The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to toughen sanctions on North Korea after its fourth nuclear test in January.
The resolution called for “inspecting all cargo going in and out of the country, banning all weapons trade and expanding the list of individuals facing sanctions,” reported The New York Times.
Hours after the ‘toughest-ever’ sanctions, North Korea fired short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast on Thursday. The country has been under UN sanctions since 2006.
What are United Nations resolutions?
They are formal expressions of the opinion or will of United Nations organs. As per the UN, "The resolution consists of two defined sections: A preamble and an operative part. The preamble presents the considerations on the basis of which action is taken, an opinion expressed or a directive given. The operative part states the opinion of the organ or the action to be taken."
The United Nations Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, while the General Assembly is mainly involved in financing the peacekeeping activities. The Security Council has 15 members (including five permanent members also known as the P5). Each member has one vote, but permanent members also have a veto. All member states have to comply with the Security Council's decisions.
Other UN resolutions passed in recent times
Thousands have died and millions have fled Syria while the war rages on between the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposing his regime. Moreover, the growing power of the Islamic State called for an international intervention. In December 2015, the UN Security Council passed a resolution that seeks a political solution in the war-torn Syria with the help of international stakeholders. According to the CNN report, the resolution sought a “ceasefire in Syria” and provided “a rough timeline for political change” in the county.
A BBC report stated, "The UN says that it will need $3.2 billion to help the 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, who will require some form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria in 2016."
Iran’s dubious nuclear policy has always made the rest of the world jittery. The first round of UN sanctions came in 2006 under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. According to a New York Times report, "Import and export of materials and technology in uranium enrichment, reprocessing and ballistic missiles were banned." From 2006 to 2010, as many as six UN resolutions were adopted. After Hassan Rouhani came to power, sanctions were partially lifted in November 2013.
After the 14 July, 2015 agreement in Vienna between Iran and the P5 plus Germany, UN Security Council set motion a mechanism to lift its sanctions against the country.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011. A civil war broke out in 2013 between the government and rebel forces. On 2 March, 2016, a UN report said, “Determining that the situation in South Sudan remained a threat to regional peace and security, the Security Council today renewed until 15 April sanctions — including a travel ban and asset freeze...” The landlocked country is rife with ethnic tension as a result of a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. Reuters reported that there has been a five-fold increase in the death toll with a senior UN official stating that over 50,000 people have been killed in the last two years.
The UN Security Council had adopted a numerous resolutions during the Iraq-Iran war, the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq disarmament crisis and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Some of the key resolutions include compliance with the Unscom and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1991, the ‘oil for food’ programme in 1995 and the Iraqi travel restrictions in 1997.
On 1 March, 2016, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, known as Unami reported, “Acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq claimed the lives of 670 people, including 410 civilians in February 2016.” It added that a total of 1,290 people were wounded, including 1,050 civilians.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was formed in 1976. Soon after, it started waging a war against the Sri Lankan government for a separate Tamil state in the north and east of the country. The 26-year-long civil war has claimed thousands of lives and displaced many. In 2008, the government launched a massive offensive against the rebels. Human rights groups blamed both sides for heavy civilian casualties. In May 2009, the government declared the Tamil Tigers defeated with the death of their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
In 2001, the UN raised concerns over the severe atrocities committed against the civilians and a year later, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution urging Sri Lanka to investigate the war crimes committed during the war. The UN team met with resistance from the then president Mahinda Rajapaksa. In October 2015, the UNHRC adopted a consensus resolution, sponsored by countries including the US and UK, on accountability for perceived human rights abuse during the Sri Lankan civil war.