UN Security Council Veto
Should we press for the abolition of the power of veto held by the permanent members of the Security Council?
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The veto power is an anachronism. The P5 were given this privilege for two reasons that have no appl...
The veto power is an anachronism. The P5 were given this privilege for two reasons that have no application in the post Cold War world. Firstly, the Allied powers, with the addition of China, sought to bind themselves to the UN organisation that was designed to prevent the depredations of the Second World War ever recurring. Secondly, the P5 held unrivalled strategic might through their possession of nuclear weapon technology or imminent nuclear capacity. Yet, the UN is no longer in any danger of imminent collapse. The P5 will abandon neither the organisation nor the cause of global peace by loss of the veto power. Moreover, the global power balance has shifted dramatically since 1945. Nuclear proliferation has accelerated in the past decade, such that inter alia India, Pakistan, North Korea, Egypt, Iraq and Iran are developing inter-continental ballistic capacity.
The veto power has been wielded with increasing success both during and since the Cold War. Between 1945 and 1990, 240 vetoes were cast. Yet between 1990 and 1999 the power was utilised on only 7 occasions, whilst more than 20 peacekeeping operations were mandated. This figure exceeds the total number of operations undertaken in the entirety of the preceding 45 years.The prodigious use of the veto during the Cold War period might have saved the world from the realisation of nuclear war. Now, increasing nuclear proliferation is a reason for maintaining the unity of the P5 by means of the veto. The current rhetoric concerns ‘rogue states’ gaining possession of nuclear weapons. These are states whose potential deployment of arms is unpredictable and with whom there is limited international dialogue. If the P5 is split on a matter of international security, any one or more of its members could become equally ‘rogue’. In addition, The logic of divide-and-rule applies in the international arena.
The statistics of the numbers of vetoes passed at any particular point in UN history does not reveal...
The statistics of the numbers of vetoes passed at any particular point in UN history does not reveal the true defect of the institutional arrangement. The Security Council consistently fails even to consider issues which are liable to be vetoed by a member or members of the P5. NATO initiated military action against Yugoslavia, under the imprimatur of the United States and the United Kingdom without receiving Security Council authorisation. It had become evident that any UN military involvement would be vetoed by both China and Russia. The silence of the Security Council whilst Russia launches a relentless and brutal campaign against Chechnya is deafening.
Breaches of Security Council must be expected and made subject to rectification. The legality of the NATO action in both Yugoslavia and Kosovo is currently scheduled for consideration by another organ of the UN, the International Court of Justice. Following the conflict NATO and Russia sought and achieved Security Council endorsement of the campaign. The Council then authorised the deployment of a peacekeeping force in order to police Kosovo. The Security Council thus proved to be a unifying force.
In the rare recent circumstances in which the veto power has been utilised, it has been hijacked by ...
In the rare recent circumstances in which the veto power has been utilised, it has been hijacked by ideological demands and petty national interests. China prevented peacekeeping operations proceeding in Guatemala and Macedonia on account of the engagement of those countries with Taiwan. The veto is no longer applied for the maintenance of collective security.
It should be noted that collective security is often indistinguishable from the national interests of the P5. The military might of each of the P5 members individually, and within separate groups, notably the UK and US axis within NATO, is such that the avoidance of disagreement is crucial to international peace. The P5 may occasionally cast the veto for selfish reasons. Yet this cost is outweighed by the maintenance of unity that becomes ever more critical in the post Cold War multipolar world.
Constitutional change within the UN is possible and thus worthy of full discussion. As Richard Butle...
Constitutional change within the UN is possible and thus worthy of full discussion. As Richard Butler has observed, a proper debate about the defects of the veto might at the least yield a “more constructive interpretation” of the nature of the veto and its application. An informed public awareness of the potential for the Security Council to be bypassed or hijacked might lead to pressure for exercise of the power in accordance with the Charter aims. Notably, China was persuaded or compelled not to cast the veto in respect of the Council measures on Kosovo. This reasonable approach prevailed in spite of vocal Chinese opposition to the bombing campaign, and the destruction of the Chinese embassy by NATO forces.
The abolition of the power of veto is simply impossible. The P5 will not willingly cede their pre-eminent position in international politics. Unsurprisingly, each member would have the constitutional power of veto over any proposal to remove the veto.
The veto power operates to the detriment of international arms control agreements. The web of treati...
The veto power operates to the detriment of international arms control agreements. The web of treaties that concern the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are enforced directly or indirectly by the Security Council. Where the treaty provisions do not identify the Council, the constant presence of the leading nuclear powers in the form of the P5, and the responsibility of the body for peace and security ensures that it is the de facto policeman of non-proliferation. The Council is crippled by the veto from fulfilling perhaps its most vital function. Two pertinent examples include the continued assembly of a nuclear arsenal by North Korea in violation of its obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Chinese interests precluded adequate enforcement action by the Council. Iraq has breached every Council measure pertaining to arms limitation to the extent that the UN inspectorate was withdrawn from Baghdad. The absence of an effective response can be attributed to Russian support for Iraq.
Non proliferation is an highly sensitive and precarious issue, riven by cross-currents of history, intelligence, and The apparent failure to create an effective system for arms limitation cannot be glibly attributed to the presence of a power of veto. It should be asked whether veto or no veto, what should constitute the appropriate Security Council to a breach of a non proliferation treaty ? Under articles 41 and 42 of the Charter the Council could authorise economic sanctions or direct military intervention. Would either overtly hostile approach encourage co-operation on the matter of disarmament?Diplomacy is often best conducted without the big stick of the Security Council. The Pyongyang summit between Kim Il Sung and Jiang Zemin contributed to North Korean amendment of its NPT breaches. Sympathy for Iraq is not limited to a reactionary Russia. A P5 member, France, and Canada, amongst several non-permanent members, have voiced dissent regarding the burden of Council authorised sanctions against Iraq, and requested a lower standard of compliance. It is thus scarcely remarkable that the United States Non proliferation is precarious because of the significant vested interests at stake. These interests would not only persist in the absence of a veto power, but more likely be inflamed without this crucial ‘safety valve’ for power-politics.
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