The "Uniting for Peace" doctrine, invoked in November 1950 via its resolution 377A(V), allows the UN General Assembly to recommend collective action when the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its responsibility in a matter. In 2004 the International Court of Justice approved this doctrine when it confirmed that the prohibition of simultaneous action in Articles 11 and 12 of the UN Charter had been superseded by practice (I.C.J. Reports 2004, p. 136, at paragraphs 27-28).

Yet as far as I know there has been no attempt in the current Syrian controversy to invoke Uniting for Peace. Instead, the US has maintained that it must act on its own in the face of differences with China and Russia, with whatever support from other nations it can garner. And the commentaries I've read don't allude to Uniting for Peace; they either support independent action by the US or oppose it; and those who oppose it (such as Pres. Putin in his recent letter to the New York Times) often cite the requirement for Security Council action, without any consideration or even mention of Uniting for Peace.

My question is: Why is Uniting for Peace not considered in the current Syrian controversy?

  • 5
    I'll make an educated guess that it is not supported by any current Security Councel members (Russia OR USA) because they are worried it will be later used against their own interests.
    – user4012
    Sep 17, 2013 at 0:05
  • 2
    Probably because US thinks that GA would not support such action and doesn't want the embarrassment of trying to get it and failing.
    – StasM
    Sep 17, 2013 at 5:03
  • @user4012: bad guess, it's been used a number of times, including on Ukraine (2022). But it doesn't really allow anything other than "public opprobrium" by the GA in a special session.
    – Fizz
    Mar 25 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


Remember first why Uniting for Peace was born. In 1950, most countries wanted to take measures regarding the conflict in Korea but the USSR's obstructionist veto worked in order to prevent it. Since then, the Uniting for Peace is useless.

To invoke this, there are some things you have to consider that come with the action of this Resolution.

  • Are we really sure that we want to take these actions? Is it prudent? Will it be neutral help or for one side? Most of the time, we see military intervention is to "protect the civilians" or to serve as "help" in the conflict but history shows us the military often chooses a side (usually, not always, rebels) to "protect and help"; remember for example, NATO acted in Libya to help civilians; we now know they only protected the rebels. So, let's suppose the intervention will help, they won't pick a side, this takes one more step to the next question:

  • Did the Syrian government use all the measures, lines of actions, exhausted all the peaceful ways to prevent a military intervention? When this failed, the International Community ask the Security Council to take action.

  • When the first point was made, the second consideration comes with more questions about the acting of the military, meaning:

    • What are the lines of action? Should we consider using military forces to find a solution/dialogue or impose one line approved by the UNSC? Say, you know what are you going to do; this leaves us to the next issue:
  • The humanitarian aid. As you know, Syria needs lots of help, especially the civilians and refugees. The size of logistics support be to keep open the roads and airfields that would be needed, provision of humanitarian materials associated with housing, medical care, and feeding. Will the humanitarian convoy be protected? Will there be a responsible coalition to coordinate all the actions and measures previously mentioned? This subject is connected with one more:

    • Who is going to finance this? The UN, the states, NGOs?

It's really difficult, especially in this specific case (Syria), to take actions because there are so many interests interposed (the G5, all of them have something to do with the actions); better than invoke Uniting for Peace (I think), this is an international politics matter.

  • 8
    The USSR's veto wasn't in play in 1950; at the time, they were having their representative boycott the UN to protest them not admitting the People's Republic of China. As a result, the USSR cast no vote on the resolution authorising military action in Korea, either for or against.
    – Vikki
    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:40

Contra to your claim, there's no special authorization given by “Uniting for Peace” for the use of force; every time it's been invoked it was essentially to convene a special GA session where public opprobrium is heaped on some wrongdoer (most recently on Russia for invading Ukraine in 2022) together with the GA issuing recommendations. But

this resolution is for the most part no longer needed to provide a basis for Assembly “collective measures” recommendations when a veto proscribes the Council’s adoption of such measures. Moreover, the resolution does not provide a basis or justification for the use of force that would not be justified on other grounds, such as self-defense.

And that "Uniting for Peace" came about because in original UN Charter

Article 12(1) provides 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 unless the Security Council so requests.”

So the UNSC could, on some reading, block the UNGA from even issuing recommendations!

Also, what that 2004 ICJ decision (The Wall) was about (in this regard) was really just that

[T]he Court notes that there has been an increasing tendency over time for the General Assembly and the Security Council to deal in parallel with the same matter concerning the maintenance of international peace and security. . . . The Court considers that the accepted practice of the General Assembly, as it has evolved, is consistent with Article 12, paragraph 1, of the Charter.


The ICJ considered that the only action which was exclusively within the domain of the [Security] Council was coercive or enforcement action.

So, no “Uniting for Peace” doesn't allow the UNGA to override the UNSC, except with respect to recommendations rather than actual enforcement action.

As for why not bring stuff up more often in the UNGA...

pursuant to Article 18 Assembly recommendations with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security are considered “important questions” requiring a majority of two-thirds members present and voting for adoption.

So perhaps nobody thought they'd get those 2/3 votes for some recommendations in re Syria.

Aside, the UNGA has given itself a new and improved version of that resolution in 2022:

On April 26, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), without a vote, adopted resolution 76/262 entitled “Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council.” Less than two months later, on June 8, 2022, for the first time in history, the UNGA held a debate specifically to address a veto cast by China and Russia in the Security Council (UNSC). [...]

Resolution 76/262, as its name very explicitly indicates, gives the UNGA a standing mandate to convene a debate when a veto is cast in the UNSC. In this scenario, the President of the General Assembly (PGA) must convene a formal meeting within ten working days of the casting of a veto by a member of the P5 to address the situation on which the veto was cast, provided that the UNGA does not meet in an emergency special session on the same situation. The later refers to sessions convened in accordance with resolution 377(V), adopted in 1950, known as the Uniting for Peace Resolution. [...]

On May 26, 2002, exactly one month after the adoption of resolution 76/262, a double veto was cast by China and Russia regarding a draft resolution on the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). For the first time, the mechanism established in resolution 76/262 was activated. A succinct special report was submitted by the UNSC to the UNGA and the debate took place on June 8, 2022.

Resolution 76/262 was later invoked on Syria too, about UN aid crossing the Syrian border without Assad's explicit approval, because

On 8 July, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have allowed the UN to deliver cross-border aid to Syria for one year without the Syrian government’s authorization. [...]

In accordance with Resolution 76/262, the President of the General Assembly has called a plenary meeting on Thursday to discuss the matter for which the veto was cast with the entire UN membership.

So yeah, the UNGA can now meet and discuss any issue that gets a UNSC veto, even if it's not strictly about "maintenance of international peace and security" as in "Uniting for Peace". But that doesn't really change what the UNGA can do in those meetings, i.e. recommendations, recommendations...

By the way, the closest thing to UNGA adopting something that demanded action in Syria probalby was A/RES/68/182 in 2013, which

Condemned human rights violations in Syria and urged the Security Council to take measures to end violations there. The resolution was drafted by Saudi Arabia and was passed by 127 votes in favor, 13 against and 47 abstentions.

As you can see it garnered a decent majority. And it's fairly strongly worded as far as premises:

Expressing outrage at the continuing escalation of violence in the Syrian Arab Republic, which has caused more than 100,000 casualties, mostly by conventional weapons, and in particular at the continued widespread and systematic gross violations, as well as abuses, of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including those involving the continued use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments, such as the indiscriminate use of ballistic missiles and cluster munitions, by the Syrian authorities against the Syrian population,

Expressing alarm at the failure of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to protect its population and to implement the relevant resolutions and decisions of United Nations bodies,

Strongly condemning the large-scale use of chemical weapons on 21 August 2013 in the Ghouta area of Damascus, as concluded in the report of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, condemning the killing of civilians that resulted from it, affirming that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law, and stressing that those responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable, [...]

However, what it does recommend at the most

Demands that all parties immediately put an end to all violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law [...]

Reminds the Security Council of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and to take measures to put an end to all serious violations of international humanitarian law and all serious violations and abuses of international human rights law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic;

So essentially, it publicly spanked the UNSC, for failing to take some/any enforcement action. But there are no recommendations included for [some] countries to do that instead. One can venture a guess that including the latter would have been [much] more controversial, and would have probably sunk the resolution.

  • As this Q was asked in 2013, I'm not getting into any 2014 events in Syria, like the rise of ISIS and how the UN responded to that.
    – Fizz
    Mar 25 at 20:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .