Resolution 377 A (V) of 1950 - Uniting for Peace:

Tool of Last Resort for Membership

Third World Asserts Itself Once More at U.N.

The General Assembly, in its resolution 377 A (V), entitled "Uniting for Peace", which was adopted on 3 November 1950, reaffirmed the duty of the permanent members of the Security Council to seek unanimity and to exercise restraint in the use of the veto and resolved "that 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, a breach of the peace or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations for collective measures, ..." In the same resolution, the Assembly amended the rules of procedure of the General Assembly to provide for the convening of emergency special sessions.

At the time, the U.S. played a crucial role in the adoption of that resolution. In fact, in San Francisco in 1945, it made the case that the small and medium sized states had only agreed to the right of veto on condition that the General Assembly was granted the power to intervene and to make recommendations within the framework of chapters six and seven of the Charter, in cases where the Security Council was unable to discharge its primary responsibility.

Indeed, the General Assembly, in protecting international peace and security, did convene ten emergency special sessions, including the Tenth Emergency Special Session, held on 24 and 25 April 1997, to consider the "Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory". The other sessions convened were the following: in 1956 the first was held on the Suez Canal; also in 1956 the second was held on the situation in Hungary; in 1958 the third was held on the situation in Lebanon; in 1960 the fourth was held on the situation in the Congo; in 1967 the fifth was held on the question in the Middle East; in 1980 the sixth was held on the situation in Afghanistan; in 1980 the seventh was held on the question of Palestine; in 1981 the eighth was held on the question of Namibia; in 1982 the ninth was held on the Syrian Golan Heights.

In each of those previous sessions the General Assembly did in fact contribute directly to the maintenance of international peace and security, and it did that as a step of last resort after the Security Council's failure each time to do its job. Prior to the last emergency special session, Israel, the occupying Power, not only persisted in violating international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, but it also threatened the Middle East peace process and the agreements reached between the parties, threatening the stability of the region and thus threatening international peace and security. As all of this occurred, two successive vetoes were cast, shielding Israel and frustrating minimum action by the Council, which would have at least prevented further deterioration of the situation. It was then that the membership decided to use the tool of last resort to exercise their collective responsibility, and the Tenth ESS was successfully convened in spite of U.S. opposition and European hesitance over the procedure. The third world asserted itself once more at the United Nations.