What can the UN do? Your 5 Questions Answered – Global Issues

At UN News, we took a deep dive into uncharted to try and give you the answer you might be looking for.

Can the Security Council prevent a war?

Well, let’s first review its mission.

Functions and powers of Security Council enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the founding instrument of the Organization. It was signed on June 26, 1945, in San Francisco, at the end United Nations Conference on International Organizationss and entered into force on 24 October 1945.

Security Council, including 15 members – 5 permanent seats belong to China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States of America, with 10 non-permanent seats rotated by election among other UN member states – is the body assigned responsibility key in maintaining international peace and security. It takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace or an act of aggression.

What you may not know is that prior to 1965, the Security Council consisted of 11 members, six of which were non-permanent. The expansion to 15 members occurred in 1991 after the amendment of Article 23(1) of the Charter through the adoption of Plenum Resolution.

Although there are still about 60 However, UN member states have never joined the Security Council, all UN members agree to Article 25 of the Charter, accept and implement the decisions adopted by the Council. In other words, the actions taken by the Council are binding on all UN member states.

When dealing with crises, the Council, guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council can take a number of steps.

Acting under authority Chapter VI of the Charter, the Council may call upon the parties to the dispute to settle the dispute by peaceful means and recommend methods of accommodation or terms of settlement. It may also recommend referring disputes to International Court of Justice (ICJ), widely known as the ‘World Court’ and is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, located in The Hague, Netherlands.

Under certain circumstances, the Security Council may act on Chapter VII of the Charter and use impose sanctions or may even permit, as a measure of last resort, when peaceful means of settlement of the dispute have been exhausted, that Member States, a coalition of Member States or peaceful activities be The United Nations authorizes the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Importantly, the action necessary to implement the decisions of the Security Council to maintain international peace and security shall be taken by all Members of the United Nations or some of them. surname, as the Security Council may determine under Chapter VII.

The first The Council authorized the use of force in 1950, under so-called military enforcement, to secure the withdrawal of North Korean forces from the Republic of Korea.

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in Ukraine, February 27, 2022.

UN photo / Loey Felipe

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in Ukraine, February 27, 2022.

What is a ‘veto’ and how can it be used?

The voting procedure in the Security Council is guided by Article 27 The Charter of the United Nations provides that each member of the Council has one vote.

When deciding on “procedural matters”, nine members need to vote in favor in order for the decision to pass. For all other matters, a confirmation vote of the nine members is required “including the concurrence votes of the permanent members”.

In other words, a negative vote by any of the five permanent members (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom or the United States of America) could prevent the Council from adopting any any draft resolution relating to fundamental issues.

Since 1946, all five permanent members – widely known as ‘P5’ – have exercise the right of veto at one time or another on many different issues. To date, approximately 49% of veto powers have been exercised by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and later by the Russian Federation (the Soviet Union’s membership in the United Nations, including in the Assembly). Security Council, continued by the Russian Federation), 29 percent of the United States, 10 percent of the United Kingdom, and six percent each of China and France.

Find more information this on veto powers in the Security Council since 1946.

Families arrived in Berdyszcze, Poland, after crossing the border from Ukraine, fleeing escalating conflict.

© UNICEF / Tom Remp

Families arrived in Berdyszcze, Poland, after crossing the border from Ukraine, fleeing escalating conflict.

Can the General Assembly step in when the Security Council cannot make a decision on a cease-fire?

According to the 1950 resolution of the General Assembly 377A (V)Widely known as ‘United for Peace’, if the Security Council cannot act because of lack of consensus among the five permanent members with veto power, it has the power to make recommendations to the wider United Nations members on collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

For example. Most often, the Security Council determines when and where UN peace operations should be implemented, but historically, when the Council was unable to make a decision, the General Assembly did. For example, in 1956, the General Assembly established United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.

In addition, the General Assembly may meet in Urgent special session if so requested by the nine members of the Security Council or by a majority of the members of the Council.

To date, the General Assembly has held 11 Special Emergency Sessions (8 of which have been requested by the Security Council).

Most recently, on 27 February 2022, the Security Council, arguing that the lack of consensus among its permanent members prevented it from carrying out its primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. international, decided to call an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly in its resolution 2623 (2022).

As a result, on 1 March 2022, the General Assembly, meeting in emergency sessionpassed a Resolution it condemns the “aggressive action of the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter and demands that the Russian Federation immediately cease the use of force against Ukraine and completely and completely withdraw condition all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders.

However, unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, meaning that states are not obligated to implement them.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine in violation of the United Nations Charter.

UN photo / Loey Felipe

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine in violation of the United Nations Charter.

Can a country’s UN membership be revoked?

Article 6 of the Charter read as follows:

A Member of the United Nations who repeatedly violates the principles of this Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.

This has never happened in the history of the United Nations.

Article 5 providing for the suspension of a Member State:

A Member of the United Nations that is prevented or coerced by the Security Council from taking action may be suspended by the General Assembly from exercising the rights and privileges of membership on the recommendation of the Security Council. . The exercise of these rights and privileges can be restored by Security Council.

The suspension or expulsion of a State Party from the Organization shall be effected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Council. Such a recommendation requires the consent of the permanent members of the Security Council.

Unless they agree to their own expulsion or suspension, permanent members of the Council may only be removed through an amendment to the Charter of the United Nations, as provided in Chapter XVIII.

However, the UN has taken steps against a number of countries to end major injustices. An example is the case of South Africa and the contribution of the world body to the global struggle against racismby drawing the world’s attention to the inhumanity of the system, legitimizing mass protest, promoting anti-racism actions by governmental and non-governmental organizations government, instituted an arms embargo, supported an oil embargo, and boycotted the apartheid regime in many areas.

On its way to ending apartheid, the Security Council, in 1963, instituted a voluntary arms embargo on South Africa, and the General Assembly refused to accept the certificates of the land. countries from 1970 to 1974. Following this ban, South Africa did not participate in further proceedings. of the Council until the end of apartheid in 1994.

Secretary General António Guterres briefed reporters on the war in Ukraine.

UN photo / Mark Garten

Secretary General António Guterres briefed reporters on the war in Ukraine.

What is the ‘good office’ of the Secretary General?

The Secretary-General as a key actor in peacemaking has evolved through extensive practice. The range of activities carried out by the Secretary-General includes good offices, mediation, facilitation, dialogue and even arbitration processes.

One of the most important roles of the Secretary-General is his use of (to date in the Organization’s 75-year history, all nine Secretary-Generals have been men) the ‘good office’ – steps taken by exercise publicly and privately, drawing upon their independence, impartiality and integrity, and the power of a quiet foreign policy, in order to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. wide.

In practice, this means that a head of the United Nations can use the powers, legitimacy and diplomatic expertise of his or her senior team to meet with Heads of State and other officials and negotiate an end to the dispute between the parties to the conflict

In late March, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the use of his good offices and asked Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, to explore the possibility of a humanitarian ceasefire. with Russia and Ukraine, and countries seeking a peaceful solution to the war.

For more information on the Ukraine war, visit In the Spotlight page.

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