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Coining a New Jurisdiction: The Security Council as Economic Peacekeeper

Posted by on Friday, July 20, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 41 No. 4, Volume 41, Volumes.

Economic conditions are linked to international peace and security.  Financial crises, mismanagement of natural resources, food shortages, and climate change can create transnational effects, including conflict. The Security Council is the executive organ of the United Nations, with primary jurisdiction over the maintenance of international peace and security.  This Article explores the extent to which the Security Council can and should assert jurisdiction over economic and financial issues.

In the past decade, the economic dimensions of conflict, including the economic causes of war, economic agendas of state and nonstate actors, and economic measures for reconstruction have become central to the Security Council’s work and to contemporary concepts of collective security.  This Article argues that the Security Council’s increasing engagement with economic and financial issues is proper and permissible under Article 39, provided that certain thresholds are met.  For example, purely internal disruptions such as bankruptcies would be unlikely to rise to the level of a threat to peace and security, whereas the manipulation of natural resources destined for, or regulated by, international markets may well create threats within the Council’s jurisdiction.  The Security Council’s enforcement jurisdiction under Article 41 has similarly evolved, shifting from the wholesale restriction of economic opportunities via trade embargoes and sanctions to the promotion of prospective measures such as good economic governance.  If the Council’s economic interventions continue, it will become a player of some significance in applying and developing international economic norms.

Ultimately, the Security Council’s jurisdiction over new threats to peace and security—including economic and financial issues—is a function of its legitimacy.  Support for the Council’s evolving economic jurisdiction will be highest if the Council adopts measures to improve its procedural and substantive legitimacy among member states.  This Article thus situates its analysis within the context of democratic decision making and argues for a better delineation of economic responsibilities among the Security Council and other international entities, such as the IMF, the World Bank, the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and the Peacebuilding Commission

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