Authorisations to Use Force
Permanent members have worked overtime for nearly two weeks to codify into a Security Council decision the 14 September Russia-US agreement to secure and dismantle chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria. With the issue of whether the Council acts under Chapters VI or VII of the UN Charter, and whether it does so in a binding manner, at the core of these negotiations, it may be worthwhile to take a closer look at this matter.
References to “Chapter VII” in Security Council resolutions have generated, over time, misunderstandings within the Council itself and the wider United Nations membership. What this phrase actually means lies at the heart of these problems. There seems to be much uncertainty about the meaning and effect of these words, and also about what makes a Security Council resolution binding under international law. The problem has become even more complex as the media has tried to make the debates in the Council understandable to wider audiences. But the effect has been to reinforce various myths. This Special Research Report investigates Council practice. It analyses the history of various resolutions, and Charter provisions in the hope that the situation can be clarified.