Like other political constitutions, the UN Charter contains provisions for its own amendment. Amendments to the Charter come into force when they have been adopted by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified by twothirds of the UN member states, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.
The amendments that have been adopted are essentially adjustments made to take account of the huge increase in UN membership, which has almost quadrupled since 1945. As originally constituted, the 11-member Security Council and the 18-member Economic and Social Council were considered adequate to reflect the different interests of the various geographical groupings of states within the organization. However, the admission to the UN during the late 1950s and early 1960s of large numbers of newly independent African, Asian, and Caribbean countries created additional groupings. To accommodate their interests without jeopardizing those of the older groups, the General Assembly, in 1963, adopted amendments to Articles 23, 27, and 61 of the Charter. The first amendment enlarged the membership of the Security Council to 15; the second required that decisions of the Security Council be made by an affirmative vote of nine members (formerly seven); the third enlarged the membership of the Economic and Social Council to 27. All three amendments officially came into force on 31 August 1965.
The Economic and Social Council was enlarged to 54 by an amendment to Article 61 of the Charter, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1971 and became operative on 24 September 1973.
Charter Review. Under the Charter, a general conference of UN members "for the purpose of reviewing the Charter may be held at a date and place to be fixed by a two-thirds vote of the members of the General Assembly and a vote of any seven members [amended to nine, as of 1965] of the Security Council." In addition, the Charter provided that if such a conference was not held by the tenth regular assembly session (in 1955), the proposal to call such a conference should be placed on the agenda. Accordingly, the 1955 General Assembly considered the matter and decided that a general review conference should be held at an "appropriate" but unspecified date in the future. A committee consisting of the full UN membership was established to consider the time and place at which the conference should be held. The Security Council concurred in the General Assembly's decision by a vote of 9 to 1, with 1 abstention. The committee met every two years until September 1967 without recommending a conference. It then became inactive, recommending that any member state might request it to meet.
At its 1974 session, the General Assembly established a 42-member Ad Hoc Committee on the Charter to consider specific proposals from governments for "enhancing the ability of the United Nations to achieve its purposes." The committee reported to the 1975 Assembly session that there was a fundamental divergence of opinion on the necessity for carrying out a review of the Charter and made no recommendations for action. The General Assembly decided, however, to continue the committee as a Special Committee on the Charter of the UN and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization and increased its membership to 47. In pursuit of its mandate, the committee has met every year since 1975 and has reported to each session of the General Assembly.
For example, in 1988 the Special Committee recommended, and the General Assembly adopted, a "Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Impisonment"; in 1990 it proposed the rationalization of existing UN procedures, which were adopted by the General Assembly; and in 1991, the Special Committee considered the final text of the Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States. That same year the General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General publish and disseminate the handbook.
The Special Committee also considers proposals concerning cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security, conciliation rules of the United Nations, and assistance to other states affected by the imposition of sanctions by the decision of the Security Council, pursuant to Article 50 of the Charter.