Dubai: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has used a rare power to warn the Security Council of a global threat from the Gaza war as Arab states seek to use this alert to push the council to call for an immediate ceasefire.
The United Arab Emirates gave the council a brief draft resolution that would act on the letter from Guterres by demanding an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Diplomats said the UAE aims to put the text to a vote on Friday when the council is due to be briefed by Guterres on Gaza.
To be adopted, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the five permanent members — the US, Russia, China, France or Britain.
What does Article 99 say?
Guterres has used the rare tool of invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter and formally referred the situation in Gaza to the UN Security Council, urging its members to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe” in the besieged enclave.
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Article 99 is a special power – and the only independent political tool given to the secretary-general in the UN Charter – that allows the chief of the world body, on his own initiative, to call a meeting of the Security Council to issue warnings about new threats to international peace and security, and matters that are not yet on the council’s agenda.
According to the United Nations charter, Article 99 gives the secretary general the power to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security,”
Guterres on X said: “I’ve just invoked Art.99 of the UN Charter - for the 1st time in my tenure as Secretary-General. Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.”
“More than eight weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” he said.
How is UAE pushing for ceasefire?
In response to Guterres’s letter, Security Council member the United Arab Emirates posted on X saying it had submitted a new draft resolution to the council, and “called for a humanitarian ceasefire resolution to be adopted urgently”.
It warned that the situation in Gaza is catastrophic and close to irreversible, adding: “We cannot wait.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, said it is essential that the UN’s most powerful body demand a halt to the conflict. Mansour said a ministerial delegation from Arab nations and the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation will be in Washington on Thursday to meet US officials and press for an immediate ceasefire.
Has UN adopted any resolutions after war started?
The invocation of Article 99 by Guterres came as the 15-member UN Security Council, which is its most powerful body, has not adopted any resolutions on a ceasefire in Gaza between Israel Defence Forces and Hamas militants.
What happens if Security Council chooses to act?
If the UN Security Council chooses to act on the advice of the UN chief and successfully adopts a resolution urging both parties to commit to a ceasefire, then it can use options to get the ceasefire executed, including deployment of international forces, to maintain peace or sanction one or both parties involved in the conflict.
But the Security Council’s five permanent members hold veto power.
The US used that veto on October 18 against a resolution that would have condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel while calling for a pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
Twelve other council members voted in favour, while Russia and the UK abstained.
When was the last time Article 99 was used?
Stéphane Dujarric, UN spokesman, told reporters on Wednesday that invoking Article 99 was “a very dramatic constitutional move by the secretary-general.”
The only previous mention of Article 99 was in a December 1971 report by then Secretary-General U Thant to the council expressing his conviction that the situation in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and the Indian subcontinent threatened international peace and security, Dujarric said.
“One doesn’t invoke this article lightly,” Dujarric said.
“I think given the situation on the ground and the risk of complete collapse, not only of our humanitarian operations but of civil order, it’s something that he felt needed to be done now.”