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Research Report


Jan Wouters
Tom Ruys
Copyright Date: Aug. 1, 2005
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 39
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-4)
    Jan Wouters and Tom Ruys

    Sixty years after the birth of the United Nations, UN reform is high on the international political agenda. One of the most controversial issues, if not the single most sensitive one, concerns the structure and practice of the Security Council as the primary actor regarding international peace and security. Indeed, criticism of the Council’s lack of representativeness and transparency has not diminished in recent years, despite a shift towards more openness. On the contrary, as the Council has become ever more active, criticism has increased correspondingly.

    One of the traditional stumbling blocks has been the existence of the veto power...

  2. (pp. 5-8)

    The voting arrangements in the Security Council resulted from a compromise between the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, at the conference of Yalta in February 1945.5 This proposal subjected voting in the Council to unanimity of the permanent members, both with regard to enforcement action and the peaceful settlement of disputes, although in the latter case States party to the dispute were obliged to abstain.

    During the negotiations at the San Francisco Conference (25 April – 26 June 1945), numerous small and medium-sized States protested against the privileged status of the five permanent members as a form of...

  3. (pp. 9-18)

    According to data collected by Global Policy Forum,27 some 257 vetoes have been cast in the period between 1946 and 2004. As a result, a little over 200 draft resolutions have been rejected. The dubious honour of having cast the most vetoes goes to Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), which invoked the privilege 122 times. With 80 vetoes, the United States is entitled to the silver medal. Next in line are Britain and France with 32 and 18 vetoes, respectively. China used the veto merely 5 times, which is less than once every decade. This overall picture is very different...

  4. (pp. 19-24)

    Ever since the creation of the United Nations, the composition, working methods and voting procedure of the Security Council have provoked strong criticism from the vast majority of UN Member States. Together with the manifest failure of the Council to fulfil its tasks as primary actor regarding international peace and security in the Cold War era, this dissatisfaction led UN Member States to adopt the Uniting for Peace resolution in the General Assembly in 1950,92 providing for an alternative mechanism in the case of Security Council paralysis.93 Thirteen years later, continuing unrest resulted in the 1963 amendment of the UN...

  5. (pp. 25-34)

    How should one evaluate the exercise of the veto power and the various reform proposals? For most UN Member States, Article 27 UN Charter is a codification of the painful reality that some States are more equal than others. This idea is obviously at odds with the principles laid down in the UN Charter, such as Article 1(2), pursuant to which the UN aims at developing friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights of peoples, and Article 2(1) which affirms the principle of sovereign equality as one of the basic pillars of the world...

  6. (pp. 35-35)

    Ever since the Great Powers gave birth to the United Nations, the veto debate has been extremely emotionally charged. Often the debates have resembled those of a squabbling couple, with both parties – the P-5 and other UN Member States – presenting their views and not giving much attention to the validity of the other’s arguments. As the veto again turns out to be the decisive issue of Charter reform,151 it is time for the two sides to get back on speaking terms.

    Non-Council UN Member States should abandon claims that the veto has become obsolete since the end of...