Intelligence and the UN: Getting Facts Right

In the face of clandestine threats to peace, the UN Security Council needs to be able to assess intelligence in order to act responsibly. Recent critical reports about global intelligence failure in Iraq demonstrate the difficult relationship between intelligence and policy-making at the international level.

The World Today Published 1 August 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 5 minute READ

Christopher Mackmurdo

Doctoral candidate in international relations, London School of Economics

Above all else, the aim of the United Nations is to save mankind from ‘the scourge of war’. A product of 1945, the UN Charter was signed by fifty countries less than two months prior to the Hiroshima atom-bombing. It was a response to the loss of sixty million lives in two world wars. The unique responsibility of the Security Council to determine and react to threats to international peace and security was enshrined in international law.

Today, almost sixty years after its founding, 191 states belong to the organisation. Its purpose continues to be to prevent conflict and promote global stability through collective security.

However, the nature of the scourge of war from which mankind must be saved has changed. The threat to international security posed by armed conflict amongst states has receded. Clandestine activities, such as global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, now challenge state security.

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