• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

Is It Time To Veto The Veto?

After China and Russia's recent 'veto' against Syrian aid, many have been quick to criticize the apparent abuse of this power.


Is it time for the 'veto' to be removed from the UN entirely, or is the 'veto' imperative to the continued success of the organization?

Below is an article highlighting the key arguments used by pro-veto and anti-veto parties, along with a simplified overview of the 'veto power' and the UN as a whole.


What is the United Nations (UN)?


Formed after the catastrophic events of WW2, the United Nations is an international organization that aims to maintain international peace and security.


The UN has many councils, the most important being the 'United Nation’s Security Council' (UNSC), made up of 5 permanent members: France, the UK, China, Russia and the US.


These countries were made permanent members based on their importance in the aftermath of the World War (of which they were all victorious.)


In addition to being permanent members, these countries (known as the P5) have the ‘veto power’ which other members of the UN do not possess.



What is the 'Veto Power'?



The ‘veto’ allows the P5 to reject any resolutions that do not benefit their country, or their country’s allies, economically or politically.


The ‘veto’ can be used regardless of the vote of the majority, and regardless of how important the resolution may be in de-escalating a conflict.


Anti-veto arguments:


1. The veto is a blatant disregard to democracy


Article 2 of the UN charter states that all members of the UN must be equal.


This suggests that all nations must be given equal power, influence and authority when it comes to making global decisions.


By giving a few countries the ability to overrule any decision, regardless of the vote of the majority, you have stripped the whole organization of its so-called ‘democracy.’

2. The veto prolongs and escalates global conflicts.


The lack of democracy mentioned above has allowed the P5 to manipulate global conflicts to suit their country’s political or economic interests.


For example, as mentioned previously, many resolutions made to help the humanitarian crisis in Syria have been repeatedly vetoed by China and Russia.


China and Russia’s reluctance to aid the crisis in Syria can be linked to their political and economic benefit from the war.


Syria is a major importer of Russian firearms and defense equipment, whilst China has been the second longest non-Arab investor in Syria.


Both countries have a lot to lose from the end of the crisis, so, they use their veto power, not in the interest of humanity, but for their own gain.



3. The veto undermines developing countries.


Despite having the largest number of underdeveloped nations and Member States in the UN, Africa has no representation in the UNSC and has no right to ‘veto.’


Underdeveloped countries, although desperate for international support, have minimal influence on global situations around them, providing them with a limited opportunity of growth and advancement.


This has left these countries with no other option than to channel their limited and insufficient resources to purchase heavy firearms (instead of investing in their own country’s infrastructure) as defense against external threats.


Therefore, increasing global security threats and reversing any efforts made by the UN in the first place.


Pro 'veto' arguments:


1. The UNSC can’t survive without it.


The countries forming the UNSC are some of the largest funding bodies of the UN.


They have unparalleled power and importance, possessing the responsibility of maintaining international peace, and security and the ability to make decisions other member states are forced to implement.


Without the ‘veto power’ ensuring that members of the UNSC will not be harmed politically or economically, these countries will be unwilling to fund or help the organization, much less underdeveloped countries.


In short, the veto was established as an effort to give members of the UNSC a reason to stay at the table and is key in keeping those members together.



2. Creates fair resolutions that all members agree on


Since each of the permanent members has the ‘veto’ power, none of them can high jack the UN for themselves.


This means that, at the end of negotiations and votes, nearly every resolution is a result of compromise.


Therefore, the end results are rarely extreme and are usually accepted by the overwhelming majority of countries, making it much more likely for members to commit to the resolution and contribute accordingly.




Even though members of the UNSC hold indisputable importance and power in the UN, I believe that, if the veto power must remain, more countries should be given this right.


Countries with rapidly growing economies should be given the right to 'veto' and so should developing countries that urgently need international support.


Additionally, countries who can 'veto' should be prohibited from doing so in conflicts they are a part of, or conflicts that they may benefit from, as their opinions would be biased and unfair.


What are your opinions on the matter?


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