Democratic Accountability and the Use of Force in International Law

By Charlotte Ku; Harold K. Jacobson | Go to book overview

12 France: Security Council legitimacy
and executive primacy

Yves Boyer, Serge Sur, and Olivier Fleurence


Introduction

France has always had a specific approach to the question of the legitimacy of international institutions using force, which can be explained by its historical experience, its place in the UN system as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UN SC), its status as a member of the nuclear club, and its constitutional system. These characteristics are reflected in the meaning generally given by the French to the notion of “accountability.” The word itself cannot be exactly translated into French: it is not “responsabilité” or “évaluation,” but something in between. Democratic accountability in France may be understood as follows: it is the process by which the legitimacy, on the one hand, and the effectiveness, on the other, of a public policy can be assessed.

Understanding accountability requires establishing a distinction between two different levels, the international one and the national (or domestic) one. At the international level, “accountability” means that one must address the legitimacy and the legality of decisions made by international institutions, as well as their ability to deal properly with the challenges involved, and the effectiveness of the corresponding measures and means used to deal with a given situation. At the domestic level, democratic accountability must be assessed with regard to constitutional provisions and practices related to the use of national military forces. In this respect, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic does not make a specific distinction between the unilateral use of French military forces and their use under international mandate or auspices.

Since the new international situation deriving from the end of the Cold War has made much more frequent the use of force internationally, the French were led to devise a specific typology describing the various uses of force internationally. Such categories as peacekeeping,

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent those of the organi-
zations with which they are affiliated.

-280-

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