The cases are arranged in order of the dates when the disputes were first brought before the UN.
Establishment of Israel. In April 1947, the General Assembly, at a special session, established a Special Committee on Palestine to make recommendations for the future status of the British mandate. The resulting partition plan, which divided Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, with an international regime for the city of Jerusalem, was adopted by the General Assembly in November of the same year. A UN Palestine Commission was established to carry out the recommendations, and the Security Council was requested to implement the plan. The date for termination of the British mandate and withdrawal of British troops was 1 August 1948. However, violent fighting broke out between the Arab nations and the Jewish community in Palestine. The Security Council thereupon established a Truce Commission consisting of Belgium, France, and the United States, while the General Assembly authorized a UN Mediator for Palestine to replace the Palestine Commission.
On 14 May 1948, the Jewish state of Israel was proclaimed. Almost immediately, the Arab nations instituted full-scale armed action. Following a four-week truce at the request of the Security Council, hostilities were renewed on 8 July. This time, the Security Council, invoking Chapter VII of the charter, ordered the governments concerned to desist from further military action and proclaimed a cease-fire.
Through the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, the Security Council then established a UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) of military observers from different countries, with headquarters in Jerusalem, and assigned it the task of patrolling the frontiers. Fighting continued, however, and Count Bernadotte was assassinated in September 1948. During its regular session in the fall of 1948, the General Assembly established a three-member Conciliation Commission (France, Turkey, and the US) to negotiate a settlement and also established the UN Relief for Palestine Refugees (later replaced by UNRWA). Following negotiations with the acting UN mediator, Ralph Bunche, in the first half of 1949, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria signed armistice agreements. The agreements provided for mixed armistice commissions to check on their implementation. UNTSO continued in operation to observe the cease-fire and is still in existence, investigating complaints of armistice violations and reporting to the Security Council. The Conciliation Commission also continues to function, still trying to fulfill its mandate from the General Assembly to assist the parties concerned to negotiate a final settlement of all issues.
The Suez Crisis. In July 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. In September, after Egypt's rejection of the London Conference plan for international control of the canal, France and the United Kingdom informed the Security Council that Egypt's attitude was endangering the peace. Israel invaded Egypt's Gaza Strip the following month, and a Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops was vetoed by France and the United Kingdom. France and the United Kingdom began armed intervention in the area, and thereafter the situation was handled exclusively by the General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolution. In November 1956, the General Assembly established the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) to secure and supervise cessation of hostilities. Since Israel would not permit UNEF contingents on territory under its control, the force was stationed on the Egyptian side of the demarcation line. Withdrawal of British and French forces was completed by December 1956 and of Israeli forces by March 1957. The canal was cleared by April of the same year, and Egypt declared it open to international traffic (Israeli ships were barred, however).
The Six-Day War, 1967. By the mid-1960s, the tension between Israel and the Arab countries had begun to manifest itself in frequent and sometimes major hostilities across the various armistice borders. On 18 May 1967, the United Arab Republic (UAR), which two days earlier had begun deploying troops to the armistice demarcation line in the Sinai peninsula, officially requested Secretary-General U Thant to withdraw all UNEF units from the area. After consultations with the UNEF Advisory Committee, U Thant ordered the withdrawal of the force that evening.
U Thant's prompt compliance with the UAR's request aroused severe criticism in Israel and other quarters. His view was that both legal and practical considerations required him to act without delay. In subsequent reports, he pointed out that UNEF was not an enforcement operation ordered by the Security Council but a peacekeeping operation dependent on the consent of the host country. His unilateral decision to disband the force was, however, probably the most controversial of his career as Secretary-General. Some of his critics challenged the legal validity of his stand, while many others believed that he could have used his office to try to persuade the UAR at least to agree to a postponement of its request for UNEF's withdrawal, which they felt only helped pave the way for the crisis that followed.
The UAR occupied the fortress Sharm el-Sheikh, which commands the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. On 22 May 1967, it declared the gulf closed to Israeli ships and to other ships bound for Israel with strategic goods. Israel found its sole direct access to the Red Sea blockaded and considered the blockade, together with the military agreement that the UAR had recently signed with Jordan, a justified casus belli. Regarding the assurances of help that it had received from Western countries in the course of concentrated diplomatic activity intended to avert the impending war as insufficient, it simultaneously attacked the UAR, Jordan, and Syria on 5 June. Within three days, it had deeply penetrated the territory of each country.
The Security Council, in emergency session, demanded a cease-fire on 6 June 1967. Israel announced that it would accept a cease-fire provided that the other parties accepted it. Jordan announced acceptance on 7 June, the UAR on 8 June, and Syria on 9 June, and a cease-fire accordingly took effect on 10 June. Violations of the cease-fire, especially along the Israel-Syria border, continued until 13 June, when Secretary-General U Thant was able to report the "virtual cessation" of all military activity. By then, Israel had voluntarily withdrawn its forces from much of the territory that it had occupied but had retained control of several areas regarded as essential to its security—namely, the whole of the UAR's Sinai peninsula up to the Suez Canal, including Sharm el-Sheikh and the Gaza Strip; the Jordanian part of the city of Jerusalem and the West Bank area of the Jordan River; and the Golan Heights, in Syrian territory overlooking the Sea of Galilee. On 14 June, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling upon Israel to ensure the "safety, welfare and security" of the inhabitants of the occupied areas and upon the "governments concerned" scrupulously to respect the humanitarian principles governing the treatment of prisoners of war contained in the 1949 Geneva Convention.
An emergency special session of the General Assembly, held from 19 June to 21 July 1967, failed to produce a resolution that might serve as the frame of reference for a settlement. The division of opinion between the supporters of the Arabs, including the Soviet bloc and several African and Asian countries, and the supporters of the Israeli position, including the United States and several Western countries, was too deep to be bridged. However, the General Assembly did adopt, by a vote of 99 in favor with 20 abstentions, a resolution declaring invalid Israel's proclamation on 28 June that Jerusalem would thenceforward be a unified city under Israeli administration.
Resolution 242. For many months, the Security Council was equally unsuccessful in the attempt to devise an acceptable formula for establishing permanent peace in the area. Finally, on 22 November 1967, after weeks of quiet diplomacy and closed discussions, it adopted Resolution 242, which provided the basis of UN efforts to achieve a definitive settlement. The resolution, based on a British draft, establishes certain principles for a peaceful settlement without going into contentious specifics or prescribing priorities. The principles include withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied areas (the text deliberately avoided requesting withdrawal from "all" occupied areas, in view of Israel's declaration that it would not give up certain strategic places, including Jordanian Jerusalem); an end to states of belligerency; respect for the rights of all states in the area to peaceful existence; and an affirmation of the need to guarantee free navigation through international waterways, settle the long-standing Palestine refugee problem, and guarantee the territorial integrity and political independence of the countries involved. All parties—except, initially, Syria—accepted the formula.
The October War, 1973. Full-scale hostilities broke out again in the Suez Canal and Israel-Syria sectors on 6 October 1973. The Security Council met four times without considering any draft resolutions and on 12 October decided to reconvene at a later date after consultations. It did so on 21 October at the request of the United States and the USSR and the next day adopted Resolution 338, which called for the immediate cessation of all military activities. It also decided that negotiations between the concerned parties for a just and durable peace should begin at once. China did not participate in this or other votes on the question. Israel, Syria, and Egypt agreed to comply, each stating conditions.
A second UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) was established by the Security Council on 25 October 1973. Its personnel were to be drawn from member states, with the exception of the permanent members of the council, and its eventual strength was to be 7,000. As the force was assembled, it took up stations in zones of disengagement between Israel and Egypt.
A peace conference on the Middle East was convened in December 1973 in Geneva under the auspices of the UN and the co-chairmanship of the United States and the USSR. The work of the conference came to fruition at kilometer 101 on the Cairo-Suez road on 18 January 1974, when the chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces signed an Agreement on Disengagement of Forces, with the UNEF commander as witness. The agreement came into effect on 25 January 1974.
It was not until 31 May 1974, in Geneva, that Syria and Israel signed an Agreement on Disengagement, which called for the creation of a UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and specified that it did not represent a peace agreement but a step toward peace. On the same day, after the signing, the Security Council adopted a resolution jointly sponsored by the United States and the USSR that set up UNDOF. China and Iraq did not participate in the vote. The strength of UNDOF was to be 1,250, its components to be drawn from members of the UN that were not permanent members of the Security Council. In 2002, UNDOF comprised some 1,000 troops, provided by Austria, Canada, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden, deployed between the Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights.
Developments in Lebanon. On 15 March 1978, following a Palestinian commando raid in Israel, Israeli forces invaded southern Lebanon. On 19 March, the Security Council called on Israel to cease its military action against Lebanese territory and decided to establish a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces and assist the Lebanese government in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.
The mandate of the 6,000-man UNIFIL has been extended by the Security Council since then. Perhaps its greatest crisis occurred on the morning of 6 June 1982, when Israeli forces, comprising two mechanized divisions with air and naval support, moved into Lebanese territory, bypassing positions occupied by UNIFIL. The Israeli invasion was followed by a few days of intensive exchanges of fire with PLO and Syrian forces and by Israeli air attacks on targets in the Beirut area. In subsequent days and weeks, the Security Council met numerous times to demand a cease-fire, withdrawal of Israeli forces, and respect for the rights of the civilian population.
UNIFIL's mandate was enlarged to extend protection and humanitarian assistance to the population of the area; an international survey mission was established to assess the situation on the spot; a UN observer group was deployed in and around Beirut to ensure that a cease-fire was fully observed by all concerned; and, at Lebanon's request, a 4,000-man multinational force, composed of contingents from France, Italy, and the United States (and later the United Kingdom), was deployed in the Beirut area. The force was withdrawn in 1984.
In September 2002, UNIFIL comprised some 3,310 troops, provided by Fiji, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland, and Ukraine. It has continued to assist the Lebanese government in ensuring the return of its effective authority in southern Lebanon.
The Question of Palestinian Rights. Concurrently with its consideration of the situation in the Middle East and of the role of peacekeeping forces in the region, the UN has been concerned with the question of Palestinian rights. In 1968, the General Assembly established the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories, which reports annually to it, and in 1974, it reaffirmed "the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people" to unhindered self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty. The General Assembly recognized the Palestinian people as a principal party in the establishment of a just and durable peace in the Middle East, and it invited the PLO to participate as an observer in its work and in UN conferences.
In 1975, the General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and asked it to recommend a program for the implementation of those rights. The committee recommended that a timetable be established by the Security Council for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the areas occupied in 1967. The evacuated areas, with all properties and services intact, would be taken over by the UN, which, with the cooperation of the League of Arab States, would subsequently hand them over to the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. The General Assembly has endorsed the committee's recommendations at successive sessions since 1976, but the Security Council has not acted on them.
An International Conference on the Question of Palestine, held in Geneva in the summer of 1983, adopted a declaration on Palestine and a program of action for the achievement of Palestinian rights, which was later endorsed by the General Assembly. The conference also called for the convening of an international conference on the Middle East, a proposal which the General Assembly endorsed.
At its 1987 session, the General Assembly reaffirmed its conviction that "the question of Palestine is the core of the conflict in the Middle East and that no comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region will be achieved without the full exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable national rights and the immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal of Israel from all the Palestinian and other Arab occupied territories." The General Assembly again called for the convening of an international peace conference on the Middle East under the auspices of the UN and at the invitation of the Secretary-General, with the participation of the five permanent members of the Security Council and all the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the PLO.
At the end of World War II, the Allied powers agreed that Soviet troops would accept the Japanese surrender north of the 38th parallel in Korea and that United States forces would accept it south of that line. The two occupying powers established a joint commission to set up a provisional government for the country, but the commission could not come to an agreement, and the United States brought the matter to the General Assembly in September 1947. In November, the General Assembly created a Temporary Commission on Korea to facilitate nationwide elections. However, since the commission was denied access to northern Korea, it was only able to supervise elections in the southern half of the country. These elections took place in May 1948, and in August, the United States transferred governmental and military functions to the duly elected government of the Republic of Korea (ROK). Meanwhile, a separate government was established in the north. In December 1948, the General Assembly, over the objection of the USSR, established a seven-member UN Commission on Korea (UNCOK) to replace the Temporary Commission and to seek reunification.
On 25 June 1950, both UNCOK and the United States informed the Security Council that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had attacked the ROK that morning. The council met on the same day and (the USSR being absent at the time in protest against a council decision on Chinese representation) declared the attack to be a breach of the peace. It called for a cease-fire, withdrawal of DPRK forces to the 38th parallel, and the assistance of member states to the ROK. As the fighting continued, the Security Council, on 27 June, recommended that UN members furnish assistance to the ROK to repel the attack and restore peace and security. On the same day, the United States announced that it had ordered its own air and sea forces to give cover and support to the South Korean troops. On July 7, the Security Council voted to recommend that states make forces available to a UN Unified Command under the United States. (It should be noted that although the council had used the language of Chapter VII of the charter—"breach of the peace," etc.—it did not specifically invoke the chapter itself or use its constitutional power thereunder to order all states to comply with its decision.) In all, 16 nations supplied troops: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the US; the ROK also placed its troops under the UN Command.
On 1 August 1950, the USSR returned to the Security Council (having by then been absent for six months) and declared that all the actions and decisions that had previously been taken by the council were illegal. On 6 November, the USSR vetoed a resolution proposed by the United States. As a result of the ensuing deadlock, the General Assembly virtually took over the handling of the entire situation (the Security Council even agreeing unanimously, on 31 January 1951, to remove the item from its agenda). The legalistic device by which the General Assembly voted itself competent to continue with collective measures that under the charter are the exclusive preserve of the Security Council was the Uniting for Peace Resolution.
Even before the Security Council became deadlocked, the General Assembly had considered an agenda item entitled "The Problem of the Independence of Korea." Under this item, it established the Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK) to replace UNCOK. Then, on 6 November 1950, events were given a new twist when the People's Republic of China entered the war on the side of the DPRK. The General Assembly promptly added the agenda item entitled "Intervention of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China in Korea." Under this item, the General Assembly established the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) and a three-member Cease-fire Group that included the president of the General Assembly to determine a basis for ending hostilities. Following China's refusal to cooperate, the General Assembly, in February 1951, adopted a resolution that that government had engaged in aggression. It also established a Good Offices Committee and an Additional Measures Committee to supplement the Cease-fire Group. Truce negotiations began in July 1951, but fighting continued until 1953, when an armistice agreement was signed on 27 July. A year later, the General Assembly called for the political conference that had been provided for in the armistice agreement. The conference was held between April and June 1954, but it failed to resolve problems and negotiate reunification of the country. UNKRA ceased operations in 1960, and UNCURK was dissolved by a consensus vote of the 1973 General Assembly.
On 18 November 1975, the General Assembly adopted two resolutions—one with Western support, the other with that of the Communist states—which were to some extent conflicting but which both favored dissolution of the UN Command at an early date. The first resolution called for negotiations among the DPRK, the ROK, China, and the United States. The second called for negotiations between the DPRK and the United States. The DPRK declared that it would not participate in negotiations with the ROK.
As of mid-1987, the following countries were still represented on the UN Command: Australia, Canada, Philippines, ROK, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States.
Kashmir (officially, Jammu and Kashmir) was originally one of the princely states of British India. Under the partition plan and the Indian Independence Act of 1947, it became free to accede to either India or Pakistan, on both of which it borders. On 1 January 1948, India reported to the Security Council that tribesmen were invading Kashmir with the active assistance of Pakistan. After the invasion had begun, the maharajah of Kashmir had requested accession to India and India had accepted on the understanding that, once normal conditions were restored, the question of accession would be settled by a plebiscite. Pakistan declared that Kashmir's accession to India was illegal.
The Security Council, after asking the parties to mediate, called for withdrawal of Pakistani nationals, reduction of Indian forces, and arrangement of a plebiscite on Kashmir's accession to India. A UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was sent to mediate in July 1948. By 1949, UNCIP had effected a cease-fire and was able to state that principles on a plebiscite had been accepted by both governments. In July 1949, agreement was reached on a cease-fire line, and UNCIP appointed a group of military observers to watch for violations. However, it was unable to reach agreement on terms for the demilitarization of Kashmir prior to a plebiscite.
In March 1951, after several attempts at further negotiation had failed, the Security Council decided to continue the observer group—now called the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP)—to supervise the cease-fire within Kashmir itself. Despite continued mediation, the differences between the parties remained. The Security Council repeatedly considered the matter without achieving appreciable progress.
In August 1965 there was a sudden outbreak of serious hostilities. UNMOGIP reported clashes between the regular armed forces of both India and Pakistan, and fighting continued into September, although the Security Council had twice called for a cease-fire. Following a report that fighting had spread to the international border between India and West Pakistan, the council, on September 20, requested that both sides issue orders for a cease-fire within two days and withdraw their forces to their previously held positions. The cease-fire was accepted by both states, but continuous complaints of violations were made by each side. Accordingly, the Council requested Secretary-General U Thant to increase the size of UNMOGIP and to establish the UN India-Pakistan Observation Mission (UNIPOM) on the India-West Pakistan border.
On 5 November 1965, the Security Council urged that a meeting between the parties be held as soon as possible and that a plan for withdrawal containing a time limit for execution be developed. U Thant appointed a representative to meet with authorities of both countries on the question. On 17 February 1966, he informed the council that a plan and rules for withdrawals had been worked out. He also stated that, on 10 January, the prime minister of India and the president of Pakistan had agreed at Tashkent, where they had met at the initiative of the USSR, that their respective forces would be withdrawn to their original positions by 25 February. Thus, though the crisis remains quiescent, the conflict itself is unresolved, and UNMOGIP is still in operation, with some 40 military observers stationed in the area.
In 1971, another conflict between the two countries broke out, this time in connection with the civil strife in East Pakistan, which later became the independent state of Bangladesh. As nearly 10 million refugees streamed into neighboring India, tension increased in the subcontinent. U Thant conveyed his serious concern to the president of Pakistan and the prime minister of India and, with the consent of the host governments, set up two large-scale humanitarian programs. One of these, with the UN high commissioner for refugees as the focal point, was for the relief of the refugees in India. The other was for assistance to the distressed population in East Pakistan. U Thant's actions were subsequently unanimously approved by the General Assembly.
On 20 July 1971, the Secretary-General drew the attention of the president of the Security Council to the steady deterioration of the situation in the region, which he described as a potential threat to peace and security. He noted that humanitarian, economic, and political problems were involved, and he indicated that the UN should play a more forthright role to avert further deterioration. In October of that year, he offered his good offices to the governments of India and Pakistan, but India declined. Clashes broke out between the two countries, and on 3 December, U Thant notified the Security Council under Article 99 of the charter that the situation in the region constituted a threat to international peace and security.
After a cease-fire had put an end to the fighting on 17 December 1971, the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding the strict observance of the cease-fire until withdrawal of all armed forces to their previous positions should take place. The council also called for international assistance to relieve the suffering and for the appointment of a special UN representative to lend his good offices for the solution of humanitarian problems. During 1972, the refugees, with UN assistance, returned to their homeland. The UN relief operation helped pave the way for the rehabilitation of the shattered economy of Bangladesh, which became a member of the UN in 1974.
In 2002 UNMOGIP consisted of 44 military observers from nine countries: Belgium, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and Uruguay.
One week after the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), a former Belgian colony, had become independent on 30 June 1960, troops of the Force Publique mutinied against the Belgian officers, demanding higher pay and promotions. As violence and general disorder spread rapidly throughout the country, Belgium rushed troops to the area to protect its extensive mining interests. On 11 July, Katanga, the richest province of the country by virtue of its Belgian-controlled copper mines, proclaimed its secession from the new state. On the following day, President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba appealed for UN military assistance "to protect the national territory against acts of aggression committed by Belgian metropolitan troops."
In a series of meetings, the Security Council called for the withdrawal of Belgian troops and authorized Secretary-General Hammarskjöld to provide the Congolese government with such military and technical assistance as might be necessary until the national security forces, through the efforts of the government with UN assistance, might be able, in the government's opinion, to meet their tasks fully.
Within two days, contingents of a UN force provided by a number of countries, including Asian and African states, began to arrive in the Congo, followed by UN civilian experts to help ensure the continued operation of essential services. Over the next four years, the task of the UN Operation in the Congo (UNOC) was to help the Congolese government restore and maintain the political independence and territorial integrity of the country, maintain law and order, and to put into effect a wide and long-term program of training and technical assistance.
At its peak strength, the UN force totaled nearly 20,000 officers and men. The instructions of the Security Council to the force were strengthened early in 1961 after the assassination of Lumumba in Katanga. The force was to protect the Congo from outside interference, particularly by evacuating foreign mercenaries and advisers from Katanga and preventing clashes and civil strife, by force if necessary as a last resort.
Following the reconvening of the Congolese parliament in August 1961 under UN auspices, the main problem was the attempted secession, led and financed by foreign elements, of the province of Katanga, where secessionist gendarmes under the command of foreign mercenaries clashed with UN forces. Secretary-General Hammarskjöld died on 17 September 1961, when his plane crashed on the way to Ndola (in what is now Zambia), where talks were to be held for the cessation of hostilities.
In February 1963, after Katanga had been reintegrated into the national territory of the Congo, a phasing out of the force was begun, aimed at its termination by the end of that year. At the request of the Congolese government, however, the General Assembly authorized the stay of a reduced number of troops for a further six months. The force was completely withdrawn by 30 June 1964. Civilian aid continued in the largest single program of assistance undertaken by the UN up to that time, with some 2,000 experts at work in the nation.
Cyprus was granted independence from British rule in 1960 through agreements signed by the United Kingdom, Greece, and Turkey. Under these agreements, Cyprus was given a constitution containing certain unamendable provisions guaranteeing specified political rights to the Turkish minority community. The three signatory powers were constituted guarantors of Cyprus's independence, each with the right to station troops permanently on the island.
The granting of independence had been preceded by a prolonged conflict between the Greek and Turkish communities on the future status of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots, comprising 80 percent of the total population, originally had wanted some form of union with Greece, thereby provoking a hostile reaction among the Turkish Cypriots, who countered by demanding partition. Each side was supported in its aims by the country of its ethnic origin. Independence did nothing to alleviate dissension on the island. Both sides were dissatisfied with the constitution that had been granted them, but their aims were diametrically opposed. The Turks wanted partition or a type of federal government, whereas the Greeks wanted a constitution free of outside controls and of provisions perpetuating the division between the two communities.
After three years of continuous tension, the Cyprus government, under Greek Cypriot president Makarios, complained to the Security Council on 27 December 1963 that Turkey was interfering in its internal affairs and committing acts of aggression. Against a background of mounting violence on the island, the council considered the matter but did not immediately take any peacekeeping action.
With the consent of Cyprus, British troops had been trying to restore order during the crisis. However, in mid-February 1964, the United Kingdom informed the Security Council that its efforts to keep the peace would have to be augmented. Accordingly, on 4 March 1964, the council unanimously authorized the establishment of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for a three-month period and at the same time requested Secretary-General U Thant to designate a UN mediator to promote a substantive settlement. UNFICYP became operational on 27 March 1964, with a mandate to prevent the recurrence of fighting, help maintain law and order, and promote a return to normal conditions.
A coup d'état on 15 July 1974 by Greek Cypriot and Greek elements opposed to President Makarios forced him to flee the country. This was quickly followed by military intervention by Turkey, whose troops subsequently established Turkish Cypriot control over the northern part of Cyprus. Four days after a cease-fire went into effect on 16 August 1974, the UN high commissioner for refugees was asked to coordinate humanitarian assistance in Cyprus, where more than 200,000 persons had been dislocated as a result of the hostilities.
Concurrently with the functioning of UNFICYP, the UN has been active in promoting a peaceful solution and an agreed settlement of the Cyprus problem. This task, first entrusted to a mediator, has been carried out since 1968 through the good offices of the Secretary-General. Within that framework, a series of inter-communal talks between representatives of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, as well as high-level meetings, were held, beginning in 1974, in an effort to reach a just and lasting solution. The intercommunal talks were discontinued after the Turkish Cypriot authorities, on 15 November 1983, proclaimed a "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," a step which the Security Council called legally invalid. Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar met separately with representatives of the two sides in an effort to resume the negotiating process. Settlement talks headed by the UN continued in the 1990s.
UNFICYP has continued its task of supervising the cease-fire and maintaining surveillance over the buffer zone between the cease-fire lines. In 2002, the force numbered 1,210 troops and 35 civilian police, supported by 43 international civilian personnel and 104 local civilian staff.
The racial policy of apartheid practiced by the South African government not only violated the political and human rights of its African citizens, it also destablized the entire southern African region. The government of South Africa's policies towards the independence of surrounding African nations, the flight of South African freedom fighters to those countries, and the possibility that the technologically advanced government of South Africa might acquire nuclear capabilities, led the United Nations to consider apartheid in South Africa as a real threat to international peace and security. More than four decades of effort by the United Nations bore fruit in April 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa in democratic elections open to South African citizens of all races.
The racial policies of the government of South Africa were a major concern of the UN since its earliest years. Over more than four decades, the General Assembly and the Security Council called for measures by the international community aimed at bringing about the end of apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning "separateness," and at enabling the Africans of South Africa, who outnumber the whites by more than 4 to 1, to exercise political, economic, and all other rights in their country. In the words of a 1982 General Assembly resolution, the goal of the UN with regard to South Africa was "the total eradication of apartheid and the establishment of a democratic society in which all the people of South Africa as a whole, irrespective of race, color, sex or creed, will enjoy equal and full human rights and fundamental freedoms and participate freely in the determination of their destiny."
The question of South Africa's racial policies was first raised in the General Assembly in 1946, when India complained that the South African government had enacted legislation discriminating against South Africans of Indian origin. The General Assembly expressed the view that the treatment of Indians in South Africa should conform with South Africa's obligations under agreements concluded between that country and India and its obligations under the UN Charter.
The wider question of racial conflict in South Africa arising from that government's apartheid policies was placed on the General Assembly's agenda in 1952. On that question and on India's original complaint, the South African government maintained that the matter was essentially within its domestic jurisdiction and that, under the charter, the UN was barred from considering it.
The Security Council took up the question for the first time in 1960, following an incident at Sharpeville on 21 March in which South African police fired on peaceful demonstrators protesting the requirement that all Africans carry "passes"; 69 people were killed and 180 wounded. The council stated that the situation in South Africa had led to international friction and, if continued, might endanger international peace and security. The council called on the South African government to abandon its policy of apartheid, which it termed "a crime against the conscience and dignity of mankind."
In order to keep the racial policies of South Africa under review, the General Assembly decided, in 1962, to establish the Special Committee Against Apartheid. The committee, composed of 18 members, was subsequently given a wider mandate to review all aspects of South Africa's policies of apartheid and the international repercussions of those policies.
The committee's work included the following activities: holding of meetings and hearings; the sending of missions to member states to gain support for the struggle against apartheid; the organization of international conferences, special sessions, and seminars; and the implementation of the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, particularly by promoting sports, cultural, consumer, and other boycotts and, with the UN Center Against Apartheid, cooperating with governments, inter-governmental organizations, trade unions, women's organizations, religious leaders, student and youth movements, and antiapartheid groups in mobilizing international public opinion in support of action against apartheid.
The General Assembly also established, in 1965, the UN Trust Fund for South Africa, which, through voluntary contributions, made grants to organizations for legal aid to persons persecuted under South Africa's apartheid laws, relief to such persons and their families, and relief for refugees from South Africa. In 1967, the General Assembly established the UN Educational and Training Program for Southern Africa, which granted scholarships to students from South Africa and Namibia for study and training abroad.
Arms Embargo and Other Sanctions. A voluntary arms embargo against South Africa was instituted by the Security Council in 1963. Noting that some of the arms supplied to South Africa were being used to further its racial policies and repress the African people, the council called on all states to stop the sale and shipment of arms, ammunition of all types, and military vehicles to South Africa. Subsequently, in 1970, the Security Council condemned violations of the arms embargo and called on all states to strengthen and implement it unconditionally; withhold the supply of all vehicles, equipment, and spare parts for use by South African military and paramilitary forces; revoke all licenses and patents granted for South African manufacture of arms, aircraft, or military vehicles; prohibit investment or technical assistance for arms manufacture; and cease military cooperation with South Africa.
Both the Security Council and the General Assembly condemned the shooting, on 26 June 1976, of Africans, including schoolchildren, demonstrating in the township of Soweto.
The following year, the Security Council made the arms embargo against South Africa mandatory, the first time that such action had been taken against a member state under Chapter VII of the charter, which provides for enforcement action in the face of threats to international peace and security. Concerned that South Africa was at the threshold of producing nuclear weapons, the Security Council also decided that states should refrain from any cooperation with South Africa in the manufacture and development of such weapons. It established a committee to keep under constant review the implementation by states of the mandatory arms embargo.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly, in 1970, urged states to terminate diplomatic and other official relations with South Africa, as well as economic and all other types of cooperation, as an expression of international rejection of South Africa's policy of apartheid, which the General Assembly called "a crime against humanity." In 1973, the General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (see the section on Racial Discrimination in the chapter on Human Rights).
In 1974, the General Assembly rejected South Africa's credentials and recommended that South Africa be totally excluded from participation in all international organizations and conferences held under UN auspices until it abandoned its policies of apartheid.
The International Conference on Sanctions Against South Africa, held in Paris in May 1981, called for further international action to isolate South Africa, including the imposition, under Chapter VII of the charter, of sanctions "as the most appropriate and effective means to ensure South Africa's compliance with the decisions of the United Nations." The need for sanctions, including disengagement of transnational corporations operating in South Africa and disinvestment in companies doing business with South Africa, remained the focal point of UN efforts to end that country's policies of apartheid.
Other measures included a sports boycott, embodied in the International Declaration Against Apartheid in Sports, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1977, and the International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports, which was adopted in 1985 and came into force on 4 April 1988.
Other Action. Other action taken by the UN in support of the African majority of South Africa and against that country's policies of apartheid included:
The Final Stages. In April 1989, the Special Committee against Apartheid and the Intergovernmental Group to Monitor the Supply of Shipping of Oil and Petroleum Products to South Africa met in New York and recommended that the Security Council impose a mandatory oil embargo. It also recommended that pending action by the Security Council, all oil-producing, shipping, and handling states should enact legislation to stop the flow of oil to South Africa.
On 12–14 December 1989, the General Assembly held a Special Session on Apartheid and its Destructive Consequences in South Africa. It adopted by consensus a historic declaration which listed the steps that the South African regime should take to restore political and human rights in that country. It suggested guidelines for negotiations and for drawing up a new constitution based on the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration called upon all South Africans, as a matter of urgency, to join together to negotiate an end to the apartheid system and agree on all the measures necessary to transform their country into a nonracial democracy.
In February 1990, in a dramatic development, most political prisoners in South Africa, including Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the ANC, were released, and the ANC, PAC, and the South African Communist Party were recognized by the government. On 22 June 1990, Nelson Mandela addressed the General Assembly, thanking the United Nations for its efforts to secure his release and that of other South African political prisoners. He urged the UN and individual governments to continue the sanctions which they had imposed on South Africa. In May 1990, the government of South Africa and the ANC adopted the Groote Schurr Minute, which granted indemnity to political exiles and refugees, and paved the way for their return to South Africa. In August 1990, both parties agreed to the Pretoria Minute under which the government undertook to review emergency and security matters, while the ANC suspended armed actions.
On 1 February 1991, South African president F.W. de Klerk announced that the basic laws of apartheid would be repealed during that session of Parliament. He also issued a Manifesto for the New South Africa, stating that the new nation should be based on justice. The basic laws of apartheid were repealed on 5 June 1991, and later that month a peace summit was held by religious and business leaders, and some of the major parties to political violence. As a result, a preparatory committee, including the government and the ANC, was established and became known as the National Peace Initiative. In August 1991, the National Peace Initiative released a draft national peace accord. Also in August, the government and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agreed on a plan for the voluntary repatriation of an estimated 40,000 South African refugees and political exiles.
In spite of the commencement of formal negotiations on constitutional reforms in December 1991, not all political parties participated and violence in the townships continued to escalate. In June 1992, 50 people died in the Boipatong massacre and the ANC suspended its participation in the talks until the government took more decisive action to put an end to the violence.
In July 1992, several political players in South Africa were invited to come and apprise the Security Council of the situation in their country. Subsequently, the Security Council authorized the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative to go to South Africa to find out first hand what was going on in the country, so that it could be determined how the international community could assist in bringing an end to the violence and create conditions for a peaceful transition in South Africa. As a result of this mission, the Security Council adopted Resolution 772 (1992) authorizing the Secretary-General to deploy the UN Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA), charged with the task of assisting with strengthening the structures set up under the 1991 peace accords. The resolution also invited other international organizations such as the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Commonwealth and the European Union to consider deploying their own observers in coordination with the United Nations. The first group of 50 UNOMSA observers was deployed in September 1992. It was widely agreed by all parties in South Africa that the presence of international observers greatly helped to reduce political tension, limit violence, and improve the climate for the negotiation process.
In April 1993, a new negotiating framework, the Multiparty Negotiating Council (MPNC) brought together 26 parties and was the most representative gathering in the history of South Africa. After several months of protracted negotiations, in November 1993, the MPNC adopted a number of constitutional principles and institutions to guide the country during a transitional period lasting until 27 April 1999. This interim constitution set forth plans for elections of a Constitutional Assembly that would draft a new national constitution. In response to all the positive developments, on 8 October 1993, in its Resolution 48/1 (1993), the 184-member General Assembly unanimously ended its 31-year ban on economic and other ties with South Africa in the areas of trade, investment, finance, travel, and transportation. Member states were asked to lift the sanctions they had imposed over the years under numerous UN resolutions and decisions. On 15 October 1993, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to South African president F.W. de Klerk and ANC president Nelson Mandela.
Although incidents of violence continued, and some parties to the negotiations threatened to withdraw from the election process, the elections were held successfully from 26–28 April 1994. At the request of the South African Transitional Executive Committee, the Security Council increased the UNOMSA contingent to approximately 1,800 during the election period. Another approximately 900 international observers from foreign governments and international organizations also were deployed across the country to observe the balloting. The UNOMSA observers determined whether voters enjoyed free access to voting stations, whether the secrecy of the vote had been guaranteed, and that ballot boxes had been properly sealed, protected, and transported. It also witnessed the counting of the ballots and the communication of the results to South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission, the body responsible for organizing, administering, and monitoring all aspects of the elections to verify that they were free and fair.
A New Era Dawns. On 27 April 1994 the new six-color flag of a South Africa liberated from apartheid was unfurled at United Nations headquarters in New York. On 10 May 1994, Nelson Rolihlala Mandela was inaugurated as the new president of the Republic of South Africa. On 25 May 1994, the Security Council lifted the mandatory arms embargo it had imposed on South Africa in 1977. On 21 June 1994, the General Assembly, in its Resolution 48/258 (1994), declared that the mandate of the Special Committee against Apartheid had been successfully concluded, and terminated its existence. By the same resolution, it removed the agenda item on the elimination of apartheid from the agenda of its next (49th) session. On 23 June 1994, South Africa was welcomed back to full participation in the work of the General Assembly, after 20 years of banishment.