Actions with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression

Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations provides the framework within which the Security Council may take enforcement action. It allows the Council to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and to make recommendations or to resort to non-military and military action to "maintain or restore international peace and security". The Repertoire covers implicit references and explicit references to Chapter VII and Articles 39 to 51 of the Charter in documents of the Security Council, as well as case studies on instances where the Council discussed respective Articles of Chapter VII in consideration of specific situations on its agenda.

A. Article 39 – Determination of threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression

Before the Security Council can adopt enforcement measures, it has to determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The range of situations which the Council determined as giving rise to threats to the peace includes country-specific situations such as inter- or intra-State conflicts or internal conflicts with a regional or sub-regional dimension. Furthermore, the Council identifies potential or generic threats as threats to international peace and security, such as terrorist acts, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the proliferation and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.

The Repertoire provides information on when the Council has determined the existence of a threat and examines instances where the existence of a threat was debated.

B. Article 40 – Provisional measures to prevent the aggravation of a situation

The objective of measures under Article 40 of the Charter is to “prevent an aggravation of the situation”. While not expressly enumerated in the United Nations Charter, the types of measures that could be typically assumed as falling under the provision of Article 40, and which are distinct from recommendations made under Chapter VI of the Charter, include a withdrawal of armed forces, a cessation of hostilities, a conclusion or observance of a ceasefire or a creation of the conditions necessary for unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The Repertoire outlines the decisions of the Council containing specific provisional measures that the Council called upon the parties to comply with in order to prevent an aggravation of the situation, and covers instances where the adoption of measures falling under Article 40 was discussed.

C. Article 41 – Measures not involving the use of armed force

Among the most common measures not involving the use of armed force, which the Council has at its disposal to enforce its decisions, are those measures that are known as sanctions. Sanctions can be imposed on any combination of states, groups or individuals. The range of sanctions has included comprehensive economic and trade sanctions and more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, financial or diplomatic restrictions. Apart from sanctions, Article 41 includes measures such as the creation of international tribunals (such as those for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in 1993 and 1994) or the creation of a fund to pay compensation for damage as a result of an invasion.
The Repertoire captures decisions of the Council imposing, modifying, exempting from or terminating measures under Article 41 and highlights issues that were raised in the Council’s deliberations in connection with Article 41.

All information regarding the committees established to oversee the implementation of measures adopted pursuant to Article 41 is covered under Sanctions and Other Committees monitoring mandatory measures. The Repertoire also covers the Council’s general discussion on the topic of sanctions.


D. Article 42 – Other measures to maintain or restore international peace and security

Article 42 of the Charter enables the Council to use force to maintain or restore international peace and security if it considers non-military measures to be or to have proven inadequate. As the United Nations does not have any armed forces at its disposal (for details, see Article 43), the Council uses Article 42 to authorize the use of force by a peacekeeping operation, multinational forces or interventions by regional organizations.

In the Repertoire, case studies examine the Council’s authorization of enforcement action under Chapter VII of the Charter. It also highlights issues that were raised in the Council’s deliberations in connection with the adoption of the resolutions authorizing the use of force.

Council authorization of regional organizations is covered under Relations with Regional Organizations. On the authorization of use of force by peacekeeping operations, see also the section on Peacekeeping missions and military observers.

E. Articles 43-47 - Command and deployment of military forces

Articles 43 -47 of the Charter provide for arrangements intended to govern the relationship between the Security Council and the Member States contributing troops for the purpose of maintenance of international peace and security. The Repertoire captures decisions and discussions that touch upon this relationship.

Article 43 – Member States’ obligation to offer assistance in the maintenance of international peace and security

The obligation for United Nations members to undertake to make armed forces available to the Security Council, render assistance and accord relief as necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security exists only in accordance with one or more special agreements. Nevertheless, such agreements were never concluded and no State is obligated to make troops available to the Council in a particular situation. Consequently, the United Nations has to enter into negotiations every time a situation calls for the establishment of an operation.

Article 44 – Consultations with troop-contributing countries

The participation in a Council decision on military action is foreseen for those States that placed forces at its disposal under Article 43. In recent years, the Council has recognized in its decisions and discussions the importance of increasingly involving the troop-contributing countries in the planning and mandate review phases of missions.

Article 45 – Provision of air-force contingents by Member States

The Council activity with relevance to Article 45 of the Charter is very limited. In recent years, discussions have arisen in the Council with respect to the need to ensure air mobility for the peacekeeping operation in the Sudan.

Article 46 – Assistance by the Military Staff Committee
Article 47 – Composition of the Military Staff Committee
The Military Staff Committee, composed of the chiefs of staff of the five permanent members of the Council, was given responsibility for the strategic coordination of forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council. However, the Military Staff Committee has been of only limited significance in practice.  It has, however, continued to meet regularly. In recent years, the possibility of reactivating the Military Staff Committee was raised in connection with the issues of threats to international peace and security and United Nations peacekeeping operations.
For more information on the Military Staff Committee, see also the section dealing with the relations between the Security Council and the Military Staff Committee and the section on Reports of the Military Staff Committee from the 1946-1951 volume.

F. Article 48 – Member States’ obligation to accept and carry out the Council’s binding decisions

Article 48 of the Charter constitutes an affirmation of States’ obligation under Article 25 of the Charter to accept binding decisions by the Council. Article 48 (1) allows the Council to limit such duties to selected members, while Article 48 (2) makes an attempt to co-opt other international organizations into the United Nations peacekeeping system.

While usually not containing express references to Article 48, the Council adopted decisions in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter that underlined the mandatory nature of those measures imposed and contained provisions that call for action to carry out the decisions adopted in accordance with the provisions of Articles 40, 41 and 42 of the Charter. The Repertoire provides an overview of Council decisions adopted in accordance with the provisions of Articles 40, 41 and 42 of the Charter which contain calls for action required to carry out its decisions.

G. Article 49 – Mutual assistance owed by Member States in carrying out the Council’s decisions

The Repertoire reflects that the Council’s decisions often call upon Member States to provide mutual assistance, such as financial or technical assistance, in carrying out the decisions adopted in accordance with the provisions of Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter.

H. Article 50 – Effects of Council preventive or enforcement measures towards third States

The purpose of Article 50 of the Charter is to aid States that incur economic difficulties as a result of preventive and enforcement measures undertaken by the Council under Chapter VII of the Charter. The Council can be consulted for difficulties arising from a State’s participation in the measures imposed by the Council and resulting from enforcement measures taken by other States. Given the shift from comprehensive economic sanctions to targeted sanctions, few States have invoked Article 50 in recent years.

The Repertoire examines decisions of the Council relating to requests for assistance. It furthermore highlights when Article 50 was invoked in other documents or in the Council’s deliberations. It has also presented material relating to the Council’s subsidiary bodies in connection with Article 50, as included in their reports to the Council, as well as in the Reports of the Secretary-General on the “Implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions”.

I. Article 51 – Right of individual or collective self-defence

Article 51 of the Charter provides an exception to the prohibition of the use of force as stipulated in Article 2 (4) of the Charter. The right of individual or collective self-defence can be exercised in the event of an “armed attack” against a Member of the United Nations.  States have to immediately report to the Council the measures taken and discontinue them as soon as the latter itself has taken the measures necessary for the maintenance of international peace.

The Repertoire covers any invocation of the right of self-defence in the Council’s decisions, in its deliberations and in official correspondences from Member States.