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UN General Assembly to scrutinise veto of Security Council permanent members

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The UN General Assembly decided on Tuesday to meet within 10 days to deliberate on a draft resolution to scrutinise the veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States have the power to veto Security Council resolutions as enshrined in the UN Charter.

The right is accorded to them because of their key roles in establishing the United Nations.

Following the resolution adopted by consensus, any such use of veto will now trigger a General Assembly meeting, where all UN members can scrutinise and comment on the veto.

The resolution comes in the wake of Russia’s use of veto in the Council when the latter called for Russia’s unconditional withdrawal a day after invading Ukraine.

On behalf of 83 co-sponsors, Liechtenstein’s UN Ambassador, Christian Wenaweser, introduced the draft entitled: “Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council, adopted without a vote.’’

The resolution, which will take immediate effect, accords on an exceptional basis, precedence to the veto-casting states in the speakers list thereby inviting them to account for the circumstances behind the use of the veto.

Liechtenstein began work on the initiative to scrutinise the veto more than two years ago, together with a core group of states.

Wenaweser said: “out of a growing concern’’ that the Council had found it increasingly difficult to carry out its work in accordance with its mandate under the UN Charter, of which the increase in the use of veto is but the most obvious expression.

He noted that all member states had given the Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and agreed that it acts on their behalf.

The envoy emphasised that the veto power came with the responsibility to work to achieve the purposes and principles of the UN Charter at all times.

“We are, therefore, of the view that the membership as a whole should be given a voice when the Security Council is unable to act in accordance with this Assembly’s functions and powers reflected in the Charter, particularly Article 10,’’ he said.

Article 10 spells out that the Assembly may discuss any questions or matters within the scope of the Charter or the powers and functions of any organs provided for within it, and, except as provided in Article 12.

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He explained that after extensive individual and collective outreach and consultations in bilateral and various group settings, the text was first circulated to member states on March 3 and made available to a wider public on April 12.

On April 19, it was discussed in an open format with all interested states, which helped to refine and improve it.

The adopted text stands as a “straightforward, legally sound and politically meaningful resolution’’, the ambassador said.

He added that it would shine a light on the use of the veto moving forward and allow input from all member states.