United Nations


United Nations | Research Guide International Law

The United Nations is an international organization, founded in 1945. It was established to promote a set of global values: peace and security, self-determination of peoples, social progress and development, and human dignity. It was set up to serve as a centre for harmonizing the actions of its Member States in the promotion of these values. The Organization currently has 192 Member States. It acts mainly through its six principal organs. The General Assembly, where the entire membership is represented, can discuss any questions within the scope of UN Charter, and make recommendations to the Member States on any such questions. A number of executive councils have been established to effectively promote a particular value: the Security Council for peace and security, the Economic and Social Council for social progress and (sustainable) development, the Trusteeship Council for self-government (and self-determination). The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to promote universal respect for human dignity. The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, and settles disputes between the Member States. The UN also has a Secretariat, headed by the Secretary-General.

This Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the United Nations. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s systematic index code, i.e., 54e and keyword United Nations are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

Online publications released during Winter 2014-2015

Boon, Kristen, “Elders Proposal for Strengthening UN” (February 2015), Opinio Juris blog.
Abstract: If you haven’t seen it yet, the Elders Proposal for Strengthening the UN is a must read. Chaired by Kofi Annan, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Released earlier this month at a conference in Munich, the four proposals  are generating a lot of attention and include …

Alam, Marghoob, “New Vistas of the United Nations in the Post Cold War”, International Journal of Multifaceted and Multilingual Studies, 1 (February 2015), No. 5.
Abstract: This paper makes an attempt to focus on the real and practical position of the United Nations in the Post Cold War. It appears incapable to avert the war of atrocities and reveal not any dominant role to avoid three kinds of arbitrary action of the safe Super Power because the world after the administration of Soviet …

Drieskens, Edith, “Curb Your Enthusiasm: Why an EU Perspective on UN Security Council Reform Does not Imply an EU Seat” (January 2015), Global Affairs, 1 (2015), No. 1.
Abstract: Focusing on the European Union, this contribution analyses the limits and opportunities of regionalism (and regional seats in particular) for breaking the stalemate on the reform of the United Nations Security Council. It explores the realities of effective multilateralism by building upon the notions of internal …

Chandhoke, Neera. “Is the United Nations Still Relevant for Kashmir?.” Journal of Modern Hellenism, 30 (2014), pp. 90-109.
Abstract: The question posed in the title of this essay can possibly be addressed in two ways. The first answer is fairly straightforward, and tends towards pessimism. By any measure Security Council intervention in Jammu and Kashmir (henceforth simply Kashmir) has been ineffective. For seventeen years (1948 to 1965) the UNSC …

Bejan, Lavinia. “Institutional Difficulties of the United Nations in the Effective Punishing of Aggression: Deficiencies of the Established Relationship Between the Security Council and the International Court of Justice”, Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 163 (2014), pp. 230-239.
Abstract: When peace had to become the main goal of the international community, in 1945, after the failure of the League of Nations, a new institution, more efficient, able to prevent conflagrations such as the recently conducted one and to manage to resolve by peaceful means the main conflicts between states, was intended …

Gould, Matthew, and Matthew D. Rablen. “Equitable Representation in Councils: Theory and an Application to the United Nations Security Council.” (2014).
Abstract: We develop a theoretical framework for equity in council voting games (CVGs). In a CVG, a fully representative voting body delegates decision-making to a subset of the members, as describes, e.g., the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). A general framework for analysing country- and region-level …

Felsenthal, Dan S., and Moshé Machover. “Voting Power in the UN Security Council: Presentation of Detailed Calculations”, London School of Economics and Political Science Working Paper (October 2014).
Abstract: The voting rule stated in Article 27(3) of the United Nations Charter prescribing how the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) makes decisions on non-procedural matters, serves as one of the most well known examples in the voting-power literature illustrating the calculation how to compute the a priori voting …

Becker, Raphael N. (et al.), “The Preoccupation of the United Nations with Israel: Evidence and Theory”, CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5034 (October 2014).
Abstract: We compiled data on all United Nations General Assembly resolutions on which voting took place between January 1990 and June 2013 and find a preoccupation with one country: in 65 percent of instances in which a country is criticized in a resolution, the country is Israel, with no other country criticized in more …

Fernández-Vítores, David. “Spanish in the United Nations System”, Instituto Cervantes at FAS – Harvard University, Informes del Observatorio / Observatorio Reports. 004-10/2014EN (October 2014).
Abstract: Spanish occupies a privileged place within the United Nations system. Nevertheless, its institutional representation remains inferior when compared with English and, to a lesser degree, with French. While Spanish’s reduced weight is principally due to political decisions, the current demand for the language both …

Bosco, David L., “Assessing the UN Security Council: A Concert Approach” (October 2014), Global Governance, 20 (2014), pp. 545-561.
Abstract: This article distinguishes between the UN Security Council’s “governance” and “concert” functions and argues that the latter is important in assessing the body’s diplomatic value. It presents data suggesting that serving together on the Council deepens diplomatic linkages between permanent members. It also argues …


Reference works




Periodicals, serial publications


New titles

Updated every Friday morning.

The Peace Palace Library has a collection of over a million publications. Each week, about six hundred new titles are added to our collection: books, articles, documents, online publications, etc. On this page, access is provided to this week’s new titles mainly on the United Nations structure and organization and on the UN Charter.

1. Authority without Accountability?
Authority without Accountability? : The UN Security Council's Authorization Method and Institutional Mechanisms of Accountability / Christian Henderson In: Journal of Conflict and Security Law = ISSN 1467-7954: vol. 19, issue 3, page 489-509. - 2014
Keywords: United Nations, Security Council, Accountability,

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  • Sievers, L., and S. Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 4th ed., Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Sievers, L., and S. Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council (4th ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    The Procedure of the UN Security Council is the definitive book of its kind and has been widely used by UN practitioners and scholars for nearly 40 years.  This comprehensively revised edition contains over 450 pages of new material documenting the extensive and rapid innovations in the Council’s procedures of the past two decades. A one-stop handbook and guide, with meticulous referencing, this book has served diplomats, UN staff and scholars alike in providing unique insight into the inside workings of the world’s preeminent body for the maintenance of international peace and security. Thoroughly grounded in the history and politics of the Council, it brings to life the ways the Council has responded through its working methods to a changing world. The book explains the Council’s role in its wider UN Charter context and examines its relations with other UN organs and with its own subsidiary bodies.  This includes the remarkable expansion in UN peacekeeping, peacebuilding and political missions, sanctions and counter-terrorism bodies, and international legal tribunals. It contains detailed analysis of voting and decision-taking by the Council, as well as the place, format, and conduct of meetings.  It also seeks to illuminate the personalities behind the Council’s work – ranging from the diplomats who sit on the Council itself to the UN Secretary-General, and those outside the Council affected by its decisions. It concludes with reflections on the improvements that have made to the Council’s procedures over many decades, and the scope for further reform.

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  • Vreeland, J.R., and A. Dreher, The Political Economy of the United Nations Security Council: Money and Influence, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    Vreeland, J.R., and A. Dreher, The Political Economy of the United Nations Security Council: Money and Influence, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    Trades of money for political influence persist at every level of government. Not surprisingly, governments themselves trade money for political support on the international stage. Strange, however, is the tale of this book. For, in this study, legitimacy stands as the central political commodity at stake. The book investigates the ways governments trade money for favors at the United Nations Security Council – the body endowed with the international legal authority to legitimize the use of armed force to maintain or restore peace. With a wealth of quantitative data, the book shows that powerful countries, such as the United States, Japan, and Germany, extend financial favors to the elected members of the Security Council through direct foreign aid and through international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In return, developing countries serving on the Security Council must deliver their political support …or face the consequences

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  • Popovski, V., and T. Fraser (eds.), The Security Council as Global Legislator, London, Routledge, 2014.

    Popovski, V., and T. Fraser (eds.), The Security Council as Global Legislator, London, Routledge, 2014.

    Security Council resolutions have undergone an important evolution over the last two decades. While continuing its traditional role of determining state-specific threats to peace and engaging accordingly in various peaceful or coercive measures, the Security Council has also adopted resolutions that have effectively imposed legal obligations on all United Nations member states. This book seeks to move away from the discussions of whether the Security Council – in the current composition and working methods – is representative, capable or productive. Rather it assesses whether legislative activity by the Security Council can be beneficial to international peace and security. The authors examine and critique the capacities of the Security Council to address thematic international threats – such as terrorism, weapons proliferations, targeting of civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, piracy – as an alternative to the traditional model of addressing country-specific situations on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, the book seeks to assess the efficacy of the Security Council as global legislator in terms of complementing the Security Council’s mandate for the maintenance of international peace and security with a preventative and norm-setting capacity. The book presents views from a diverse range of Security Council stakeholders including academic scholars, political analysts, and international lawyers.

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  • Weinlich, S., The UN Secretariat's Influence on the Evolution of Peacekeeping, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Showcase item

    Weinlich, S., The UN Secretariat's Influence on the Evolution of Peacekeeping, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

    Do international bureaucracies have a meaningful influence on world politics? Using the UN Secretariat and the evolution of UN peacekeeping as an example, this book shows that even international bureaucracies with limited autonomy can shape international politics. Peace operations are the UN’s flagship activity. Over the past decades, UN Blue Helmets have been sent all over the globe and have been performing an expanding set of intrusive tasks, while being supported by increasingly professional institutional structures. Silke Weinlich covers these operational, conceptual and institutional dimensions and focuses on three specific decisions that have been crucial to the evolution of UN peacekeeping: the establishment of the UN transitional administration in East Timor, the development of a peacekeeping doctrine, and the establishment of the Standing Police Capacity. With its integrative framework of analysis, this book makes a valuable contribution to the debate on the agency of international organisations.

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  • Genser, J. and B. Stagno Ugarte (eds.), The United Nations Security Council in the Age of Human Rights, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2014. Showcase item

    Genser, J., and B. Stagno Ugarte (eds.), The United Nations Security Council in the Age of Human Rights, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    This is the first comprehensive look at the human rights dimensions of the work of the only body within the United Nations system capable of compelling action by its member states. Known popularly for its failure to prevent mass atrocities in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Syria, the breadth and depth of the Security Council’s work on human rights in recent decades is much broader. This book examines questions including: how is the Security Council dealing with human rights concerns? What does it see as the place of human rights in conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping? And how does it address the quest for justice in the face of gross violations of human rights? Written by leading practitioners, scholars and experts, this book provides a broad perspective that describes, explains and evaluates the contribution of the Security Council to the promotion of human rights and how it might more effectively achieve its goals.

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  • Weiss, T.G. (et al.), The United Nations and Changing World Politics, 7th ed., Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 2014.

    Weiss, T.G. (et al.), The United Nations and Changing World Politics (7th ed.), Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 2014.

    This completely revised and updated seventh edition serves as the definitive text for courses in which the United Nations is either the focus or a central component. Built around three critical themes in international relations—peace and security, human rights, and humanitarian affairs—the seventh edition of The United Nations and Changing World Politics guides students through the complexity of politics and almost seven decades of UN activities. Students of all levels will learn what the UN is, how it operates, and what its relationships are with the universe of external actors and institutions, from sovereign states to the plethora of nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations now playing important roles in world politics. This new edition is fully revised to take into account recent events, including the UN’s actions in Libya and Syria, the tenure of Ban Ki-moon, the global economic and financial meltdown, and efforts to confront nuclear proliferation and climate change.

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The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (MPEPIL) is a comprehensive online resource containing over 1600 peer-reviewed articles on every aspect of public international law. It has been re-designed to improve the look and feel of the site, and the search functionality. Written and edited by an incomparable team of over 800 scholars and practitioners, published in partnership with the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, and updated throughout the year. All included articles are peer-reviewed and treat international law from a global/regional perspective. This major reference work is essential for anyone researching or teaching international law.


  • Hague Academy Model United Nations on Drone Warfare and International Law

    Directed energy weapons, drones, self targeting bullets, mobile tactical high energy lasers, military robots, spy weapons, weapons undetectable under an x-ray scan, remote controlled insect armies, self driving tanks, robotic mules, thermal camouflage, surveillance technologies and autonomous unmanned systems are some examples of the high tech weapons and military technology that are now used during warfare. The use of this state of the art military technology raises serious ethical and legal questions: (when) is the use of drones acceptable?

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  • Dag Hammarskjöld (1905 - 1961)

    Fifty years ago, the former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld tragically passed away in a plane crash, on his way to cease-fire negotiations with the leaders of Katanga province of conflict-ridden Congo.

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  • Conference about ICJ's judgment in the case between Nicaragua and the USA

    In 1986, the International Court of Justice issued its judgment on the merits in a dispute between Nicaragua and the United States of America. Twenty-five years later, members of the legal teams of both Nicaragua and the United States faced each other once again in the Peace Palace.

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  • Libya and the International Criminal Court (ICC)

    On February 16th 2011- following a wave of uprisings throughout the Middle-East- Libya experienced a so-called Day of Rage which led to protests breaking out to challenge Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s 41 year old iron rule- the region’s longest. This blog will briefly discuss the actions taken by the United Nations Security Council and the ICC in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Libya.

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  • THIMUN - The Hague Model United Nations Conference (23rd - 28th January 2011)

    The object of THIMUN is to give the youth an insight into the world’s problems and to seek solutions to problems such as human rights issues, environmental protection, disarmament, international peace and security, through negotiations, debate and discussion. The Model United Nations lets young delegates cooperate in order to search for solutions to these problems. This way, THIMUN helps the pupils to develop a spirit of international cooperation

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  • What Future for Western Sahara ?

    There is no prospect of resolving the decades-old conflict between Morocco and the Sahrawi independence movement Polisario on the future of Western Sahara. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, came to this conclusion in a gloomy report, dated 6 April 2010, to the Security Council. Ban Ki-moon reported that “it is clear [...]

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  • The Falkland Islands Conflict

    Tensions between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands came to a boiling point when the UK announced plans to begin offshore oil drilling near the remote islands in February 2010. This blog will briefly discuss this complicated dispute as well as the actions taken by both parties in the United Nations General Assembly.

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  • International Conference on Afghanistan, The Hague, 31 March 2009

    On 31 March 2009, the Dutch government is hosting the ´International Conference on Afghanistan: a Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context´ at the World Forum in The Hague.

    Building on the achievements of previous Conferences in Bonn, London and Paris, this Conference should reaffirm the solid and long-term commitment of the international community to [...]

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  • United Nations Day, 24 October 2008

    On 24 October 2008, the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter was celebrated. Since 1948 this event has been known as United Nations Day. It has traditionally been marked throughout the world by meetings, discussions and exhibits on the achievements and goals of the Organization. At the UN Headquarters [...]

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