Why The UN Secretary-General Invoked Article 99 – OpEd


In the midst of the escalating tensions between Palestine and Israel, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took a rare diplomatic step by invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter. This article grants the Secretary-General the authority to address matters that he believes threaten international peace and security. As the conflict intensifies and civilian casualties rise, Guterres utilized this seldom-used tool to draw attention to an impending humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

Article 99: A Rare Diplomatic Tool

Article 99, nestled within the UN Charter, empowers the Secretary-General to bring attention to issues that may jeopardize international peace and security. An exploration of the historical rarity of invoking Article 99 sheds light on the gravity of the current situation, with the last known use dating back to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Guterres’s invocation of Article 99 was motivated by his deep concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. His letter to the Security Council emphasized the imminent collapse of Gaza’s humanitarian system and civil order. The urgency conveyed by Guterres underscores the severity of the crisis and the dire need for immediate international intervention.

International Response and Resolution

Arab and Islamic nations promptly responded to Guterres’s letter by proposing a resolution for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. This section delves into the international community’s efforts to address the crisis and highlights the proposed resolution’s significance in mitigating the ongoing conflict.

As a key ally of Israel, the United States’ stance on the proposed resolution becomes crucial. An examination of the U.S. position and the potential for a veto underscores the delicate diplomatic balance and the challenges in achieving a consensus within the Security Council.

Despite the possibility of a U.S. veto, Guterres invoked Article 99, signaling the severity of the crisis in Gaza. This section explores Guterres’s rationale, focusing on his warnings about the collapse of the humanitarian system, the desperate conditions faced by civilians, and the looming disaster that could result without swift international intervention.

Comparisons with Previous Invocations

A brief comparison with instances where previous UN Secretary-Generals raised threats to international peace without invoking Article 99 provides context. The Secretary-General’s outspoken stance on both Hamas attacks and the high civilian death toll in Gaza adds nuance to his decision.

Speculating on potential outcomes of the Security Council vote, this section considers the impact on the ongoing conflict. Guterres’s concerns regarding epidemics, mass displacement, and a looming disaster highlight the gravity of the situation and the need for decisive international action.


In conclusion, the unprecedented use of Article 99 in the context of the Palestine-Israel conflict underscores the severity of the humanitarian crisis. Guterres’s commitment to addressing the escalating situation through diplomatic channels reflects the UN’s role in maintaining international peace and security, even in the face of diplomatic challenges. 

Shah Khalid

Shah Khalid is a Peshawar-based columnist and focuses on power politics in South Asia.

One thought on “Why The UN Secretary-General Invoked Article 99 – OpEd

  • December 10, 2023 at 1:34 am

    The UN Secretary-General Invoked Article 99! How will it help? The world is aware of this Palestine-Israel conflict that threatens international peace and security. The situation in Gaza is leading to high civilian death toll , mass displacement and a disaster highlighting the gravity of the situation with a fear of a looming epidemic.Why the UN Secretary-General did not invoke the Article 99 in Ukraine? How did it help in Bangla Desh in 1971?US had its way then also.The UN Secretary-General in his tenure has been failing to act and the UN has become powerless body having failed to act in the Ukraine-Russia conflict and now trying to show that he is acting in the Israel-Hamas conflict with invoking this powerless Article 99.


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