So to my understanding national security is one of the utmost responsibilities of a head of government. However, how its foreign policy is done is another. My question is if a head of government saw their commitments as a UN member nation being a threat to their national security could they limit their role in those commitments or completely void them? Would it be illegal to limit or completely void their role in those commitments as a member nation (in the case of international law)?

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    Head of government, not head of state. In parliamentary states, the head of state tends to be a figurehead only, with no formal role in government. Jun 26, 2017 at 12:59
  • I will clarify that in my question. Thinking back to government class that difference in titles make sense. Like Chief of State being more of a figurehead role. Thank you! Jun 26, 2017 at 13:02
  • I would be curious as to what situation would arise to make a UN commitment a potential security risk to a country. I suppose N Korea adhering to UN human rights standards might risk exposing less than savory internal workings. The other possibility is IAEA inspections, but that follows a country agreeing to abide by the nuclear NPF guidelines if they want nuclear tech. Outside of those two, I can't see this situation arising without also having the UN infringing on a country's soverignty to a great degree.
    – tj1000
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:12
  • @tj1000 The current US example uses an indirect argument for the threat to security. No one thinks current agreements mean soldiers will invade the US, but someone might think something makes it more likely sometime in the future there will be a problem that might be related to security.
    – user9389
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:42
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    Nobody cam emforce anything in international law, if a sovereign state says alright I'm not paying into the UN ... no one on earth can force them otherwise Jun 26, 2017 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


Member countries ignore the UN all the time. While it may be a violation of international law, this means little in the absence of any power of enforcement, and the UN has very little ability to compel its member states to do anything.

Taking a simple example, UN member states often do not meet their full financial commitment to the organisation. As of 2014, members collectively owed the UN $3.5 billion, and about $2.6 billion to the separate UN peacekeeping budget.

This may occur for various reasons:

  • Technical delays in payment, due to different fiscal rules;

  • Withholding money in a deliberate attempt to influence UN policy;

  • Simply feeling the money could be better used elsewhere.

Regardless of the motivation, these countries felt their UN obligations were in conflict with national wellbeing (and security in the broadest sense), and chose to disregard the UN.

There are also many cases of governments refusing to implement UN resolutions. A long-standing example is UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls upon Israel to withdraw from territory occupied in the Six Day War in 1967. Fifty years later, the Israeli government has no intention of withdrawing from these territories. Again, if the demands of national security are perceived to conflict with UN obligations, national security invariably wins.

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