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Veto makes for an anachronistic club

Veto has been subject to long and arduous debates in the General Assembly and outside of it.It is construed as anachronistic, undemocratic and debilitating feature of the UN Security Council in its bid to maintaining international peace and security.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2003 19:51 IST
PTI

The vote on the Veto on the 13th June, 1945 had an interesting story to tell. Onecan reflect upon it from the perspective that it won the confidence of the house with a very minor margin of 10 votes, since there were 30 in favour, 2 against, 15 abstention and 3 absents.

Veto has been subject to long and arduous debates in the General Assembly and outside of it about its nature. It is construed as anachronistic, undemocratic and debilitating feature of the UN Security Council in its bid to maintaining international peace and security.

Most mistakes are rooted in history and veto was one such facet of the international organisation. The rationalization in support of the Veto offered then was that the victors of the World war should not, then or ever in the future embark on actions against any one of them. This would roughly translate into coercive action under Chapter VII of the Charter only. However, subsequent extension and added appendices of this extraordinary and exceptional right into areas beyond Chapter VII is a license much beyond the original concept.

The organisation that has well grown to its size of 191 expects careful discernment in matters of international governance. The recent French Veto of the Iraq resolution led by the United States led to serious question marks on French foreign policy in the new world order. Similarly, during the Cold War, it led to the virtual paralysis of the Security Council. Consequently, some issues, as old as the United Nations itself, still await effective resolution that will change the destiny of its people such as the case of Palestinians.

Veto power eroding UN's relevance

Veto power allows each of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to unilaterally block a resolution, even if the remaining 14 members support it.

It is meant to be used mainly for issues relating to Chapter VII of the UN Charter (dealing with threats to international security and peace). However, this has rarely been the case, and all the five powers have used it to promote their own interests.

Use of veto

The Veto has been used some 254 times since UN's formation. Statistically, USSR/Russia has used it the most - 121 times. However, 106 of these came in the first 20 years of the UN, and Moscow has used it only sparingly since.

Besides anti-Israel resolutions, US has vetoed 10 resolutions criticising South Africa (during the apartheid era), 8 on Namibia, 7 on Nicaragua and 5 on Vietnam. It has been the lone voice in blocking a resolution some 56 times

The US, with 78 vetoes, has used this power most consistently in recent years -- generally to block resolutions condemning Israeli actions. In fact, since 2000, the US is the only country to have used the veto power - six times, five of them for anti-Israel resolutions.



The use of veto can render the UN powerless to protect its own activities, at times powerless to even protect the lives of its employees. A US veto in December 2002 blocked a resolution criticising Israel's killing of UN employees in Palestinian territories. Another, in June 2002, blocked a resolution to renew the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia (US threatened blocking all peacekeeping missions if its personnel were not exempted from the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction).

Besides anti-Israel resolutions, the US has vetoed 10 resolutions criticising South Africa (during the apartheid era), eight on Namibia, seven on Nicaragua and five on Vietnam. It has been the lone voice in blocking a resolution some 56 times.

Other P5 states have also used the veto for personal gains. Britain has used the veto 32 times, several of them for maintaining a toehold in Zimbabwe. Most of its vetoes have been seconded by the US, and some also by France.

Whereas France have used veto 18 times in synchrony with US and UK, China has used it 5 times primarily against Taiwan, Russia on the other hand has used it to block unfriendly nations

France has used the veto 18 times, mostly in conjunction with the US and UK. Two of them were to defend its (and UK and Israel's) attack on Egypt in 1956, and another over its dispute with the Comoros in 1976.



China has used the veto five times. In 1997, it used the veto to hold back a military observer group going to monitor a ceasefire in Guatemala -- because of the central American nation's close relations with Taiwan. In 1999, it used the veto to block the renewal of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force in Macedonia after Macedonia developed diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Most of USSR/Russia's vetoes have been to prevent non-friendly nations from joining the Security Council.

In fact, 59 of the vetoes overall have been used to block the entry of one nation or the other to the rotating non-permanent seats. A permanent seat on the Security Council for one nation can thus mean the permanent blockade of a rival nation - the reason why several middle-sized nations have formed a pressure group called the "coffee club" to prevent regional rivals from joining the P5.

And use alone is not a measure of the veto's importance. Nabil Elaraby, Egypt's permanent representative to the UN, told the General Assembly in his 1994 speech that P5 frequently "threaten" to use the veto in closed-door consultations to get their way, a practice called the "closet veto".