Question of Veto Central to General Assembly’s Debate on Security Council Reform, with Speakers Urging Its Limited Use as ‘Weapon of Hatred and War’
The General Assembly today concluded its annual debate on Security Council reform, with several Member States stressing that the unfair and outdated rules and processes from the last century are not relevant in today’s world and paralyse the Council from taking meaningful action.
The Assembly — having kicked off on Thursday its debate on the 15-member body tasked with maintaining international peace and security (Press Release GA/12562) — heard from the remainder of speakers today. Many echoed the view regarding the need to limit veto use, saying legitimate reasons for doing so should include cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Ukraine’s delegate, taking it a step further, said that it is extremely inappropriate that a country in a permanent seat has the privilege to exercise a veto right during consideration of situations in which that country is directly involved as a party to conflict and, moreover, is its instigator. The veto “should not serve as a weapon of hatred and war”. Restricting its use by a permanent member should indeed include cases of genocide but must also include conflicts in which that member is involved.
The growing use of the veto by some permanent members has paralysed the Council in recent years and undermined its credibility and that of the entire Organization, stressed El Salvador’s speaker. As long as this outdated mechanism remains, El Salvador agrees it is vital to suspend it in cases of war crimes.
As the only permanent Council member speaking during today’s debate, the representative of the Russian Federation said the veto has on more than one occasion saved the UN from being “drawn into dubious adventures”. This was made clear recently when the United States and “its satellites” tried to push a Council resolution in support of Israeli actions in Gaza. “Only the veto by Russia and China saved the world from the shameful scenario.” If the veto were not provided for under the UN Charter, the Council would become just a body for “uncontrolled stamping of documents that are beneficial to a narrow group of countries” and the UN “would repeat the unenviable fate of the League of Nations”.
Many speakers stressed the need for deep structural reforms, without which, they warned, the Security Council and its legitimacy will continue to suffer, dampening with it the reputation of the wider UN. Rising geopolitical tensions, the war in Ukraine and the unfolding situation in the Middle East all call for a more transformed and transparent multilateral system, they said.
The Council cannot continue excluding the voices of people from entire regions and continents from discussions and decisions that impact their future, said the representative of Guyana. Outdated decision-making rules of years ago are no longer applicable today. Such practices paralyse the Council, especially when naked self-interest is not isolated from its business.
Kenya’s representative said that Africa remains unequal in the highest levels of global decision-making. Africa’s unique status — being the only region without representation in the permanent category and underrepresented in the non-permanent category — is an indictment of the multilateral system. The continent’s demand for two permanent and two additional non-permanent seats is not merely about justice, but about ensuring an equal footing in decision-making.
There was broad support for expanding the membership, in both permanent and non-permanent categories, and for unrepresented or underrepresented regions and continents such as Africa and Asia to have a “meaningful seat” at the table. Others named countries that they thought should be welcome additions to the 15-member body. Some speakers, whose country situations have been on the Council’s agenda for many years, said that the body was skewed in its approach to international politics as well as international peace and security.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that the present Security Council structure is centred on the West and does not reflect today’s reality, thereby rendering it a political instrument of specific forces. Washington, D.C., actively protects the atrocities of its ally, causing a humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East, while branding the just self-defensive measures of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a “threat to international peace and security”.
Syria’s delegate said that the people of the world now see international institutions as being complicit in destroying, looting and impoverishing the world’s inhabitants. Violations of Council resolutions have been perpetuated under the pretext of maintaining international peace and security. The occupier is now entitled to self-defence. The so-called rules-based international order championed by the West should rather be described as the rules-lacking international order.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) cited the United States’ veto on the draft resolution on a humanitarian pause in the Gaza Strip, on the unjust grounds that it did not mention Israel’s right to self-defence. Washington actively protects the atrocities of its ally, causing a humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East, while branding the just, self-defensive measures of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a “threat to international peace and security”. This is a double-dealing logic and practice. The present Security Council structure is centred on the West and does not reflect today’s reality, turning it into a political instrument of specific forces. He re-emphasized that there is no place in the Council for Japan, an “A-class war criminal”, whose unprecedented crimes include forced abduction and the drafting of 8.4 million people, the massacre of 1 million people, and the sexual slavery of 200,000 Korean women for the Japanese Imperial Army.
TITHIARUN MAO (Cambodia) noted that reform of the Security Council should be based on consensus, which is crucial for its success, considering that the five clusters of the intergovernmental negotiations framework are closely interconnected. Thus, it is important for Member States to first reach a clear understanding of the principles and goals of reform — as any attempt to force a text-based negotiation without first obtaining consensus will hinder the process. His delegation’s fundamental position supports enlarging both the permanent and non-permanent seats, based on an equitable and geographical representation that reflects current realities. It should be more inclusive, representative and democratic. If the reform only benefits a select few countries, it contradicts the fundamental principles of fairness and the goals driving it.
MHD. RIYAD KHADDOUR (Syria), aligning himself with the Arab Group, said the peoples of the world now see international institutions as being complicit in destroying, looting and impoverishing the world’s inhabitants. He said violations of Security Council resolutions have been perpetuated under the pretext of maintaining international peace and security. He highlighted the entrenchment of new dangerous precedents that run counter to the spirit and text of the Charter of the United Nations. The occupier is now entitled to self-defence while resistance has been deemed as terrorism, justified under the so-called rules-based international order championed by the West. He said it should rather be described as the rules-lacking international order. He underscored the need for reforming the Security Council and an equitable representation of its membership as this will ensure a well-functioning organ that can fulfil its mandate and command respect for the Charter of the United Nations. The imbalance between the Global North and South should also be addressed.
YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba) said it is vital to address the issue of Security Council reform. He took note of innovations in the previous session to advance transparent discussions. Cuba believes the Council should become a more transparent and representative body. He pointed out that developing countries are underrepresented among the Council membership. “It is not fair that entire regions such as Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are not represented,” he said. Regarding voting in the Council, Cuba has always been opposed to the veto. But any new members should be afforded the power of the veto, he said, adding that new categories or subcategories of membership should be avoided since it would sow further division. In the interest of achieving a better Council, inclusive and participatory reform to achieve tangible outcomes is needed, he said.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine) said that the Council has been taken hostage by the Russian Federation’s practice of using its platform to whitewash aggression and violations. Not only have attempts to act on the “Ukrainian track” been blocked by the Russian Federation, but the Council’s toolbox also has been misused by Moscow to disseminate propaganda and to overburden war-related discussions by duplicating meetings. It is inappropriate that the country in a permanent seat has the privilege to exercise a veto right during consideration of situations in which it is directly involved as a party to conflict and, moreover, its instigator. The veto should not serve as a weapon of hatred and war. The legitimate reasons for restricting veto use by a permanent member should include cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as conflicts and situations in which a permanent member is involved. He expressed support for expanding membership to various regions such as Africa and Asia, and States such as Germany.
MARKOVA CONCEPCIÓN JARAMILLO (Panama) said the Security Council must move forward and adapt to new realities to enable the United Nations to respond decisively with greater accountability and transparency to twenty-first century challenges. Panama supports increasing the number of Council members to between 21 and 27 States, but there must be a balance between membership categories and the format determining which countries occupy seats. She said due account should be given to different regional groups. An enlarged Council of non-permanent members allowed for longer periods, like 3 to 5 years, will ensure continuity in their work and help consolidate international peace and security. Her delegation supports proposals for increasing Africa’s representation on the Council. She said the indiscriminate use of the veto prevents the Council from fulfilling its mandate. This should be limited. Recalling that dialogue and negotiations on this matter have been taking place for 14 years and admonishing that perfection is the enemy of action, she urged the Assembly to move on to action.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said progress has been made on the format and logistics of Security Council meetings, allowing each delegation to better understand the viewpoints of other delegations. But there is no consensus on how far the reform process should go, he said. “Perfecting United Nations organs is not our aim,” he said, adding that the greater goal is better peace and security, which requires a more modern and effective Council. Reform is urgent, and a solid basis of realism is needed. The Security Council has shown a failure to act. However, with its election to the Council, Ecuador has been able to observe deliberations more closely. The Council does produce results, he said, noting, “Why else do States want a seat?” However, it must be able to act more swiftly, which will not be achieved with more permanent members but rather with fewer, he said.
CARLOS EFRAÍN SEGURA ARAGÓN (El Salvador) said that without structural reform, the Security Council and its legitimacy will continue to inevitably suffer, as will the relevance of the United Nations itself. To make the Security Council more representative, El Salvador supports the enlargement of the number of its elected members. Recent events have made very clear the important contributions that elected Council members provide. They give the Council the opportunity to reach balanced and significant decisions. The growing use of the veto by some non-elected members has paralysed the Security Council, undermining its credibility and that of the entire Organization. As long as this outdated mechanism remains, El Salvador believes it is vital to limit its use. He supports suspending the veto in the cases of massive violations of international law, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
FRANCISCO JOSÉ DA CRUZ (Angola), aligning himself with the African Group, said changes to the global geopolitical landscape make the question of reform increasingly complex. “In the last few years, we have witnessed the inability of the Security Council to live up to its responsibility,” he said, adding that such failure demonstrates the need for reform. Africa remains the only continent with no permanent seat in the Council, an unacceptable historical injustice that must be corrected. The Common African Position, also known as the Ezulwini Consensus, calls for the allocation of two permanent member seats to Africa with the attendant prerogatives, including the right of veto, as long as it exists, as well as five non-permanent seats on the reformed Council so that the continent can enjoy representation commensurate with its current contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security.
CAROLYN RODRIGUES-BIRKETT (Guyana), aligning with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the L.69 group of developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, noted widespread agreement that the unfair decision-making rules and anachronistic composition of 78 and 58 years ago are not applicable in today’s context. This configuration helps paralyse the Council, especially when geopolitics and naked self-interest are not isolated from its overall business. The Council cannot continue excluding the voices of people from entire regions and continents from deliberations that impact their future. Her delegation advocates for expansion in both categories of membership and for a rotating seat on the Council for small island developing States, as they can contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, especially in light of emerging and non-traditional threats. She further voiced support for the Ezulwini Consensus for greater African representation on the Council.
PHETVANXAY KHOUSAKOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that the current international geopolitical and security landscape has underscored the urgency for advancing Security Council reform. Over the years, the intergovernmental negotiations framework has provided an essential platform for all Member States to discuss this reform, he noted, emphasizing that the Council should address ongoing global insecurities and armed conflicts as well as prevent another catastrophe for humankind. Stressing that the member-driven process must be carried out in a comprehensive, transparent and inclusive manner, he observed that the reform process must ensure expansion in both permanent and non-permanent Council memberships, considering the interests of all nations and ensuring equitable geographical representation.
SHARIFA YOUSEF A. S. ALNESF (Qatar), aligning herself with the Arab Group, said Security Council reform is a major challenge and strategic objective for the international community, given its relationship with a principal pillar of the United Nations — maintenance of international peace and security. The reform process is urgent, particularly considering the crises around the world, including the humanitarian situation in Gaza and crimes against humanity caused by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people. This has great implications for regional and international peace, particularly in the face of the silence of the international community and the inability of the Council to fulfil its mandate and end the killings and destruction. Promoting the Council’s effectiveness, transparency and representation “will allow us to enhance its legitimacy and contribute to international efforts to establish a global governance system which is more transparent”. The equality of all States must be respected, with Council reform accompanied by an improvement in its working methods and decision-making process.
REIN TAMMSAAR (Estonia) expressed regret over the lack of meaningful substantive progress on reform of the Security Council, noting that the General Assembly should be able to collectively overcome the veto if the Council itself cannot uphold international law and the Charter of the United Nations. He further voiced support for the France-Mexico initiative on veto restraint and the code of conduct by the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group on not voting against resolutions aimed at ending mass atrocities, including the crime of aggression. Citing Article 27 of the Charter — stipulating that “a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting” in the Council — he called on that organ to strictly implement this clause as has been done in numerous cases since the inception of the United Nations. He further advocated for “a fair distribution between continents and regions,” with small, medium and big States represented.
ANA JIMENEZ DE LA HOZ (Spain), aligning herself with Uniting for Consensus, said Spain believes that reforming the Security Council is an urgent matter as the organ must become more equitable, democratic, representative and transparent. During these negotiations, it is important to be realistic, supportive and aspire to achieve reasonably satisfactory results for all. A greater number of Member States should have the possibility of serving on the Council, she said, adding that Spain believes inevitable reforms must respond to today’s world and the global challenges facing the international community. As a member of Uniting for Consensus, Spain will actively contribute to the upcoming intergovernmental negotiations to ensure Council reform advances.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that the use of the veto or the threat of its use, has more than once saved the United Nations from being drawn into dubious adventures. This was made clear recently when the United States and “its satellites” tried to push a Security Council resolution in support of Israeli actions in Gaza, and “only the veto by Russia and China saved the world from the shameful scenario”. In recent years, cases of vetoes in the Security Council have become more numerous. However, such a situation is a consequence of the desire by Western members of the Council to put their opponents in an awkward situation using their own comfortable majority in the Security Council. If the veto were not provided for under the Charter of the United Nations, the Council would become just a body for “uncontrolled stamping of documents that are beneficial to a narrow group of countries” and the United Nations “would repeat the unenviable fate of the League of Nations”. The founding fathers of the Organization wanted to exclude such a scenario.
ABDULAZIZ M. ALWASIL (Saudi Arabia), aligning himself with the Arab Group, said the Security Council “should be more representative of today’s reality, more effective in keeping pace with current development and more efficient in addressing current challenges”. He welcomed the progress in identifying convergences and differences, which needs further discussion. These efforts show that different groups and States agree on several commonalities and aspects of the five clusters. The international community, therefore, should pursue positive discussions to bring views closer to a solution that garners the widest possible political acceptance. He highlighted the Council’s recent delay in acting on Gaza, adding that the ultimate objective of its reform is to build a more transparent, credible, equitable and effective representative organ that can meet the people’s aspirations and address today’s challenges through multilateralism. His delegation underscores the importance of the intergovernmental negotiations framework and the five reform clusters as well as further efforts towards a widely accepted solution.
DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia) said that structural reform of the Security Council has never been as urgent as during this painful moment. It is time to start a new phase of discussions to ensure the Council can fulfil its mandate, he said, noting his appreciation for efforts to increase transparency such as record-keeping and more informal meetings. The complexity of Security Council reform necessitates more clarity on timelines, he said, expressing support for increased membership in the organ, which will achieve a greater plurality of views and better geographical representation. Another issue that cannot wait is reform of voting in the Council, he said, adding that it is urgent to restrict or eliminate the veto. Additionally, the methods and working procedures must become more transparent and democratic. He concluded by saying one aim of reform is to establish a Council that faithfully reflects the world as it is.
ADAMU IBRAHIM LAMUWA (Nigeria), associating with the African Group and the L.69 group, said that it is obvious that the Security Council is “incapacitated” and has become ineffective in upholding its mandates in the prevention of conflicts and in stopping wars. Current geopolitical tensions, the tragic war in Ukraine and the unfolding situation in the Middle East all call for a more transformed and transparent multilateral system. Council reform is inspired by the principles of the UN Charter. The objective of this process is based on the sovereign equality of all Member States. He spotlighted Africa's demands for Council reform that will ensure its legitimate right to fair and equitable representation. He also noted Africa’s position in support of abolishing use of the veto.
SIARHEI MAKAREVICH (Belarus) said reform of the Council is a question that directly concerns the national interests of all Member States. Previous discussions have shown the fragile process of finding compromise towards a comprehensive resolution of all disagreements on reform. “Reform is of great importance and affects the security on the planet,” he said, adding that all parties must create a clear and precise process that achieves a consensus that can meet the needs of the contemporary world. His delegation supports efforts aimed at a broad dialogue that welcomes the consideration of all thematic clusters covering contemporary problems. Intergovernmental negotiations should be maintained, and any attempt to disrupt these negotiations could destroy the vulnerable process of reform. There are serious differences among Member States, especially concerning the right of the veto. More representation is needed for developing countries, and his delegation welcomed the Council’s enlargement, including seats for Member States from Eastern Europe.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) said that current conflicts and crises demonstrate that the Security Council is unable to effectively discharge its mandate. Although he recognized progress in holding open meetings through webcasting as well as record-keeping, progress was slow on the substantive issues of the intergovernmental negotiations process. Highlighting that Africa remains unequal in the highest levels of global decision-making, he stressed that its unique status — being the only region without representation in the permanent category and underrepresented in the non-permanent category in the Council — is an indictment of the multilateral system. The continent’s demand for two permanent and two additional non-permanent seats is not merely about justice, but about ensuring an equal footing in decision-making on international peace and security matters, particularly concerning Africa. “We should seize every available opportunity that would accelerate the Security Council reform,” he added.
YOSEPH KASSAYE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group, said that the Council needs to reflect global reality to effectively respond to contemporary challenges of maintaining international peace and security. Highlighting that Africa remains the only major continent without representation in the permanent category, he said it is also underrepresented in the non-permanent category. “This historic injustice must be urgently redressed,” he stressed, noting that the continent will decide the modality with which it determines its representation. He observed that the veto is not democratic nor effective, stating that if retained, Africa’s demand for two permanent seats, with all the rights and prerogatives of current members, should also include this right. “In improving the working methods of the Security Council, we wish to see an accessible, accountable, democratic, representative and more effective Council,” he added.
Right of Reply
Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Japan said his country has consistently contributed to the United Nations and the international community in a positive way and will continue to do so.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that a war criminal State like Japan should not be allowed to be a permanent member of the Security Council. There is no doubt, Japan is a war criminal State that inflicted immeasurable pain and suffering by invading many Asian countries in the past century. Moreover, Japan is the only country that still denies its past crimes against humanity, including the genocide of 1 million innocent Koreans. Instead of apologizing, Japan further accelerates a scheme to become a military power. In defiance of strong protests and criticism, Japan discharges nuclear contaminated water into the ocean. It is another crime against humanity. He reiterated that the Security Council should be composed of peace-loving States. He also totally rejected the statement made by the Republic of Korea on 16 November and strongly urged Seoul to stop deceiving the international community.
In a second right of reply, the representative of Japan regretted that the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea referred to a matter irrelevant to the debate on the Security Council concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Japan never discharged “ALPS-treated water” into the sea in a manner that endangers human health and the marine environment. The comprehensive report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attests to this, stating that the discharge conforms to relevant international safety standards with negligible radiological impact on humans and the environment. His country remains committed to transparency and providing information based on scientific evidence.