On 26 April the General Assembly adopted a significant proposal to bring greater accountability for the use of the veto by the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.
The President of the General Assembly will now convene a formal meeting within ten working days of a veto being cast in the Security Council - a General Assembly meeting will ensue where all states can swiftly express their views. The state(s) responsible for casting the veto will be invited to speak first. It would apply to any and all vetoes cast, irrespective of the substance of the decision vetoed, and would be open-ended with respect to a possible formal outcome.
A specific General Assembly meeting on the veto will add global public scrutiny and act as a reminder that the Security Council, according to the UN Charter, serves on behalf of the wider UN membership. This may give permanent members of the Security Council pause for thought and increase the political cost of using the veto.
UNA-UK welcomes this development and was delighted to see the UK join the initiative as a co-sponsor - an outcome we have been advocating for. The initiative was launched by Liechtenstein two and a half years ago, and proposed to the General Assembly by a core group of 16 co-authors in March 2022.
The UK's ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said: "[The veto] is not to be used lightly. And should not, we believe, be used without accountability. It should not prevent the Council from fulfilling its mandate. Which is why we have voted in favour of this resolution today." The UK went on to note Russia's prolific veto use in recent years to block action on Syria, as well as in relation to their invasion of Ukraine.
UNA-UK has supported the veto initiative for several years as one of a number of measures to improve transparency and accountability of the Security Council. We hope it will start a broader conversation about P5 privilege and the need for a more inclusive forms of multilateralism. We urge its backers to ensure that measures to assert a greater role for the General Assembly are not used selectively by Western countries as tools to isolate Russia.
Photo: Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, introduces draft resolution on a standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elías