Why France wishes to regulate use of the veto in the United Nations Security Council
- 1. What is the veto in the United Nations Security Council?
- 2. Why regulate use of the veto?
- 3. What would regulation involve?
- 4. What criteria would be used to regulate use of the veto?
- 5. How would self-regulation be activated?
- 6. What is the status of steps to introduce the measures?
- 7. Is regulation of use of the veto likely to happen?
United Nations Security Council (Photo: UN)
Provision for a veto was made when the United Nations was created, in Article 27 of the United Nations Charter. Security Council decisions are adopted if nine members vote in favour, provided that none of the permanent members (China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Russia) votes against.
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In order not to merely accept paralysis in the Security Council when mass atrocities are committed. Because France is convinced that the veto should not and cannot be a privilege. It implies duties and a particular responsibility conferred by the United Nations Charter. It has been given to the five permanent members in order to foster cooperation between them so that the United Nations can forestall and resolve international conflicts, ensure effective compliance with international law and protect civilian populations.
Proposed by the President of the Republic in 2013, regulation of use of the veto would mean that the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Russia) would voluntarily and collectively undertake not to use the veto where a mass atrocity has been ascertained.
Being a voluntary measure, it would not require a revision of the United Nations Charter.
The criteria for activating self-regulation still need to be defined by the permanent members of the Security Council, with whom we have entered into detailed discussions.
In particular, an understanding needs to be reached on the definition of mass atrocities: the 2005 World Summit declaration and many international conventions, including the 1948 Convention on Genocide and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, may provide a starting-point.
Under the French proposal, the regulation would apply to genocide, crimes against humanity and large-scale war crimes.
France envisages the possibility of giving the United Nations Secretary-General a key role, in the spirit of Article 99 of the United Nations Charter. In order to ascertain the existence of mass atrocities, the United Nations Secretary-General would decide to refer the matter to the Security Council either on his own initiative or on a proposal from the High Commissioner for Human Rights or from a certain number of Member States, which France proposes setting at 50.
We have entered into detailed discussions with the permanent members of the Security Council.
France has entered into detailed discussions since it put forward the proposal in 2013, in particular with the other permanent members of the Security Council.
In order to promote the proposal, on 25 September 2014, in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly, Laurent Fabius and his Mexican counterpart José Antonio Meade Kuribreña co-chaired a ministerial meeting attended by UN Member States from all over the world, including permanent members of the Security Council, as well as UN officials and representatives of international civil society.
The proposal is intended to generate momentum, in particular in academic circles. In order for this to happen, France has decided to bring together all the players involved in the subject, especially research institutes and non-governmental organisations which work on the issue and could share their ideas.
A seminar will be organised on 21 January 2015 by the French Foreign Ministry’s Centre for Analysis, Planning and Strategy (CAPS) and Sciences Po Paris.
The French proposal is pragmatic because it does not seek to abolish the veto. It is also ambitious, however, because if accepted it will enable the Security Council to take action against mass atrocities.
The United Nations will be celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2015. That event must be grasped as an opportunity to advance the idea. With this in mind, Mexico, France and other partners are continuing to work together to keep up momentum around the initiative, with both United Nations Member States and international civil society.
For further information:
Draft resolutions that have been vetoed in the Security Council
Statistics on use of the veto by the “Big Five”
Official website of the United Nations Security Council
Chapter V of the UN Charter, on the UN website
- Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations
- Guide to the United Nations
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- Main United Nations sites
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