Situating United Nations Security Council Accountability: Between Liberal-Legal and Political Constitutionalism?

Murphy, BL
(2018) Situating United Nations Security Council Accountability: Between Liberal-Legal and Political Constitutionalism? PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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It is a truism to suggest that the United Nations Security Council wields immense power under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Security Council has taken centre stage in a recent ‘turn to accountability’ in international legal literature. This PhD thesis presents a critical perspective of prevailing approaches adopted within this nascent literature. Following in the Kelsenian tradition, international lawyers have taken to the task of identifying the extent to which the Charter (the lex specialis), and general international law (the lex generalis) constitute binding obligations incumbent upon the Council, with judicial review of international courts and tribunals deemed central to this process. In this sense, it might appear that accountability is entirely reducible to the doctrine of international legal responsibility. This thesis aims to take a step back, in order to interrogate the meaning and scope of the concept of accountability in relation to this primary organ of the United Nations, not as a corollary to the linked idea of the responsibility of international organisations, but as a stand-alone concept. An etymological inquiry into the meaning of accountability reveals its dual function: while the concept surely relates to the idea of limiting Security Council decision-making (‘holding to account’) it at least equally also concerns the idea of ‘giving an account’ (linked to the principles of participation and transparency). Any conceptualisation of accountability that overlooks this duality is therefore inchoate. In search of a more holistic understanding, this thesis situates discourses on Security Council accountability onto broader, existential debates on the ‘constitutionalisation’ of international institutional law. Specifically, it uses the dichotomy of liberal-legal and political constitutionalism as a heuristic device to explore the various forms that Security Council accountability might take. Legal constitutionalism prioritises the identification of substantive legal obligations incumbent upon the Security Council and the empowerment of international judicial organs to review Security Council decisions ex post facto. Political constitutionalism, conversely, concerns the role of political actors in the assessment of Security Council decision-making and prioritises procedural rules over substantive obligations. Through the lens of political constitutionalism, therefore, accountability also entails a prospective dimension. To be sure, this thesis does not propose the legal/political constitutionalism dichotomy as the only way to categorise the state of the debate on Security Council accountability. Instead, it suggests that it is one possible way, a way that speaks directly to the overriding need to think politically about the concept of accountability and, by extension, about the Security Council as a political institution.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2019 08:32
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 00:43
DOI: 10.17638/03042445
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