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Why is UNGA Voting on Veto Use Reform? What Are the Likely Outcomes?

India, among other countries including Brazil, China and Russia, did not co-sponsor this proposal.

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is slated to vote on Tuesday, 26 April, on a resolution that would require the five permanent members of the body’s Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia – to justify invoking their veto powers in the future.

The measure, introduced by Liechtenstein, provides for the General Assembly to be convened within 10 working days after the exercise of a veto "to hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast", reported AFP, citing the text of the proposal.

The discussion on the inordinate and unaccounted power to veto the security council decisions in consequential matters of peace and security, accorded to the five permanent members, has been revived in light of the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

However, Liechtenstein's ambassador Christian Wenaweser has said that the measure “is not directed against Russia.”

Approximately sixty countries have reportedly joined Liechtenstein in co-sponsoring the reform, including Ukraine, Japan, Germany and permanent security council member United States.

Among other permanent security council members – Britain and France did not co-sponsor the text, but are reportedly slated to vote in favour of it.

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WHAT ARE THE LIKELY OUTCOMES IF THIS VOTE PREVAILS?

If countries invoking the veto are asked to explain their reasons for doing so, or provide justifications for the veto, the accountability demanded from the permanent members will increase.

This is especially important considering that the veto can be used to nix important resolutions of geopolitical consequence, and this power (among those who have it) can be exploited arbitrarily and unfairly.

However, on a broad reading two contradictory consequences appear likely if the Liechtenstein’s proposal garners enough votes in the UNGA:

  • The reform may cause the five permanent members to use the veto less, as they will now be required to explain their decisions every time they do so (but not compelled as UNGA resolutions are non-binding). Thus, the use of the veto may be better thought out, for the permanent members will be aware that every part of the justification they offer will be scrutinised on an international scale. Bad reasoning or purely self-serving logic may prove to carve a dent on their global image

  • The reform may, on the contrary, cause even more vetoes to happen. This, as pointed out by AFP, is because permanent members may thereby propose contentious texts only so that other other countries may be compelled to veto it, thereby having to justify their stand publicly on the same

While, it remains to be seen how the vote pans out and what its subsequent impact may be, the fact remains that India, among other countries including Brazil, China and Russia did not co-sponsor this proposal.

(With inputs from AFP.)

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