Could a United Nations Code of Conduct Help Curb Atrocities? A Response to Bolarinwa Adediran

| March 2019
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Abstract: In an article titled “Reforming the Security Council through a Code of Conduct: A Sisyphean Task?” (Ethics & International Affairs 32, no. 4, pp. 463–82), Bolarinwa Adediran argues that efforts to establish a code of conduct at the UN Security Council amount to energy misspent—for reasons both of practicability and effectiveness. While it is true that the proposed codes of conduct do not offer any shortcuts or magic answers to the dilemmas surrounding efforts to prevent atrocity crimes and protect populations, I disagree with the assessment that these initiatives will ultimately prove to be “unhelpful.” I examine the initiatives on three levels of analysis: (1) their effect on political and normative movement toward giving increased attention to human security considerations, (2) their effect on Security Council decision-making, and (3) their effect on atrocity prevention and protection on the ground. The proposed codes have both downside risks and upside potential on all three levels, but it is on the first level that my assessment most sharply diverges from that of Adediran.

Keywords: United Nations, Security Council, code of conduct, atrocity crimes, atrocity prevention, Responsibility to Protect


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Category: Global Governance, Issue 33.1, Response

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