Global Policy Forum

Sergey Lavrov (May 22, 1996)


Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN

Statement to the General Assembly Working Group on the Security Council

New York
May 22, 1996

Mr. Chairman,

The Open-Ended Working Group on the Question of the Equitable Represention on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council has been working for over two and a half years now. It has made, however, virtually no progress towards the goal set down in resolution A/48/26, despite vigorous constructive efforts by its Co-Chairmen.

The same issues, though not without certain nuances, are being discussed over and over again. However, the consensus on the key aspects of the Group's mandate is still a long way off. Let's be candid with ourselves and acknowledge this fact.

Don't get me wrong: we are far from holding anybody responsible for this. We are in complete sympathy with the Co-Chairmen's efforts to move this whole thing away from a stalemate. We are indeed talking about very complicated matters which require a most thorough expert analysis and responsible, to a large extent, political decisions.

As far as we understand, most states are not ready to do it yet. The Russian delegation is not calling to press developments forward.

There is yet another cause for concern.

It often happens that, when a group of people (or States) pursue a common goal but diverge in their approaches to ways and means of attaining it, and are unable to assume a unified position "in favor" of a certain decision, there arises, unfortunately, a temptation to seek unity from a perspective "against" something. In a sense, such an approach is, probably, simpler. We believe, however, that attempts to consolidate the Group's work on this "negative" basis do not facilitate progress towards the established goal.

Mr. Chairman,

The Russian delegation had had a number of opportunities to express its position with regard to all the items on the Working Group's agenda, including that of decision-making procedures in the Security Council. Today, we would like to focus once again on the veto issue.

We proceed from the assumption that this issue is one of the most important aspects of ensuring a successful work of the Council. This is why an extremely cautious, objective, and realistic approach is needed to its consideration -- an approach ruling out rash and emotional assessments.

We do not share the opinion held by some other delegations that the right of veto is an anachronism inherited by the United Nations from the times of the Cold War.

Suffice it to recall that the Charter of the United Nations was elaborated and entered into force before the Cold War started. Its fundamental elements, including Article 27 (3), were initially oriented towards a long-term historic perspective which would take into account inevitable changes in the system of international relations. Topicality of these provisions today, in qualitatively new world realities, only confirms the truthfulness of the above statement.

The experience of the Security Council activities, including -- as rightly stated by the Permanent Representative of Great Britain and a number of other delegations -- the Cold War period, attests to the fact that the veto is indeed a critically important and indispensable component of the mechanism of harmonizing positions and decision-making in the Council. The existence of the institution of the veto, its, so to say, political and psychological effect help, to a very high degree, to ensure a balanced nature of the Council decisions, to adequately take into account, during their elaboration, opinions and interests of all of its members, oftentimes, interests of other UN Member states.

We agree with the evaluation of the right of veto as a peculiar guarantor of a true support, for the part of the Permanent Members of the Security Council, of the implementation of decisions being taken. This is a substantial factor of the Security Council's effectiveness.

History cannot tolerate conditionality. We can only guess how many more problems and obstacles there would have been in the way of the United Nations hadn't its founding fathers provided a number of "in-built stabilizers" in its Charter, of which the right of veto is one. Today's day-by-day activities of the Security Council give a number of instances when this institution, while insuring a truly collective nature of the Council's work, exerts a positive regulatory influence.

Of course, one should distinguish between the actual use of the veto and a potential possibility of its use.

Within the framework of our Group, the statistics of a progressive decrease in the number of instances of the use of veto over the last years have been cited repeatedly. The practical use of veto is an exception today. As any other exception, it just corroborates the rule: the existence of a deterring factor in the form of veto is an additional encouragement for members of the Security Council to search for consensual solutions to common problems. Dialectical logic must be at work here, but this is the real state of affairs. In the last few years, we have been witnessing a serious and progressive consolidation of consensus in the Council's activity.

Taking into account the above considerations, we cannot agree with any formulas or initiatives meant to undermine or revoke the right of veto envisaged in the Charter. This has been our invariable position.

Neither can we agree with arguments in favor of restricting the use of the right of veto. Veto is an integral institution which can perform its important stabilizing functions only as such. The disintegration of this integral mechanism -- by the way, all the criteria suggested in this regard look pretty arbitrary -- is likely to hamper the Security Council's ability to work, which subsequently affects the UN effectiveness and efficiency in general. We are confident that nobody in our Group is sincerely interested in such an outcome.

We hope that the above-mentioned largely artificially raised questions won't get in the way of a successful progress towards implementation of the Group's mandate.

For our part, we are ready to contribute, in ever way possible, to the achievement of this goal. The distinguished bureau can continue to count fully on our support.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



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