United Nations Security Council

The UN Security Council (UNSC) is the primary body of the United Nations for maintaining international peace and security. One of the main characteristics of the UNSC, which contrasts with other UN organs, is that it is the only committee whose resolutions are binding upon all member states, regardless if they are current members of the UNSC or not. Moreover, it is also in the Council’s mandate the right to authorize the use of force through peacekeeping operations or military coalitions and also to impose economic and military sanctions, but always as a last resort when all negotiations have failed (especially in the case of military action). Therefore, the UNSC’s first actions when a complaint related to a threat to international peace and security is brought before it is to recommend to the parties to try and reach a peaceful solution. It may also help ceasing of the dispute by investigating or mediating the conflict. The Council has also ordered ceasefires and imposed economic sanctions or collective military embargoes on many occasions in which disputes have led to the use of force. At last, the UNSC may recommend the suspension or expulsion, by the General Assembly, of a Member State that recurrently violates the principles of the UN Charter. This committee is, then, essential for maintaining international peace and security and saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war—the main goal of the United Nations—, while its relevance goes way beyond security and geopolitics, because its decision have effects on the populations directly involved in the conflicts it strives to solve.

The UNSC is formed by fifteen members, of which five are permanent and ten are selected by the General Assembly for two year terms. The five permanent members of the Security Council are China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States, and they hold what is commonly known as “veto power”. That means that for any resolution to be approved it needs the concurring vote of the five “great powers”, meaning that if they are against, it will automatically fail. Currently, the non-permanent members are Argentina, Azerbaijan, Australia, Guatemala, Luxemburg, Morocco, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Togo.


TOPIC A: The situation in Mali

Mali, a land-locked country in West Africa, has been facing a situation of political turmoil after years of relative stability in the region. After a military coup that toppled the government in March 2012, ending the democratic development that was in order since the end of the country’s dictatorship, rebels in the north insurged against the central government and, seizing parts of Northern Mali, declared an independent state.

This region, which consists in more than half of Mali’s territory, is inhabited by the Tuareg people, who for years have been proclaiming that the central government in Mali disregards their needs (Aljazeera 2012). Since the early 1990s, the Tuareg have insurged over land and cultural rights, despite central government’s attempts to negotiate or deal militarily with the problem. The coup d’État in March provided the Tuareg with a power vacuum that was used to declare the independence of the “Azawed State”, which no other state has yet recognized (Polgreen & Cowell 2012). It is notorious that after the war in Libya in 2011, in which lots of Tuareg fought on the side of the Libyan government, there has been an increased inflow of weapons into Mali, providing the Tuareg and other rebels groups there with a considerable arsenal (Fessy 2012).

However, after the Tuareg called for the creation of the Azawed State, al-Qaeda militants of the Maghreb region took the opportunity and to advance their own plan for the region: to create an independent Islamic state. Such a situation has called the attention of the international community, since an independent state, in a region known for their criminal networks, could fastly turn into a new safe haven for terrorists groups (Lewis 2012). By its turn, the Tuareg movement for independence did not support any of the al-Qaeda militant groups, and has agreed to fight alongside government troops in order to deal with this issue before negotiations could be made on the secession of Azawed State from Mali.

Nonetheless, the Malian army is not prepared to deal by itself with such well-armed Islamic groups in the North, which have begun to advance towards the government heartland in the south-west, seizing a considerable number of towns in the way. In November, the West African regional grouping, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), agreed to launch a coordinated military expedition to recapture the north, an effort that was already backed by the United Nations. However, events there evolved quickly and before long the Islamic groups were controlling considerable portions of Northern Mali.

Alarmed after the capture of the town of Konna, in the center of Mali, the new government in Bamako, the country’s capital, requested military aid to France, a request to which Paris responded by sending warplanes and troops to its former colony. Later, ECOWAS also prepared its own mission, mainly commanded by Nigeria, which was sent to Mali in the middle of January (Ross 2012).

While the situation in Mali develops, we invite UNSC delegates to address a number of issues raised by it: the need to watch the mandate given to France and ECOWAS as well as the effectiveness of these forces; the humanitarian crisis affecting not only Mali but also its neighbor countries to where lots of refugees are fleeing; the situation in which the country will find itself after the end of the fighting and the possible future negotiations with the Tuareg; the great amount of weapons that are entering the country through Libya and Algeria; and finally, the main roots of the terrorist threat, which may be a result of the region’s extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure and abstention of the State presence.

Bearing in mind United Nations’ responsibility to keep international peace and international security, we call the UFRGSMUN Security Council delegates to address the subject, trying to address and tackle all the problems surrounding such issue.


TOPIC B: Civilian Protection in Conflicts – The Principle of Responsibility to Protect

The protection of civilians during a conflict is a key matter that has come to the world’s attention during the last two decades, when conflicts such as the ones in Darfur, Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia and, as of 2011, the Arab Spring, became notorious for their huge tolls on civilian lives. Never before have civilians been so targeted during armed conflicts as they are today, and the time has arrived to discuss the international community’s role and responsibility in the matter (UNHCR 2011).

The United Nations Security Council has taken measures to reiterate the importance of protecting the civil society through the adoption of several resolutions. The first resolution concerning the topic of civilian protection during armed conflicts was adopted in 1999. Resolution 1265 was unanimously adopted, and it addresses the importance of civilian protection through economic growth, eradication of poverty, sustainable development, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. Resolution 1296, which passed the following year, focused on the enhancement of civilian protection, and which measures could be taken by the UN to prevent and/or stop it. The Council approved the rehabilitation of child soldiers, the use of weapons to protect civilians and the creation of security areas, while requesting full access of aid agencies to civilians in dangerous zones. Finally, Resolution 1674 of 2006 recalled the previous resolutions, reaffirmed the importance of regional organizations in protecting civilian lives and adopted the Responsibility to Protect, emerged the previous year during the 2005 World Summit, as a norm (A/60/L.1).

Whereas the protection of civilians is a matter that goes unquestioned by world leaders, the measures that are taken to protect these civilians raise the issue of sovereignty. The lines that separate the two are not clear, and it is also the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to make sure international law is followed (Bellamy 2009). The notion of Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, rests on three main pillars: firstly, a state has a responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities; secondly, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state if it is unable to protect its population on its own; and thirdly, if the state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures, such as economic sanctions or even military intervention, although the latter is considered the last resort (A/63/677). Therefore, in order to protect the principles of international law, it must be discussed how to establish whether the State is in fact failing to protect its citizens, and when should military intervention be employed (ICISS 2001).

In addition, after intervention takes place, be it through economic sanctions or military force, it is a difficult task to determine when to withdraw such measures. When overused, the measures end up doing more damage than good to the civilian population, so it is of utmost importance to discuss an efficient way to help civilians without destroying chances for a stable State and lasting peace (Bellamy 2009).

For these reasons, we invite the UFRGSMUN Security Council delegates to discuss the matter and hopefully put an end to civilian suffering worldwide.



Aljazeera. Is Mali heading for a split? 11 December 2012. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2012/04/201242103543735302.html. Access on 6 March 2013.
Bellamy, Alex J. Responsibility to protect: the global effort to end mass atrocities. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.
Fessy, Thomas. Gaddafi’s influence in Mali’s coup. 22 March 2012. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17481114. Access on 6 March 2013.
International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The Responsibility to Protect. December 2001. Available at: http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ICISS%20Report.pdf. Access on 5 March 2012.
Lewis, David. Mali’s north feared new “rogue state” in Sahara.  4 April 2013. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/04/mali-rogue-idAFL6E8F4AFO20120404?sp=true. Access on 6 March 2013.
Polgreen, Lydia; Cowell, Alan. Mali Rebels Proclaim Independent State in North. 6 April 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/07/world/africa/mali-rebels-proclaim-independent-state-in-north.html?_r=0. Access on 6 March 2013.
Ross, Will. West Africa prepares to take on Mali’s Islamists. 21 November 2012. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20413428. Access on 6 March 2013.
Oxfam Press Release “Security Council passes landmark resolution – world has responsibility to protect people from genocide”. April 28 2006. Available at: http://www.oxfam.org/en/news/pressreleases2006/pr060428_un. Access on 15 March 2013.
UNHRC. UNHRC Global Trends 2011. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/4fd6f87f9.html. Access on 15 March 2013.

Reports of the Secretary General:
A/63/677. Available at: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/63/677. Access on 15 March 2013.

UN General Assembly Resolutions:
A/RES/60/1. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/pdf/World%20Summit%20Outcome%20Document.pdf#page=30. Access on 15 March 2013.

UNSC Resolutions: