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Monday, October 4, 2010

United Nations Resolusion

A United Nations resolution (UN resolution) is a formal text adopted by a United Nations (UN) body. Although any UN body can issue resolutions, in practice
most resolutions are issued by the Security Council or the General Assembly.

Legal status

Most experts[1] consider most General Assembly resolutions to be non-binding. Articles 10 and 14 of the UN Charter refer to General Assembly as "recommendations"; the recommendatory nature of General Assembly resolutions has repeatedly been stressed by the International Court of Justice.[2] However, some General Assembly resolutions dealing with matters internal to the United Nations, such as budgetary decisions or instructions to lower-ranking organs, are clearly binding on their addressees.[citation needed]


Under Article 25 of the Charter, UN member states are bound to carry out "decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter". Resolutions made under Chapter VII are considered binding, but resolutions under Chapter VI have no enforcement mechanisms and are generally considered to have no binding force under international law.[3] In 1971, however, a majority of the then International Court of Justice (ICJ) members asserted in the non-binding Namibia advisory opinion that all UN Security Council resolutions are legally binding.[4] This assertion by the ICJ has been countered by Erika De Wet and others.[5] De Wet argues that Chapter VI resolutions cannot be binding. Her reasoning, in part states:

Allowing the Security Council to adopt binding measures under Chapter VI would undermine the structural division of competencies foreseen by Chapters VI and VII, respectively. The whole aim of separating these chapters is to distinguish between voluntary and binding measures. Whereas the pacific settlement of disputes provided by the former is underpinned by the consent of the parties, binding measures in terms of Chapter VII are characterised by the absence of such consent. A further indication of the non-binding nature of measures taken in terms of Chapter VI is the obligation on members of the Security Council who are parties to a dispute, to refrain from voting when resolutions under Chapter VI are adopted. No similar obligation exists with respect to binding resolutions adopted under Chapter VII... If one applies this reasoning to the Namibia opinion, the decisive point is that none of the Articles under Chapter VI facilitate the adoption of the type of binding measures that were adopted by the Security Council in Resolution 276(1970)... Resolution 260(1970) was indeed adopted in terms of Chapter VII, even though the ICJ went to some length to give the opposite impression.[6]

In practice, the Security Council does not consider its decisions outside Chapter VII to be binding.[5]


It has been proposed that a binding triad of conditions — a supermajority of the number of nations voting, whose populations and contributions in dues to the UN budget form a majority of the total — make a General Assembly resolution binding on all nations; the proposal has gone nowhere.


 For more information on specific resolutions, see:

United Nations General Assembly Resolution

United Nations Security Council Resolution

Structure of a resolution

The typical United Nations resolution is constructed as a single, very long sentence. It is composed of three sections: the name of the body issuing the resolution (be it the Security Council, the General Assembly, a subsidiary organ of the GA, or any other resolution-issuing organization), which serves as the subject of the sentence; the preambulatory clauses (also called preambulatory phrases) indicating the reasons behind the resolution as a preamble does in other documents; and the operative clauses (also called operative phrases) in which the body delineates the course of action it will take (if it is the Security Council or a UN organ making policy for within the UN) or recommends to be taken (in many Security Council resolutions and for all other bodies when acting outside the UN).


 The last operative clause, at least in the Security Council, is almost always "Decides [or Resolves] to remain seized of the matter," (sometimes changed to "actively seized"). The reasoning behind this custom is somewhat murky, but it appears to be an assurance that the body in question will consider the topic addressed in the resolution in the future if it is necessary. In the case of Security Council resolutions, it may well be employed with the hope of prohibiting the UNGA from calling an 'emergency special session' on any unresolved matters,[7] under the terms of the 'Uniting for Peace resolution', owing to the Charter stipulation in Article 12 that: "While the Security Council is exercising in respect of any dispute or situation the functions assigned to it in the present Charter, the General Assembly shall not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation."

The preambulatory and operative clauses almost always start with verbs, sometimes modified by adverbs then continue with whatever the body decides to put in; the first word is always either italicized or underlined. However, preambulatory clauses are unnumbered, end with commas, and sometimes do begin with adjectives; operative clauses are numbered, end with semicolons (except for the final one, which ends with a full stop/period), and never begin with adjectives.

The name of the issuing body may be moved from above the preambulatory clauses to below them; the decision to do so is mostly stylistic, and the resolution still comprises a coherent sentence.


United Nations resolutions can be both substantive resolutions and procedural resolutions.

In additions, resolutions can be classified upon from which organ they originate, e.g.:


 United Nations General Assembly Resolutions

United Nations Security Council Resolutions


1^ e.g. Higgins (1994) p. 21

2^ Sergei A. Voitovich, International Economic Organizations in the International Legal Process, p. 95. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1995. ISBN 0792327667

3 ^ No binding force under international law

  • "Some analysts have pointed out that Security Council resolutions condemning or criticizing Israel have been passed under Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter, which are different from the Chapter VII resolutions against Iraq." Ayoob, Mohammad. "The war against Iraq: normative and strategic implications", in Robinson, Mary & Weiss, Thomas G. & Crahan, Margaret E. & Goering, John (eds). Wars on Terrorism and Iraq: human rights, unilateralism, and U.S. foreign policy, Routledge (UK), May 1, 2004, p. 164.
  • "Additionally it may be noted that the Security Council cannot adopt binding decisions under Chapter VI of the Charter." De Hoogh, Andre. Obligations Erga Omnes and International Crimes, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Jan 1, 1996, p. 371.
  • "Council recommendations under Chapter VI are generally accepted as not being legally binding." Magliveras, Konstantinos D. Exclusion from Participation in International Organisations, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Jan 1, 1999, p. 113.
  • "Within the framework of Chapter VI the SC has at its disposal an 'escalation ladder' composed of several 'rungs' of wielding influence on the conflicting parties in order to move them toward a pacific solution... however, the pressure exerted by the Council in the context of this Chapter is restricted to non-binding recommendations." Neuhold, Hanspeter. "The United Nations System for the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes", in Cede, Franz & Sucharipa-Behrmann, Lilly. The United Nations, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Jan 1, 2001, p. 66.
  • "The responsibility of the Council with regard to international peace and security is specified in Chapters VI and VII. Chapter VI, entitled 'Pacific Settlements of Disputes', provides for action by the Council in case of international disputes or situations which do not (yet) post a threat to international peace and security. Herein its powers generally confined to making recommendations, the Council can generally not issue binding decisions under Chapter VI." Schweigman, David. The Authority of the Security Council Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Jan 1, 2001, p. 33.
  • "Under Chapter VI, the Security Council may only make recommendations but not binding decisions on United Nations members". Wallace-Bruce, Nii Lante. The Settlement of International Disputes, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Jan 1, 1998, pp. 47-48.
  • "First, it may issue non-binding resolutions under Chapter VI of the Charter expressing its opinion on the abuses and their resolution." Mertus, Julie. The United Nations And Human Rights: A Guide For A New Era, Routledge, 2005, ISBN 0415343380, p. 120.
  • "Under Chapter VI the Security Council can only make non-binding recommendations. However, if the Security Council determines that the continuance of the dispute constitutes a threat to the peace, or that the situation involves a breach of the peace or act of aggression it can take action under Chapter VII of the Charter. Chapter VII gives the Security Council the power to make decisions which are binding on member states, once it has determined the existence of a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression." Hillier, Timothy, Taylor & Francis Group. Sourcebook on Public International Law, Cavendish Publishing, ISBN 1843143801, 1998, p. 568.
  • "Nor is the disenchanting performance due to the fact that under Chapter VI the SC may only address non-binding resolutions to the conflicting parties." Cede, Franz, and Sucharipa-Behrmann, Lilly. The United Nations: Law and Practice, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2001, ISBN 9041115633, p. 70.
  • "This clause does not apply to decisions under Chapter VII (including the use of armed force), which are binding on all member states (unlike those adopted under Chapter VI which are of a non-binding nature)." Köchler, Hans. The Concept of Humanitarian Intervention in the Context of Modern Power, International Progress Organization, 2001, ISBN 3900704201, p. 21.
  • "The impact of these flaws inherent to Resolution 731 (1992) was softened by the fact that it was a non-binding resolution in terms of Chapter VI of the Charter. Consequently Libya was not bound to give effect to it. However, the situation was different with respect to Resolution 748 of 31 March 1992, as it was adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter." De Wet, Erika, "The Security Council as a Law Maker: The Adopion of (Quasi)-Judicial Decisions", in Wolfrum, Rüdiger and Röben, Volker. Developments of International Law in Treaty Making, Springer, 2005, ISBN 3540252991, p. 203.
  • "There are two limitations on the Security Council when it is acting under Chapter VI. Firstly, recommendations of the Council under Chapter VI are not binding on states." Werksman, Jacob. Greening International Institutions, Earthscan, 1996, ISBN 1853832448, p. 14.
  • "Chapter VI exhorts members to settle such claims peacefully and submit them for mediation and arbitration to the United Nations. Chapter VI, however, is not binding - in other owrds, there is no power to compel states to submit their disputes for arbitration or mediation by the United Nations." Matthews, Ken. The Gulf Conflict and International Relations, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 041507519X, p. 130.
  • "One final point must be noted in connection with Chapter VI, and that is that the powers of the Security Council are to make "recommendations." These are not binding on the states to whom they are addressed, for Article 25 relates only to "decisions." Philippe Sands, Pierre Klein, D. W. Bowett. Bowett's Law of International Institutions, Sweet & Maxwell, 2001, ISBN 042153690X, p. 46.
  • "Article 2, para. 6, must be linked, first of all, to the use of these kinds of pressure that have no mandatory effect. Both the General Assembly and the Council have the power to make recommendations to the States, that is, resolutions that do not bind the States (see section 89)). Worthy of mention from this point of view are the provisions of Article 11, para. 2 ("The General Assembly may discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security... and... may make recommendations with regard to any such question to the State or States concerned") and the various provisions of Chapter VI, particularly Article 33, para. 2, Article 36, and Article 37, para. 2, which give the Security Council the power to recommend settlement of disputes likely to endanger the peace." Conforti, Benedetto. The Law and Practice of the United Nations, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2005, ISBN 9004143084, p. 127.
  • "...the primary authority of the Security Council is defined in terms of international peace and security. The Council's jurisdiction under Chapter VI—which give it recommendatory but not binding authority—is stated in very broad terms." Matheson, Michael J. Council UNbound: The Growth of UN Decision Making on Conflict and Postconflict Issues after the Cold War, US Institute of Peace Press, 2006, ISBN 1929223781, p. 42.
  • "After much lobbying, the Council agreed on a resolution intended to "assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution" that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. But the preamble went on to specify that the Council was "acting under Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations." In short, this remained an exercise of good offices, not binding arbitration subject to enforcement." Jensen, Erik. Western Sahara: Anatomy of a Stalemate, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1588263053, p. 112.
  • "Thus decisions under Chapter VI, for example, to recommend terms of settlement are not binding, and even decisions under Article 40 of Chapter VII may not be." Political science quarterly, v. 90 (1975-76), Academy of Political Science, Columbia University, p. 147.
  • "The UN distinguishes between two sorts of Security Council resolution. Those passed under Chapter Six deal with the peaceful resolution of disputes and entitle the council to make non-binding recommendations. Those under Chapter Seven give the council broad powers to take action, including warlike action, to deal with “threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression”. Such resolutions, binding on all UN members, were rare during the cold war. But they were used against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait. None of the resolutions relating to the Israeli-Arab conflict comes under Chapter Seven." Iraq, Israel and the United Nations: Double standards?, The Economist, October 10, 2002.
  • "There are two sorts of security council resolution: those under 'chapter 6' are non-binding recommendations dealing with the peaceful resolution of disputes; those under 'chapter 7' give the council broad powers, including war, to deal with 'threats to the peace ... or acts of aggression'." Emmott, Bill. If Saddam steps out of line we must go straight to war, The Guardian, November 25, 2002.
  • "...there is a difference between the Security Council resolutions that Israel breaches (nonbinding recommendations under Chapter 6) and those Iraq broke (enforcement actions under Chapter 7)." Kristof, Nicholas D. Calling the Kettle Black, The New York Times, February 25, 2004.
  • "There is a hierarchy of resolutions... Chapter 6, under which all resolutions relating to the middle east have been issued, relates to the pacific resolution of disputes. Above that, there are the mandatory chapter 7 resolutions, which impose the clearest possible obligations, usually on a single state rather than on two or three states, which is what chapter 6 is there for. Chapter 7 imposes mandatory obligations on states that are completely out of line with international law and policy, and the United Nations has decided in its charter that the failure to meet those obligations may be met by the use of force." Straw, Jack. House of Commons debates, Hansard, Column 32, September 24, 2002.
  • "There is another characteristic of these resolutions which deserves a mention, and that is that they are under chapter 7 of the United Nations charter. Chapter 7 has as its heading 'Action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression'. This is the very serious chapter of United Nations rules, regulations, laws and principles, which the United Nations activates when they intend to do something about it. If the United Nations announces under chapter 7 that it intends to do something about a matter and it is not done, that will undermine the authority of the United Nations; that will render it ineffective. There are many other resolutions under other chapters. Resolution 242 gets a bit of a guernsey here every now and then. Resolution 242 is under chapter 6, not chapter 7. It does not carry the same mandate and authority that chapter 7 carries. Chapter 6 is the United Nations trying to put up resolutions which might help the process of peace and it states matters of principle that are important for the world to take into consideration. Resolution 242 says that Israel should withdraw from territories that it has occupied. It also says that Israel should withdraw to secure and recognised boundaries and that the one is dependent upon the other. Resolution 242 says that, but it is not a chapter 7 resolution." Beazley, Kim, Waiting for blow-back (speech delivered in Parliament on February 4, 2003, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 5, 2003.
  • "There are several types of resolutions: Chapter 6 resolutions are decisions pursing the Pacific Settlement of Disputes, and put forward Council proposals on negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies, and other peaceful means. Chapter 7 resolutions are decisions for Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, involving use of force and sanctions, complete or partial interruption of economic relations, rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic radio and other means of communication and the severance of diplomatic relations. Resolutions passed under Chapter 7 of the Charter are binding on all UN members, who are required to give every assistance to any action taken by the Council, and refrain from giving any assistance to the country against which it is taking enforcement action." Iran dossier crosses the Atlantic: Where to from here? (Microsoft Word document), Greenpeace position paper on Iran.

4^ Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970), Advisory Opinion of 21 June 1971 at paragraphs 87-116, especially 113: "It has been contended that Article 25 of the Charter applies only to enforcement measures adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter. It is not possible to find in the Charter any support for this view. Article 25 is not confined to decisions in regard to enforcement action but applies to "the decisions of the Security Council" adopted in accordance with the Charter. Moreover, that Article is placed, not in Chapter VII, but immediately after Article 24 in that part of the Charter which deals with the functions and powers of the Security Council. If Article 25 had reference solely to decisions of the Security Council concerning enforcement action under Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter, that is to say, if it were only such decisions which had binding effect, then Article 25 would be superfluous, since this effect is secured by Articles 48 and 49 of the Charter."

5^ a b "The International Court of Justice took the position in the Namibia Advisory Opinion that Art. 25 of the Charter, according to which decisions of the Security Council have to be carried out, does not only apply in relation to chapter VII. Rather, the court is of the opinion that the language of a resolution should be carefully analyzed before a conclusion can be drawn as to its binding effect. The Court even seems to assume that Art. 25 may have given special powers to the Security Council. The Court speaks of "the powers under Art. 25". It is very doubtful, however, whether this position can be upheld. As Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice has pointed out in his dissenting opinion: "If, under the relevant chapter or article of the Charter, the decision is not binding, Article [69/70] 25 cannot make it so. If the effect of that Article were automatically to make all decisions of the Security Council binding, then the words 'in accordance with the present Charter' would be quite superfluous". In practice the Security Council does not act on the understanding that its decisions outside chapter VII are binding on the States concerned. Indeed, as the wording of chapter VI clearly shows, non-binding recommendations are the general rule here." Frowein, Jochen Abr. Völkerrecht - Menschenrechte - Verfassungsfragen Deutschlands und Europas, Springer, 2004, ISBN 3540230238, p. 58.

6 ^ De Wet, Erika. The Chapter VII Powers of the United Nations Security Council, Hart Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1841134228, pp. 39-40.

7 ^ US to UN: Butt out,, 10 April 2003

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