On April 26, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly decided to automatically have a meeting within 10 days, if one of the UN Security Council five permanent (P-5) members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) uses its veto. The UN Charter provides the veto power, the ability to prevent the passage of a measure through a single negative vote, for the P-5 members. This resolution accords that the subsequent General Assembly debate invites the veto-casting states to account for the circumstances behind the use of the veto. The UN General Assembly started to discuss this resolution, after Russia used its veto in the UN Security Council against calling for unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine on the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. The main purpose of this resolution is to make the P-5 members responsible for using their veto power to achieve the purposes and principles of the UN Charter at all times.
Can this UN General Assembly resolution resolve the P-5 members’ veto power issue? I argue that this UN General Assembly resolution has two contrasting implications. The first implication is that this resolution is the first actual challenge of non P-5 member states to the UN system with the P-5 members’ veto power as a privilege that favors major powers. This system biases policy outcomes in a direction that favors major states’ interests and their friends. For example, any effective action for Tibet by the UN against China has been blocked by China, and Russia has blocked efforts to sanction the Syrian government for indiscriminate killing of civilians during the Syrian civil war. Such use of the veto power is not to achieve the purposes and principles of the UN Charter but to protect major powers’ interests. These cases have generated non-P-5 members’ grievances against the US system. They reveal their grievances against the UN Security Council system with the UN General Assembly resolution that mandates meeting in wake of any council veto. This resolution may cause reputational costs of the P-5 members’ veto power in the UN Security Council. Specifically, this resolution provides an opportunity to hear the veto-casting state’s explanation for the circumstances behind its use of the veto and decide whether the use of the veto is to achieve the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. This opportunity allows non P-5 members to reveal and criticize the appropriate use of the veto. This possibility may encourage the P-5 members to deliberate their use of the veto by increasing reputational costs.
The second implication is that although this resolution incurs reputational costs of the veto to the P-5 members, it will not be effective in the international society. There are two reasons. First, the P-5 members’ veto power provides two virtues. The first virtue is that vesting decision-making power with a few states allows the UN Security Council to consider a few interests. This system generally reduces the costs of coming to an agreement, and facilitates the council’s response to an issue. The second virtue is that this decision-making system ensures that when the UN Security Council acts, it does so with the consent of major powers in the international society. This allows any operation approved by the council to enjoy cooperation and contributions from major powers with the greatest resources and capabilities. These two virtues reveal that any restriction on the P-5 members’ veto power might hinder decision-making processes in the UN Security Council. Second, under Article 24 of the UN Charter the Security Council has the authority to act and take enforcement measures on behalf of all members of the UN while the General Assembly functions as the general debate arena where all members would be equally represented with power only to make recommendations to members. This difference implies that any General Assembly resolution does not enforce something while a Security Council resolution does. That is, the P-5 members may consider this UN General Assembly resolution, but they can ignore it because this resolution cannot enforce their cooperation. Furthermore, even if this resolution has the authority to enforce, the P-5 members may ignore it because the international society is anarchy where there is no central authority. That is, even if the P-5 members ignore this resolution, there is no authority to punish them in the international society and there is few states that can punish them because they are stronger than others. In sum, this resolution is a symbolic step that can reveal non P-5 members’ grievances against the veto power of the P-5 member, but is not a practical policy to restrict their veto power.
Woo Jung-moo firstname.lastname@example.org
<저작권자 © 동국포스트, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>