“Green Helmets”: A Conceptual Framework for Security Council Authority In Environmental Emergencies

Although 1995 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the United Nations, the year also marks the fifth anniversary of a newly revitalized Security Council. In this period of five years, scholarly debate on the Security Council has shifted from what it might do if it could act to what substantive limits, if any, exist on the Security Council’s authority to act under the Charter. The legitimacy of the Security Council’s authority under the Charter arises both in its initial determination of when it can act and in its determination of the appropriate scope of its actions once it has involved itself in an international dispute. Given the wide ranging scope of situations that might fall within the undefined parameters of a “threat to the peace” under Chapter VII and the even more discretionary language of Chapter VI, it is not surprising that on this anniversary much of the focus for reform of the Council has involved the procedural checks on Security Council decision-making – specifically, membership in the Council, voting procedures, and the veto power. Concerns about the legitimacy of Security Council action most often arise when it appears that its decisions are driven by the more powerful veto-holding states of the Security Council, particularly the United States, rather than reflecting a global consensus that Security Council action is necessary or advisable. On the other hand, as Professor David Caron recently noted, there is no denying that the United States’ resources are the linchpin to effective implementation of Security Council directives, at least with respect to collective actions.