Veto power of UNSC permanent members: Where India stands

NEW DELHI: Liechtenstein is convening the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to debate a draft resolution — backed by the US — requiring the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, China, US, UK and France) to justify their use of the veto.
Besides the five permanent members, the UNSC also has 10 non-permanent members (including India), who do not have the right of veto.
India has been at the forefront of an years-long efforts to reform the security council, saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member.
Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla recently called for reforms in the UNSC, claiming that the body had not been able to fulfill responsibilities in maintaining global peace and security due to “limited representation”.
On the matter of veto power, India — along with the other G4 countries (Brazil, Germany, and Japan) — has previously stated that if given a permanent seat on the UNSC, it would not use the veto for a period of 15 years.
Reform of the veto power is often included in proposals for reforming the Security Council. India has repeatedly said that the issue of expanding the UNSC should not be held hostage by the debate over veto power.
What is veto power?
The UNSC veto power is the power of the five permanent members of the UNSC to veto (strike down) any “substantive” resolution.
The veto power originates in Article 27 of the United Nations Charter, which states:
* Each member of the UNSC shall have a vote.
* Decisions of the UNSC on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
* Decisions of the UNSC on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members, including the concurring votes of the permanent members.
This means that a negative vote from any of the permanent members will block the adoption of a draft resolution. A permanent member that abstains or is absent from the vote will not block a resolution from being passed.
Although the “power of veto” is not mentioned by name in the UN Charter, Article 27 requires concurring votes from the permanent members. For this reason, the “power of veto” is also referred to as the principle of “great power unanimity” and the veto itself is sometimes referred to as the “great power veto”.
During the negotiations for the formation of the UN at Dumbarton Oaks (August–October 1944) and Yalta (February 1945), the USSR, US, China, UK and France made it clear that there would be no UN if they did not get veto power.
Ukraine-Russia conflict
The demand for a mechanism to ensure that UNSC permanent members cut back use of their veto powers is an old one. It has recently gained strength and support from major players after Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow’s veto power has allowed it to paralyse action in the UNSC, which is supposed to intervene in such conflicts as guarantor of global peace, as defined by the Charter of the United Nations.
The Liechtenstein proposal is co-sponsored by some 50 countries including the United States — but none of the other four permanent UNSC members.
Liechtenstein has now tabled, on behalf of 38 cosponsors, a resolution that mandates a meeting of the #UN General A… https://t.co/lazvrbjOs0— Liechtenstein UN (@LiechtensteinUN) 1649775528000
The proposal text provides for a convocation of the 193 members of the General Assembly “within 10 working days of the casting of a veto by one or more permanent members of the Security Council, to hold a debate on the situation as to why the veto was cast”.
“We are particularly concerned by Russia’s shameful pattern of abusing its veto privilege over the past two decades,” said the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in a statement. The adoption of the Liechtenstein resolution “will be a significant step toward the accountability, transparency, and responsibility of all” the permanent members of the Security Council, she added.
Who is supporting the proposal?
Among the co-sponsors who have committed to voting for the text are Ukraine, Japan and Germany, the latter two hoping for seats as permanent members in a possibly enlarged Security Council in view of their global political and economic influence.
The positions of India, Brazil or South Africa, and other contenders for a potential permanent seat have not yet been revealed.
Even if it does not sponsor the text, France will vote in favor of the resolution, according to one diplomat.
How Britain, China and Russia, whose backing would be critical to such a controversial initiative, will vote is not clear.
Arguments for and against the veto
Supporters of veto power regard it as a promoter of international stability, and a check against “snap” military interventions.
Critics, however, say that the veto is the most undemocratic element of the UN, as well as the main cause of inaction on war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it effectively prevents UN action against the permanent members and their allies.
For example, the US routinely casts lone vetoes against resolutions criticising Israel. The permanent members also veto resolutions that criticise their own actions.
In 2014, Russia vetoed a resolution condemning its annexation of Crimea. Most recently, Russia vetoed a resolution condemning its actions in Ukraine.
Amnesty International claimed that the five permanent members had used their veto to “promote their political self interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised the “profound wisdom” of the founders of the United Nations, referring to the veto power as the underpinning of international stability. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi lauded its “important role in checking the instinct of war”.
(With inputs from agencies)

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