Limiting the Security Council Veto

Back in 2001, France floated a proposal that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council should voluntarily refrain from using their veto power when dealing with mass-atrocity crimes. French President François Hollande’s government is now actively pursuing that idea, and it could work.

PARIS – Back in 2001, France floated a proposal that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5) should voluntarily refrain from using their veto power when dealing with mass-atrocity crimes. And now, in the lead-up to the commemoration of this year’s 70th anniversary of the UN, French President François Hollande’s government is actively pursuing the idea again. Could such an arrangement really work?

The predictable initial response is to dismiss the possibility out of hand. As Australia’s wartime prime minister, Ben Chifley, once famously remarked, “The trouble with gentleman’s agreements is that there aren’t enough bloody gentlemen.”

It is indeed hard to believe that Russia and China, in particular, would be accommodating. Russia, for example, has exercised vetoes more than 100 times since 1946, most recently – and unhappily – four times since 2011 to block resolutions intended to halt the carnage in Syria.

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