A Binding Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly for the United Nations Security Council - The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181

A Binding Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly for the United Nations Security Council - The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181
Prof.h.c Mehmet Sukru Guzel, President of Center for Peace and Reconciliation Studies

The solution of the Palestine Problem and the State of Palestine's future membership in the United Nations (UN) within the UN legal system depends on the understanding that the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution numbered 181 dated 29 November 1947 is a binding resolution. And the UN Security Council (UNSC) also has an obligation to implement UNGA resolution 181.

Because the UNGA’s resolutions are recommendations and not legally binding according to the UN Charter, the World accepted that the UNGA resolution 181 as a recommendation and not legally binding. 

What makes the UNGA resolution 181 as binding is that the resolution 181 had turned out to be an international treaty, an international treaty on the decolonization of Palestine Mandate when the United Kingdom (UK) accepted the recommendations written in the resolution as: 

"Recommends to the United Kingdom . . . and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation . . . of the Plan of Partition" of the territory, as set forth in the resolution, between two independent States, one Arab, the other Jewish, as well as the creation of a special international régime for the City of Jerusalem.”


The recommendation of the UNGA resolution 181 is originated from a letter sent the UN by the UK.  On 2 April 1947, the UK addressed a letter to the Acting Secretary-General of the UN requesting that the question of Palestine be placed on the agenda of the next regular session of the UNGA and, further, that a special session of the UNGA be summoned as soon as possible for the purpose of constituting and instructing a special committee to prepare for the consideration of die question by the UNGA at its next regular session. The letter also indicated that the UK Government would submit an account of its administration of the Palestine Mandate to the UNGA, and would ask the UNGA to make recommendations, under Article 10 of the UN Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine.

After the letter of the UK, the UNGA constituted a Special Committee and instructed it to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine, and to prepare proposals for the solution of the problem. The Special Committee prepared a report including a number of unanimous recommendations and a plan of partition. The partition plan of the Palestine Mandate in the UNGA resolution number 181, was written according to the report of the Special Committee.


When the UK sent the letter on 2 April 1947, the letter was subject to the Article 10 of the UN Charter. When the UNGA resolution 181 mentioned in its text the termination of the Mandate for Palestine, then the UNGA resolution 181 turned to be under Chapter XII of the UN Charter, the International Trusteeship System.


In every decolonization process subject to the Chapter XI and Chapter XII of the UN Charter, a decolonization treaty is a must.


When the UK as the mandatory power accepted the recommendation in the resolution 181 of the UNGA, the accepted recommendation turned to be the decolonization treaty of the UK for the Mandate for Palestine


And when in the text of the resolution “the Mandate for Palestine shall terminate as soon as possible but in any case not later than 1 August 1948” as a decolonization treaty, the UNGA resolution has gained the feature of erga omnes character and became a jus cogens norm.


Once the UNGA Resolution 181 becomes an international treaty on decolonization with an erga omnes character, the implementation of the text of the resolution ceases to be a recommendation of a UNGA resolution but becomes binding to the UNSC as well then the resolution “requests that the UNSC take the necessary measures as provided for in the plan for its implementation”.   

As resolution 181 set the boundaries for two states, when the UNGA requested that the UNSC implement the resolution, this also included Article 2 paragraph 4 of the UN Charter, which protects the territorial integrity of the future Palestine State.

Israel proclaimed its independence on the strength of the UNGA resolution 181; armed conflict then broke out between Israel and a number of Arab States and the Plan of Partition as written in the resolution was not implemented.

As long as Israel became a member of the UN subject to its territories as specified in the UNGA resolution 181, as long as conquest is forbidden in the UN Charter, as long as the UNSC has no power to change any international territories as written in the UN Charter, the UNGA resolution 181 as an international treaty of decolonization is still binding today for the UNSC for its implementation.


Prof.h.c Mehmet Sukru Guzel

President of Center for Peace and Reconciliation Studies