Posted by / Tuesday 29 March 2016 / No comments

The veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations

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The veto is exercised by the five permanent of the Security Council, that is, Russia, France, China, Britain and the U.S. The veto refers to the special powers granted each of the permanent members to prevent a decision of its majority from being taken. 

As a Compensation 
A big chunk of the financial resources of the United Nations, which is used to ensure world peace, is provided by the big nations that constitute the Security Council. The veto is, therefore, a way of compensating them for the huge responsibilities they carry in maintaining world peace and security through their financial contributions.

Retention of the big Powers
The five permanent members of the Security Council were major players in the Second World War. Each of them wanted a good reason to belong to the new world association after the League of Nations, its predecessor, had failed to keep world peace. The U.S., for example, wanted the veto to be able to protect her sovereignty, the Russians wanted it so that their interests can be protected if she is out-voted on a matter before the Security Council and France and Britain wanted it to be able to protect their colonial interests. The veto power was granted as a way of retaining these big nations within the United Nations.

Preservation of World Peace
It has been argued that the world could slide into war if there is disagreement among the permanent members of the Security Council. At the time of the formation of the organization, it was agreed that on important matters of the world, the permanent members must be in agreement.  The veto gave each member leverage to protect her interests in any case of disagreement.

A Check on Smaller Nations
The majority of the membership of the United Nations is made up of smaller nations and these countries have the same number of votes as the superpowers. If the veto powers are not granted, the super-powers could be out-voted on important issues. The veto was important so that the super-power nations can check the smaller nations and kill any radical elements within the United Nations.

A Check on the Big Powers
The veto prevents any of the permanent member of the Security Council from running roughshod over the other members. If China pushes an agenda in the Security Council that is feared to be a threat to world peace, the other members can use their veto powers to block that agenda. So the veto is used as a check on the super-powers.

Creates inequality
Of the 193 members of the United Nations, only five of them have been granted the power of veto. It is argued that an organization that professes equality from the roof-top cannot at the same time be seen to be creating inequality among member states. The veto power is a sharp negation of the principle of equality of member states.

It is Undemocratic
The granting of the powers of veto to the permanent members of the Security Council is seen as an affront to the principles of democracy. One of the tenets of democracy is that majority views should carry the day, however, the veto power has granted more power to the minority to hold sway over the majority. This is undemocratic.

Assumptions of unity
The granting of the veto power was to help the superpowers agree among themselves always, focusing on world peace. This expectation or belief has not completely materialized. Russia and the Western world have disagreed on how to handle the Syrian crisis. The Russians have been on the side of the Syrian government while the U.S. has been pushing the agenda for a regime change.

Support for inhuman policies
Sometimes, the permanent members of the Security Council misuse their veto powers. This is because some unpopular regimes and political systems of the world which should have received the condemnation of these same superpowers are rather treated with kid gloves. An example was the Apartheid government of the Republic of South African which was engaged in apartheid segregation of its black population. The apartheid regime was supported by Britain and the US for a very long time until the 1990s. The U.S. also used her veto power to support Israel to ignore U.N. resolutions against it.

A Bullying Tool
All the permanent members of the Security Council have massive military strength and therefore have the power to whip smaller nations into line. However, the veto power also served as a  dangerous tool they use to bully the small nations into submission.

Current world economic structure
The economic situation that existed at the time of the inception of the United Nations does not exist now. The countries that used to be the sole economic power-house of the world are no longer so. Today, there are countries that have attained economic advancement where they can now rub shoulders with the rich countries of the world. However, these countries do not wield veto power.

1. a. Explain the concept of the veto power exercised by the permanent members of the Security Council.
     b. Which five criticisms have been leveled against the veto power?
2. a. What do you understand by the veto power?
    b. Highlight five advantages of the veto power.
3. a. List the permanent members of the Security Council and describe the veto power they wield.
    b. Explain five reasons why some states oppose the veto power.

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