Research Handbook on UN Sanctions and International Law
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Research Handbook on UN Sanctions and International Law

Edited by Larissa van den Herik

The 1990s have been labeled the ‘Sanctions Decade’, since they witnessed an unprecedented intensification of the use of collective non-military enforcement measures, and in particular sanctions, by the post-Cold War reactivated Security Council. This Research Handbook studies the current practice of UN sanctions in international law, their interrelationship with other regimes and substantive areas of law, as well as issues arising from their implementation and application at the domestic level.
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Chapter 9: Glasnost in the Security Council: the value of transparency

Devika Hovell


The value of transparency in decision-making is regarded as something of a truism in the public sphere; something that is uncontroversial and requires little by way of justification. In the Security Council setting, there are mounting calls for greater transparency as if publicity is some form of unconditional virtue. However, this easy embrace of transparency evades difficult questions and fails to consider the tensions it conceals. The principle of transparency is not as easy to sustain, either in theory or practice, as it first might seem. Publicity might be necessary to justify policy, but secrecy may also be necessary to effect some policies. The primary aim of this essay is to ask a question to which an easy answer is sometimes presumed: why do we need transparency in the Security Council sanctions context? In this essay, I set the foundations for a value-based theory of transparency for Security Council sanctions decision-making. It is only when we understand ‘why’ transparency is needed in this context that we can adequately answer other questions, including the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ questions. Keywords Security Council, transparency, publicity principle, authority, legitimacy

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