This post ran originally on THUMP UK.
The dance music internet has been in a state of mild amusement this week thanks to the absolute chuffing legend who put together a change.org petition, canvassing the United Nations to "Ban Tech House From Ever Existing."
We've all had a good laugh. After all, what's worse than tech house? As the petition's author Jeremy Cocks puts it: "I would rather listen to one of those hard house records you get with a second hand pair of technics in one ear and a pile driver being inserted in the other than tech house." Too bloody, right? Here at THUMP we read the petition and had a chuckle, but then we paused for thought. Is that possible? Could the UN ban a genre of music?
Since publishing his legendary petition Jezza has gotten a bit salty, revealing the only reason he created the petition in the first place "was a bet to a friend that it would not take long to get a reaction from predictable media outlets." Well Jeremy mate, you brought the fight to our door. You want a reaction from a predictable media outlet? Here I am son. This is me reacting. This is me calling up my best mate's girlfriend who studies international law at the Sorbonne in Paris in order to ask her whether or not the United Nations could feasibly implement a ban on tech house. I can do this all day mate.
Anyway, without further ado. I actually did call up my mate Héloïse who studies law at the Sorbonne to ask her whether or not the UN could actually ban tech house. Here's what she said.
THUMP: Ok so do you mind explaining what exactly it is that you study?
Héloïse: I am on a Masters course on international economic law which involves the study of international investment law, World Trade Organization law and international monetary and financial law. Previously I was studying international law more generally
First things first, is it actually possible to petition the UN to introduce new laws?
There is no formal procedural mechanism to petition the UN. Only states represented within the UN are able to pass resolutions within the general assembly, where all states are represented equally according to the principle of sovereign equality (one vote = one state).
You have to bear in mind that resolutions passed by the general assembly are not legally binding and are part of what we call "soft law." Only resolutions passed by the Security Council, which is another organ of the UN, are legally binding, and only fivfe permanent states are passing these laws according to the UN charter objectives, which is to maintain peace and security
So if you wanted to pass a new law you would first have to convince your own government? Or go through the Security Council?
First of all, you would need the purpose of your ban to be consistent with the objectives set up in Article 1 of the UN Charter: maintain peace and security, develop friendly relationship amongst states, foster international cooperation. With regards the tech house ban, you would need to prove that it is a threat to international peace and security for it to even be on the security council agenda.
Does the UN Security Council have any laws on censorship?
If they passed any censorship laws on cultural produce for instance? I am pretty sure that this has never been the case. You can have a glimpse of what kind of resolutions the Security Council have passed since 1946 here. This is all to do with much more serious stuff like wars and nuclear weapons
Hypothetically if we could convince the Security Council tech house was a threat to international peace, how do you think they would try to ban it? Does the UN have a police force?
Let's put the security council out and have a look at the general assembly which passes more resolutions (non-binding) on more general topics. If you wanted the GA to pass a resolution banning tech house—well it wouldn't be a ban because the GA resolutions are not binding—then according to Article 18 of the UN Charter, a 2/3 majority of the UN members would need to approve the resolution. This wouldn't ban it but express concerns about the danger of tech house for international security. As there are 193 member states within the UN, at least 130 states would need to approve this resolution. So 130 governments would need to be convinced
If the Security Council banned it, only five states would need to approve it (US, France, China, Russia, UK) then it would be legally binding on the whole world and states would have to comply with it. There is no police force of the UN but states would have the duty to implement the ban within their jurisdictions.
So how powerful is the United Nations then? Are they more symbolic than legislative?
Yes you sum it up well, the UN is more of a symbol, although multiple UN agencies like UNHCR or FAO are helping the more powerless of this world by providing emergency food and shelters.
But they probably aren't too interested in banning certain types of house music?
Of course not. The purpose of this ban is first and foremost completely outside the scope of the UN Charter as set in article 1. I would even say that it is contrary to the UN Convention on Economic and Social rights, which also protect cultural rights.
It doesn't refer to music but article 15 of this Convention states that: "1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone: (a) To take part in cultural life." This petition, from a legal point of view, is complete fantasy. The UN Security Council isn't even able to act on the war in Syria (because of a Russian veto) so how would they pass a resolution banning tech house?
Thanks for clearing that up!