The Article 51 Reporting Requirement for Self-Defense Actions

84 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2015

Date Written: September 2, 2014


This article examines one of the legal criteria for the exercise of the right of self-defense that has been significantly overlooked in the literature: the so-called “reporting requirement”. Article 51 of the United Nations (UN) Charter provides, inter alia, that “[m]easures taken by members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council.” Although this requirement to report all self-defense actions to the Council is clearly set out in Article 51, the Charter offers no further guidance with regard to this obligation. Reference to the practice of states since the UN’s inception in 1945 is, therefore, essential to understanding the scope and nature of the reporting requirement. As such, this article is underpinned by an extensive original dataset of reporting practice covering the period from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2013. We know from Article 51 that states “shall” report, but do they, and – if so – in what manner? What are the various implications of reporting, of failing to report, and of the way in which states report? How are reports used, and by whom? Most importantly, this article questions the ultimate value of states reporting their self-defense actions to the Security Council in modern interstate relations.

Keywords: self-defense, Article 51, reporting requirement, Security Council, report

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Green, James A., The Article 51 Reporting Requirement for Self-Defense Actions (September 2, 2014). Virginia Journal of International Law, 2015 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

James A. Green (Contact Author)

University of Reading ( email )

Reading, RG6 6AH
United Kingdom

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