(Editors’ Note: This is the first in Just Security’s renewed weekly series keeping readers up to date on developments at the United Nations at the intersection of national security, human rights, and the rule of law.)

Security Council Resolution on Israel-Hamas Conflict

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2712 on the conflict between Israel and Hamas that began with Hamas’ attacks on Oct. 7, 2023. The resolution calls for:

  • “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable, consistent with international humanitarian law, the full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners”;
  • the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children, as well as ensuring immediate humanitarian access”; and
  • all parties to refrain from depriving the civilian population in Gaza of basic services and aid indispensable to their survival, consistent with international humanitarian law.

Voting was 12 in favor, none against, with three abstentions from the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. The abstentions of the United States and the United Kingdom were in response to the resolution’s failure to condemn Hamas. Russia abstained because the resolution stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. Four previous draft resolutions failed over similar disagreements. Russia proposed a last-minute amendment to the latest resolution to include a call for a ceasefire in the same terms (an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities”) used by an Oct. 27 U.N. General Assembly Resolution, but the United States rejected that proposal.

U.S. Airstrikes in Syria

On Nov. 8 and 12, 2023, the United States carried out airstrikes on facilities in Syria allegedly used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated the strikes were in response to attacks against United States personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC affiliates. President Joe Biden reported both strikes to Congress, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution. In these notifications, he defended the strikes as “necessary and proportionate action consistent with international law and in the exercise of the United States’ inherent right of self-defense as reflected in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.” 

The United States is expected to report these strikes to the Security Council, explaining the basis for its latest actions in self-defense, as required by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. The United States has previously sent such reports with respect to similar actions against the IRGC and affiliated militias in Syria, including recent strikes on Oct. 26

Note: For analysis of hostilities between U.S. forces and Iran-backed groups in Syria and Iraq, readers may be interested in Just Security articles in September 2022 (by Tess Bridgeman and Brian Finucane) and March 2023 (by Brianna Rosen).  

U.N. Presence on Sudanese Border Extended Amid Fighting in the North

On Tuesday, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for one year. The unanimously passed Resolution 2708 calls for the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to support the force, which has monitored demilitarization, facilitated humanitarian aid, and engaged in capacity-building in the disputed border area since 2011. Earlier this month, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed the Security Council that armed conflict in Sudan, which broke out between rival generals this April, had interrupted dialogue over the final status of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both maintain security forces in the area, contrary to the UNISFA mandate. The humanitarian situation in Abyei has been exacerbated by the influx of over 9,000 displaced persons fleeing conflict in Sudan, according to the U.N.’s humanitarian partners. 

U.N. Third Committee Approves 12 Draft Resolutions

On Tuesday, the General Assembly’s Third Committee, also known as the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee, approved 12 separate draft resolutions. Among other issues, the resolutions address: the rights of persons with disabilities in conflict; refugees; human rights in the context of digital technologies; persons living with rare diseases; the Fourth World Conference on Women; terrorism and human rights; national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities; freedom of religion or belief; combating incitement to violence based on religion or belief; and the safety of journalists.

The draft resolutions will now be sent to the U.N. General Assembly Plenary for formal adoption. The General Assembly may adopt the draft resolutions with or without a vote and may vote on amendments.

U.N. Chief Draws Attention to Grim Climate Change Report Ahead of COP28

On Tuesday, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) released its latest report that concludes national climate action plans remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres released a statement accompanying the release of the report, which states the world is “failing to get a grip on the climate crisis” and is “massively off track” to meet its goals and avoid the worst of climate catastrophe. The FCCC report is released ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 28), which will take place in the United Arab Emirates from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 2023. 

Note: In advance of COP28, readers may be interested in our tracker of COP27-related news and analysis. A similar tracker will be available for COP28 once underway.

International Court of Justice – Election of Judges

On Nov. 9, 2023, the General Assembly and Security Council held independent concurrent votes for the election of five judges to the International Court of Justice. A candidate must receive a majority of votes in both bodies to secure election to the Court, according to the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Of the nine candidates contesting the five available seats, the following candidates were elected: Hilary Charlesworth (Australia) who was re-elected to the Court, Bogdan-Lucian Aurescu (Romania), Sarah Hull Cleveland (United States), Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo Verduzco (Mexico), and Dire Tladi (South Africa).

IMAGE: The United Nations Headquarters, in New York city, on Oct. 18, 2023. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)