Beijing calls for more accountable UN Security Council

Beijing calls for more accountable UN Security Council

During a debate this week about the UN Security Council’s working methods, China’s ambassador made a plea for more focus on preventive diplomacy—and less on coercion. He also made the intriguing suggestion that an outside body ensure that the Council doesn’t abuse its authority:

Li Baodong, Chinese permanent representative to the UN, made the statement at an open meeting of the Security Council on working methods.

"The Security Council should pay more attention to preventive diplomacy, make more use of peaceful means such as mediation and good offices to defuse disputes, and avoid frequent use of threats, sanctions and other forcible measures," Li said.

"An effective monitoring mechanism should also be established to avoid abusing or overstepping the Council’s mandate," he added.

In the wake of NATO’s Libya operation—which several Council members saw (or at least professed to see) as an abuse of the body’s authorization—others have expressed similar sentiments. In fact, there already is an international mechanism that could play that supervisory role: the International Court of Justice. As the UN’s principal legal arm, it has a strong claim to exercise judicial review over Council action. And on a few occasions, the ICJ has tiptoed toward that role but it has never fully embraced it (for a recent examination of the court’s role, see this paper by Matthew Happold).

It’s doubtful the ICJ is what China’s ambassador had in mind; China doesn’t accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction and has never been directly involved in a case.