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An estimated 4-minute read

Reforms in United Nations Security Council Veto Power

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We all know about the United Nations . We also know about the Security Council and its functions.

[If you don’t then check the links.]

The Security Council has 15 members. 10 non-permanent elected members who have a 2 year term and 5 permanent members. They permanent members are collectively called, the P5. The permanent members are United States of America, China, Russia, France and England.

The P5 have something which is called the veto power. It gives them the power to prevent the adoption of any ‘substantive’ draft resolution, regardless of the level of international support for the draft.  The P5 have to ‘use’ the veto power. If it abstains from voting then it does not count as a veto. They have to vote but it has to be kind of a negative vote.

It means that if for example England doesn’t support a draft resolution then it can ‘veto’ it and the draft will not pass even though all the other 14 Security Council members support it. Veto power is, to say the least, like a super power. It is thus, given to only the five countries who were super-powers at the time of the inception of the Security Council. Although France got it later on because of some complications but that’s a different story. It’s not relevant to the topic at hand.

This is how the voting has been till now. Different countries have used it for different purposes and at different times, which is, in my opinion, a nicer way of saying, different countries have abused this power at different times for their own motives. We all know over used line, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’.  I guess the P5 should also pay attention to Uncle Ben’s advice.

In recent times, there have been many talks about reforms to this veto power.

It has been said by many authors and observers that the P5 are no longer the controlling nations of the world. A lot of people don’t consider them to be the best members that should be holding the veto power.

The second problem is that some of the proposals are not even presented because it is very clear that one of the P5 is going to reject it. This is sometimes called ‘pocket-veto’. In my opinion, the veto power is often abused to cover up certain things that one of the P5’s wants to cover. All the P5 members do it so no one speaks about it. It’s a ‘you scratch my back, I scratch your back’ strategy.  It works well for them. Tough luck, rest of the world.

Although there are people who believe that making any changes to the veto power regulations would only make it worse. They believe that its very necessary to have veto power to maintain the political stability of the world. They believe that a world which has alleged ‘corrupt’ leaders is better off than a world which has no leaders at all.

So why not just do away with the veto power?

For starters, its close to impossible to remove it. Article 108 and 109 of the United Nations Charter give the P5 the power to allow or disallow any amendments to the Charter. So if we want to limit or remove the veto power then we need the approval of the P5. How convenient!

Which country would, in the right senses, want to give up or even limit such seemingly limitless power?

If I were one of the P5’s, I wouldn’t do it.

So now, what to do?

Will we be forever ruled by the P5?


Enter United Nations General Assembly Resolution 377 aka ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution.

It states that if the UN Security Council fails to act in order to maintain international peace and security because of a veto among the P5, then the matter will be taken up by the General Assembly under the mechanism of ‘emergency special session’. It means that it will call an unscheduled meeting. These kinds of meetings are rare. Only 10 have happened so far. The matters in the meeting are then decided by a majority vote. These votes are procedural and so veto powers do not apply to them.

There have also been talks of increasing the number of permanent members. The countries whose names have come up are: Japan, Germany, Brazil and India. Japan and Germany are the second and the third highest contributors to the UN. Brazil and India are the largest contributors of troops. From P5 to P9? Naah! 

In conclusion, I think, as the power of the P5 outside the UN decreases, the power of the UN over other countries will also decrease. I cannot say for sure about the consequences it will have over world politics. Only speculations can be made.

So if I were a country, I would mind my own business, avoid wars with everyone and do not depend on the UN for anything in the future.

But, that’s just me.


P.S. –  I am from a country which is not one of the P5. It affects my views. I am not an international relations student but I find this more logical than academic in nature. I am sure lots of people will disagree with my view, but then that’s the beauty of having a view.  Constructive suggestions are welcome.

P.P.S. - Its been a long time since I wrote here. It's good to be back. :) 



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