Veto Power Within the UN
The power of veto is wielded exclusively by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. These members are France, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia. The veto power allows these members to thwart the implementation of any resolution that may be deemed substantial. Should any of these perpetual members elect to be absent from any vote, a substantial vote can still be passed by the council. Veto power only applies if they participate in a vote. The power of veto also does not apply to votes that are determined as procedural by the permanent nations. In the case of a procedural vote, the five members vote as if they are “normal” members. During the selection of a Secretary-General of the council, a negative vote by a member with veto power blocks the selection. However, it should be noted that this selection blocking is more of a recommendation to the General Assembly than it is a resolution. Another thing to note is that the power to veto is not unambiguously declared in the UN Charter. However, the Charter states that all “substantive” resolutions by the council necessitate the need for “the concurring votes of the permanent members.” From these statements, it is clear that the permanent members have the power to prevent any substantial vote in the council.
Who Has Vetoed the Most?
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was founded after the conclusion of World War II and its first resolution was issued on January 25, 1946. Ever since then, there have been a total of 220 vetoes by at least one of the five members.
Up until the December of 1955, the USSR was the most active member vetoing 90 votes. In fact, those 90 votes were the only vetoes until December 1955. Most of the resolutions vetoed are on United Nations membership requests and admittance of non-permanent nations because the US continually refused to allow all of the Soviet Republics into the UN. After the Soviet Union was dissolved, Russia used the power sparingly until the late 2000s and 2010s because of a number of resolutions that involved conflicts in which Russia is actively involved in like Syria and the Ukraine, among others. Russia tops the list with a total of 107 votes.
The USA comes in at second with a total of 79 vetoes. First vetoing a resolution in 1970, the USA has since then become the most active user of the power with the most recent being in 2011 during the Obama administration. Most the US’s vetoes are about the Middle East.
Of the five states, China has been the most agreeable nation with a total of 11 vetoes. Mostly, China has elected to abstain from votes that do not necessarily concern them. China’s most recent veto was in 2017. France uses its power sparingly has vetoed 16 times while the UK has done so 29 times. Both France’s and the UK’s vetoes were in 1989 during the situation that was in Panama, where the US also vetoed.