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Tomuschat, C. The Changing Faces of the UN Security Council. German Yearbook of International Law, 63(1), 647-705.
Tomuschat, Christian "The Changing Faces of the UN Security Council" German Yearbook of International Law 63.1, 2022, 647-705.
Tomuschat, Christian (2022): The Changing Faces of the UN Security Council, in: German Yearbook of International Law, vol. 63, iss. 1, 647-705, [online]


The Changing Faces of the UN Security Council

Tomuschat, Christian

German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 63 (2020), Iss. 1 : pp. 647–705

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Article Details


Author Details

Christian Tomuschat, Em. Professor, Humboldt University Berlin, Faculty of Law. Member of the UN Human Rights Committee, 1977–1986; 1985–1996 member of the ILC (Chairperson in 1992). 1997–1999 Coordinator of the Commission for Historical Clarification, Guatemala. 2013–2019 President of the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Teaching at the Hague Academy of International Law 1993 and 1999 (General Course).


The World Organisation of the United Nations was not conceived of at its origins as a world government. Nor could the substantive provisions of the Charter claim to constitute a comprehensive constitutional document for the entire globe. Many crucial issues of world order relevance were left open at the founding conference of San Francisco, the expectation being that any remaining structural problems would later be resolved by peaceful means. Nonetheless, it was hoped by many observers that the Security Council would be able to establish itself as an instance of last resort to address any emerging emergency situations. While the Security Council was legally well-endowed with decision-making powers under Chapter VII of the Charter, it initially encountered great difficulties in making use of those powers, given in particular the veto right of the five permanent members. After 1990, the differences of opinion among the permanent members softened considerably for a couple of years so that the Security Council could discharge at least some of the responsibilities entrusted to it. Additionally, the Security Council has gradually succeeded in enlarging its purview of action through recourse to its power of issuing recommendations under Chapter VI to individual States. Such country-specific recommendations have permitted the Security Council to engage itself in peace-building through promoting constitutional and societal reforms in many States, in particular in Africa. This kind of interference in domestic matters relies now on a consolidated basis of consistent practice. The evolutionary interpretation of the provisions of the Charter may at the same time suggest that the key concept of ‘threat to the peace’ in Article 39 of the Charter should also be understood in a way that enables the international community to address global predicaments like climate change and international migration.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Christian Tomuschat\nThe Changing Faces of the UN Security Council 647
I. Introduction 648
A. The Security Council as a Legal Institution 648
B. The Security Council’s Political Profile 649
II. The Security Council and Massive Challenges to the World Order System 651
A. Responding to Threats to International Peace and Security 651
B. World Order Issues Left Open in 1945 – not for the Security Council 652
C. Changed Circumstances After 75 Years 652
D. The Security Council as Reserve Power? 653
III. The Security Council’s Field of Competence: International Peace and Security 654
A. The ‘Classic’ Functions of the Security Council – The Security Council’s Traditional Face 655
B. The Rise of Country-Specific Resolutions – Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding 647
C. The Transition from the Classic Functions to Peacebuilding 647
1. Typical Practice 647
2. The Programmatic Background 647
3. The Normative Backdrop 648
D. Evolutionary Interpretation of Article 24 648
1. Primary Methods of Interpretation 648
2. Legal Relevance of Consistent Practice 648
3. The Composition of the Security Council: Lack of Representation 649
IV. Actual Discharge of its Functions by the Security Council: The Information Issue 649
A. Enforcement Measures 649
B. Country-Specific Measures 649
1. Support by the Peacebuilding Commission 649
2. Cooperation with Regional Organisations 649
3. Other UN Missions 649
4. Information Materials Available Within the UN Family 650
C. Usefulness of Peacebuilding Activities – Parallel Mechanisms 650
1. Monitoring by the General Assembly 650
2. Monitoring by Treaty Bodies 650
3. The Specific Advantages of Assistance by the Security Council 650
V. Institutional Reforms 650
A. Amendments of the Charter 650
B. The Contribution of the Peacebuilding Commission 650
VI. Re-Interpreting Chapter VII Ratione Materiae 650
A. Climate Change 650
B. The Migration Issue 651
VII. Conclusions 651