To Condone or Condemn? Regional Enforcement Actions in the Absence of Security Council Authorization

44 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2007 Last revised: 14 Jun 2012

See all articles by Monica Hakimi

Monica Hakimi

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: 2007


The U.N. Charter establishes that regional arrangements may not take enforcement actions without authorization from the Security Council. Yet the international community does not always enforce this Charter rule. Major international actors repeatedly tolerate deviations from it even as they assert that it allows no exceptions. This Article examines that practice, arguing that two different legal systems govern enforcement actions taken by regional arrangements. One system is reflected in the Charter text and publicly endorsed by major international actors. The second, more nebulous system is based on expectations and demands in the absence of Security Council authorization. Under this second system (here referred to as the operational system), the international community may discreetly tolerate a deviation from the Charter rule depending on the substantive interests at stake, the circumstances surrounding the lack of authorization, and the characteristics of the acting regional arrangement. In the event of a tolerated deviation, however, no actor acknowledges that it is participating in or tolerating a deviation. Instead, international actors resort to a variety of techniques to maintain the integrity of the Charter rule and to suppress acknowledgement of the operational system. After demonstrating that the Charter system and the operational system coexist in this area, this Article examines the general parameters of the operational system. It concludes that, so long as the Security Council remains ineffective in satisfying the international community's substantive legal interests, the operational system will - and should - continue to coexist with the Charter system. The application of law in this area, therefore, cannot be fully understood without an appreciation for the role and parameters of the operational system.

Keywords: United Nations, regional enforcement

Suggested Citation

Hakimi, Monica, To Condone or Condemn? Regional Enforcement Actions in the Absence of Security Council Authorization (2007). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 40, p. 643, 2007, Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 198, Available at SSRN:

Monica Hakimi (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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