Protecting Which Peace for Whom against What? A Conceptual Analysis of Collective Security
Published as Pål Wrange, 'Protecting which peace for whom against what? A conceptual analysis of collective security' in Cecilia M. Bailliet (ed.), Research Handbook on International Law and Peace. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019, 107-126.
17 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2020
Date Written: 2019
The UN Charter leaves no one in doubt about its pre-eminent goal: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations, [are] determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. It was to safeguard peace that the system of collective security was created, with the most powerful organ—the Security Council—at its helm. And yet, ever since its inception, the collective security system has been fraught with political and practical problems.
These problems can all be associated with unavoidable conceptual contradictions and it is, in fact, very difficult to imagine a truly effective collective security system. Both the architecture of the system and its application in concrete cases will suffer from tragic dilemmas, in which any solution will entail costs. But one can also think of these contradictions as enabling; these contradictions provide a framework within which the Security Council can operate flexibly, while it also negotiates the boundaries of that framework.
What is collective security? Serious attempts to define it contain some common elements: (1) all states of the system should renounce the use of force; (2) all states must cooperate in meeting an armed attack (no neutrality, no unilateral actions); and (3) the potential aggressor may be a member of the collective security system. The core is security for all states by all states, where ‘all’ includes not only all states that may be protected but also all states that might pose a threat. It is the latter aspect that distinguishes the collective security from the alliance, which is a union of some states against others.
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