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Foreign Policy Analysis
United Nations General Assembly observers | Wikipedia audio article

United Nations General Assembly observers | Wikipedia audio article


In addition to its 193 member states, the
United Nations General Assembly may grant observer status to an international organization,
entity or non-member state, which entitles the entity to participate in the work of the
United Nations General Assembly, though with limitations. The General Assembly may determine what privileges
it grants with the observer status, such as a right to speak at General Assembly meetings,
vote on procedural matters, serve as signatories on working papers, and sign resolutions, but
not to sponsor resolutions or vote on resolutions of substantive matters. Exceptionally, the EU was granted in 2011
the right to speak in debates, to submit proposals and amendments, the right of reply, to raise
points of order and to circulate documents, etc. As of May 2011, the EU was the only international
organisation to hold these enhanced rights, which has been likened to the rights of full
membership, short of the right to vote. Observer status may be granted by a United
Nations General Assembly resolution. The status of a permanent observer is based
purely on practice of the General Assembly, and there are no provisions for it in the
United Nations Charter. A distinction has been made between state
and non-state observers. Non-member states, which are members of one
or more specialized agencies, can apply for the status of permanent observer state. Non-state observers are the international
organizations and other entities.==United Nations member state qualifications
==Article 4 of Chapter II of the United Nations
Charter specifies the qualifications for membership in the United Nations:
Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept
the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgement of the Organization,
are able and willing to carry out these obligations. An application for membership must be approved
by the United Nations Security Council (which is subject to a veto) and then the General
Assembly.==Non-member observer states==The General Assembly may invite non-member
entities to participate in the work of the United Nations without formal membership,
and has done so on numerous occasions. Such participants are described as observers,
some of which may be further classified as non-member state observers. Most former non-member observer states accepted
observer status at a time when they had applied for membership but were unable to attain it,
due to the (actual or threatened) veto by one or more of the permanent members of the
Security Council. The grant of observer status is made by the
General Assembly only, and not subject to a Security Council veto. In some circumstances a state may elect to
become an observer rather than full member. For example, to preserve its neutrality while
participating in its work, Switzerland chose to remain a permanent non-member state observer
from 1948 until it became a member in 2002. The Holy See did not wish to join the United
Nations as a member because “Membership in the organization would not seem to be consonant
with the provisions of Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty, particularly as regards spiritual
status and participation in possible use of force.” Since April 6, 1964, the Holy See has accepted
permanent observer state status at the United Nations, which was regarded as a diplomatic
courtesy, to enable the Vatican to participate in the UN’s humanitarian activities and in
the promotion of peace.===Present non-member observer states===
As of 2019, there are two permanent non-member observer states in the United Nations: the
Holy See and Palestine. The Holy See uncontroversially obtained its
non-member observer state status in 1964 and Palestine was so designated in 2012, following
an application for full membership in 2011 which has not yet been put to a UN Security
Council vote largely due to the U.S. pressure. Both the Holy See and the State of Palestine
are described as “Non-member States having received a standing invitation to participate
as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent
observer missions at Headquarters”.The change of Palestinian observer status in 2012 from
“non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” was regarded as an “upgrade”
of their status. Many called the change “symbolic”, but which
was regarded as providing new leverage to the Palestinians in their dealings with Israel. As a result, in the change in status, the
United Nations Secretariat recognized Palestine’s right to become a party to treaties for which
the UN Secretary-General is the depositary.The seating in the General Assembly Hall is arranged
with non-member observer states being seated immediately after UN member states, and before
other observers. On 10 September 2015, the General Assembly
resolved to approve the raising at the UN of the flags of non-member observer states
alongside those of the 193 UN member states. NotesThe Cook Islands and Niue, both states
in free association with New Zealand, are members of several UN specialized agencies,
and have had their “full treaty-making capacity” recognized by United Nations Secretariat in
1992 and 1994 respectively. The Cook Islands has expressed a desire to
become a UN member state, but New Zealand has said that they would not support the application
without a change in their constitutional relationship, in particular the right of Cook Islanders
to New Zealand citizenship. The Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan,
was a founding member of the United Nations representing China, which had been divided
between the ROC and the People’s Republic of China since the Chinese Civil War. However, in 1971 United Nations General Assembly
Resolution 2758 transferred China’s seat in the UN from the ROC to the PRC. Since then, Taiwan has sought to resume its
participation in UN activities. Various methods were considered, including
seeking observer status, but ultimately the ROC chose to submit more vague requests which
did not specify the form of participation it sought between 1993-2006. These requests have been consistently denied
due to the UN’s recognition of the PRC as the “legitimate representative of China to
the United Nations”. The UN Secretary-General concluded from the
resolution that the General Assembly considered Taiwan to be a province of China, and thus
it does not permit the ROC to become a party to treaties for which it is the depositary. Other countries are recognized by the United
Nations as not being self-governing and appear on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing
Territories, but are represented in the UN by their respective administering member state.===Former non-member observer states===
Sixteen former non-member states were also granted observer status. Fourteen of those states eventually became
members of the United Nations. The other two constitute a single special
case.Most of the former non-member observer states accepted this status at a time when
they had applied for membership but were unable to attain it, due to the (actual or threatened)
veto of one or more of the permanent members of the Security Council. The vetoes were later overcome either by changes
in geopolitical circumstances, or by “package deals” under which the Security Council approved
multiple new member states at the same time, as was done with a dozen countries in 1955
and with East and West Germany in 1973. Notes==
Entities and international organizations==Many intergovernmental organizations and a
few other entities (non-governmental organizations and others with various degrees of statehood
or sovereignty), are invited to become observers at the General Assembly. Some of them maintain a permanent office in
the United Nations headquarters in New York City, while others do not; however, this is
the choice of the organization and does not imply differences in their status.===Regional organizations allowed by their
member states to speak on their behalf===In the resolution adopted in May 2011 granting
additional rights to the European Union the UNGA decided that similar arrangements may
be adopted for any other regional organization that is allowed to speak on behalf of its
member states.===Intergovernmental organizations======Other entities======
Former observer entities===The South West Africa People’s Organization
(SWAPO), a liberation movement in Namibia, held observer status with the right to circulate
communications without intermediary beginning in 1976. This terminated in 1990 when the Republic
of Namibia attained independence and was granted full membership in the United Nations and
SWAPO was transformed into a political party.==European Union==While the EU is an observer, it is party to
some 50 international UN agreements as the only non-state participant. It is a full participant on the Commission
on Sustainable Development, the Forum on Forests and the Food and Agriculture Organization. It has also been a full participant at certain
UN summits, such as the Rio and Kyoto summits on climate change, including hosting a summit. Furthermore, the EU delegation maintains close
relations with the UN’s aid bodies. In 2011 the EU was granted enhanced powers
in the General Assembly; the right to speak in debates, to submit proposals and amendments,
the right of reply, to raise points of order and to circulate documents. These rights were also made open to other
international organizations who requested them, if their members have given them the
right to speak on their behalf.==See also==List of current Permanent Representatives
to the United Nations UN ECOSOC observers
Category:United Nations General Assembly observers==Notes

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