17 October 2018

UNAI Quiz: UN Principles and Non-Member States
















The United Nations Academic Impact is informed by a commitment to support and advance ten basic principles, out of which the tenth is A commitment to the principles inherent in the United Nations Charter.

Principle number 6 in the United Nations Charter reads: The Organization shall ensure that States which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security

Test your knowledge about this UN principle of the with the UNAI Quiz!!

Scroll down to the bottom of this article to find the answers.


1. Is it possible to make recommendations extensive to all States, even those not Members?

a) Yes.

b) No.

c) It might in the near future.

2. Does this principle imply an obligation solely to Member States?

a) Yes.

b) Yes, but only in certain cases.

c) It depends of the interpretation of such principle.

3. Has the UN Security Council urged non-Member States to do something?

a) Yes.

b) No, it does not have that prerrogative.

c) No, the Charter strictly prohibits that possibility.

4. Is it possible for a Member State to withdraw from the United Nations?

a) There is no provision in the Charter about that regard.

b) The Charter does not explicitly prohibits that action.

c) Both answers (a + b).

5. Which non-Member States have a 'Observer State' status in the UN?

a) Palestine and the Sovereign Order of Malta.

b) The Holy See and Palestine.

c) None.



1.a) In several cases, resolutions of the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council have made references to "all States" regardless of the fact if they are Member States or not in relation to the United Nations. While most of the resolutions adopted by both intergovernmental bodies do refer to "Member States", in some instances the term "all States" has been used. As an example of this, resolution 59/59 of the UN General Assembly on the Maintenance of international security – goodneighbourliness, stability and development in South-Eastern Europe called "upon all States, the relevant international organizations and the appropriate organs of the United Nations to respect the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States and the inviolability of international borders, to continue to take measures in accordance with the Charter and the commitments of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and through further development of regional arrangements, as appropriate, to eliminate threats to international peace and security and to help to prevent conflicts in South-Eastern Europe, which can lead to the violent disintegration of States".

2.c) From the literal interpretation of the principle, it seems that it only poses an obligation to the Member States of the United Nations to "ensure" that those that do not belong to the Organization "act in accordance with" the principles of the United Nations Charter. It could be understood under the res inter alios acta (a thing done between others) principle of International Law that principle contained in the article 2.6 does not suggest that non-Member States are somehow, either formally or not, bound by the principles as a whole. That said, as the principles of the United Nations Charter are seen as universal principles of wide application, regardless of its source, certainly the latter interpretation could be contested.

3.a) Indeed, the UN Security Council has applied this principle. For instance in the resolution 232 (1966) on the situation in Southern Rhodesia, the Council urged "having regard to the principles stated in article 2 of the United Nations Charter, States not Members of the United Nations to act in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 2 of the present resolution". Successive resolutions about the same issue, included such provision in those exact terms.

4.c) There are no provisions in the United Nations Charter for the withdrawal of Member States. While the rebus sic stantibus (things standing thus) principle of International Law might suggest that if there is a fundamental or substantial change in circumstances -a principle included in Treaty Law- a Member State could withdraw from the United Nations in the absence of a provision related to this issue, its application is unlikely. The United Nations Charter on the other hand, does not prohibit a withdrawal but certainly if a withdrawal does takes place, obligations undertaken during membership continue to exist. To this date, only one Member State withdrew from the Organization: Indonesia. Its decision was made public in early 1965 in a letter sent to the United Nations. Worth to mention that the 1965 Yearbook of the United Nations in the 'Roster' of Member States does not list Indonesia. In strict sense however, this was not considered an actual withdrawal as in a telegram sent by Indonesia to the Organization a year later, the government of such State informed its decision to "resume full cooperation with the United Nations and to resume participation in its activities". No approval procedure was deemed necessary in this case so Indonesia was not considered a 'new' Member State or an applicant one.

5.b) To this date only the Holy See and Palestine are the non-Member Observer States that participate in the meetings of the main intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations. In the case of the Holy See the status of Permanent Observer State was granted in 1964 and it was further expanded by the UN General Assembly through its resolution 58/314, that accorded the Holy See "the rights and privileges of participation in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and the international conferences convened under the auspices of the Assembly or other organs of the United Nations, as well as in United Nations conferences". In the case of Palestine, first the Palestine Liberation Organization got the Observer status through the resolution 3237 (XXIX) of the UN General Assembly. Resolution 43/177 of the same body introduced the designation of Palestine and then resolution 67/19 granted Palestine with the status of "non-Member Observer State (...) in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice".