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Veto Power at the UNSC

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Multilateral Organization


Source: TH

 Context: India has stated that the veto power in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is driven by political considerations and not by moral obligations


What is Veto Power?

Veto power is a special power given to the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Essentially, it gives these countries the ability to reject or veto any action by the UNSC that does not align with their national interests or foreign policy objectives.


  • In the United Nations Security Council, decisions are made with a majority of 9 votes of the 15 Council members’ votes. All decision is rejected if one of the five permanent members of the Security Council makes use of its veto


The Need for Veto Power:

  • It prevents the UNSC from making hasty or poorly thought-out decisions that could have negative consequences.
  • The UN veto has in some ways saved the UN as it gives teeth to P5 nations. The League of Nations failed because it didn’t have the power to implement its initiatives
  • Veto power gives the P5 members a sense of security in knowing that their interests will not be overridden by the other members.


Issues with the use of “Veto Power”:

Issue Example
Veto immobilizes the ability of the UNSC to act Recently, Russia has vetoed several resolutions that would have put sanctions on it for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity.
“Sovereign equality” is violated The fact that only five countries have veto powers goes against the idea of sovereign equality of states, perpetuating a Second World War mindset of “to the victor belong the spoils”.
Political considerations over moral obligations The US has used its veto power over 80 times, often for political considerations, rather than moral obligations. For example, in 1972, the US vetoed a resolution that called for an end to its bombing of North Vietnam, despite widespread condemnation and protests.
Veto has rendered the UNSC passive to certain pressing issues The UNSC stayed silent during major international conflicts, including the 2003 Iraq War, the 2008 conflict in Georgia, and the 2009 deaths of Sri Lankan Tamils.
Lack of accountability In 2017, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, despite substantial evidence of their use by the Syrian government.
Critics opine the veto power is anachronistic, unjust, or counterproductive The veto power is seen as a disproportionate power and an impediment to credible international action in crises.



Suggestion for reforming the Veto system:

Reforms for Veto Power Description
Abolish the veto power This would require an amendment to the UN Charter, which would need approval from two-thirds of the General Assembly and ratification by member states.
Limit the use of the veto power . For example, a veto could be prohibited in cases of genocide or crimes against humanity.
Expand the permanent membership This could help make the Council more representative of the current global balance of power and would also reduce the concentration of veto power among a small group of states.
Create longer-term non-permanent seats This will allow for greater continuity and consistency in the Council’s decision-making.
Increase transparency and accountability This could be done by requiring permanent members to publicly justify their use of the veto.


Other aspects of the UN where India wants reforms are:

  • Categories of Membership
  • The relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly
  • Regional representation
  • The size of an enlarged Council
  • Working Methods of the Council



It’s important for P5 and other UN members to balance the Veto Issue and make the Council more representative and democratically accountable, based on earlier experiences with the League of Nations.


About UN Charter:

The UN Charter is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, signed in 1945 and in force since the same year. Its main objective is to maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law, and promote human rights. All members of the UN are bound by its articles


Insta links:

For static information about UNSC: Click here


Mains Links

Discuss the impediments India is facing in its pursuit of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. ( UPSC 2015)


Prelims Links:

The Security Council of the UN consists of 5 permanent members, and the remaining 10 members are elected by the General Assembly for a term of (UPSC 2009)

(a) 1 year
(b) 2 years
(c) 3 years
(d) 5 years


Ans: B