Research Reports

Longer in-depth analysis of particularly significant Council decisions, processes or practices.

  • The 2008 Cross-Cutting Report on Children and Armed Conflict demonstrated that for more than a decade the issue of children and armed conflict was firmly entrenched as a significant thematic issue on the agenda of the Security Council. Since the late 1990s the Council had been paying close attention to the issue of children in war zones. Between 1999 and 2005 the Council adopted six resolutions, each one containing more concrete provisions to protect children. Its resolution 1612 of July 2005 was groundbreaking. It authorised the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism at the field level and created the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. Resolution 1612 provided the Council with new practical tools to potentially influence the impact of the country-specific work of the Council. This report focuses on developments in 2008 and again seeks to answer the question whether, in practice, in the work of the Council in country-specific situations on its agenda, it is incorporating the discussions, principles and norms developed at the thematic level. Our 2008 report examined relevant data from 2003 to 2007 in resolutions, presidential statements, visiting missions, Secretary-General’s reports, peace agreements and peacekeeping mandates. In this report we again look at the data from those same areas for 2008 and compare the results with those of our report of last year and give an updated assessment of the impact of the monitoring and reporting mechanism and the Council’s Working Group on the mainstreaming of the issue of children and armed conflict into the Council’s overall work.

  • This Special Research Report analyses the activities of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) during its second year of operation and provides a follow-up to our Special Research Reports of 23 June 2006 which reviewed the lead-up to and establishment of the PBC and of 5 October 2007 reviewing its first year of work. Whereas the first year was largely spent on organisational issues, the second year of the PBC was primarily devoted to the country-specific issues of Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and, to a lesser extent, the Central African Republic (the CAR was added to the agenda of the Commission towards the end of its second session) as well as some organisational matters. The Commission’s report on the second year of its activities and outcomes was submitted to both the Security Council and the General Assembly on 24 June.

  • In the Security Council the thematic focus on protection of civilians in armed conflict is relatively recent and dates from the late 1990s. However, the issue has been a concern for many Council members over the years. The disproportionate burden that war imposed on civilian populations in the twentieth century has been a key factor. In the past century, the ratio of civilian casualties to military casualties as a result of conflict rose steadily until civilian deaths surpassed those of combatants. Causes included not only direct violence but also malnutrition and disease precipitated by war.

  • This report examines in depth the longest running Security Council sanctions measure still in existence (16 years). We have chosen this case because the crisis in Somalia continues to be as serious as it has ever been since 1992. It remains on the Council’s work programme and the humanitarian situation has dramatically worsened in recent months. Somalia is quite possibly the least successful example of Council-imposed sanctions. Historically, all sanctions regimes have presented challenges when it comes to implementation. But the arms embargo imposed on Somalia in 1992 has faced more difficulties than most. This report examines these difficulties. It suggests that some of the problem lay in the situation on the ground. There was no governmental entity with control over Somali territory. There was no customs or border control. But there were also problems the Council could have addressed, including weaknesses in design, unreasonable expectations of reliance on authorities in neighbouring countries to enforce the regime and lack of will to pursue diligently measures to enforce decisions or to adapt when the initial sanctions design proved wholly inadequate.

  • This Special Research Report attempts to provide for Council members, and other interested parties, a short history of the 45 years of Council involvement in the Cyprus issue. There now seems to be a sense of optimism and hope that the parties, with assistance from the UN and the Council, can at last reach a sustainable solution. On 25 July, Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed to resume full-fledged negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, and to put the agreed solution to separate simultaneous referendums. The negotiations began as scheduled on 3 September. This report focuses on Security Council involvement over the past 45 years. It also touches on developments in the General Assembly and successive UN-led peace talks. It does not aim to be comprehensive. Rather it is designed to explain the evolution of the UN and Security Council involvement.

  • The General Assembly is expected to hold elections on 17 October for five seats of the ten seats on the Council which are available for elected members serving two-year terms. The five seats available for election in 2008 will be distributed regionally as follows: one seat for Africa (currently held by South Africa); one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), (currently held by Panama); one seat for Asia (currently held by Indonesia); and two seats for Western European and Others Group (WEOG), (currently held by Belgium and Italy). The five new members elected this year will take up their seats on 1 January and will serve on the Security Council for the period 2009- 2010.

  • 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.

  • The impact of recent conflicts on children has been horrific around the globe. More than two million children have been killed in war zones over the past two decades. Another six million have been maimed or permanently disabled, and more than a quarter of a million youths have been exploited as child soldiers in at least 30 countries. Many of today’s soldiers were recruited as children, without schooling or knowledge of the society around them. Thousands of girls are subject to sexual exploitation, including rape, violence, abductions and prostitution. No region of the world is immune. Over the last decade, the issue of children and armed conflict has been raised with increasing frequency in the Security Council. In 2005, the Security Council adopted resolution 1612, which authorised the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism at the field level. It also created a Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. Since then, the issue has been firmly on the Council’s agenda. The issue of children and armed conflict is now taken up in the Council on a systematic basis as a thematic issue. Moreover, the Council has developed tools capable of potentially influencing the country-specific work of the Council. The challenge is ensuring that the thematic work is actually reflected in practice, in a cross-cutting way, in the work of the Council. This report attempts to gauge whether children and armed conflict has become such a cross-cutting issue by examining the degree to which the issue has been incorporated into the Council’s work on country-specific issues.

  • For sixty years, the Security Council has had the issue of peace and security in the Middle East on its agenda. A central issue throughout the period has been what the Council now calls the Palestinian question. Since 1947, a great deal has been written about the Council’s involvement at various stages. But it is hard to find any published account of its overall involvement. From the outside—and perhaps also to elected members who serve only two year terms—Council action on the Middle East often appears fragmented, limited to the crisis of the moment or a distinct phase of the situation and, often, absent altogether.

  • For more than a decade, the working methods of the Security Council have been the topic of much discussion within and outside the Council. This reflects concerns about a number of aspects of Council practice and procedure. Essentially most of these concerns are related to four key areas: Transparency; Participation; Accountability; Efficiency. This Special Research Report looks back over the period from 1993 to the present and describes many of the efforts made to address these key issues. It is not an exhaustive history. The focus is more on issues and reforms to Council working methods which have ongoing relevance.

  • This Special Research Report analyses the first year of operation of the UN's new Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and follows up on Special Research Report No. 3 of 23 June 2006 which reviewed the lead-up to and establishment of the PBC. The PBC spent its first year focused on Burundi and Sierra Leone, at the request of the Security Council. Its report on its first year of activities and outcomes is now before the Council and the General Assembly. The PBC's achievements in its first year are more substantive than generally appreciated. Although its outcomes are not only documents, four key documents have been produced: 1. a concept note on integrated peacebuilding strategies (IPBS); 2. the Burundi IPBS/strategic framework; 3. the Sierra Leone draft IPBS/Framework for Cooperation; and 4. the PBC's annual report.

  • The General Assembly is scheduled to hold elections on 16 October 2007 for five seats on the Security Council. Ten of the 15 seats on the Council are held by elected members serving two-year terms. The five seats up for election will be distributed as follows:two seats for Africa; one seat for Latin America; one seat for Asia; and one seat for Eastern Europe. The five new members elected this year will replace the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia in January 2008. Currently it seems that only the Asian seat will be uncontested. Vietnam, the only Asian candidate, declared in 1997 that it would run this year. It campaigned over a ten-year period and won regional endorsement in 2006 virtually assuring it of election. In the Asian Group a candidate can be endorsed a year in advance if there is a "clean slate" (i.e. no other candidates). However, because these are elections to a "Principal Organ" of the United Nations formal balloting is required even when there is an endorsed candidate for a clean slate. (General Assembly decision 34/401, paragraph 16, which allows the Assembly to dispense with elections where there was a "clean slate" from a regional group, applies only to subsidiary organs and therefore does not apply to Security Council elections.)

  • The adoption of resolution 1701 on 11 August 2006 was a critical step in ending the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel after 33 days of intense combat, which left over a thousand people dead (1,187 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel) and displaced approximately one million Lebanese and 300,000 Israelis. But the Security Council, in this resolution, did much more than just achieve a ceasefire. The establishment of a robust UN peacekeeping force, the focus on principles and elements for a "permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution" and wide authority for the Secretary-General to take the lead in peacemaking efforts are all major innovations in the Council's approach to the region. The Security Council is engaged much more proactively than ever before in the Middle East, and its ongoing involvement is seen as a message for a permanent peace. Resolution 1701 is therefore a very important window of opportunity for the region and for the UN. A key question, however, is whether this will be sustained.

  • In only twenty days, from 11 to 31 August 2006, the Security Council adopted three resolutions which seem likely to increase UN peacekeeping levels around the world by approximately 50 percent and perhaps increase the overall cost of peacekeeping from the expected 2006-07 level of US$4.7 billion to possibly US$8 billion per year. This new Council activity represents the fourth major surge in UN peacekeeping since the end of the Cold War, each bringing new complex challenges. The first was in the early 1990s, followed by a period of retrenchment until the second surge in 1999-2000 with the establishment of UNMEE (Ethiopia/Eritrea) and MONUC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and the two transitional administrations, UNMIK (Kosovo) and UNTAET (Timor-Leste). The third was in 2003-04 when five new large multidimensional operations commenced: UNMIL (Liberia), ONUB (Burundi), UNOCI (Côte d'Ivoire), MINUSTAH (Haiti) and UNMIS (southern Sudan).

  • In mid October the General Assembly will hold elections for five seats on the Security Council. The 2006 election has an unusual level of interest because of high profile contested campaigns within two regional groups. In the Asian Group, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Nepal are vying for one seat. In the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, Guatemala and Venezuela are in a very hot contest, also for one seat. The elections in the African Group and the Western European and Others Group are uncontested. As a result, South Africa, Belgium and Italy are assured of election. However, because these are elections to a "Principal Organ" of the United Nations, formal balloting is still required. (General Assembly Decision 34/401, paragraph 16, which allowed the Assembly to dispense with elections where there was a "clean slate" from a regional group only applies to subsidiary organs and therefore does not apply.)