Uniting for peace as a solution to Syrian issue

The image of Aleppo kid, bloodied and covered with dust, sitting silently in an ambulance awaiting help as another stark reminder of the toll of the war in Syria has not vanished from our minds. The UN Security Council has failed to bring peace in Syria. In almost six years of conflict, close to half a million people have been killed and eleven million have been forced to leave their homes. Most recently, the Syrian and Russian governments and their allies have carried out unlawful attacks on eastern Aleppo with scant regard for some 250,000 civilians trapped there. The article will give a brief overview of what the “uniting for peace” is and if this resolution will serve as a way out to this situation.

The creators of the United Nations Charter conceived that five countries namely China, France, USSR [which was succeeded in 1990 by the Russian Federation], the United Kingdom and the United States, because of their key roles in the establishment of the United Nations, would continue to play important roles in the maintenance of international peace and security. For this purpose the “power of veto” was introduced in Article 27 of the UN Charter by which it was agreed by the drafters that if any one of the five permanent members cast a negative vote in the 15-member Security Council, the resolution would not be approved.

All five permanent members have exercised the right of veto at one time or another[1]. Over the last 20 years out of a total of 24 vetoes, 15 have been used by the USA to protect Israel[2]. The UK used the veto unilaterally seven times because of Rhodesia later to become Zimbabwe. France subsequently used the threat of a veto to support Morocco’s position in the Western Sahara conflict. The representative of the government of the Republic of China used the veto to block the Mongolian People’s Republic’s application for membership in 1955 because the ROC considered Mongolia to be a part of China. This postponed the admission of Mongolia until 1960[3]. The above practices of the permanent members show that they have used the power of veto in accordance with their national interest, more often resulting in a deadlock making the Security Council unable to fulfill its responsibility.

In 1950, the most pressing issue on the international agenda was the war in Korea. The Soviet Union, using its veto power, repeatedly blocked action by the Security Council, thus preventing the Council from taking any measures to protect the Republic of Korea against the aggression launched against it by military forces from North Korea. It was against this backdrop that the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution, 377 A (V), titled “Uniting for Peace” in November 1950[4]. Resolution 377 (A) read:

“if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to make the appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace, or act of aggression to use armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security. If not in session at the time, the General Assembly may meet in emergency special session within 24 hours of the request thereof. Such emergency special session shall be called if requested by the Security Council on a vote of any seven (now nine) members, or by a majority of the United Nations[5]. Therefore, when the permanent members of the Security Council find themselves at odds and fail to reach unanimity on a matter that appears to be a threat to international peace and security, this resolution authorizes the General Assembly to immediately consider that matter and issue its own “appropriate recommendations” to the Member States “for collective measures”. Those collective measures can include “the use of armed force when necessary.”

On April 18, 2016, Mr. Monzer Makhous, member of the Syrian National Council and High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesperson told Asharq Al-Awsat that “current events confirm that the ‘uniting for peace’ resolution is the most effective solution for a serious settlement for the Syria crisis. Mr. Makhous added that the world will not stand idle before Russia’s continuous exploitation of its right to veto[6]”.

The “Uniting for Peace” procedure is unquestionably a legally valid alternative for the deadlock at the Security Council with respect to the Syrian issue. The “Uniting for Peace” procedure would allow the Assembly to recommend a range of other coercive measures, including sanctions. Beyond enforcing the ban on the use of chemical weapons, this would empower the General Assembly to back up its numerous calls for a political solution to the conflict and for better humanitarian access with more tangible and enforceable measures. Although these measures would remain nonbinding, and their implementation depend on the good will of member states, it would equip them with the legality and international legitimacy that is lacking absent a strong resolution by the Security Council.

[1] United Nations, Security Council viewed at http://www.un.org/en/sc/

[2] Sahar Okhovat, The United Nations Security Council: Its Veto Power and Its Reform, December (2011)

[3] Aleksandra Czajka, The analysis of the Veto Power in the United Nations Security Council, Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona, November, (2011)

[4] Aaron Jacob, Unilateral Declaration Of An Independent Palestinian State And The Procedure Of ‘Uniting For Peace’, September (2011)

[5] The General Assembly Res. 377A(V), 3 November (1950)

[6]Fatah Al-Rahman Youssef,  Syria’s HNC to Resort to U.N. Resolution ‘Uniting for Peace’, 16 October (2016)



About the author

photo-of-miracline

Miracline Paul Susi.T is a 4th-year law student at School of Law, SASTRA University. She is deeply passionate about law. She strongly believes that the legal profession has the power and the responsibility to effect changes to the on-ground realities and difficulties that multiple communities face. Miracline’s keen interest in social works is evident from her service at SASTRA Legal Aid Society. She believes that the knowledge in law is vital for all and sundry who is bound by it. Her writing skills may be confirmed from her articles in Kerala High Court Journal, Taxmann and International Journal of Enviro Legal Research.

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