The measure is intended to make veto-holders United States, China, Russia, France and Britain "pay a higher political price" when they use the veto to strike down a Security Council resolution, says an ambassador.

Around sixty countries have joined Liechtenstein in co-sponsoring the reform, including the United States.
Around sixty countries have joined Liechtenstein in co-sponsoring the reform, including the United States. (Reuters Archive)

The 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution requiring the five permanent members of the Security Council to justify their use of the veto.

Tuesday's resolution, which was adopted by consensus by the 193-member assembly with the bang of its president’s gavel and a burst of applause, does not eliminate or limit the veto power of the permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

But for the first time it will require the General Assembly “to hold a debate on the situation” that sparks a veto in the Security Council within 10 working days, and to give precedence on the list of speakers to the permanent member who cast the veto.

The assembly isn’t required to take or consider any action, but the discussion could put veto-wielders on the spot and let a raft of other countries be heard.

Liechtenstein’s UN ambassador, Christian Wenaweser, who spearheaded the resolution, has said it aims “to promote the voice of all of us who are not veto- holders, and who are not on the Security Council, on matters of international peace and security because they affect all of us.”

Almost 100 countries joined Liechtenstein in co-sponsoring the reform, including the United States, Britain and France - a rapid rally of support that caused widespread surprise at the UN.

Neither Russia nor China were among the sponsors, though. A diplomat from one of the two countries, who asked not to be named, criticised the move, saying it will "divide" the UN even further.

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'To promote multilateralism'

Critics call the measure a "simple procedural reform." But it is not yet clear if the reform would push the five permanent members to use the veto less.

It could create even more vetoes as permanent members propose controversial texts they know their rivals will to veto only to force them to justify their stance publicly.

Wenaweser said the text aimed to "promote the role of United Nations, to promote multilateralism and to promote the voice of all of us who are not veto holders and who are not on the Security Council on matters of international peace and security."

The text is non-binding, and nothing prevents a country that has used its veto from declining to explain its actions to the General Assembly.

But its application "will shed light" on the use of the veto right and on the "blockages" within the Security Council, said one ambassador, on condition of anonymity.

Among the co-sponsors of the resolution, in addition to Ukraine, are both Japan and Germany, which are hoping to become permanent members in a potentially enlarged Security Council.

Britain and France will vote for the reform, even though they abstained from co-sponsoring it. Neither Russia nor China were among the sponsors of the text, either.

But neither Brazil nor India, two other potential candidates for a permanent position on the Council, are on the list of co-sponsors.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies