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2 October 2023


Section 10:   Authorizations to States to carry out peace enforcement


Multinational Security Support mission in Haiti as latest Council authorization to States to carry out peace enforcement


On 2 October 2023, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII, adopted resolution 2699 (2023) by which it authorized Member States to form and deploy a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to support the efforts of the Haitian National Police to re-establish security in Haiti and build security conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections.


Over its history, there have been almost forty cases of the Security Council adopting resolutions authorizing States or groups of States to take enforcement action instead of establishing a UN operation, or to act alongside a UN operation. In all but four cases, the relevant resolutions have specifically stated that the Council is authorizing such action. However, in the earliest two cases different language was used: With respect to Korea in 1950, the Council only recommended action. In the 1966 case of Southern Rhodesia, the Council called upon the United Kingdom to act. In the 2001 case of 'Operation Amber Fox', the relevant resolution endorsed its establishment in what was then known as The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In 2004, the relevant resolution endorsed the establishment of the African Union Mission in the Sudan. 


At the bottom of this article is a list of authorizations to States to take enforcement action from 1946 to the present.


In addition to the cases set out in the list, the Security Council has authorized Member States to intercept maritime shipping in order to verify compliance with United Nations arms embargoes or restrictions on the supply of other imports or exports. Such cases include with respect to Iraq (resolution 665 (1990)); former Yugoslavia (resolution 787 (1992)); Haiti (resolution 875 (1993)); Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (resolution 1874 (2009)); Iran (resolution 1929 (2010)); Libya (resolutions 1973 (2011), 2146 (2014) and 2292 (2016); and Somalia (resolution 2182 (2014).


The Security Council has explicitly authorized no-fly zones in two cases: over Bosnia and Herzegovina, by its resolutions 781 (1992) and 816 (1993); and over Libya, by its resolution 1973 (2011).* The authorization in the case of Libya uniquely contained a restriction that ‘a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory’ was excluded from the authorization. 


In some cases, the Security Council has authorized States to take enforcement action in support of UN missions. Such authorizations include those to the International Force East Timor (1999), Licorne (2004), Artémis (2003), MNF–Iraq (2003), EUFOR R.D. Congo (2006), EUFOR Tchad/RCA (2007); Serval (2013), MISCA (2013), Sangaris (2013), and EUFOR RCA Bangui (2014). In other cases, as will be seen in the list below, the Council has authorized States to take enforcement action in support of non-UN regional missions.


When the Security Council decides to authorize States to take enforcement actions, the Council closely and regularly follows these actions. If the authorizations have been decided pursuant to Chapter VIII (‘Regional Arrangements’), the responsibility of those so authorized to report regularly to the Council is set out in Article 54, which provides that the Council


‘shall at all times be kept fully informed of activities undertaken or in contemplation under regional arrangements or by regional agencies for the maintenance of international peace and security’.


If enforcement action has not been decided pursuant to Chapter VIII, the Council normally includes in its authorizing resolution a request that the entities so authorized should report to the Council either with specified periodicity or ‘as appropriate’.


Some advantages and potential risks of this method of enforcement were summed up by former Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali in his Introduction to the 1996 edition of the UN publication, Blue Helmets:


‘[E]nforcement action, duly authorized by the Security Council, is greatly preferable to the unilateral use of force. Such action is, however, a double-edged sword. It offers the Organization a capacity not otherwise available but carries with it the risk of potential damage to the credibility and stature of the United Nations. Once the Security Council authorizes such interventions, States may claim international legitimacy and approval for measures not initially envisaged by the Council.’


Nonetheless, the fact that the Security Council has decided upon such authorizations in almost forty cases indicates that Council members have deemed them to be the most promising or viable option when seeking to address certain conflict situations. The Security Council has sometimes authorized Member States to take enforcement action when Council members have considered that the situation requires a more robust mandate than one that might be feasible for a UN peacekeeping mission. Such authorizations have also sometimes been decided upon when one or more countries has a capacity for more rapid deployment than would be possible by the United Nations. And on some occasions, it has been the preference of the host country itself that a supporting mission not be under UN command.


(This update supplements pages 653-660 of the book.)



* No-fly zones were also established by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States in Iraq over a northern area (in 1991) and a southern area (in 1992), but without explicit authorization by the Council.



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