Emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly

An Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly is an unscheduled meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to make urgent recommendations on a particular issue. Such recommendations can include collective measures and can include the use of armed force when necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression when the United Nations Security Council fails to exercise its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security due to lack of unanimity of its permanent ("veto") members.

Under Chapter Five of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council is normally entrusted with maintaining international peace and security. However, on 3 November 1950, the General Assembly passed Resolution 377 (Uniting for Peace) which expanded its authority to consider topics that were previously reserved solely for the Security Council. Under the Resolution, if the Security Council cannot come to a decision on an issue because of a lack of unanimity, the General Assembly may hold an emergency special session within 24 hours to consider the same matter.[1][2][3][4]

The mechanism of the emergency special session[5] was created in 1950 by the General Assembly's adoption of its "Uniting for Peace" resolution, which made the necessary changes to the Assembly's Rules of Procedure.[6] The resolution likewise declared that:

... if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security. If not in session at the time, the General Assembly may meet in emergency special session within twenty-four hours of the request therefor. Such emergency special session shall be called if requested by the Security Council on the vote of any seven members, or by a majority of the Members of the United Nations...

Emergency special sessions are rare, a fact reflected in that there have been only eleven such sessions in the history of the United Nations. Additionally, most emergency special sessions run for a single session, with the exception of the 7th, 10th and 11th, which have been reconvened four, seventeen, and nineteen times respectively.[7]



The procedure to call an emergency special session are laid out in the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly. The rules pertaining to emergency special sessions are as follows (as amended by Res. 1991 that increased majority needed from 7 to 9):[8]

  • Rule 8(b) – Summoning at the request of the Security Council or Members
    • Emergency special sessions can be convened by a vote of nine members of the Security Council, or a majority of United Nations Member States. These sessions must be convened within 24 hours of any votes.
  • Rule 9(b) – Request by Members
    • Allows any Member State of the United Nations to request the Secretary-General to convene an emergency special session.
  • Rule 10 – Notification of session
    • Requires the Secretary-General to notify Member States, at least 12 hours in advance, of the opening of an emergency special session convened pursuant to rule 8(b).
  • Rule 16 – Agenda
    • States that the provisional agenda of an emergency special session shall be communicated to Member States simultaneously with the communication convening the session.
  • Rule 19 – Additional items
    • During an emergency special session, additional agenda items may be added for consideration by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting.
  • Rule 20 – Explanatory memorandum
    • Requires any item proposed for inclusion in the agenda to be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum.


Emergency special session Topic Convened by Date Resolution
First Suez Crisis   United Nations Security Council 1–10 November 1956 A/3354
Second Soviet invasion of Hungary 4–10 November 1956 A/3355
Third Lebanon crisis 8–21 August 1958 A/3905
Fourth Congo Crisis 17–19 September 1960 A/4510
Fifth Six-Day War   Soviet Union 17 June – 18 September 1967 A/6798
Sixth Soviet invasion of Afghanistan   United Nations Security Council 10–14 January 1980 ES-6/1, 2
Seventh Israeli–Palestinian conflict   Senegal

22–29 July 1980
20–28 April 1982
25–26 June 1982
16–19 August 1982
24 September 1982

ES-7/1, 2, 3

Eighth South African occupation of Namibia (South West Africa)   Zimbabwe 3–14 September 1981 ES-8/1, 2
Ninth Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights (Golan Heights Law)   United Nations Security Council 29 January – 5 February 1982 ES-9/1
Tenth Israeli-Palestinian conflict (East Jerusalem and Israeli-occupied territories) Various

24–25 April 1997
15 July 1997
13 November 1997
17 March 1998
5, 8 and 9 February 1999
18 and 20 October 2000
20 December 2001
7 May 2002
5 August 2002
19 September 2003
20–21 October 2003
3 December 2003
20 July 2004
24 January 2007
4 April 2007
23 January 2009
21 December 2017
13 June 2018
26-27 October 2023

ES-10/1, 2
ES-10/8, 9
ES-10/L.22 Archived 2022-03-18 at the Wayback Machine (draft)


Eleventh Russian invasion of Ukraine   United Nations Security Council

28 February–2 March 2022
23–24 March 2022
7 April 2022
10-12 October 2022
23 February 2023



  1. ^ Charter of the United Nations . San Francisco: United Nations. 26 June 1945. p. 6 – via Wikisource.
  2. ^ Ruder, Nicole; Nakano, Kenji; Aeschlimann, Johann (2017). Aeschlimann, Johann; Regan, Mary (eds.). The GA Handbook: A practical guide to the United Nations General Assembly (PDF) (2nd ed.). New York: Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-615-49660-3.
  3. ^ United Nations General Assembly Session 5 Resolution 377. Uniting for Peace A/RES/377(V) 3 November 1950.
  4. ^ Wesel, Reinhard (2010). Volger, Helmut (ed.). A Concise Encyclopedia of the United Nations (PDF) (2nd ed.). Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 189–90. ISBN 9789004180048. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-02-25. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  5. ^ "UNGA Emergency Special Sessions". UN.org. Archived from the original on 28 February 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly". UN.org. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  7. ^ "Emergency special sessions". United Nations General Assembly. United Nations. n.d. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  8. ^ United Nations General Assembly Document 520/Rev.18. Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly A/520/Rev.18 September 2016.