United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

After five years of vetoes and controversy in the U.N. Security Council, the permanent members overcame their differences and agreed to admit to the United Nations sixteen countries whose applications had been held up by Cold War feuding.

Summary of Event

At its 555th plenary meeting on December 14, 1955, under the leadership of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and Assembly President José Maza, the U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 995 (X), admitting sixteen new members to the United Nations. They were Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Laos, Libya, Nepal, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). United Nations;expansion Resolution 995 (X), U.N. [kw]United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members (Dec. 14, 1955) [kw]New Members, United Nations Admits Sixteen (Dec. 14, 1955) United Nations;expansion Resolution 995 (X), U.N. [g]North America;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]United States;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Albania;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Austria;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Bulgaria;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Cambodia;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Finland;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Hungary;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Ireland;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Italy;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Jordan;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Laos;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Libya;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Nepal;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Portugal;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Romania;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Spain;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Ceylon;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [g]Sri Lanka;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [c]United Nations;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [c]Organizations and institutions;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Dec. 14, 1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] [c]Cold War;Dec. 14,1955: United Nations Admits Sixteen New Members[05040] Lodge, Henry Cabot, Jr. Hammarskjöld, Dag Maza, José

The admission of these sixteen countries was a result of a recommendation made by the Security Council, which had the power to discuss membership applications and make recommendations to the General Assembly. Candidates for membership needed to secure a recommendation by gaining at least seven affirmative votes from the council. The Security Council’s recommendation then had to be followed by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly. In 1955, the Security Council was composed of the five permanent members (Nationalist China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and six non-permanent members (New Zealand, Turkey, Brazil, Peru, Iran, and Belgium).

The Security Council’s Security Council, U.N. admission recommendation represented a compromise Cold War;United Nations United Nations;Cold War between the Soviet Union and Western powers on the council, as four Eastern European states and twelve noncommunist states were admitted. Since 1946, only a few states had been admitted to the United Nations. In the course of membership discussions during that period, the Soviet Union typically advocated membership for the Eastern European states that fell under its dominance, and the noncommunist Western nations, led by the United States, supported membership for pro-Western states, such as Germany, Italy, and Japan (the former Axis Powers of World War II). This situation frequently led to a deadlock, because each of the council’s five permanent members had veto power: Any one of them could prevent a new nation’s membership from being recommended. Between 1946 and 1955, then, few nations joined the organization, because few were acceptable to both the communist powers and the capitalist powers on the Security Council.

While the original U.N. Charter included the principle of “universality,” its article 4 provided that members were to be admitted by a decision of the General Assembly upon recommendation of the Security Council. Because the Security Council was dominated by the major Cold War powers, considerations of universality gave way to the advantage each side might derive by admitting a particular nation, thereby granting it a vote in the General Assembly. This paved the way for power struggles in the Security Council, in which membership proposals were blocked by one side or the other. The tensions in the Security Council were evident even in the vote to recommend admission of the sixteen new states: eight council members voted in support of admission, and three members abstained (Belgium, China, and the United States).

Significance

The wholesale admission of sixteen nations to the United Nations at the end of 1955 marked a change in the rate of growth of the organization. After 1955, the expansion of U.N. membership became much more rapid. During the prior decade, battles over admission of new states exposed the tensions between the two ideological blocs and the world’s two superpowers: the communist states under the leadership of the Soviet Union, and the noncommunist states led by the United States.

By 1955, it was clear that the use of their veto power by the permanent Security Council members had quickly become a political tool. It was routinely employed for reasons of pure self-interest, despite the absence of any substantive legal justification in a given case. For example, the Soviet Union hindered the admission of Italy, which enjoyed the support of the Western council members, even though the Italian government had fulfilled all of the necessary conditions to be admitted. The United States did not use its veto during these proceedings, in part because it was initially able to secure a majority of countries on the Security Council to vote for pro-Western candidates.

This early Cold War stalemate—as each side blocked admission of new members who did not share its views and ideology—had led to stagnation in the growth of the United Nations. Between 1947 and 1955, only five new members were admitted: Yemen and Pakistan in 1947, Myanmar in 1948, Israel in 1949, and Indonesia in 1950. The sixteen-nation admission in 1955 thus represented a breakthrough. It was a result of efforts, especially in the 1950’s, to overcome tensions among the superpowers and realize the ideal of universal membership. It set a precedent for an organization that would eventually grow to encompass practically all the nations of the world. United Nations;expansion Resolution 995 (X), U.N.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Arce, José. United Nations: Admission of New Members. Madrid, Spain: n.p., 1952. Firsthand account of Arce’s experience as an Argentine politician and diplomat working within the United Nations. Includes accounts of discussions regarding the admittance of new members.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ask, Sten, and Anna Mark-Jungkvist, eds. The Adventure of Peace: Dag Hammarskjöld and the Future of the United Nations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Details the secretariat of Hammarskjöld, under whom the United Nations broke its Cold War deadlock to admit sixteen new nations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bailey, Sydney D. The Procedure of the U.N. Security Council. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. Examines the procedure and practice of the United Nations Security Council. Contains procedures and examples of discussions about specific membership applications.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bishop, William W., Jr. “Conditions of Admission of a State to Membership in the United Nations.” American Journal of International Law 42, no. 4 (October, 1948): 927-934. The text of the Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice dated May 28, 1948.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chamberlin, Waldo, Thomas Hovet, Jr., and Erica Hovet. A Chronology and Fact Book of the United Nations: 1941-1976. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 1976. Details events and activities in the United Nations, including those surrounding the 1955 membership debates. Includes members and presidents of U.N. bodies and dates of applications for U.N. membership along with dates of admission.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Heller, Peter B. The United Nations Under Dag Hammarskjöld, 1953-1961. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001. Assays the U.N. secretary-general both as an individual and as a professional.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rudziński, Aleksander W. The Admission of New Members. New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1952. Discusses the procedures and issues in admission of new members.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “The So-Called Double Veto.” American Journal of International Law vol. 45, no. 3 (July, 1951): 443-461. Explores the application of the veto power in the Security Council. Gives examples of how the veto has been used in cases of application for membership.

United Nations Charter Convention

United Nations Admits Its First New Member States

Spain Is Denied Entrance into the United Nations

Hammarskjöld Is Elected U.N. Secretary-General

Categories: History Content