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The overall aim of the course is to lead the student:

• to reach knowledge and understanding of the law of the United Nations (UN) collective security system, as practiced within the legal framework provided by the UN Charter, with a particular focus upon the functions and the workings of the Security Council in trying to manage crisis response and, more generally, to solve issues on the global agenda.

• to analyze and apply, using appropriate legal language, the main issues in UN practice of the last years, in order to evaluate critically the role played by the UN, especially by the Security Council, in the international community.

Knowledge and understanding

The student will be able to know and deal with a range of core subjects of UN system, in particular through a legal analysis of the functions and the action of the Security Council in the maintenance of peace and international security.

Applying knowledge and understanding

The student will demonstrate to be able to apply the reached knowledge in order to evaluate critically the involvement of the UN in addressing current issues in the global world and meeting the diplomatic challenges of the new century.

Further expected learning outcomes:

  • Making judgements: The student will acquire the attitude to apply critical and autonomous judgments to the topics studied and discussed during the course.

  • Communication skills: The student will develop the ability to communicate clearly and exhaustively the knowledge acquired during the course also to non-expert, using appropriate legal language.

  • Learning skills: The student will be able to update autonomously his/her knowledge and skills through scholarly articles, blogs and websites. The student attending the class is required to contribute to the discussion on the various topics raised in the course and to activities within study groups through a constant interaction between teacher and students.


The main topics of the course concern:

“Collective security” : a definition; the requirement of collective security; legal and political elements of collective security; the creations of the United Nations; the key collective security provisions of the UN system; diplomacy by the UN Secretary-general; ad hoc diplomatic initiatives in support of UN objectives; the meaning and legal basis of peacekeeping; traditional peacekeeping operations; second - and third – generation peacekeeping operations; where peacekeeping is now; the “authorisation” model for military enforcement action; a model for UN control of decentralised military enforcement action; practice under the “authorisation” model; bypassing the Security Council; outcomes of military enforcement action: military and political influences; alternatives to the “authorisation” model; the relative merits of regional action; the scope of “regional arrangements and agencies”; the role of regional arrangements within pacific settlement; regional sanctions, regional peacekeeping; regional military enforcement action


Recommended textbooks:

Gary Wilson, The United Nations and Collective Security, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York, 2014. The following chapters shall be studied:

1.The concept of collective security
2. The UN Charter’s system of collective security
4. Diplomatic responses to security threats
6. Peacekeeping
7. Military enforcement action
8. Regional arrangements and the UN collective security system

Further material will be made available by the teacher


Learning results to be verified

The full knowledge and skills acquired during the course will be assessed through an oral examination, with a vote expressed in 30ths. During the exam the student has to answer three questions related to the contents of the course. In order to pass the exam, the student must demonstrate to have acquired at least sufficient knowledge of the contents (above).

Assessment method

Oral examination

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