The 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly are to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would require the five permanent members of the Security Council to justify their use of the veto in future.
Discussions of veto reform are rare and controversial, but have been revived by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Directly targeting the United States, China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom — who are the only holders of the veto right — the measure would “make them pay a higher political price” when they opt to use their veto to strike down a Security Council resolution, said an ambassador from a country that does not have the veto, and who asked to remain anonymous.
Critics call the measure, introduced by Liechtenstein, a “simple procedural reform.”
But it is not yet clear if the reform would push the five permanent members to use the veto less, or if it would create even more vetoes as permanent members propose controversial texts they know their rivals will to veto only to force them to justify their stance publicly.
First proposed more than two years ago, the measure provides for the General Assembly to be convened within 10 working days after a permanent member uses a veto “to hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast,” according to the text.
Around sixty countries have joined Liechtenstein in co-sponsoring the reform, including the United States – a rapid rally of support that caused widespread surprise at the UN.
Britain and France will vote for the reform, even though they abstained from co-sponsoring it.
Neither Russia nor China were among the sponsors of the text, either. A diplomat from one of the two countries, who asked not to be named, criticized the move, saying it will “divide” the UN even further.
– ‘Not directed at Russia’ –
The measure will “create a new procedure,” said Liechtenstein’s ambassador Christian Wenaweser, who insisted the proposal is “not against anyone.”
“It is not directed against Russia,” he said, despite the fact that the proposal was on ice for more than two years and its revival came as the Security Council has proven incapable of condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, due to Moscow’s veto power.
From the United States’ perspective, it is clear Russia has abused its right of veto for two decades and the proposed text is intended to remedy this.
Wenaweser said the text aimed to “promote the role of United Nations, to promote multilateralism and to promote the voice of all of us who are not veto holders and who are not on the Security Council on matters of international peace and security.”
The text is non-binding, and nothing prevents a country that has used its veto from declining to explain its actions to the General Assembly.
But its application “will shed light” on the use of the veto right and on the “blockages” within the Security Council, said one ambassador, on condition of anonymity.
In addition to its five permanent members, the Security Council also has 10 members elected for two years, without the right of veto.
Among the co-sponsors of the resolution are — in addition to Ukraine — both Japan and Germany, which are hoping to become permanent members in a potentially enlarged Security Council.
But neither Brazil nor India, two other potential candidates for a permanent position on the Council, are on the list of co-sponsors obtained by AFP.