Palestinians wounded in Israeli strikes are rushed into Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday. The head of medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that Gaza faces a catastrophe extending far beyond a humanitarian crisis, describing the situation in the densely populated enclave as chaotic. PHoto: REUTERS

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, in a rare move on Wednesday aimed at formally warning the Security Council of the global threat from Israel's war on Gaza.

Guterres has been calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" since October 18. But the Security Council is yet to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire, amid differences between permanent members. The United States, Israel's chief backer, has vetoed a resolution, while Russia, more critical of Israel, has blocked another one.

But what is Article 99 and does it have any real power to stop this war? It's a special power, and the only independent political tool given to the secretary-general in the UN Charter. It allows him to call a meeting of the Security Council on his own initiative to issue warnings about new threats to international peace and security and matters that are not yet on the council's agenda.

In Article 99, the charter states, "the Secretary General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security".

Now Guterres will have the right to speak at the Security Council, without having to be invited to speak by a member state, as is usually the case.

Now, the question is whether Article 99 end the conflict. Considered the UN's most powerful body, the 15-member Security Council is tasked with maintaining international peace and security. If it chooses to act on Guterres's advice and adopt a ceasefire resolution then yes. It will have additional powers at its disposal to ensure the resolution is implemented, including the power to impose sanctions or authorise the deployment of an international force.

But it doesn't give Guterres any powers to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution.  China, Russia, the US, the UK and France – hold the veto power. US used their veto on October 18 against a resolution that would have condemned Hamas's attack on Israel while calling for a pause in fighting.


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