Global Policy Forum

Republic of Philippines: Press Release by the Mission to the UN (March 17, 2009)

March 17, 2009


The Philippines has reiterated its call for the United Nations to pursue reforms in the Security Council by, among other things, instituting mechanisms that would not only curtail the use of the veto power but also allow Member-States to overturn or override a veto by any of its five Permanent Members.

The Philippines echoed its proposals in the statement delivered by Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr., Permanent Representative, during the Informal Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Matters Related to the Council, and more particularly on the issue of the veto.

"The exercise [of the veto power], either for a good reason or out of whims or caprice, could render ineffective the Security Council, or make it-and even the United Nations itself-a toothless tiger," Ambassador Davide told the General Assembly on Monday, 16 March.

He added that the veto power violates the principle of equal rights of nations large and small and the doctrine of sovereign equality of Member-States enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. "Its exercise by a Permanent Member makes it, pro hac vice, a super UN, or establishes an autocratic regime," he said.

"Consider this spectacle: One single Permanent Member of the Security Council, by simply saying no, can defeat the will of the vast majority of the Council or the voice of the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly," the former Chief Justice of the Philippines said.

By the exercise of its veto power, Ambassador Davide said, a Permanent Member can prevent the admission of new States that are otherwise qualified; prevent the expulsion or suspension of a Member-State even if such actions are proper and just; prevent the enforcement of a just, lawful and valid judgment of the International Court of Justice; or prevent even the appointment of the Secretary General by the General Assembly.

In his statement, Ambassador Davide conceded that it would be extremely difficult to consider the abolition of the veto power vested in the Permanent Members of the Council, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, by Paragraph 3 of Article 27 of the UN Charter as, according to him, the special reasons for such investiture may still influence the current political environment.

"Nevertheless, even in the face of this extreme difficulty to remove the veto power, we may yet consider the need to curtail its exercise or use. There is a big chance for that," he pointed out.

To address this issue, Ambassador Davide said the General Assembly should consider disallowing or denying the use of the veto power in cases of genocide; war crimes; crimes against humanity; ethnic cleansing; and terrorism. He also reiterated a Philippine proposal for a veto to be set aside or overturned by an absolute majority of the General Assembly, or by a vote of two-thirds of the Security Council itself.

According to Ambassador Davide, the action of the General Assembly in this regard is premised on the principle that the 15-member Security Council, under Article 24 of the Charter of the UN, merely exercises a delegated authority or a part of the sovereignty of each Member State insofar as the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security is concerned.

"In short, the Security Council is merely an agent of the Member States," the Filipino envoy said. "As the principal, the Member States can exercise their residual power to overturn or override the act of the agent."

According to Ambassador Davide, a provision incorporating this authority of the General Assembly would also serve as a deterrent to the misuse or abuse of the veto power in disregarding the will of the rest of the Council and ultimately the rest of the Member States.

"Authorizing the Security Council itself by a vote of two-thirds of its Members to override a veto would make it more effective, responsive and responsible," Ambassador Davide said. "This will provide a mechanism for the Security Council to assert its authority over any attempt to make it subservient to just one Permanent Member."

"It would, as well, make its procedure and processes more democratic," he said.

In addition to these proposals, the Philippines had also recommended that, in the interest of accountability and transparency, the party exercising the veto power must explain its negative vote.


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