Russia-Ukraine: War prompts tender to assess UN veto powers


Two days after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, a majority of the UN Security Council members voted to demand that Moscow withdraw its troops. One thing stands in their way: Russia’s own veto.

It is the latest veto in decades – on issues ranging from the Korean War to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to climate change – that has at least temporarily thwarted the council designed to be strongest member of the United Nations. Then a flurry of moves aimed at veto power granted to only five of its 15 members: China, the United States, Russia, France and Britain. Each of them used that power for many years.

Proposals to change the structure of the council or rein in veto power have been rampant for more than half a century. But now a new approach – simply putting vetoed issues up for scrutiny by UN members – seems to be gaining traction.

Led by Liechtenstein, the measure has more than 55 co-sponsors, including the United States. The 193-member General Assembly will consider the measure on Tuesday.

“This is really an important initiative,” said Thomas Weiss, a political science professor in the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and Distinguished Member of the Global Affairs Council. Bridge Chicago, said UN political experts. For him, the proposal promotes transparency and challenges the idea that some powerful states can disrupt Security Council initiatives without too much explanation.

“In important ways, it shows that veto power is not inviolable,” he said.

The proposals would not limit veto powers, but they would trigger public debate in the General Assembly. Any country or countries that have dropped the veto will be invited to state the reasons.

The Board will not have to take or even consider any action. Regardless, the discussion could prompt veto advocates and leave a wide range of other countries to be heard.

It aims to “promote the voice of all of us, who have no veto and are not part of the Security Council, on international peace and security issues as they affect us all.” “, said United Nations Ambassador to Liechtenstein, Christian Wenaweser.

Since the United Nations began operating in 1945, World War II allies Britain, France, China, the Soviet Union (succeeded by Russia) and the United States were the only countries with permanent seats and the right to power. veto in the Security Council. Other members are elected to two-year terms.

While the General Assembly has more members and agenda, the council has more power. Its resolutions are legally binding, if sometimes ignored, and can lead to military action (this means assembling peacekeeping forces with armies led by nations. contributions from different countries).

The veto powers arise quickly. So is the disappointment. By the end of 1946, the council had asked it to “make every effort” not to let a veto get in the way of quick decision-making.

To date, more than 200 different Security Council proposals have been vetoed, some by multiple states, according to United Nations records. These objects have scanned as reported on weapons stockpiles and specifically the management of part of the Indian Ocean nation Comoros.

By far, the Soviet Union/Russia has the most veto power, followed by the United States. A few are still chosen by Britain, China and France.

Countless other ideas were never put to a vote because a veto was expected.

All that lamenting that council paralysis sometimes undermines the legitimacy and public trust in the UN and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only brought those grievances into focus. than.

“We are dealing with a country that is turning a veto in the United Nations Security Council into a right to die,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the council via video April 5. Saying the council ” simply cannot function,” he urged members to eliminate Russia, reform or “dissolve themselves and work for peace.”

In turn, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia complained that his country had been thwarted in an attempt to hold a separate council meeting on Ukraine the day before. (The incumbent British council president said it was just a disagreement over the schedule.)

With the council deadlocked, the General Assembly without a veto voted to ask Russia to cease the war, blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis that ensued, urging an immediate ceasefire and suspend Russia from the United Nations on people. Rights Council. Russia later said it had withdrawn from the human rights group ahead of the vote.

Liechtenstein originally planned to launch its proposal in March 2020 but stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Wenaweser said. He said the Ukraine stalemate has now built support for the idea.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield cited what she called “a shameful pattern of abuse of veto privilege” when she announced last week that Washington was supporting Liechtenstein’s proposal. She called it innovative and “an important step towards accountability, transparency and accountability” by veto-power states.

The US last used it to kill a proposal in August 2020 about prosecuting and rehabilitating those involved in terrorism. Washington objected that the measure did not call for foreign fighters to repatriate the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

Other veto states did not respond to requests for comment on Liechtenstein’s proposal. Wenaweser said Russia had raised its objections, focusing on views on the appropriate role of the General Assembly in international peace and security issues.

Wenaweser said his country is “pragmatic” about the future of veto power, but “we want to help create a change in thinking about how veto power is exercised.”

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