The Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages and threatens to spill over onto multiple fronts. But the only global body responsible for maintaining international peace and security has failed to agree on a solution. What’s next ?
The latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas, which began on October 7, was quickly brought to the attention of the Security Council, the body charged by the United Nations Charter with maintaining international peace and security.
But, to date, its 15 members have rejected similar draft resolutions aimed, among other things, at establishing a ceasefire and a humanitarian corridor for besieged Palestinians.
Here’s what you need to know about what happens next:
What follows a “veto”?
What is a veto, who exercises it and why is it important in times of crisis?
When the Council was created, on the ruins of the Second World War, the right of “veto”, although not explicitly mentioned in the Charter, was granted to its five permanent members due to their key role in the creation of the United Nations. These five members are China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union, now Russia.
Despite decades of efforts to reform the Council, this veto remains in the hands of the permanent members of the Council, colloquially known as the “P5”.
So, when one of the P5 votes “no” in the Council, they invoke this power. This is what happened on October 18, when the United States vetoed a Brazilian draft resolution.
In the future, Council members will be able to resolve their differences and submit a new draft to a vote or appeal to the entire membership of the United Nations, namely the 193 Member States making up its General Assembly.
Can we object to it?
At the same time, UN member states can request the President of the General Assembly to meet to review the Council’s recent veto, as he did in early September.
This is due to the world body’s unanimous adoption of a resolution deciding to hold the P5 accountable for the use of its veto power, a decision triggered by the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russia in early 2022 and the subsequent impasse in the Security Council over this situation.
According to the resolution, the President of the General Assembly must convene a formal meeting within 10 working days following the exercise of the veto power by one or more permanent members of the Council. In the case of the US veto which prevented the adoption of a resolution on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the deadline for a hearing in the Assembly would be November 1.
Member states can also request the President of the General Assembly to convene a debate on the situation giving rise to the veto, provided that the world body does not meet in a rarely convened emergency special session on the veto. same question.
The ultimate goal would be for UN member states to make recommendations, including the possible use of armed force, to maintain or restore peace and security on the ground.
All resolutions of the General Assembly carry great moral and political weight due to the universality of its members, but they are not binding and do not have the force of international law, unlike certain measures adopted by the Council of security.
As the situation in the Middle East worsens, finding global consensus is difficult, but discussions can lead to collective action. This may consist, in the case of an ongoing conflict, of ending the bloodshed, establishing a ceasefire and relieving the suffering of civilians on the ground.
Given the daily increase in the number of deaths in the Middle East, the President of the General Assembly must convene an emergency special session within 24 hours if the Council so requests by the vote of seven of its members, or by that of the majority of all members of the UN.
Once convened, under a historic 1950 resolution widely known as “Uniting for Peace”, the entire membership of the UN immediately examines the matter, with a view to making appropriate recommendations on collective measures to be taken. In the case of a breach of the peace or an act of aggression, this includes the use of armed force, if necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Unite for peace
As a global forum, the United Nations is guided by the decisions of its Member States. Only 11 emergency special sessions of the General Assembly have been convened since 1945, five of which concerned the Middle East. A new session can only be convened one year after the previous one.
The eleventh emergency special session was convened at the end of February 2022, six days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The one before concerned the “Illegal measures taken by the Israeli authorities in occupied East Jerusalem as well as in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, which can be taken up by the President of the Assembly at the request of member States.
The first emergency special session opened at UN Headquarters on November 1, 1956. It focused on the Middle East, including some of the issues currently facing the Security Council in the dead end.
Does the inaction of the SC reduce the UN to impotence?
As the Council continues to review the situation, United Nations diplomatic and humanitarian efforts have abounded since the start of the conflict, including the good offices of the United Nations Secretary-General.
He and his top political and humanitarian envoys visited the region, UN agencies scrambled day and night to help Palestinians besieged in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since the start of the conflict and even before. The United Nations agency for aid to Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has operated in the region since 1950.
Meanwhile, UN member states continue to discuss how best to end the conflict.
The system for maintaining international peace and security is certainly not perfect, but the UN remains the only global forum for deciding on a path towards peace.
Ultimately, it is the UN Member States themselves who lead the process, from the only meeting place with a global vocation: the United Nations headquarters.
This article is originally published on fr.hespress.com