World leaders call for end of United Nations veto power

“The world is bigger than five,” says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

September 28, 2014 01:47
2 minute read.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the UN General Assembly.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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NEW YORK – World leaders demanded Security Council reform during their addresses to the UN General Assembly over the past few days, calling for the addition of more permanent and non-permanent seats on the council and the elimination of the veto.

“The world is bigger than five,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his speech during the General Debate, referencing the five countries with veto power – the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia.

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Heads of state from across the globe echoed his call for immediate reform.

The status quo has made the governing body inefficient, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala Tasso said. He asked for the addition of more permanent and non-permanent members, which, he said, should result in a more democratic process.

“The Security Council’s capacity to respond to the different crises in different parts of the world reflects the need for reforming its work methodology,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pleaded his case for Japan’s acceptance as a permanent member of the Security Council. Since joining the UN in 1956, he said, Japan has worked tirelessly to advance the causes of the UN.

“It is my wish... [that] countries sharing the same aims all work together to finally resolve a long-standing issue to reform the UN in a way that reflects the realities of the 21st century,” he said.


Discussions about council reform have been ongoing for years. France’s foreign minister first floated the idea of a “code of conduct” for the veto in 2001.

During his speech last year to the General Assembly, French President François Hollande called on the five powers to agree on a set of scenarios in which the veto should not be used, notably when resolutions address mass atrocities.

Former General Assembly president John Ashe, whose term just ended with the conclusion of the assembly’s 68th session, made Security Council reform a priority on his agenda.

He called for a permanent seat on the council for an African delegate.

Regional representation and the veto are key issues for reform.

“Our United Nations is – and must remain – a place where we reach compromise, a place of accommodation. The essence of the process of negotiations is compromise,” Ashe said last year.

By the end of Ashe’s tenure, however, the UN had made no progress on the matter.

In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the US has vowed to always use its veto to help protect the people of Israel.

In August, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said she couldn’t envision a scenario in which the US wouldn’t veto an action within the Security Council to take Israel to the International Criminal Court.

While the US’s veto might prove beneficial to Israel, overall it deadlocks the Security Council, critics say, making any real, meaningful action impossible.

As a further example, action within the council on the crisis in Ukraine has been limited in part because Russia has veto power, and it would surely veto any action condemning or holding it accountable. China and Russia both blocked early efforts by the US to take action on Syria against President Bashar Assad.

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