Document Type

Graduate Syllabus


Fall 2011



Course Number


Course Description

Under the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council is one of the principal organs of the organizations charged with the "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security". The Council is so organized as to be able to function continuously. Five powerful countries sit as "permanent members" along with ten elected members with two-year terms. Since 1990, the Council has dramatically increased its activity and its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the dispatch of military operations, the imposition of sanctions. It has also mandated arms inspections and deployed election monitors.

Set up sixty years ago, the Council embodied a collective security system that reflected the political concerns and the distribution of power of the 1940s as well as the lessons learned from the failures of the League of Nations. The nature of our concerns has considerably evolved since then as new global threats have emerged ranging from terrorism, poverty and disease, international migration, environmental degradation to the denial of human rights. The constellation of powerful actors has also changed . The bipolarity of the 1950s has given way to the emergence of a single superpower while the European Union and developing countries like China, Brazil and India are acquiring growing political and economic influence. These states operate alongside increasingly prominent non-state actors including private entities and civil society groups. Conceptions of the meaning and significance of “peace” and “security” have also considerably evolved.

The intent of this seminar is to provide an academic as well as practical understanding of the origins, structure and procedures, changing functions, politics, performance and impact United Nations Security Council actions in the pursuit of peace and security. . The strengths and weaknesses of the Council will be assessed in light of the significant changes in international relations in the post-Cold War years with broad emphasis on peace-keeping, human rights, humanitarian intervention, post-conflict peace building, weapons of mass destruction and “reform” among such other issues as children in armed conflict, conflict mediation, conflict prevention, disarmament, drug trafficking, energy, security and climate change, justice, impunity and rule of law, the protection of civilians, regional arrangements, sanctions, small arms, terrorism and women peace and security.

By the end of the course, successful students will be able to:

to locate and use effectively the major sources of information for the study of the United Nations and the Security Council;

to demonstrate a sound knowledge of the institutional, legal framework, decision making processes and types of policies emanating from the United Nations;

to understand the background to the creation of the United Nations and the Security Council;

to develop a conceptual and practical understanding of the Security Council processes and institutions;

to understand the relationship between the original and current roles and functions of the Security Council, and the manner in which it has adjusted to changes;

to evaluate and appraise the capabilities and impact of the Security Council in international relations; to become familiar and be able to critically appraise academic and political debates about the workings of the Security Council;

to recognize and apply relevant theoretical approaches to the study of the Security Council; to understand the challenges that the Security Council faces in the future and appreciate the difficulties inherent in its reform;

to recognize and formulate policy oriented recommendations about issues related to the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council.