Posted on: September 23, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

Author: Sheena Khan, Student at Law Faculty, Delhi University


In order to restore the collective security of mankind, there was a dire need for an international institution to take charge of it. Hence on October 24, 1945, the United Nations Organization came into existence. It was brought about as a result of two World Wars which made it clear that if such interstate relations continue to exist, it won’t take long when the persisting civilization and mankind would go to oblivion. This organ that has the objective of maintaining the collective security of the entire humanity is the Security Council, which is the most powerful among other organs of the United Nations.[1] This organ is responsible for maintaining the peace and security and its decisions are binding on all the states which are the members of the organization.[2]

The reforms of the United Nations are mostly based on International political agenda. The Security Council is one of the most controversial reforms here and this paper lays emphasis on the Security Council’s reform of Veto Power. This ‘Power of Veto’ is solely conferred in five permanent members of the UN Security Council i.e. United States, United Kingdom, China, France and Russia. This power enables these aforementioned countries to prevent substantive draft Council resolution adoption even though the draft has international support. Most important of all, this veto is exercised even when a single member casts a negative vote over the implementation of substantive draft resolution. But this power does not apply to procedural votes where there permanent members can vote in negative for the draft resolution but cannot block the adoption by Council.[3]


A Veto is basically a Latin word for “I forbid”. It’s a power conferred to stop a single piece of legislation. This concept of veto emerged at the time of Roman consuls and tribunes in the 6th century BC who were empowered to block any legislation taken by Roman Senate.[4] This veto system was established in the United Nation at Yalta Conference 4th February, 1945. The purpose of its establishment was to prevent the UN from taking any action in the future against its founding member Soviet Union which had been excluded from the League of Nations 1939 during the outbreak of WW-II. Even though FranceI had been taken over by Germany, it was allowed a place at the table with other members of the League of Nations.[5] It was a mandatory condition for the acceptance of the veto power as made clear by the countries of permanent membership in order to create the new world organization.

The founding members were eventually left with no other option but to accept the insertion of Article 27, UN Charter of the proposed balance of power. The reason for its implementation was that the allied powers convinced the other countries that despite the veto right, as it occurred in League of Nations, Council would be less obstructed. They made it clear that it should not be assumed that the non-permanent members are less than the permanent members and would use their veto to obstruct any operation of the Council.


Whenever the members of the Security Council are party to a dispute under consideration they are abstained to vote regarding decisions of peaceful settlement of disputes.[6] Issues arise when the parties in dispute are a part of Permanent membership. This power is mostly used in resolutions that arise out of genocide or mass resolution. For example, Russia and China reject resolution which are against Syrian regime using their veto power.

Nowadays with the increase in countries, “pocket veto” is preferred (the threat of the use of veto). This threat is used either implicitly or explicitly. For instance, France hasn’t casted a single veto after the Cold War but has threatened to use the power several times. Russia and China are two of the permanent members which have been recorded by the Security Council to absolutely rely on pocket veto more than any other member. Since Sri Lanka is an ally of Russia and China, many Sri Lankan Tamils were killed by the Sri Lankan Army in the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009 but no action was taken by the United Nations Security Council.[7] Despite these conflicts, Russia and China did not lay a finger on such destructive violations in Sri Lanka.


Due to strong criticism from the State members regarding the voting procedure of the Security Council, four proposals have been advanced with respect to the prevalent veto power of the five permanent members. One of the powers lays emphasis on abolishing the power. This proposal proposed that the permanent members can stay permanent but will be stripped off their veto power.[8] The second proposal is about veto power to be conferred to more other member countries including more of developing countries.[9] The third proposal suggests the veto power in rotations so that other deserving members could get a chance too and the last proposal proposes the combination of 4+3 permanent members and 15 non-permanent members.[10]

These above mentioned proposals stand no chance of being inculcated in the Charter as the permanent members especially the United States and Russia do not accept limitations to veto. Hence even the mildest of modifications are not considered.


There has been strong criticism over the veto power of the Security Council ever since the birth of the United Nations by the other state members of the organization. There have been efforts by theses states to abolish this veto system but t cannot be denied that the permanent members of the council are equally abusing their power in many aspects. They would have any veto power limitation. The only way that this issue can be reformed is the voluntary refraining of this power. Taking into consideration the interest of the wider international community, it should be the prioritized duty of these permanent members to recognize international peace and security when using the Veto and not just their national interests. These measures taken by them should be more for a better and a safer world for the puppy of which they ever came into existence and conferred with such power.


[1] The United Nations Charter, art. 23.

[2] Id., art. 24(1) and 25

[3] Id., art. 27(2)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Id., art. 27(3)

[7] “The United Nations Security Council: Its Veto Power and its Reforms” Sahar Okhovat

[8] Supra note 32 at 71

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

Leave a Comment