Global Policy Forum

General Analysis on the Security Council Veto


Key Documents

James Paul of GPF Analyzes the Veto

Links to a section on the veto of a longer paper on Security Council reform (February 1995).

The Hidden Veto

GPF's Céline Nahory argues that the decline in number of vetoes in recent years is deceptive. Permanent members continue to pressure the Security Council through the "hidden veto" - the quiet threat that they may use their veto power.



UN Security Remains “Neutered’ by Five Big Powers (February 6, 2012)

In this IPS Terraviva article, the author states that the UN Security Council will be unable to take any legitimate or democratic action while the five permanent members (P5) retain their veto power. The article examines the way in which the P5 members “shamelessly” act in favor of their own geopolitical interests, preventing the UN from taking action against human rights violations in places that they have connections to. (IPS Terraviva)

Vetoes Underline Need to Reform UN (February 8, 2012)

For a second time, Russia and China cast a double veto which blocked the Western and Arab League-backed resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on citizen protests, and calling for regime change. This Global Brief article argues that this most recent double veto clearly illustrates the need for reform of the Security Council. The article states that the Security Council must get rid the veto, which allows the Council’s five permanent members—not just China and Russia - to act in their own self-interest, making the Security Council “undemocratic” and “lacking in legitimacy.” (Global Brief)
The Genocide Prevention Task Force suggests that the P5 do not veto or threaten to veto UN action in countries where genocide is taking place. P5 countries often veto Security Council resolutions against allied regimes, for example, China and Russia have used their veto for Council action against Sudan and Zimbabwe.(CNSNews)

Security Council Could Produce Insecurity (November 3, 2008)

The UN Security Council compromises its own credibility because veto powers allow the P5 to use a double standard in deciding on Council actions. In spite of the continuous development of Israeli settlements in Palestine, the Council does not take action because the US could veto any resolution on this issue. Moreover, after the 2001 Al-Qaeda attack on the US, the Council took immediate action, but not during the Rwandan genocide in 2004. (Inter Press Service)

How Veto Powers Stymied UN Memberships (July 13, 2007)

During the Cold War, the US and USSR played out their rivalry in the UN by vetoing various membership applications. Author Thalif Deen suggests that territories such as Kosovo, a partitioned Iraq, Western Sahara, Trans-Dniester or South Ossetia could spark similar dynamics between Russia and the US today. But whereas during the Cold War, the veto exclusively served the superpowers' self-interest, contemporary vetoes might additionally influence regional stability. For this reason, negotiation will likely prevail over forced vetoes. (Inter Press Service)

Statement by Swedish Ambassador on Security Council Reform (July 11, 2005)

Swedish Ambassador Anders Lidén considers Security Council reform "one of the more daunting tasks and also one of the most important" preceding the General Assembly (GA) meeting in September 2005. Taking note of the existing Group of Four tabled resolution, Lidén argues against even the consideration of veto power for new permanent members, while asking for a review mechanism to ensure that a two-thirds majority vote in the GA could replace new permanent members who "fail in their responsibilities."

UN Security Council Candidates Drop Demand for Veto Power (June 9, 2005)

The "G4" – Japan, India, Germany and Brazil – have amended their proposal to expand the Security Council by postponing their veto request for at least 15 years. As Germany's UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger acknowledged, this "concession" comes as a result of "strong opposition" to the original draft resolution from permanent members of the Security Council. At the moment, only France has agreed to co-sponsor the G4, while Washington has said it "needs more time to study" the revised proposal. Will the veto "concession" be enough to turn current Council opposition around? (Voice of America )

Nations Seeking Permanent Security Council Seats Want Veto Rights (May 15, 2005)

In a draft resolution, Japan, Brazil, Germany and India are calling for six more permanent members with, "in principle," the same veto powers current permanent members have. The Group of 4, aware of resistance to their proposal, is leaving room for compromise. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Israel Concerned Security Council Reform Could 'Water Down' US Veto (September 21, 2004)

As a permanent member of the Security Council, the US frequently uses its veto power to block resolutions it considers critical of Israel. Security Council reform could spell danger for Israeli reliance on the US veto. Israel is nervous that the recent International Court of Justice ruling against the security fence could lead to "anti-Israel" resolutions if not in the Security Council, then certainly in the General Assembly. (Cybercast News Service)

Just Say No to Vetoes (July 19, 2004)

The impact of the International Court of Justice's ruling on the illegality of Israel's wall extends far beyond Israel and Palestine. This article argues that the Court's holdings "chart a path for the international community to counter the United States' veto power" by appealing to the Court and to binding international law. (New York Times)

Russia Blocks UN Cyprus Resolution (April 21, 2004)

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution, which sought to reassure Cypriots of UN commitments to their security in case of a positive vote in the upcoming reunification referenda. Russian Ambassador, Gennady Gatilov, said his country regarded the resolution as an attempt to influence the outcome of the referenda. (Associated Press)

US Veto on Yassin Draws Criticism (March 26, 2004)

Russia and Algeria have criticized the US for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning the killing of the spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin of Hamas. Algeria's Ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Baali, has said that in failing to adopt the resolution, the Council was "not sending the right message to the world, which has unanimously condemned this crime." (BBC

US Blocks UN Rebuke of Israel for Assassination (March 23, 2004)

The US has threatened to use its veto power over a proposed resolution to condemn the killing of the leader of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, insisting that it should also include a denunciation of group for its "terrorist activities." (Inter Press Service)

Expel Those Who Flout UN Rules, Canada Says (June 14, 2003)

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham recommends controversial UN reform measures. One measure proposes to curtail the veto power of the Security Council's permanent five members. Graham argues that threatening to use the veto can impede humanitarian efforts. (Globe and Mail)

US Declares Open Season on UN Workers (January 13, 2003)

Over the past three decades, the US has used its veto power on forty occasions and blocked enforcement of dozens of other UN resolutions that would have censured Israel. Stephen Zunes states that the US Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: When you are the world's sole remaining superpower, you decide whatever you want even if it comes at the cost of lives, world peace and justice. (Presentdanger)

US Vetoes UN Resolution Critical of Israel (December 21, 2002)

The US vetoed a UN resolution condemning Israel for the deaths of three UN staff and the destruction of a UN warehouse storing more than 500 tonnes of food in Gaza. The Israelis said that their soldiers mistook a cellphone for a weapon, after shooting a UN worker. (BBC)

US Vetoes Peacekeeping Extension (June 30, 2002)

Following its threats, the US has vetoed the Security Council Resolution renewing the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia as a result of its failure to win immunity for US citizens from the ICC. (Associated Press)

US Veto Kills a UN Resolution (December 17, 2001)

Although vetoes are increasingly rare in the post-Cold War era, when they do occur, the US is often responsible and the Middle East conflict is then usually the cause. (Earth Times)

More Delegates Urge Restriction of Security Council Veto (November 1, 2001)

A General Assembly press statement that repeats earlier calls for restricting or eliminating the right of veto in the Security Council. Delegates are urging greater transparency in the Council's working methods and an increase in its permanent and non-permanent membership.

Council Fails to Pass Resolution Setting Up UN Mission to Protect Palestinians (March 28, 2001)

If not vetoed by the US, the text would have called for an end to the closures of the occupied Palestinian territories and full cessation of settlement activities. Nine Council members - China, Russia, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia, Colombia, Mauritius and Singapore - voted for the resolution. (UN News)

US Vetoes UN Observer Force to Protect Palestinians (March 28, 2001)

The US cast its first veto since 1997, blocking a resolution backed by a Council majority. After days of round-the-clock negotiations, resolution sponsors moved for a vote in spite of a sure veto from Washington. (Agence France Presse)

NGOs Urge UN to Abolish Veto, Absorb IMF, WTO, World Bank (May 27, 2000)

NGOs at the Millennium Forum adopted a declaration to move towards abolishing the veto and to establishing a Conflict Prevention Committee in the General Assembly. The declaration also urged to democratize the decision-making process by absorbing the IMF, WTO and World Bank into the UN. (Kyodo News Service)

Blessed Little Security (January 3, 2000)

An editorial from the Canadian newspaper the London Free Press that severely criticizes the P5's veto power and decision-making based on "narrow national objectives, not international good." Refers to recent UN reports on the UN's failure to adequately address the crisies in Srebrenica, East Timor and Rwanda.

P-5 Veto Outdated (July 4-18, 1999)

Opinion piece from the Cairo Al-Ahram, criticizing the veto power of the five non-elected Security Council members. "Veto rights should no longer be the prerogative of given states," the article states.

Reform Negotiating Text by the Bureau of the Working Group (May 29, 1997)

The key text under consideration by the General Assembly Working Group. The Cluster II (Working Methods) section is especially interesting and the complex proposals on the veto are revealing of the deep opposition the veto stirs among the general membership.

Veto Abuse: A Recent Case with China (January 20, 1997)

Though China has used the veto less than any other permanent member, it is quite capable of arbitrary veto use. On 10 January 1997, it vetoed a peacekeeping mission to Guatemala because of that country's relations with Taiwan. Ten days later, after fierce criticism, China changed its position and allowed the mission to proceed. (Inter Press Service)

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