General Assembly Adopts Landmark Resolution Aimed at Holding Five Permanent Security Council Members Accountable for Use of Veto
Amid growing criticism of inaction by the Security Council on the war in Ukraine, the General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution today aimed at holding the five permanent Council members accountable for their use of veto.
By the text (document A/77/L.52), which was adopted without a vote, the Assembly decided that its President shall convene a formal meeting of the 193‑member organ within 10 working days of the casting of a veto by one or more permanent members of the Council and hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast, provided that the Assembly does not meet in an emergency special session on the same situation.
Further, the Assembly invited the Council, in accordance with Article 24 (3) of the Charter of the United Nations, to submit a special report on the use of the veto in question, to the Assembly at least 72 hours before the relevant discussion is to take place.
The text, titled “Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council”, was tabled by Lichtenstein, and co-sponsored by 83 Member States, including three permanent Council members — France, United Kingdom and the United States. Two other permanent Council members are China and the Russian Federation.
Speaking in the explanation of position, delegations expressed divergent views of the resolution.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the veto is not the problem. Rather, it is the unwillingness of certain Security Council members to listen to others and to achieve compromise, which compels use of the measure. The veto is a measure of last resort, and when using it, permanent Council members provide exhaustive and openly accessible clarification as to why it was cast. Providing the same explanation to the General Assembly would not add value. He rejected today’s attempt to create an instrument to exert pressure on the Council, stressing that the division of powers between the Assembly and the Council has allowed the United Nations to function effectively for more than 75 years.
Bolstering that point, the representative of Belarus said that, instead of trying to determine why consensus in the Council remains elusive, today’s resolution “simply relies on brute force”. He accused the sponsors of garnering a majority in the General Assembly to use “all kinds of tricks”.
To those claims, the United States delegate pointed out that the Russian Federation vetoed a resolution deploring its own aggression against Ukraine. In short, Moscow egregiously violated the Charter and then blocked the Council’s effort to address the situation. The veto was not intended as a carte blanche for impunity nor meant to confer automatic protection from accountability in perpetuity.
Mexico’s representative defended today’s resolution as an important step forward in strengthening United Nations accountability. Veto use reveals the weak position of those who failed to persuade others through reason. Those wielding such power do not offer solutions, but simply obstruct action. Mexico, as a founding member of the United Nations, opposed this prerogative at the 1945 San Francisco Conference. Its decision to accept a veto was based on the principle of responsible use of that power, he noted.
Along those lines, the representative of France said her delegation is fully committed to reforming the Council into a body that is more representative of today's world, while preserving its executive and operational nature. However, the General Assembly cannot become a judge of the Security Council or of its members — elected or permanent — and it is in this spirit that France and Mexico introduced a proposal to voluntarily and collectively suspend use of the veto in the event of mass atrocity crimes.
Sweden’s delegate, speaking also for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, was among the many speakers expressing unequivocal support the resolution aimed at raising the cost of veto use by the five permanent Council members. In the past five years, the veto blocked Council action 17 times. Noting that the Council is entrusted with the responsibility to maintain peace and security on behalf the Member States represented in the Assembly, she argued that it is natural that, when permanent Council members use their veto to block action, they are invited to explain their positions in the Assembly and engage with Member States on the matter.
The representative of Namibia, speaking for the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government, said his delegation attaches great importance to Security Council reform to make it more accessible, accountable, democratic, representative and effective, and to better reflect the current geopolitical reality. Welcoming the preambular paragraph stating, “the present resolution and its provisions are without prejudice to the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform”, he said the text has no bearing on General Assembly decision 62/557, adopted in 2008, and the common African position, as articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration.
Capturing some of the uncertainty around today’s action, China’s representative said the resolution gives the General Assembly a new mandate and is likely to cause procedural confusion and inconsistency in practice. It is difficult to determine, at this time, if such an arrangement would serve the resolution’s intended purpose.
Similarly, Indonesia’s delegate, while joining consensus on the resolution, voiced his regret that efforts to improve transparency of the Security Council was conducted through a non-inclusive and untransparent process. He denounced the “take‑it‑or‑leave‑it” approach imposed during its drafting, a process that lacked any room for negotiation.
Offering historical perspective, India’s representative recalled that in 2008, the Assembly unanimously agreed that all five aspects of Council reform — including veto use — would be decided in a comprehensive manner, and that no single cluster could be addressed in isolation. Yet, when a group of pro-reform Member States, including India, moved a similar initiative nearly a decade ago, they were accused of promoting a piecemeal approach. It is, therefore, ironic that the same Member States who argued against “piecemeal” reform, are now supporting a piecemeal initiative which ignores the root cause of the problem.
In other business, the General Assembly adopted, without a vote, two draft decisions titled “Informal interactive hearing with indigenous peoples” (document A/76/L.51) and “Open-ended working group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours” (document A/76/L.50), respectively.
The former had the General Assembly decide to postpone to its seventy‑seventh session the request to its President to organize and preside over an informal interactive hearing with indigenous peoples and prepare a summary of the hearing. Previously, the Assembly had requested such an event to take place during its seventy-fourth session, on the margins of the session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the request had been rolled over to its seventy-fifth session and then to seventy-sixth session.
The latter had the Assembly decide that an open-ended working group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours shall hold its first session from 9 to 13 May 2022, its second session from 12 to 16 September 2022, its third session from 30 January to 3 February 2023 and its fourth session from 7 to 11 August 2023.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Liechtenstein, Gabon, Guyana, Philippines, Brazil, Nicaragua, Algeria, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Argentina, Iran, Cuba, Colombia, Lithuania (also for Estonia and Latvia), Luxembourg (also for Belgium and the Netherlands), Albania, Costa Rica, Turkey, Bulgaria, Canada, Japan, Qatar, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Poland, Guatemala, Kenya, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Kuwait, Malta, Austria, Ukraine, Ecuador, Timor‑Leste and Israel.
The representative of Syria spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
Action on Draft Resolution
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), introducing the draft resolution titled “Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council” (document A/76/L.52), said that work on this text began over two years ago out of a growing concern that the Security Council was having difficulty carrying out its work in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. The increased use of the veto “is but the most obvious expression” of that situation, he added. All Member States have conferred on the Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and have agreed that the Council acts on their behalf. Further, the veto power comes with the responsibility to work to achieve the purposes and principles of the Charter at all times. Therefore, membership, as a whole, should be given a voice when the Council is unable to act. Noting that the text represents a commitment to multilateralism, he stressed that “there has never been a stronger need for innovation in order to secure the central role and voice of the United Nations in this respect”.
The representative of Gabon, speaking in explanation of position before action, said that some say the Security Council is not destroyed by the veto, but saved by it, and that it is a necessary evil. The right of the veto, which is in the Charter of the United Nations, can only be brought into question if two thirds of the General Assembly agree to that and if the Council’s five permanent members unanimously renounced that privilege. Remarking that it will never come to be, he said that a paradigm shift is necessary if the Council is to be more in line with its mandate. He called for the Council’s membership to be reconfigured by increasing permanent and non-permanent members alike, risking a greater use of the veto or by simply abolishing the veto. With the highest number of peacekeeping missions, the African continent must take its rightful place in the Council.
The representative of Guyana, voicing her support for the resolution, noted that her delegation has been among those advocating for the abolition of the veto. It does not contribute to accountability by those Council members who may exercise its use and prevent the Council from taking action in situations that require strong responses from the United Nations. Such situations include humanitarian crises fuelled by violent conflict, including war, and violations of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, such as the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of another State. To build a culture of accountability and transparency around the use of the veto, the proposal to organize a debate in the most representative organ of the United Nations — the General Assembly — is both appropriate and necessary.
The representative of the Philippines said the resolution would contribute to strengthening the General Assembly and enhancing the accountability of the Security Council. However, he said his delegation would abstain if a recorded vote were requested. The text renders the convening process automatic and mandates the President of the General Assembly to convene a formal meeting within 10 working days after casting the veto. In placing responsibility of convening such a meeting with the President, not the membership, it reduces the power of Member States. Further, the automatic convening of a meeting every time a veto is exercised in the Security Council would prove impractical and inefficient. “The existing system is not infirm and has worked quite well over the years,” he said, adding that not all vetoed Security Council resolutions require Assembly action.
The representative of Brazil, said that, in case of a recorded vote, his delegation would abstain. The draft had not been properly discussed among Assembly membership, nor did the drafter organize informal consultations to allow delegations to make contributions to the proposed text. The draft changes the delicate balance between the Security Council and the General Assembly. Veto in and of itself is not a failure. Rather, it safeguards against the use of force by one or a group of countries. The Security Council should not be weakened. The “Uniting for Peace” mechanism was adopted by the General Assembly on an exceptional basis and used only 11 times in 70 years. The Assembly should resort to it in only exceptional circumstances.
The representative of Nicaragua said this was the time to tackle manoeuvrers geared towards disintegrating the United Nations by the United States and Western countries and which violated the principles of the Organization. He demanded decisions by the General Assembly, including the blockage against the Cuba embargo, to be fulfilled. There have been so many attempts to put an end to the blockade, which flouts decisions made by the General Assembly. Further, he denounced the United States, which overlooked the International Court of Justice’s decisions that called for payments to be made to Nicaragua. Instead, the United States ignored and set aside the decisions made by the United Nations and the highest international court.
The resolution was adopted without a recorded vote.
The representative of China, speaking in explanation of position after action, noted that her country participates in the Council’s work in a constructive manner. When the Council is unable to act on major issues relating to peace and security due to a lack of consensus, China is in favour of discussions among Member States in the General Assembly, she said. Emergency special sessions can be convened, which allow Member States to play a role in international peace and security. However, this resolution gives the General Assembly a new mandate and is likely to cause procedural confusion and inconsistency in practice. She added that it is difficult to determine at this time if such an arrangement would serve the resolution’s intended purpose.
The representative of India, also speaking in explanation of position after action, stressed that the only way to remedy what ails the Security Council is to make it more representative, credible and legitimate by including more underrepresented voices, including from developing countries and Africa. In 2008, the Assembly unanimously agreed that all five aspects of Council reform, including the question of veto, would be decided in a comprehensive manner; no single cluster could be addressed in isolation. Yet, when a group of pro-reform Member States, including India, moved a similar initiative nearly a decade ago, they were accused of promoting a piecemeal approach. It is therefore ironic that the same Member States who argued against “piecemeal” reform, are now supporting a piecemeal initiative which ignores the root cause of the problem. He expressed hope that other efforts addressing Council category of membership and working methods would be treated without double standards.
The representative of Indonesia, also speaking in explanation of position after action, affirmed support for all efforts to improve the transparency in the work of the Security Council, General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole. It was in that spirit that his country joined consensus on the resolution. However, it was regrettable that efforts to improve transparency of the Security Council was conducted through a non-inclusive and untransparent process. A “take‑it‑or‑leave‑it” approach was imposed upon the wider membership in the drafting process of the resolution, which was conducted under no negotiation process. Only through a negotiation process could the draft, which should carry the collective views of Member States, be improved, he stressed.
The representative of Belarus, while expressing concern over the considerable differences between Security Council permanent members, emphasized that trying to circumvent such disagreement is more dangerous. Instead of trying to determine why consensus in the Council is unable to be achieved, today’s resolution “simply relies on brute force”, he said, with the sponsors’ ability to have a majority in the General Assembly using all kinds of tricks. Belarus decided not to break consensus, but it will disassociate from it, as the way the resolution was created is unacceptable, he said. The only exchange of opinion — on 19 April — was a mere pro forma activity. Further, the resolution is openly political and violates the division of labour envisioned by the Charter. Work on Security Council reform is devalued when attention is paid to issues problematic to only one group of countries, he added.
The representative of Algeria, adding his support for the draft resolution, said that it was imperative to consider the initiative in a broader context towards promoting multilateralism, strengthening transparency and accountability and avoiding selectivity. The resolution was a modest move and timely step forward towards complementarity between the main organs in the United Nations. The abuse of the veto affects the work of the Organization, particularly the Security Council. In light of the immense challenges facing the world, it was critical to promote cooperation and international solidarity and allow countries to participate in those goals without discrimination. “We need to work together to reform the UN system,” he said, including geographical representation and righting the wrongs against Africa.
The representative of Thailand said the resolution reflects a well‑intentioned effort to promote greater transparency in the work of the Security Council, particularly on use of the veto. Also equally important is that a resolution, with wider and long‑term institutional implications, should benefit from more comprehensive consultations within the United Nations membership. Noting that efforts on the draft resolution picked up dramatically in the last few weeks after the pandemic had suspended work on it, he said the accelerated process placed some limitations on consultations that would have been beneficial. Moreover, the issue of automaticity requires serious reflection. The General Assembly process should be as Member State-driven as possible. Automaticity, however well-meaning, takes Members States out of the decision-making loop, he said, thus reducing flexibility and limiting options.
The representative of Papua New Guinea said that, as a developing small State, the rule of law and the upholding of international law obligations, including the Charter, is a safety valve that affords and assures security and protection of States like his. Although the resolution might be said to be that of a procedural nature, it potentially has wider substantive implications. He noted his appreciation for the flexibility of the co-sponsors in facilitating the inclusion of new elements suggested by his delegation and others, particularly relating to Article 27. “We cannot afford, anymore, to have a Security Council that is not fit for purpose; has questionable accountability; with an opaque personality; and unrepresentative of today’s realities. “We need a Council that is truly an organ that better serves, ‘We the Peoples’ of the United Nations rather than the self-serving interests of a few,” he said.
The representative of Namibia, speaking for the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government, called for comprehensive reform of the United Nations system to ensure that the Organization is fit for purpose. Stressing the need for regional balance, he said African States attach great importance to Security Council reform to make it more accessible, accountable, democratic, representative and effective, and to better reflect the current geopolitical reality. Welcoming the text’s preambular paragraph that states “the present resolution and its provisions are without prejudice to the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform”, he said the text just adopted has no bearing on General Assembly decision 62/557 and the common African position, as articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration.
The representative of Pakistan said he agreed with the overall objective of the resolution. He also noted, among other points, that the resolution was without prejudice to the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reforms. It is clear that the trigger for holding a General Assembly session in the wake of a veto from a permanent member is a situation where the Security Council is prevented from acting on questions regarding the maintenance of peace and international security. However, he noted that a slight modification to language in the resolution would have expressed that qualification with clarity.
The representative of Argentina said that, as a founding member of the United Nations, his country, from the beginning, had firmly opposed the veto, a position it has reiterated over the years, along with its call for Security Council reform. The Council should be more democratic, transparent, efficient, representative, responsible and accountable to the international community. His delegation joined the consensus on the resolution, based on his country’s historical stance, adding that the veto violates the sovereign equality among States. He also emphasized that his delegation approved this resolution based on its content stating that it was without prejudice to the negotiations on reform of the Council.
The representative of Iran, noting that his delegation had joined consensus on the draft resolution, called on the Security Council to act in a more efficient, transparent, effective and accountable manner. Ending the Security Council's wrong and unlawful practices, as well as its application of double standards, should remain at the forefront of any efforts to strengthen the United Nations system. The Council has a legal, political and moral responsibility to act properly and responsibly, and its members must make decisions based on the common interests of the entire United Nations membership, rather than on their own national interests or those of the geopolitical or geographical groups to which they belong. The veto, which has been used arbitrarily since the Organization’s inception, must be regulated, he stressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that, without the veto, the Council would simply rubber-stamp questionable decisions imposed by a nominal majority that would be hardly possible to implement. The veto is not the problem; it is certain Council members’ unwillingness to listen to others and achieve compromise, thus compelling the use of the veto. The veto is used as a last resort, and when using it, permanent Council members provide exhaustive and openly accessible clarification as to why it was cast. Providing the same explanation of veto to the General Assembly would not add value. He rejected today’s attempt to create an instrument to exert pressure on the Council; the division of powers between the General Assembly and the Security Council has allowed the United Nations to function effectively for more than 75 years.
The representative of Cuba said that the mandate of the General Assembly related to peace and security has been severely undermined because of the growing trend in the Security Council to usurp its functions. He called for the urgent and broad reform to make the Council a more representative, democratic and transparent organ. His delegation did not oppose the adoption of the resolution without a vote. However, outlining several concerns with respect to the text adopted, he said it is not enough to eliminate the presentation of special reports of the Security Council and limit it to those cases in which the veto was used. That would be a restrictive and selective approach with respect to what is set out in the United Nations Charter. The Security Council is compelled to present special reports for the General Assembly’s consideration whenever necessary and not only in respect of veto-related issues, he said.
The representative of Colombia, noting that his country has challenged the use of the veto and advocated for its elimination, said the “Uniting for Peace” mechanism has proven its value and effectiveness, and it looks at the possibility of a mechanism or procedure that would enable the General Assembly to take up issues related to peace and security when the Security Council is inoperable due to use of the veto. It also has procedural safeguards necessary to prevent the abuse of this, ensuring respect for the distribution of functions set out in the United Nations Charter. In exceptional circumstances, the Assembly should convene special sessions, he said, noting that the new mechanism as set out in the new resolution is not necessary and undermines the functions of the Council.
ANNA KARIN ENESTROM (Sweden), speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, expressed support for the resolution. In the past five years, the veto blocked action of the Council no less than 17 times. As the most recent use of veto by the Russian Federation highlights, there is an urgent need for veto restraint and for more transparency and accountability when the veto power is used.
The Security Council is entrusted with the responsibility to maintain peace and security on behalf the Member States represented in the Assembly, she said. Thus, it is natural that, when permanent Council members use their veto to block action, they are invited to the Assembly to explain their positions and engage with Member States on the matter. The resolution adopted today in no way encroaches on the veto power, but seeks to increase transparency and accountability in its use.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), also speaking for Estonia and Latvia, said today’s adoption aims to have the General Assembly take a more resilient role in matters of international peace and security. This is necessary to make the United Nations more capable and to restore its reputation. The adoption occurs at a timely juncture, following the unprovoked, unlawful and unjustified Russian war of aggression against Ukraine
He went on to say that, not only does that event shed new light on the Russian Federation’s continuous misuse of its Council perch to misrepresent international norms, sow discord and spread disinformation in the pursuit of national interests, but it also serves as a stark reminder of the implications of the Council’s reduced ability to effectively act against threats to international peace and security. The United Nations has a responsibility to seek productive ways to deliver on the promise of peace, he added.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), also speaking for Belgium and the Netherlands, said they are proud to have co-sponsored the resolution. Today’s adoption comes after more than two years of preparation and very wide consultations among Member States. As a result, the text enjoys broad cross-regional support.
The use of veto is not a privilege, but a heavy responsibility, he emphasized. The resolution just adopted is a crucial step to strengthen multilateralism by making the permanent Council members more accountable to the general membership when they use the veto to block the adoption of a Security Council resolution.
ANDRIS STASTOLI (Albania) said that the primary responsibility of the Security Council to maintain international peace and security has not been discharged according to the aspirations in which it was envisioned, at least not always. Far too often, that organ has been derelict in its duties. The Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine has illustrated that. The Russian Federation veto has turned the Council into the bulwark in service of that country’s lies and manipulations. “This is not good for the Council; it is not good for the UN; it is not good for the world,” he said. The Council has a vital role to play in matters of life and death. But, the abuse of the veto undermines the legitimacy, not only of the Council, but the entire United Nations, he said, adding that he was glad the General Assembly was able to speak in one voice.
JOSÉ DAVID MURILLO QUESADA (Costa Rica), noting that his delegation co‑sponsored the resolution, said the veto is not a right, but a privilege too powerful to exist; it could easily become a death sentence for millions of people. Instead of acting, the veto forces the United Nations to watch from the side‑lines. Unable to intervene to prevent and resolve conflicts, the Security Council is transformed into a council of global insecurity, leading to serious and costly consequences in the form of protracted conflicts and loss of life. “The veto is not the cornerstone of the United Nations, but its tombstone,” he said, noting that it is an immoral practice that must be limited. With the new resolution, a mechanism has been established that provides for a debate to be held before the General Assembly each time a veto is issued in the Security Council. The resolution is a historic step towards accountability and transparency, embodying the legitimate demand of Member States that the Security Council be accountable to those on whose behalf it acts, he said.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) expressed regret that the Council has failed to carry out its mandate to maintain international peace and security on many occasions. The veto power is the very reason for that organ’s frequent paralysis. It is not uncommon that permanent members exercise such power to pursue their self-interest, and most of the time, the use of the veto has far‑reaching consequences that can lead to or deepen humanitarian crises. With today’s resolution, the General Assembly now has an additional tool with which to address matters pertaining to international peace and security. He emphasized that this is an important step to enhance the Assembly’s role and to make the Council more accountable and efficient.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUSCO (Mexico) said that the resolution may seem like a modest initiative, but is an important step forward in strengthening the United Nations, which has suffered from the absence of an effective accountability system. The exercise of veto reveals the weak position of those who failed to persuade others through reason. Therefore, those who wield veto power do not offer solutions, but simply obstruct action. Mexico, as a founding member of the United Nations, opposed this prerogative at the San Francisco Conference. However, its decision to accept a veto was based on the principle of responsible use of that power. For several years, Mexico, together with France, has led an initiative to voluntarily restrict the use of veto in the situations of mass atrocities. Today, this initiative enjoys 105 signatories, he said, inviting all States who have not yet done so to support it.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria) said that, when the Security Council fails to act, it is not a failure just of the Security Council, it is perceived as a failure of the United Nations and all Member States. The resolution just adopted provides the opportunity to hold any Security Council member who has cast a veto more accountable as to the reasons why it has chosen to prevent the Security Council from acting. Her country is proud to be among the initial co-sponsors of the resolution, she said. It empowers States to be more responsible members of the United Nations, strengthening multilateralism and the international rules‑based order. Expressing hope that the procedures outlined in the resolution will not ever have to be activated and that the Security Council will be able to effectively exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, she stressed that, should that not be the case, from now on, all Member States, through the General Assembly, will be able to seek explanation and not just be mere spectators, allowing for a more accountable and more effective United Nations.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said the veto power held by the five permanent members of the Security Council is as anachronistic as it is undemocratic, and has prevented the Security Council from doing its job. The deadlock over Ukraine has happened at precisely the moment when the world needs the United Nations most. The use and threat of the veto in situations where atrocity crimes are being perpetrated, such as in Syria and Myanmar, or in situations where a permanent member of the Security Council has launched a war of aggression against another Member State, as the Russian Federation has done in Ukraine, are shameful and contrary to the Charter and international law. “Even veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council are not above the law,” he stressed, noting that it is both right and necessary that the General Assembly will now convene an automatic debate whenever a veto is cast at the Security Council. Moreover, the resolution helps achieve a less exclusive United Nations, allowing the voices of all 193 members of the General Assembly to be heard when a veto is cast at the Security Council.
KIMIHIRO ISHIKANE (Japan) said that, while the Russian Federation’s recent use of the veto made the United Nations appear irrelevant, this is not the case. Although the Security Council is far from flawless, the international community must make use of it. Today’s resolution is a good tool towards this end; from now on, vetoes cannot be cast without providing an explanation to the entire United Nations membership. He pointed out that permanent Council members could also embrace today’s resolution, recognizing that they must face a higher level of accountability commensurate with their heavier responsibility. He went on to note Japan’s support for several other veto-related initiatives and called for further discussion on Council reform to make the United Nations more effective.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said that, when a permanent Council member concludes that a particular resolution will not advance international peace and security, it may use the veto. Such authority, however, comes with enormous responsibility. That member should be prepared to explain why that resolution would not have furthered the maintenance of international peace and security. Voicing his support for automatically convening an Assembly meeting when a veto is cast, he added that the United States would be willing to participate regarding any veto they made. The Russian Federation vetoed resolutions seeking accountability in Syria; a resolution that establishing a criminal tribunal on the downing of flight MH-17 over Ukraine; and a resolution when it attempted to illegally annex Crimea. Recently, the Russian Federation vetoed a resolution deploring its aggression against Ukraine. In short, Moscow egregiously violated the Charter and then blocked the effort by the Council to address the situation. The veto was not intended as a carte blanche for impunity for the five permanent members nor was it meant to confer automatic protection from accountability in perpetuity, he said.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), noting her country’s commitment to multilateralism and to the General Assembly as the most representative organ of the United Nations, said the resolution will promote the Assembly’s role in accordance with its mandate, which gives it powers and authority in matters related to the maintenance of peace and security without undermining the mandate of the Council. She expressed hope that it marks a step forward in strengthening the United Nations system in cases where it cannot stand idly by and should respond effectively.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said it is essential for the main United Nations bodies to work together, in a complementary manner, to ensure efficient and effective multilateralism, stressing that “if one cannot act, the other can — and must — step in”. She voiced support for the permanent mandate created by the resolution for debate in the General Assembly when a veto is cast in the Security Council, while expressing hope that this will happen as little as possible. Switzerland and its partners have advocated for a more transparent and effective Security Council for nearly two decades. Advocacy for more responsible and restrictive use of the veto is a key element of work carried out by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, which Switzerland coordinates and whose code of conduct encourages permanent Council members to renounce veto use in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), adding her support to the resolution’s adoption, said the veto power should not be used lightly or without accountability and should not prevent the Council from fulfilling its mandate. She pointed out that the Russian Federation has used such power 17 times since 2011 to block the Council’s efforts to protect the Syrian people and has also used the veto to prevent the Council from taking action in response to its illegal, unprovoked war in Ukraine. Noting that the Russian Federation did so in isolation from other Council members — reflecting lack of international support — she welcomed the call for permanent Council members to explain their use of the veto to the General Assembly. For its part, the United Kingdom has not exercised its veto power since 1989, preferring to win votes rather than use the veto to block Council action.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said that the resolution is a response to the excessive use of the veto, which has been negatively perceived in international public opinion. The members of the Security Council were entrusted by the United Nations Member States with the power of veto to be guardians of the Charter. The veto must be regarded as a responsibility, not a privilege, by all permanent members of the Security Council. A situation when one of the Security Council permanent members, which is responsible for violating international peace, uses the veto to evade responsibility for its wrongdoings and to continue to enjoy impunity, is simply unacceptable by today’s societies. The resolution’s adoption is a significant step towards greater democratization of the Organization, and towards strengthening of multilateralism and contributing to the international peace and stability.
LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala) said that decision made by the Security Council to act or to not act has had a global impact. As seen in the past, and more recently, the use of the veto has prevented that organ from addressing real situation threatening international peace and security. The Council was entrusted with that primary responsibility to act on behalf of all Member States. Therefore, decisions and resolutions, adopted or not adopted, are intrinsically related to the high level of the Council’s responsibility. The new resolution is a transparency mechanism to provide the General Assembly the opportunity to take up matters that the Security Council has not considered fully when the veto has been used.
NJAMBI KINYUNGU (Kenya) said that the International Court of Justice has determined that the powers and functions of the General Assembly include the general competence to consider questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security. Therefore, the Security Council should not be prevented from acting responsibly due to the exercise of the veto. The adherence to today’s resolution will enhance the ability of the United Nations to live up to its primary purpose “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. For these reasons, Kenya supported this initiative, he said.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said the Assembly has a legitimate interest in and political responsibility to address situations where veto use has paralysed the Security Council’s decision-making responsibilities. Casting of the veto by a single member or a small number of members stymies the Council from carrying out its functions on behalf of the wider United Nations membership. As a result, responsible States — often neighbouring States —frequently are left with a heavy burden that should have been shared more evenly by the wider international community. “The veto is the most undemocratic element of the United Nations, and arguably the single greatest source of criticism of the United Nations by the communities we serve,” she said. Noting that New Zealand has been a vocal opponent of the veto since 1945, she said the resolution provides a mechanism to ensure accountability between United Nations organs, ultimately strengthening multilateralism and the Organization’s effectiveness. She expressed hope that, if the resolution were to be activated, the General Assembly would take advantage of the opportunity to exercise its collective political responsibility under the Charter to address matters of international peace and security.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) pointed out that, although the Charter has conferred upon the Security Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security, it does not preclude the General Assembly from debate and deliberation when the Council is unable to act on behalf of the wider United Nations membership. Noting that his country led the opposition to establishing the veto at the 1945 San Francisco Conference, he voiced his support for limiting use of the veto, particularly in situations of mass atrocity. He encouraged all delegations to commit to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Code of Conduct, and the French-Mexico initiative, noting that the just-adopted resolution is distinct from, but complementary to, those efforts.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said that greater transparency and accountability in the Council will improve its legitimacy, which, in turn, will strengthen the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations and the multilateral system. While recognizing the right of the permanent members to use the veto, he underscored that this resolution does not question or limit that right. Casting a veto is a decision with major implications. Once taken, it is the permanent member’s responsibility to explain its decision. It is also important for that member to hear the views of the General Assembly, including small States which often do not have a voice on such matters. The resolution provides a direct mechanism for the General Assembly to take a stand on critical issues when the Security Council cannot act. That the resolution was adopted without a vote shows overwhelming support for having greater transparency and accountability on the use of the veto.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that, for too long, the veto left the international community with a Security Council unable to act in the face of the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change and the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. During Ireland’s term on the Council, she witnessed first-hand the abuse of the veto and its undermining of cooperation intended by the Charter. Highlighting the significant cross-regional support for the resolution, she said the General Assembly membership has now been given a voice when the Security Council is silent. Calling the veto “an outdated mechanism for an outdated view of the world”, she said Ireland has consistently called for its abolishment. Today’s resolution does not prevent the veto, but it means States using it must defend their action to the wider membership.
BADER ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that, as an Arab State that has suffered for decades due to use of the veto, and as a former Council member from 2018 to 2019, his delegation witnessed use of the veto nine times by three permanent members to oppose six draft resolutions. Thus, Kuwait is perfectly aware of the impact of the veto, he said. Today’s resolution will foster transparency and accountability. The State exercising the veto should be in a position to justify its use and allow the wider membership to comment. This resolution will guarantee a constructive debate and support multilateralism, he added.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said the resolution provides for a stronger General Assembly whose role in relation to the Security Council is further enhanced. The initiative will support transparency, responsibility, accountability and relevance on veto use to the wider United Nations memberships, allowing views of majority to be heard. Formed organically by the belief and inspiration of multilateralism, the core group that has initiated the resolution is as cross-regional as it can get, comprising Latin American, European, Arab, and small island developing States. It illustrates the strength of the initiative which goes beyond borders and national interests. By addressing the use of a recent veto in the General Assembly, one is also addressing matters that pertain to those members and regions, which are traditionally underrepresented in the Security Council, she said.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria) called the veto an anachronism from a time long passed that has created an undemocratic inequality within the United Nations. The right to use of the veto must be used with responsibility and with the intent to further peace. The practice in the Security Council has not always lived up to that standard, recalling the Russian Federation’s recent use of the veto on the situation in Ukraine. The resolution will contribute to the effectiveness of the Security Council and strengthens the role of the General Assembly in matters regarding international peace and security. It does not restrict the permanent members’ veto right or the competence of the Security Council. The United Nations cannot remain inactive when the Security Council does not fulfil its task of upholding international peace and security.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine) said that the mechanism adopted today is transparent and neither politicized nor selective. The Charter grants extraordinary power to permanent Council members. The veto is not a privilege; rather, it is a responsibility. Noting that past vetoes have prevented the condemnation, investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, he emphasized that no indication exists in the Charter’s drafting history that the power was intended to be used in this fashion. Almost every draft resolution in the Council concerning Ukraine has been blocked by “the country occupying the Soviet seat” — the Russian Federation — and he questioned whether such obstruction demonstrates responsibility. Expressing support for today’s resolution and other initiatives to limit the use of the veto, he pointed out that permanent Council members who are responsible in carrying out their duty to maintain international peace and security should have no problem committing themselves to such initiatives.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said that, through the resolution, Member States have strengthened the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as the role and the authority of the Assembly. An overlapping of functions must not be confused with synergies between those two principal organs. The mandate of the General Assembly to convene a debate when one or more permanent members of the Security Council uses the veto does not duplicate work, but rather complements it. Acknowledging that the right to veto was granted to the Security Council’s five permanent members, he pointed out that the 193 Member States of the General Assembly have now been given the right to speak. The resolution is not an end point, but a starting point.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), stressing that the veto is not a privilege, but a responsibility, noted that France only used the veto 18 times since 1945 and has not used it for more than 30 years. Condemning the unacceptable blocking of the Security Council by the Russian Federation regarding its aggression against Ukraine, she added her support for the convening of an emergency session of the General Assembly to allow the international community to react to the violation of the Charter. France is fully committed to the process of reforming the Council in order to make it more representative of today's world while preserving its executive and operational nature. Such reforms must be in line with core values of the Organization and the responsibilities of each organ. In this regard, the General Assembly cannot become a judge of the Security Council or of its members, elected or permanent. It is in this spirit that France, together with Mexico, have introduced a proposal on the use of the veto for the five permanent members of the Council to voluntarily and collectively suspend the use of the veto in the event of mass atrocities, crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
KARLITO NUNES (Timor-Leste) said that, by enhancing the General Assembly’s role, the veto initiative would strengthen inclusive multilateralism and the international rule of law. “The General Assembly has a legitimate interest and a political responsibility to express its opinion on all issues, including when a veto is cast at the Security Council,” he said, assuring delegates this does not mean that it takes over the Council’s power and citing the Charter’s Article 10 in this regard, which encourages complementarity between principle United Nations organs.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that the privilege of the right of veto must be taken seriously and must not be misused. In some cases, the problem has been the text of the resolution before the Security Council, not the veto itself. In the case of a particular resolution in the Security Council that does not promote peace and security, the veto should be cast. The new mechanism must not undermine this tool when its use is appropriate, as it has been done in other United Nations procedures regarding her country. She also said that the inclusion of Palestine as a co-sponsor of the resolution goes against the rules of the General Assembly, as the subject matter today falls outside of the scope of the parameters regarding their participation in co-sponsoring General Assembly resolutions.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, in exercise of the right of reply, said that certain Member States making statements about the humanitarian situation in his country were the same countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, that used coercive measures countless times to stifle Syrian voices and impede access to electricity, fuel and food. The use of the veto in the Security Council on allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria was to correct the trajectory of the investigations. The reports, emanating from those investigations were politicized and manipulated by the United States and were based on unverified sources. He suggested that an investigation be carried out on the trafficking of oil and fuel from his country, as well as the trafficking of Syria’s cultural heritage. Further, western intelligence cannot say where funds to finance these terrorists in Syria come from. He called for an international tribunal to investigate the countries that were trying to destroy his country.