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Nigel D. White, Collective Security Law (The Library of Essays in International Law), Ashgate, 2003, 589 pp. Hardback, ISBN 0754622355
Boris Kondoch
Published in International Peacekeeping: The Yearbook of International Peace Operations, Vol. 10, 2006, pp. 203.
The relationship between international law and collective security is a topical subject. One may only think of the Iraq conflict, which lead to the latest crisis of collective security. In that case, the UN system of collective security was deadlocked mainly because of two reasons: On the one hand, the coalition forces led by the United States liberated Iraq without an explicit authorisation by the Security Council. On the other hand, states like Germany and France opposed any kind of military action in the Security Council even before the final assessment of Iraq’s compliance with its obligation to disarm under Security Council Resolution 687. A useful tool to understand the concepts and debates surrounding the relationship between international law and collective security is the volume, Collective Security Law edited by Nigel D. White. The book is part of the series “The Library of Essays in International Law” published by Ashgate. The general editor is Robert McCorquadale, Professor at the University of Nottingham. Each volume contains a selection of articles which are of central importance for a specific area of international law. Other related books to our yearbook are the one on humanitarian law (Editor: Judith Gardam) and the one on international dispute settlement (Editor: Mary Ellen O’Connel). Prof Nigel D. White is an excellent choice as the editor for the volume on collective security law. He is the author of a series of books and articles related to the topic. In addition, he is editor of the Journal of Conflict and Security Law, which is one of the best international law journals on the market.
The introduction of the book provides the context of collective security and the legal issues arising from it. Although no general definition exits collective security may be understood as suggested by Professor White ‘as any collective action designed to defuse situations that endanger peace and combat threats to, and breaches of, (international) peace’. The UN Charter does not define the term but distinguishes between two categories of actions. Chapter VI promotes the peaceful settlement of disputes of situations that endanger peace. Chapter VII allows the Security Council to take actions against threats to the peace, breaches of the peace or acts of aggression. Another key aspect of the UN collective security system is the prohibition of the use of force contained in Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter which only allows to use force in case of self defence or in case of collective measures taken under Chapter VII.
The book is divided into four parts. Part one deals with the concept of collective security law. Part two of the book draws the reader’s attention to the actors within the United Nations. Part three focuses on the specific measures collective security within the United Nations. In the final part of the book articles are concerned with collective security outside the United Nations. The list of authors chosen for the volume reads like a list of the who is who in this particular field of international law. Readers will find contributions by scholars like Bruno Simma, Oskar Schachter and Martti Koskeniemi. Issues related to collective security law are often diversely and hotly debated. This can be, for example, illustrated by the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (see in detail the article by Prof. Kirgis in this volume of the yearbook). The panel endorses the emerging legal obligation of responsibility to protect civilians from atrocities. One may wonder where this alleged norm has its legal basis. The panel lacks any explanaition for its assertion. According to a traditional understanding of international law, the Security Council enjoys a wide margin of discretion under Chapter VII of the UN Charter when to intervene in respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace or acts of aggression. Most States would certainly reject a norm obliging them to act in humanitarian crisis.
Nevertheless, it is worth to generate new ideas how to make the world more secure in times of threats posed by terrorists and rogue states possesing weapons of mass destruction. However, any debate must take place within the framework of international law.
As a starting point for a better understanding of these issues one may consider the articles collected in the book by Prof. White. The essays are showing that there are lawful and legitimate solutions to the threats and conflicts of today. As Nigel D. White writes “peace can be achieved through law”.

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