Non-international armed conflicts and the UN Security Council

Non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) are now the dominant form of contemporary warfare, substantially outnumbering traditional inter-state armed conflicts (IACs). UN Security Council practice is not a source generally cited as evidence of norms regulating NIACs. Descriptions of the Council as an essentially “political” body have been used to suggest that the obligations it imposes form no coherent pattern and have little relation to otherwise applicable rules of international law.

In a new paper, which draws on a dataset of Council resolutions on significant internal conflicts from 1990-2013, Professors Gregory Fox and Kristen Boon argue that in its resolutions the Council has in fact imposed a broad and consistent range of obligations on NIAC parties and on third parties, using a variety of innovative approaches that had little precedent in its practice of the previous 40 years. Despite deep cleavages over Syria, Ukraine, and a few other conflicts, the Council's most ambitious undertakings in response to NIACs – post-conflict peacekeeping and reconstruction – have remained active and relatively uncontroversial. The central thesis of this paper is that at this juncture, one simply cannot understand “the law” governing any contemporary NIAC without consulting obligations imposed by Security Council.

On 31 March 2017 NYU’s Center on International Cooperation together with Professors Fox and Boon, both specialists in Public International Law and International Organizations, held a discussion on the results of this new empirical study and to react to the argument that these patterns of obligation can be seen as evidence of customary international law. The objective of the seminar was to exchange views on the legal significance of Security Council resolutions on NIACs.

Gregory Fox is a professor of law and the director of the Program for International Legal Studies at Wayne State University.

Kristen Boon, is a professor of law and the Miriam T. Rooney Fellow at Seton Hall University, where she specializes in public international law and international organizations.

For any further information on this event and the associated paper please contact Professor Gregory Fox ( or Professor Kristen Boon (

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Mar 31, 2017