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The ‘Responsibility Not to Veto’, Secondary Rules, and the Rule of Law

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In this article I argue that the concept of secondary rules provides a useful tool for analysing the interplay of politics and law in the evolution of the ‘responsibility not to veto’, which represents an attempt to subject the Security Council to the rule of law. Secondary rules help to maintain the law’s overall coherence, thereby bolstering its legitimacy and hence its ability to effectively govern human conduct. Most accounts of secondary rule-making overstate the role of power while underestimating the need for powerful states to argue within the parameters set by the law itself. This contribution, by contrast, explores the interaction of power and law, and the role of secondary rules therein. It shows that the international legal order currently lacks coherence as there is no consensus on overarching principles. Hence, the legitimacy crisis of the Security Council is at the same time a legitimacy crisis of international law.

Affiliations: 1: Social Science Research Centre Berlin,


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