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The predominance of an ethic of double standards in the United Nations Security Council humanitarian intervention missions : a critical study based on the ethical concepts of mutual aid and equal recognition.

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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the organ of the United Nations (UN), which according to the United Nations Charter has been mandated with the maintenance of peace and security in the whole world. The UNSC is composed of 5 permanent members in accordance with Chapter V, Article 23 of the UN Charter. These P5 were not democratically elected because the UN General Assembly has never been involved in the election of these P5 members. Instead, the UN General Assembly has been given the responsibility of electing 6 non-permanent members. From the history of the formation of the UNSC, I have argued that the members of this organ of the UN end up promoting their own national self-interests under the guise of promoting peace and security in the world. The practice of double standards (being morally hypocritical with regards to one‟s commitment to justice and fairness) in the UNSC hinges mainly on the rationale of P5 members pursuing their self-national interests instead of the interests of the whole world in accordance with the UN Charter. Also the rationale of having a UNSC whose justification for its existence is based on the idea of a World War that was fought six decades ago undermines a democratic ethos as well as any prospect for the UNSC democratic reforms. The P5 talk about democratic accountability to other countries and yet they themselves are not accountable to the UN General Assembly. The idea of a P5 membership that wields vetoing powers makes the prospects of democratic reforms in the UNSC untenable. The fact that the UNSC has on several occasion talked about good governance as synonymous with a democratic government smacks of double standards because the modus operandi of this organ of the UN does not show any shred of the existence of democratic practices. Another factor that exacerbates the practice of double standards in the UNSC is that the politically cherished values of this organ of the UN are mainly Euro-centric. The interests of the P5 are usually regional interests, and not the interests of the whole world. It is a central argument that is raised in this study that the practice of double standards undermines the ideal of shared moral values among nations. A special attention to the practice of double standards in the UNSC is made with specific reference to the UNSC authorised military interventions in Iraq and Libya. The UNSC‟s condemnation of Iraq‟s invasion of Kuwait was mainly motivated by the USA (United States of America) and her Western allies‟ need for cheap oil. I have demonstrated that this practice of double standards can be discerned if we make a comparative study on UNSC response towards Iraq‟s invasion of Iran. The practice of double standards was further highlighted by examples where other countries such as Israel, South Africa and Rhodesia invaded sovereign countries whilst the UNSC did not authorise military interventions against those countries. In the case of Iraq, the practice of double standards involved lying about the motives of imposing sanctions and inspecting Iraq‟s weapons capability. The same practice of double standards by the UNSC led to the UNSC passing a resolution of no fly-zone under the pretext of protecting civilians and yet NATO and its sponsored rebels killed more civilians than what Gaddafi government ever did. The presumption that the UNSC is there to promote peace and security in the whole world is empirically questionable. The main argument that was advanced in this study was that the pursuit of national self-interests among the P5 members of the UNSC is the main contributory factor to the practice of double standards in its modus operandi. The practice of double standards in the UNSC makes the prospects of a new world order something that will remain unrealisable. For this reason, my critique of double standards was that it has eroded the moral legitimacy of the UNSC. For this reason, my main critical tools against double standards were ethical concepts of equal recognition – all countries of the world should be recognised in terms of their capabilities to contribute to peace and security in the world and of mutual aid – which is based on the presumption that all countries of the world should be seen as indispensable to the promotion of peace and security in the world.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


United Nations.--Security Council., War--Moral and ethical aspects., Peace--Moral and ethical aspects., Humanitarian intervention--Iraq., Humanitarian intervention--Libya., Humanitarian intervention--Moral and ethical aspects., Theses--Ethics.