Petulant and Contrary: P5 understandings of ‘threat to the peace’


Petulant and Contrary: P5 understandings of ‘threat to the peace’

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Aside from Article 51 of the UN Charter, a UN Security Council authorisation under Articles 39-42 is the only exception to the prohibition on the use of force provided for in Article 2(4). To authorise military intervention within a given situation, the Security Council must first determine whether or not that situation constitutes a ‘threat to the peace’ under Article 39. The Charter has long been interpreted as placing few bounds around how the Security Council arrives at such determinations. As such commentators have argued that the phrase ‘threat to the peace’ is undefinable in nature and that such decisions are fluid, arbitrary and lacking in consistency. Through a critical discourse analysis of the justificatory discourse of the P5 surrounding individual decisions relating to ‘threat to the peace’ (found in the meeting transcripts), I have determined that each P5 member has a consistent definition and understanding of what constitutes a ‘threat to the peace’. As a result, I argue that a Security Council wide definition, if this was ever possible, would sit in the middle ground of these national understandings.


  •  Tamsin Phillipa Paige
    Tamsin Phillipa Paige, Research Associate