UN Alternative to War: "Uniting for Peac

[Follow Ups] [Post Followup] [Our Discussion Forum]

Posted by andreas from dtm2-t9-2.mcbone.net ( on Saturday, March 15, 2003 at 7:13AM :


Michael Ratner
Center for Constitutional Rights

Jules Lobel
University of Pittsburgh School of Law

JURIST Guest Columnists

In the last few months the Bush Administration has been unyielding in its
march towards war over the objections of some allies and despite the
efforts of the United Nations. It now seems inevitable that the United
States, with some other countries, may soon engage in armed conflict in
Iraq. But for people around the world terrified by the current conflict,
there may be hope yet. That hope lies in a little-discussed mechanism of
the United Nations which, although it seems marginalized by American power,
has the potential to stop the war.

In 1950, the Security Council set up a procedure for insuring that
stalemates between countries would not prevent the United Nations from
carrying out its mission to “maintain international peace and security.”
With the United States playing an important role in its adoption, the
Council adopted Resolution 377, the aptly named “Uniting for Peace” in an
almost unanimous vote.

Uniting for Peace provides that if, because of the lack of unanimity of the
permanent members of the Security Council (France, China, Russia, Britain,
United States), the Council cannot maintain international peace where there
is a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression,” the
General Assembly “shall consider the matter immediately….” The language of
Uniting for Peace would also allow its use even if the Security Council
approved the use of force against Iraq, e.g. if one of the permanent
members abstained.

The General Assembly can meet within 24 hours to consider such a matter,
and can recommend collective measures to U.N. members including the use of
armed forces to “maintain or restore international peace and security.”

The Uniting for Peace resolution procedure has been used ten times since
1950. Its first use was by the United States. After Egypt nationalized the
Suez Canal in 1956 Britain and France attacked and occupied parts of the
canal. Cease-fire resolutions in the Security Council were quickly vetoed
by Britain and France. The United States went to the General Assembly
calling for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of forces. An emergency session
was held under the Uniting for Peace resolution; the U.S. resolution and
subsequently an even stronger resolution passed the General Assembly. In
the face of these resolutions it took less then a week for Britain and
France to withdraw.

Uniting for Peace was next used by the United States to pressure the Soviet
Union to cease its intervention in Hungary in 1956. The Soviet Union had
used its veto to prevent the passage of an anti-intervention resolution in
the Security Council. Again, an emergency session of the General Assembly
was held and the Soviet Union was ordered to stop its intervention in

In the current impasse over Iraq in the Security Council, Uniting for Peace
can and should be used. The General Assembly should consider taking action
with regard to the threat to the peace posed by U.S. military action
against Iraq taken without U.N. authority. (The General Assembly could also
act, as stated earlier, if the Security Council, in the absence of
“unanimity” of its permanent members, authorized a war that was a “threat
to international peace and security.”) It could require that no military
action be taken against Iraq without the explicit authority of the Security
Council. It could mandate that the inspection regime be permitted to
complete its inspections. It seems unlikely that the United States and
Britain would ignore such a measure. A vote by the majority of countries in
the world, particularly if it were almost unanimous, would make the
unilateral rush to war more difficult.

Uniting for Peace can be invoked either by seven members of the Security
Council or by a majority of the members of the General Assembly. This gives
those who oppose unilateral war a real opportunity for activism. People
everywhere in the world can lobby their governments to bring on such a
resolution. This effort can become a worldwide effort to, as the UN Charter
so eloquently states, “save succeeding generations form the scourge of

Michael Ratner is President of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New
York. Jules Lobel ia a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of
Law, where he teaches international law and human rights.
February 10, 2003

-- andreas
-- signature .

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

E-Mail: ( default )
Optional Link ( default )
Optional Image Link ( default )

This board is powered by the Mr. Fong Device from Cyberarmy.com