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Article 99 allows the secretary-general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.

In his letter to the council’s president, Guterres invoked this responsibility, saying he believed the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, “may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security”.

Guterres – who has been calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” since October 18 – also described “appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories”.

Article 99 is a special power – and the only independent political tool given to the secretary-general in the UN Charter – that allows him to call a meeting of the Security Council on his own initiative to issue warnings about new threats to international peace and security, and matters that are not yet on the council’s agenda.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/7/un-secretary-general-invokes-article-99-on-gaza

It’s only been invoked four times in the past — in the Congo (1960), East Pakistan (1971), Iran (1979) and Lebanon (1989).

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/7/israels-war-on-gaza-can-guterress-use-of-uns-article-99-bring-peace

Can Article 99 of the UN charter ("The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.")be invoked repeatedly for the same or similar issues? I would like to know what matters mean, because as far as I know the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Palestine has been on the agenda several times already, so I was wondering if the secretary-general can keep repeatedly invoking Article 99 to keep asking for a cease-fire, humanitarian pause, or similar but different demands. Article 99 was only invoked 4 times, so I am guessing there's some kind of limitations.

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  • What would be the purpose of invoking it repeatedly be?
    – Joe W
    Dec 8, 2023 at 1:47
  • If nobody says it's impossible, it's probably possible. "Article 99 was only invoked 4 times, so I am guessing there's some kind of limitations." This doesn't follow. Just because something happens rarely doesn't imply that it's fundamentally limited. Maybe people simply forgot to use it so far. The question is probably what the purpose of this article is. Dec 8, 2023 at 12:30

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Article 99 was only invoked 4 times, so I am guessing there's some kind of limitations.

Article 99 says, in its entirety:

The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.

There are no limits.

Sometimes, things happen rarely because they are very serious (such as the impeachment of a president of the United States) or because there is little need for them (that is, the security council probably takes notice of most threats to international peace and security without prompting from the secretary general).

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    Another reason may be that the Secretary General can only bring a matter to the attention of the Security Council. He can not force them to act. Because of that, the invocation of Article 99 is a symbolic act whose sole power comes from the fact that it is exceptional and newsworthy.
    – xyldke
    Dec 8, 2023 at 14:15
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    @phoog There is also really no one to stop the Secretary General from doing so. What remedy would there be if he called a meeting of a bunch of diplomats that he wasn't allowed to call? It wouldn't be worth litigating, even if some UN body has jurisdiction to do so. If the UN Security Council thinks that they Secretary General's call was out of line, then they adjourn after ten minutes of concluding that they don't need a meeting and spend the afternoon at an unexpected happy hour in NYC with their found time instead.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 8, 2023 at 19:36

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