The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.

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Veto

Individual veto power enables a single voter to prevent a decision from being taken or implemented, even though the majority may be in favor of the decision. Having “veto power” means being able to oppose the majority rule at the time of a vote.

This form of decision making is common among international governmental organizations. It allows States to defend their interests against decisions that could hurt them. Many actions are hence blocked within such organizations as a result of vetoes. At the UN Security Council, the five permanent members have veto power (Art. 27.3 of the UN Charter): China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. During the Cold War, this system froze all decision making within the Council, especially in terms of managing conflicts and of peacekeeping. There are no rules that specify the conditions and limits to States’ use of the veto power at the Council. This leads to a lack of transparency and blockages—for instance, with regard to decisions taken on peacekeeping matters. Intergovernmental organizations often prefer to adopt texts by consensus so as to avoid the risk of a veto. These texts are the result of compromise and are adopted without a vote, as long as no State openly objects.

Security Council ofthe UN

For Additional Information: Fassbender, Bardo. “All Illusions Shattered? Looking Back on a Decade of Failed Attempts to Reform the UN Security Council.” Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 7 (2004): 183–218.

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