Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The security concerns of the United Nations today extend far beyond what the writers of the 1945 Charter could have imagined. As a result, the UN has been compelled to reconsider the parameters of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and what it means to be safe and secure in the twenty-first century. This text critically assesses the capacity of the UN to evolve in response to changing notions of security, and examines the complex history of people, places and politics that have helped shape this important global actor.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
The UN was founded in 1945 with a primary mandate: ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. It attempted to envisage what security challenges the world would face in the future, but in so imagining, drew heavily on the recent experiences of two world wars between enemy states. But this was all before the nuclear age, before ideological warfare between communism and capitalism, before modern terrorism, and before televised famine. Today’s security concerns are not of Germany invading France, but of a fruit seller in Tunisia immolating himself and igniting an uprising through social media.
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 2. Origins and Organization of the United Nations

Abstract
In 1945 — the year of the UN’s founding — the world was a devastated place. Europe was in ruins, financially and emotionally shattered after fighting two world wars. The world was only beginning to comprehend the full extent of the horrors of the Holocaust. The United States was on the brink of deploying the world’s first nuclear weapon to end the Second World War in the Pacific Theatre. The fragile wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States was already beginning to fray.
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 3. Sovereignty and Security during the Cold War

Abstract
To many observers, the 1945 signing of the UN Charter represents the high point of UN co-operation — a pinnacle of unanimous agreement that the organization has arguably since struggled to replicate. However, as discussed in Chapter 2, the long road to San Francisco and the moment of the UN’s creation was far from harmonious. Rather, it was a tense and sometimes hostile negotiation for political prominence and leadership between the Allied Powers and other signatory states. Indeed, the alliances of the Second World War that fostered the creation of the UN in 1945 did not survive very long after the signing of the UN Charter. The fragile relations between the Soviet Union and the USA that existed for sufficient time to sign the UN Charter broke apart spectacularly as the East and West entered 50 years of Cold War conflict. As such, the early years of the UN must be understood largely against the backdrop of the Cold War.
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 4. Sovereignty, Security and Peacekeeping

Abstract
The UN Charter calls for all Member States ‘to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security’ (Chapter VII, Article 43). The Charter also calls for the establishment of a Military Staff Committee ‘to advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council’s military requirements for the maintenance of international peace and security, the employment and command of forces placed at its disposal…’ (Chapter VII, Article 47(1)). The Charter requires that the Military Staff Committee be composed of the ‘Chiefs of Staff of the permanent members of the Security Council or their representatives’ (Article 47(2)) and that the Military Staff Committee ‘shall be responsible under the Security Council for the strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council’ (Article 47(3)).
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 5. Sovereignty and Security in the Age of Intervention

Abstract
It was expected that the end of the Cold War would solve a very particular set of geopolitical problems for the UN. The break-up of the Soviet Union, coupled with new mutlilateralist leaderships in the Soviet Union and the USA — Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev was a committed reformer, and US President George H. W. Bush was a former US Ambassador to the UN — was heralded as the beginning of a new multilateral order where the UN would assume a pivotal leadership role. The P5 stalemate was presumed to be over with the end of the Cold War, and it was anticipated that the UN would now be able to fulfil an imagined role where universal peace was possible: ‘The atmosphere at the UN during the early 1990s was positively triumphant. The sheer exhilaration of the moment can be fully appreciated by knowing what the organisation had endured in previous years’ (Barnett 2003: 1). The exhilaration soon dissipated, however, as the new decade presented a myriad of new international peace and security concerns that challenged the organization and the Security Council’s mandate for the protection of international peace and security to its very core. Events such as civil conflicts, complex humanitarian emergencies, genocide and terrorism compelled a re-evaluation of the capacities of the Security Council and the politics of the peace and security tools at their disposal. Initially, the organization worked to identify and respond to gaps in peacekeeping roles as a means of meeting ‘internal humanitarian crises without any credible threat to the security of surrounding states’ (Thielborger 2012: 19). However, the authorization and efficacy of peacekeeping is contingent on host-country consent.
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 6. Reforming the Security Council for Twenty-first-Century Security

Abstract
The challenges of Kosovo and Iraq constituted an existential crisis for the organization. Coupled with the perceived ineffectiveness of UN peacekeeping in Rwanda (1994) and Srebrenica (1995), the role and efficacy of the UN in Kosovo (1999) and Iraq (2003) led directly to the creation in 2004 of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (HLP), which was intended to recommend ‘how nations can work together to meet [these] formidable challenge[s]’ (UN 2004: vii), and to ‘generate new ideas about the kinds of policies and institutions required for the UN to be effective in the 21st century’ (UN 2004: 1).
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 7. Reforming Human Rights and Human Development for Twenty-first-Century Security

Abstract
The 101 recommendations of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (HLP) went far beyond attempting to reform the Security Council; they initiated a movement towards a more expansive notion of international peace and security across the entire UN system.
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 8. Human Security as State Security

Abstract
At the 2005 World Summit, governments of UN Member States almost dropped the concept of human security entirely. The World Summit Outcome Document refers to human security only to denounce the concept as being too broad and requiring a more distinct and usable definition. As discussed in Chapter 7, HLP attempts to approach the question of human security via improved UN human rights and development activities represented a significant normative leap, but the resultant Human Rights Council and the improved development agenda remains linked to the comprehensive membership of the General Assembly (of which the HRC is a subsidiary body) and to ECOSOC (whose subsidiary bodies encapsulate nearly the entire development agenda), respectively. These developments demonstrate significant progress in the way that the UN approaches human security issues on a normative level, but the working reality of the UN is that the Security Council is the only organ equipped with an enforcement mechanism that might tackle pressing contemporary international security issues. Consequently, the human security agenda has been repositioned alongside the Security Council — the only organ authorized to agree the use of force.
Trudy Fraser

Chapter 9. Conclusion

Abstract
The current climate at the UN is both nervous and optimistic: nervous, because the future of the organization is being measured against its ability to respond to a set of crises that the 1945 founders could not have imagined; and optimistic, because the resilience of the organization to weather such storms is well documented. Since its foundation the UN system has generated far-reaching entrepreneurial competencies to reconcile the rules of the organization with the demands of its ambitious and ever-evolving security mandate.
Trudy Fraser
Additional information