UN resolution upgrades Palestine’s rights as an ‘Observer State’

None of the upgrades in status will take effect until the new session of the Assembly opens on September 10. Photo: AFP

The UN General Assembly convened again in New York on May 10 for an emergency special session on the Gaza crisis and overwhelmingly passed a resolution which upgrades Palestine’s rights at the world body as an ‘Observer State’, without offering full membership.

Currently, Palestine is a ‘non-member Observer State’ at the UN. 

The UNGA urged the Security Council to give “favourable consideration” to Palestine’s request.

India voted in favour of the draft resolution that said Palestine is qualified and should be admitted as a full member of the UN.

The resolution got 143 votes in favour, including by India, nine against and 25 abstentions. 

Palestine’s status at the UN

• Palestinian attempts for recognition as a full member state began in 2011. 

• Palestine is currently a ‘non-member Observer State’, a status that was granted in November 2012 by the UN General Assembly.

• This status allows Palestine to participate in proceedings of the world body but it cannot vote on resolutions. 

• Palestine’s flag does fly outside the UN Secretariat building in New York, although it is slightly separated from the UN Member State flags and is not part of the alphabetic line-up.

• The only other non-member Observer State at the UN is the Holy See, representing the Vatican.

• Amid the ongoing war in Gaza, Palestine had submitted a request to the Secretary-General on April 2, asking that a 2011 request to become a UN Member State be reconsidered.

• On April 18, the US vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council on the latest Palestinian bid to be granted full membership of the United Nations.

• The resolution got 12 votes in its favour, with Switzerland and the UK abstaining and the US casting its veto.

• To be adopted, the draft resolution required at least nine Council members voting in its favour, with no vetoes by any of its five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

What does the UNGA resolution mean?

• The General Assembly resolution adopted on May 10 determined that the State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations in accordance with Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations and should therefore be admitted to membership in the United Nations.

• It does not give the Palestinians full UN membership, but simply recognises them as qualified to join.

• By adopting this resolution the General Assembly will upgrade the rights of the State of Palestine within the world body, but not the right to vote or put forward its candidature to such organs as the Security Council or the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Here are some of the changes in status that Palestine will have: 

i) To be seated among Member States in alphabetical order.

ii) Make statements on behalf of a group.

iii) Submit proposals and amendments and introduce them.

iv) Co-sponsor proposals and amendments, including on behalf of a group.

v) Propose items to be included in the provisional agenda of the regular or special sessions and the right to request the inclusion of supplementary or additional items in the agenda of regular or special sessions.

vi) The right of members of the delegation of the State of Palestine to be elected as officers in the plenary and the Main Committees of the General Assembly.

vii) Full and effective participation in UN conferences and international conferences and meetings convened under the auspices of the General Assembly or, as appropriate, of other UN organs.

• None of the upgrades in status will take effect until the new session of the Assembly opens on September 10.

• Granting Palestinian membership requires a recommendation from the Security Council. 

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