applicable in war?
Another focus of the course is on humanitarian law, i.e. what rules apply in a conflict situation and how are individuals protected in a time of war in their capacity as either combatants or civilians.
Can a head of state be tried in a court of law for committing war crimes and crimes against their own population?
Furthermore the course will dwell deeper into international criminal law. International criminal law is based on a set of agreements between states to try perpetrators accused of committing crimes of a serious nature such as for instance war crimes and crimes against humanity. How are these courts constructed and what possibilities exist to try heads of state for committing crimes of this nature?
The course is concluded with a project work, which aims at trying individuals suspected of international crimes in a mock trial.
The course consist of the following modules:
The UN Charter and Collective Security (7,5 hp)
The first module introduces the legal and political context of the UN Charter and its normative base for collective peace and international security. The module contains a historic background of the establishment of the UN and its charter and how collective peace was to be secured after the end of the Second World War. The module also deals with the UN decision-making machinery and how the charter is implemented and interpreted by states in their internal relations.
Humanitarian Law (7,5 hp)
Module 2 deals with how public international law regulates armed conflict and its political consequences. A war is subject to international legal regulations and principles, with regards to the right to go to war (jus ad bellum) and how to conduct and behave in conflict, the so-called laws of war or humanitarian law (jus in bello). The module is focused on humanitarian law and its legal and political implementation and consequences for states and individuals.
The Legal and Political Consequences of War (7,5 hp)
The third module deals with the aftermath of armed conflict for both states and other actors of armed conflicts, such as individuals. The module introduces and gives a historic background to international criminal law as the basis for prosecution and sentencing of individuals responsible for serious international crimes, as well as how international criminal law relates to and is connected to public international law. The module also deals with the legal framework of different tribunals and international judiciary systems established to deal with international crimes. Furthermore the module presents what constitutes and is defined as an international crime and how states interact politically in order to implement the international criminal legal sources in an effective way.
Project work: Settlement of an International Dispute (7,5 hp)
Module 4 consists of a project work where students work together in groups. The assignment of the module is to investigate and analyse an international dispute, both from a legal and political perspective. The groups are beforehand assigned a specific party to the conflict from whose perspective they are to prepare a standpoint, legal argument and case based on the relevant political and historical context. The hypothetical case is to be presented and defended in front of a mediator/judge. The teaching form of this module is supervision.
The teaching on this course is conducted primarily through seminars that demand active participation from the students. We work with problem-based learning which means that the students actively practice building their knowledge and asking relevant questions that they need in order to analyse or solve problems that they have been assigned. The teaching also encompasses case studies relevant to the course. The seminars demand preparation in different ways, for example the students may get assignments to complete before the seminar or various problems to present to the other students. In order to get the most out of the course it’s important to always come well prepared and thereby you will also contribute to productive group discussions.
Read an article about a mock trial as the final exam on the course.