Consortium News: 10-06-2024,

With an eye on future U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Gaza, Dan Becker discusses a possible mechanism in the U.N. Charter to force the U.S. to abstain from voting.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield voting against Algeria’s ceasefire in Gaza resolution on Feb. 20. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

By Dan Becker

In the United Nations Charter, the very sentence that establishes the Security Council’s permanent-five veto power ends — surprisingly — in these nine words:  “. . . a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.”

Let’s allow the phrase to sink in for a moment before acknowledging that there is indeed a host of conditions, requirements, litmus tests and hoops to jump through before the phrase can be invoked and applied to a resolution. 

But at the same time, it’s also crucial and a bit remarkable to remember that the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — are not exempt. They must abstain as well.

So there it is, this little-known mechanism hiding in plain sight in Article 27 (3). It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the U.N. Charter. It gets no respect.

An abridged history, according to Security Council Report, an independent publication, explains the requirements needed to invoke this clause: 

“Abstentions under Article 27 (3) are mandatory only if all of the following conditions apply: the decision falls under Chapter VI or Article 52 (3) of Chapter VIII;

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