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UN Security Council: Why is the veto right so important?

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
UN Security Council: Why is the veto right so important?
There is an ongoing discussion of Security Council reform, including the issue of the veto right.

The veto right, or the UN Charter’s requirement for the SC Permanent Members’ unanimity, remains the cornerstone of the UN system, which was created to guard peace and security after the Second World War.

It would be easy to destroy it, but there is no workable alternative at the moment. This is not a privilege, but a reflection of the high responsibility of the P5 for maintaining peace and security, which reflects both the historic contribution that the Permanent Members made to establishing the UN and their continued practical role in the world. At the same time it reflects the wisdom of the founding fathers of the UN who foresaw a multi-centric world order, which is a reality now.

In our view, the veto remains an important factor that keeps the SC members together and motivates them to seek balanced decisions. It would be incorrect, both history-wise and politically, to encroach on this right, which was established to help escape one-sided decisions, fraught with ruining the UN, to impose a culture of consensus, at least, upon major world powers.

The present crisis in Ukraine provides more proof of the inherent dangers of unilateralism as opposed to collective action. It is historically proven that the veto right helps search for compromises. By creating this right, those who drafted the UN Charter showed understanding that if there is no agreement between the P5, problems can’t be resolved collectively and efficiently, and thus, can’t be resolved at all. The voiced criticism of “misuse” of the veto right is beside the point. When the UN was set up, the sad experience of the League of Nations with its “one country – one vote” system was taken into account.

True, the need to find common ground among the P5 sometimes complicates the work. But this doesn’t mean that the system is ineffective. To the contrary, the UNSC remains one of the most efficient and harmonious structures. The occasions when veto is used are far outnumbered by resolutions adopted unanimously. After all, diplomacy – and the UN is its supreme tool – is about compromise.

Russia’s position of principle has always been that we will support a UNSC reform which would enjoy the widest possible support of UN member states, i.e. by a much larger majority than the legally required two-thirds. However, the level of progress so far does not allow to say that we have come closer to a universal formula of the SC reform. The approaches of various countries still differ substantially. Under these circumstances, there is no alternative to the continuation of the patient work of bridging the gap.

The reform of the UNSC is a crucial issue on the current international agenda. Its progress will determine the effectiveness of the work of the whole UN system for the foreseeable future. We strongly believe that the efforts in this area should be aimed, first of all, at enhancing the Council’s ability to promptly and effectively react to emerging challenges. This becomes even more relevant today as we witness multiple crises and conflict situations.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.