United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Uniting for Peace, a resolution passed during the Korean War by the General Assembly, was designed to circumvent a Soviet veto that likely would have blocked the efforts of the Security Council to defend South Korea from North Korean aggression. The resolution’s long-term purpose was to ensure that the United Nations could act similarly in any future crisis involving the need to keep the peace.

Summary of Event

In June and July, 1950, the United Nations Security Council passed three resolutions calling on U.N. members to help defend the Republic of Korea (South Korea) after North Korean forces invaded the independent nation. Korean War (1950-1953);United Nations The Soviet Union could have used its veto to block these measures, but six months earlier it had begun a boycott against the United Nations to protest the denial of U.N. membership to the People’s Republic of China. A U.N. commission that had been in Korea when the Korean War began reported that North Korea had attacked first, providing critical justification for U.N. military intervention. Uniting for Peace Resolution United Nations;peacekeeping [kw]United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution (Nov. 3, 1950) [kw]General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution, United Nations (Nov. 3, 1950) [kw]Uniting for Peace Resolution, United Nations General Assembly Passes the (Nov. 3, 1950) [kw]Peace Resolution, United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for (Nov. 3, 1950) [kw]Resolution, United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace (Nov. 3, 1950) Uniting for Peace Resolution United Nations;peacekeeping [g]North America;Nov. 3, 1950: United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution[03310] [g]United States;Nov. 3, 1950: United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution[03310] [c]United Nations;Nov. 3, 1950: United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution[03310] [c]Cold War;Nov. 3, 1950: United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution[03310] [c]Organizations and institutions;Nov. 3, 1950: United Nations General Assembly Passes the Uniting for Peace Resolution[03310] Acheson, Dean Dulles, John Foster [p]Dulles, John Foster;United Nations Malik, Jacob Austin, Warren

U.S. secretary of state Dean Acheson, a primary architect of the Uniting for Peace Resolution.

(Library of Congress)

U.S. state department officials quickly recognized the potential benefits in having similar commissions monitoring events in other trouble spots around the world. Responding to this proposal, Warren Austin, the American permanent representative at the United Nations, recommended instead that the Security Council establish one observation commission with authority to visit any area with a threat to peace. U.S. secretary of state Dean Acheson agreed. On July 28, he cabled a draft resolution calling for the creation of the Security Council Fact-Finding and Observation Commission to the United Kingdom and to France, requesting comments on Austin’s proposal. Both London and Paris raised objections, arguing that the proposal left too much initiative to the commission, appeared to bypass the authority of the Security Council, and conflicted with an exact reading of the U.N. charter.

Acheson decided not to introduce the resolution, but he informed Britain and France that the United States would continue to study methods for strengthening the peacekeeping abilities of the United Nations, to include relying on the U.N. General Assembly. On August 1, Soviet delegate Jacob Malik returned to the Security Council and began his term as president. By August 9, Malik’s use of procedural steps to delay action on Korea convinced Acheson that a resolution was necessary to circumvent such obstructionism. Paving the way for passage, Washington began turning to the General Assembly for support of the U.N. Command in Korea and worked to promote its role in the maintenance of peace and security. Acheson cabled London that the next session of the General Assembly offered a unique opportunity to utilize the lessons and psychological impact of the Korean crisis to strengthen the U.N. system for defending peace.

On September 19, Acheson addressed the opening session of the fifth General Assembly, reminding participants that articles 10, 11, and 14 of the charter vested in the assembly “responsibility for matters affecting international peace.” Acheson called for steps to organize the General Assembly to discharge its responsibility promptly and decisively in cases where a single member prevented action at the Security Council. The British immediately voiced concerns, claiming the proposal conflicted with a strict reading of the charter. The French worried about empowering the assembly because of its size and occasional irresponsible behavior. Washington countered that its resolution provided only for amending assembly procedures, not the charter, and that the resolution would not lead to a transfer of power from the council to the assembly. Under duress, Britain and France gave unenthusiastic support to what came to be called the Acheson Plan. On September 25, Washington sent a slightly redrafted text of the resolution to other friendly U.N. delegations. Six nations—Britain, Canada, France, the Philippines, Turkey, and Uruguay—joined the United States as cosponsors of the measure.

The Uniting for Peace resolution, submitted on October 3, had four provisions. First, it authorized seven members of the Security Council in a procedural vote or a majority of the assembly to call an emergency session of the General Assembly within twenty-four hours. Second, it established the Peace Observation Commission to provide independent information about areas with threats to peace. The commission would function only when the council, the assembly, or an interim committee directed it to do so. Third—in the case of a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression”—if the Security Council, “because of lack of unanimity of its permanent members” does not “exercise its primary responsibility,” then the General Assembly shall consider the matter and make “appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures.” These recommendations include, “in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression[,] the use of armed force when necessary to maintain and restore international peace and security.”

Each member nation was encouraged to create and maintain an armed force for deployment as a U.N. unit to enforce the peace. Finally, the resolution established the Collective Measures Committee, Collective Measures Committee, U.N. which had to study before September 1, 1951, the methods that can be used to coordinate actions by individual states in strengthening peace and security. The resolution invited members to inform the committee of the measures taken to carry out this recommendation.

U.S. delegate John Foster Dulles carried the Uniting for Peace resolution through its review before the first committee and in plenary debates. The Soviet Union insisted that the resolution was illegal because under the charter, only the Security Council could take action to maintain peace and security. India warned that the measure would make the assembly an extension of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). On November 3, however, the General Assembly voted 52-5 for approval, with India and Argentina abstaining. Forming that same day was the Collective Measures Committee (CMC), which consisted of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Egypt, France, Mexico, the Philippines, Turkey, the United States, and Venezuela.

In late November, Chinese forces staged a massive offensive in the Korean War that prompted units from the United Nations into rapid retreat. In January, 1952, the United States pressed for a resolution condemning China for aggression in Korea and requesting the CMC to recommend further punitive action. On February 1, the General Assembly, using the Uniting for Peace mechanism for the first time, approved a resolution that branded China an aggressor and established the Additional Measures Committee with the same members as the CMC. In 1954, after submitting three reports to the assembly, the CMC assumed standby status, but then it played no role in a series of subsequent Cold War crises.

Significance

Because only the Soviet Union and its allies voted against passage of the important Uniting for Peace resolution, it soon became clear that it was the United States that dominated the United Nations early in the Cold War. In 1956, however, Moscow joined with Washington in advocating action in the General Assembly to end the Suez Canal crisis when Britain and France used their vetoes to immobilize the Security Council.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Soviets acted under the Uniting for Peace resolution to secure an emergency special session of the assembly. The assembly did not comply with the Soviet request, however; only in Korea in 1950 did the United Nations use force to restore peace. Unlike the Security Council, the General Assembly is not permitted to pass binding resolutions obligating members to act; the assembly can only recommend a course of action.

Also, the assembly became increasingly more diverse after 1960, adding developing nations as members. It also began embracing neutrality and also defied American dominance of proceedings. As a result, the Uniting for Peace resolution failed to create the system of collective security that Acheson had desired. During the Kosovo crisis in 1998, both Russia and China threatened to veto any Security Council resolution authorizing military operations. NATO could have asked the General Assembly to approve its armed intervention, but it acted without using the moribund Uniting for Peace mechanism. Uniting for Peace Resolution United Nations;peacekeeping

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Acheson, Dean. Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department. New York: W. W. Norton, 1969. Provides a firsthand account of why the United States proposed the Uniting for Peace resolution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bourantonis, Dimitris, and Konstantinos Magliveras. “Anglo-American Differences over the United Nations During the Cold War: The Uniting for Peace Resolution.” Contemporary British History 16 (Summer, 2002): 59-76. Argues that the Uniting for Peace resolution created friction in Anglo-American relations because of differing beliefs about the proper role of the United Nations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Buergenthal, Thomas, Dinah Shelton, and David P. Stewart. International Human Rights in a Nutshell. 3d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 2002. Describes the essential contents of regional and international human rights agreements, ranging from the U.N. Charter to European, inter-American, and African documents on human rights.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Finger, Seymour Maxwell. Your Man at the U.N.: People, Politics, and Bureaucracy in Making Foreign Policy. New York: New York University Press, 1980. Presents a concise description of the Uniting for Peace resolution, arguing that it reinforced legal and moral justification for U.S. action in Korea.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mazuzan, George T. Warren R. Austin at the U.N., 1946-1953. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977. Considers the resolution shortsighted, noting that Austin played only a small role in its passage because he maintained unwarranted faith in the effectiveness of the Security Council.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Osmanczyk, Edmund Jan. The Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements. Edited by Anthony Mango. 4 vols. 3d ed. Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis, 2003. Provides brief but detailed entries on a variety of international organizations and agreements applicable on a global level.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ryan, Stephen. The United Nations and International Politics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Explains that the Uniting for Peace resolution was the most important of a series of mechanisms that the United States first used during the Greek civil war to circumvent the Soviet veto.

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