Title page for ETD etd-04202009-185313

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Gorman, Fitzalan Crowe
Author's Email Address fitzalangorman@yahoo.com
URN etd-04202009-185313
Title Non-State Actors, Terrorism and the United Nations: A Critical Analysis through Three Case Studies Examining the United Nations’ Effectiveness in Addressing the Threat Imposed by Violent Non-State Actors
Degree Master of Arts
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Pourchot, Georgeta Valentina Committee Co-Chair
Weisband, Edward Committee Co-Chair
Luke, Timothy W. Committee Member
  • collective security
  • United Nations
  • use of force
  • non-state actors
  • terrorism
Date of Defense 2009-04-13
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this study is to determine if the United Nations is structured in a manner that allows for it to effectively protect its principles while meeting the challenges emerging from the increasing number of security threats carried out by violent non-state actors.

The United Nations, through the strategies of collective security and sovereign equality, aspires to have its member states prevent war through the peaceful settlement of disputes. This thesis argues that, by examining the legal norms that govern the methods in which member states are authorized to use force, the foundation and principles of the United Nations are to promote collective security through the avoidance of war.

The United Nations’ Charter only outlines a method for how sovereign states are to handle disputes with other states. The Charter fails to establish an effective method for states to respond to violence that originates from a non-state source. States therefore have elected to respond to aggression by non-state actors in terms that are not in accordance with the United Nations’ Charter.

This thesis therefore argues that any member state that chooses to use force against another state, specifically due to that state being the perceived origin of violent non-state aggression, without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, is doing so illegally and undermining the integrity of the organization. Since the United Nations’ Charter fails to make provisions for the use of force against violence by non-state on state actors, it would seem wise for the United Nations to update its Charter to reflect a more efficient method for states to respond to non-state aggression. Unless the United Nations modernizes to respond to this tactic and outlines a strict method for states to respond to these situations, the United Nations will grow increasingly irrelevant.

The thesis is organized into four main parts.

The introduction describes the legal foundation of the United Nations and argues that its integrity is based upon the concept of collective security. This examination will explore the historical growth of collective security through the successes and failures of organizations who have previously employed its principles. This section will go into detail on the main principles of the United Nations Charter, specifically when the use of force is permissible by the organization.

The first chapter offers a historical examination into the growth of non-state actors and the terrorist tactics they have employed. Terrorism is a tactic that aspires to disrupt society through the threat or usage of violence. This tactic typically uses or threatens to use violence in an attempt to gain footage in political, economic, religious or social issues. This analysis will offer evidence into the effectiveness of this tactic for inflicting civilian casualties and disrupting the peace of states.

The second chapter is an analysis of how the United Nations has evolved to address the global growth of terrorism. This analysis will be supported by the legal documentation that the United Nations has passed to address terrorism. The main method in which the United Nations has employed to suppress terrorism is sanctions. This section will detail cases where the United Nations has used economic sanctions as a method to punish states that support terrorism.

The third chapter of this thesis will offer an in-depth analysis of instances where, despite structures that the United Nations has in place to suppress terrorism, member states have determined that their state is not adequately protected from terrorism. In turn, these states have used force against another sovereign state without a Security Council mandate. By doing this, the member states have violated United Nations articles governing the use of force and the notion of collective security.

The final section of this thesis will offer recommendations on necessary changes to the United Nations Charter regarding the use of force against violence by non-state on state actors. More efficient legal framework is necessary in the United Nations Charter to allow for states to capably and legally respond to the growth of terrorism.

This thesis demonstrates that the current structure of the United Nations is incapable of controlling or responding to violent non-state actors. Additionally, with the mounting number of occurrences where a member state elects to use force against another sovereign state in response to terrorism, the core principles and purpose of the United Nations are becoming moot. This thesis will conclude by exploring possible reform within the United Nations by allowing for member states to legally and effectively respond to the terrorist activities of violent non-state actors. This reform would be achieved by outlining legal action allowed by a state when attacked or threatened with an attack by a non-state actor.

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